Riverside, woods, a traditional estate and great views feature on this easy walk from Hampton Loade.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 328ft (100m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Easy to follow and easy to use, 4 stiles
Landscape Woods, parkland and farmland in and above Severn Valley
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 218 Wyre Forest & Kidderminster
Start/finish SO 747865
Dog friendliness On lead near livestock, can run free on green lanes and woods - consult any National Trust notices posted
Parking National Trust car park by River Severn at Hampton Loade
Public toilets None on route
1 Begin by walking upriver. Cross a footbridge as you approach a waterworks, then fork right, heading away from the river to enter woodland. The path climbs to a junction, where you branch left to walk the length of Long Covert. After about ¾ mile (1.2km) the path is joined by another from the right. It then arrives at a clearing, where you turn right on another path which follows the rim of a dingle to a junction by a bench. Turn left, descending towards a brook.
Ignore an ornamental footbridge and continue on the same side a little further until you can cross the brook at stepping stones. Climb out of the dingle into the pasture/parkland which surrounds Dudmaston Hall, following a track which takes you through a gate, to the right of farm buildings, then straight on to a waymarker post. Now turn left to join Dudmaston's access road.
2 To continue with the walk, turn right to the A442. If, however, you intend to visit Dudmaston Hall, this is as good a time as any.
3 On arriving at the A442, cross over to a lane opposite and walk along it for about 600yds (549m). If you prefer, you can use a footpath on the left that runs beside the lane for much of that distance. Leave the lane on the right on a field-edge bridleway. Descend into a valley, then climb out of it again and continue to a footpath junction in a field corner. Turn left, still on the bridleway, and follow the field edge to a lane.
4 The bridleway continues opposite, by a field edge. In the corner, turn left for a few paces, then through a gap and along the edge of the next field, with woodland (Witheridge's Rough) on your right. At the end of the wood, close to the corner, join a track and turn right, enjoying excellent views now of Wenlock Edge, The Wrekin and the Clee Hills. Leave the track when it turns right to a farm and go straight on instead, through sheep pasture. At the far side, turn left on another track, with woodland on your left and a hedge on your right. After the hedge comes to an end, a sudden view is revealed of the Clee Hills. Leave the track at this point, and walk down to the A442. Cross over and go down the lane opposite to Hampton Loade.
The walk begins in Hampton Loade, a tiny place famous for its cable ferry. Apart from a seasonal ferry at Worcester, this is the last working ferry on the River Severn. At the time of writing its future is in doubt, but everybody hopes Bridgnorth District Council will enable it to be saved. Perhaps a way can be found to keep it going, much to the benefit of the walkers, anglers and railway enthusiasts who are its main users - railway enthusiasts because on the other side of the river is Hampton Station, on the Severn Valley Railway. It's well worth crossing to visit the station, which is full of character (in fact, the best way to arrive at Hampton Loade is by train and ferry). Great wicker baskets of damsons used to be loaded on to the trains here and transported to Manchester to be made into dyes for the cotton trade. Those days may be long gone, but something of their atmosphere lingers still.
The object of this walk, however, is Dudmaston, where Dudmaston Hall is one of the National Trust's nicest properties. (check opening hours in advance as they're fairly limited). The estate has been in the same family for 850 years and the 17th-century hall retains the atmosphere of a family home, because that is what it is - it's occupied by Sir George and Lady Labouchere, who gave it to the National Trust in 1978. It contains an outstanding collection of contemporary art and a wealth of exquisite botanical art from earlier centuries. The extensive gardens and grounds are gorgeous and offer a variety of walks.
A short detour from the walk will take you into Quatt, a model estate village designed by London architect John Birch in 1870. The timber-framed bus shelter is a more recent addition, but reaches the same high standard. The 18th-century Dower House is a handsome building and the brick church opposite, rebuilt in 1763, contains many fine tombs of the Wolryche family who lived at Dudmaston.
You might enjoy the Stables, the National Trusts's tea rooms at Dudmaston, though opening hours are limited. The friendly River and Rail pub at Hampton Loade is open every day, with food from noon onwards. A huge variety of drinks, snacks and meals is available and dogs are welcome in the large garden/paddock.
Dudmaston is one place where you can see the survival of almost all the traditional attributes of a south Shropshire estate: the hall, landscaped gardens and parkland, woodland, farmland and a village of estate cottages (Quatt). The National Trust works with the community and gives priority to local people when letting cottages. It also promotes local facilities and places certain restrictions on its tenant farmers so that they have to take environmental concerns into account, retaining sheep pasture, for instance, instead of converting every field to crops.