Celebrating a success story and remembering a tragedy on this final walk.
Distance 3.3 miles (5.3km)
Minimum time 1hr 15min
Ascent/gradient 360ft (110m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Grass tracks, field paths, roads and dirt trails
Landscape Field, meadow, woodland and canalside
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 219 Wolverhampton & Dudley
Start/finish SJ 848834
Dog friendliness Keep on lead in all fields
Parking In Kinver village
Public toilets None on route
1 From the Vine Inn car park, go left for 100yds (91m) and then right along a gravel track between houses. Just after some cottages on your left, go left at a fork, up the steep hill to the corner of a driveway (you'll return here later). Go left and then immediately right here, just after Dunsley House, along a wide dirt and grass track.
2 Cross a stile and continue along the well-trodden grass trail, following the fence just to your right. At the brow of the hill cross over a stile with an ingenious 'paddle' gate for dogs. Cross the middle of a grass meadow to a high stile on the far side. Continue straight across the middle of a series of fields, crossing stiles into each to reach the A449.
3 Take great care crossing this busy road, and then head right for 60yds (55m) to a gate. Go through the gate, and then head left to go through a second gate. Go right here, up the right-hand edge of the field and, just as the fence bears slightly right, head diagonally left to the corner of Gibbet Wood. Cross the stile at the corner and then go left along the edge of the wood to another stile and Gibbet Lane. Head right here for 350yds (320m) and right again following a footpath sign along a barbed wire fence.
4 At the bottom of the field go right along a tree-lined track. At the end of these trees, cross a stile and continue along a fence to your right for 100yds (91m). As the fence bears round to the right, keep going straight to the stile in the fence ahead. Cross this stile and head straight across the middle of the next grass field, contouring around until you reach a stile in the middle of the fence on the far side. Bear slightly left across another field to a gate, and then cut off the corner of the next field to another gate.
5 After this gate you shortly come to another stile and gate. Cross this stile and follow the left-hand edge of the field all the way to a stile on to the A449 at the Whittington Inn. Go straight over the busy road here (taking great care) and follow the footpath sign to Lower Whittington. Take the trail down the back of some houses and, at the road, go right, following the footpath sign to a swing gate and the canal.
6 Follow the canal to the kissing gate into woods and continue through the woods and past some impressive canal-front homes. At a fork just after these houses go right up a hill to return to the driveway passed earlier. From here, retrace your steps back to the start.
Given the part canals have played in the Staffordshire landscape over the past 250 years, it seems appropriate that the final walk in the book should include at least a short section of artificial waterway, even if it isn't the walk's highlight. It seems fitting too, that the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal was designed and built under the apparently omnipotent eye of James Brindley, whose name is associated with so many of the walks in this volume, and who perhaps did more than any other single person to shape the landscape and fortune of the county.
The Staffordshire and Worcester Canal was one of Brindley's earliest projects; it was officially opened in 1772. Essentially, it was part of his so-called 'Grand Cross,' a visionary scheme to connect all of the major ports (Bristol, Hull and Liverpool) by linking the Severn, the Trent and the Mersey. The canal begins at the River Severn before rising slowly to Aldersley Junction, near Wolverhampton, where it connects with the Shropshire Union Canal. It then continues as far as the Trent and Mersey Canal at Great Haywood near Shugborough; its highlight has to be the three-tier lock at The Bratch, near Wombourne.
However, despite James Brindley's best efforts, the highlight of this walk has to be the Whittington Inn, a timber-beamed manor house built in 1310 that now serves a very reasonable pint. Originally owned by Sir William de Whittington, then owner and lord of all Kinver, it was later inherited by ancestors of Lady Jane Grey, who's reported to have spent some of her childhood here, before her life was plunged into turmoil. She was fourth in line to the throne in Henry VIII's will, but thanks to the scheming by her Protestant father-in-law, a royal advisor, she was crowned Queen ahead of Mary, who was Catholic. She ruled for just nine days, before Mary, with strong popular support, seized the throne and had her imprisoned in the Tower of London. Less than a year later, aged just 16, she was beheaded. Later, during the reign of Mary's successor, Queen Elizabeth I, Jane was celebrated as a Protestant martyr. Today, her ghost is said to still haunt the inn.
The Whittington Inn is the obvious place to feast and imbibe, either during the walk or afterwards. An extensive menu is served in cosy, immaculate surroundings, all day.
The 14th-century front door of the Whittington bears Queen Anne's seal, with the inscription Anne R. 1711, indicating that she stayed here on one of her royal trips. It's thought that this is one of only two of her seals in existence.