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Marvels Around Martley

Contemplate the meaning of cider while striding along a marvellous, airy stretch of Worcestershire's countryside.

Distance 6.8 miles (10.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 720ft (219m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, lanes, orchard paths, tracks, river meadows, minor roads, 20 stiles

Landscape Arable, orchards, wooded ridges and Teme Valley

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa

Start/finish SO 766597

Dog friendliness Off-lead opportunities if under control

Parking St Peter's Church, Martley

Public toilets None on route

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1 Go up through the churchyard to the B4204. Cross to a rough track. In 100yds (91m) enter the school's grounds briefly, then walk in trees, parallel. Turn right at a stile, then another, to re-enter the grounds. Briefly follow the left edge of the playing fields, then yet another stile gives on to a field. At the road turn left. Turn right, signposted 'Highfields'. Beside Lingen Farm go down a track. At the bend take a stile, straight across the field. Cross a stream, then ascend, taking the right-hand gates. Reach a minor road.

2 Turn left. At Larkins go ahead. At The Peak walk behind Ross Green's gardens. Cross fields to reach another road. Go straight over, to a partially concealed stile, not diagonally to a prominent fingerpost. Walk beside a barn, then forward to another lane. Turn left to reach a fingerpost pointing into the apple orchard before the defiantly named Pear Tree Cottage.

3 Follow waymarkers carefully through the trees, descending gently. Emerge at a bridge over a ditch, beside apple-sorting equipment. Go 220yds (201m) up this track, to a gap in evergreens. Turn left, down an orchard ride. At a T-junction turn right, up to just before a gate beside a small house. Turn left, almost back on yourself. Go through the orchard, following faded yellow splodges about 1½ft (45cm) up on the tree trunks, but sometimes obscured by low branches. Leave by a footbridge, crossing fields to the B4197.

4 Turn right for 60yds (55m). Take an excellent track for ½ mile (800m) to Rodge Hill's top. Turn sharp left, 'Worcs Way South'. Follow this for 1 mile (1.6km). Steps lead down to a road's hairpin bend.

5 Turn right. In 20yds (18m) turn left, but in only 15yds (14m) turn right again, into conifers. Emerge to drop down steeply. At the B4204 turn right for 200yds (183m). Turn left, skirt an enormous barn to the left, then go diagonally to the River Teme. Follow this beautiful riverside walk, later in Kingswood Nature Reserve, for over ½ mile (800m). Leave the river when a wire fence requires it. Ascend a path, later a driveway, to a tarmac road.

6 Turn right, uphill; this soon bends left. Near the brow move right (waymarker) just to walk in the field, not on the road. At the end turn left but, in 275yds (251m), cross two stiles beside a caravan. Beside fields and allotments, emerge between the Crown and the garage. Pass the telephone box into the village, then turn right to the church and the start of the walk.

Don't believe everything you read in your dictionary. In mine the entry for 'cyder' reads 'Same as cider'. The entry for 'wine' is scarcely less controversial: 'The fermented juice of grapes; a liquor made from other fruits.' If you can accept that grapes are not an essential ingredient of wine, then our 'cyder' is apple wine; if you can't, then it's fermented apple juice. Authentic, old-fashioned cyder is virtually extinct. Some of the smaller manufacturers retain the old word, for example, William Gaymer's Bristol Cyder, and Chevallier's Aspall Suffolk Cyder. The latter contains a heady 7 per cent alcohol by volume, but Weston's Special Vintage Cider Reserve is a dizzying 8.2 per cent.

While being no real authority on drink, Mrs Beeton, writing in my grandmother's inter-war edition of Mrs Beeton's Family Cookery, gives a recipe for cider in which there are just two ingredients, cider apples and water, whereas the adjacent page has a recipe for apple wine, which has three ingredients: sugar, water and? cider. In other words, apple wine is 'cider squared' - a twice fermented-out cider. (By the way, the same publication suggests that one of your servants should clean the silver every Friday.) In the cyder-making process some water was added, because firstly a glutinous pulp was unworkable, and secondly even the hard-working enzymes of farm labourers would not maintain sobriety for (say) scything the corn when drinking copious quantities of a heady ferment.

Cyder was often a safer drink than water, the purity of which might not be assured. The acids in the cyder would have killed off any water-borne diseases. In 1901, when making a critical assessment of the diet offered to inmates of the Dore Workhouse, its medical officer wrote: 'Cold water is a sickly thing to have to drink, especially for agricultural people used to cider.' He may not have meant that there was anything wrong with the water, but his comment shows the ubiquitous nature of cider as a drink at that time.

As you walk through one of Bulmers' orchards, it's mind-boggling to think that the Bulmers brothers began with just one acre (0.4ha) in 1888. In fact, nowadays Herefordshire and Worcestershire's orchards only provide a fraction of the Hereford plant's capacity. The company imports a lot of apple juice concentrate from France, Normandy in particular.

Modern-day 'cider' has sugar added and - what really gets up the nose of the present-day connoisseur - it's almost certainly been fizzed up with carbon dioxide. Even the small print on a can of Bulmers (gassy) Strongbow runs 'dry cider with sugars and sweetener' because the 21st-century palate wouldn't like cyder - they should know.

Where to eat and drink

In Martley the Crown occupies a strategic spot on the homeward stretch. In Berrow Green, 1¼ miles (2km) south, is the Admiral Rodney, with a large beer garden in an elevated position. At Knightwick, still on the B4197 but near the A44, is the Talbot, an old coaching inn serving seriously good, local food. On site is its own Teme Valley Brewery, using hops grown in the valley to produce its three beers, This, That, and T'Other.

While you're there

If you have a penchant for pigs then you will regret not timing your walk to pay a visit to the Pig Pen (usually open 2-5pm only), a specialised working farm near Whitbourne. If you have children, they will enjoy trotting around the trail and play areas too.

What to look for

Martley's red sandstone St Peter's Church claims to have the country's only complete original set of six bells, having been cast in the locality in 1673. It also has some tantalisingly indiscernible medieval wall paintings, and an alabaster effigy of Sir Hugh Mortimer, Lord of Martley and Kyre, killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. In Kingswood Nature Reserve you'll pass a slightly aged, life-size wood carving of a man.

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