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William Morris's Broadway

A haunt of the Arts and Crafts pioneer towers above this Worcestershire village.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 755ft (230m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Pasture, rough, tree-root path, pavements, 8 stiles

Landscape Flat vale rising to escarpment

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL45 The Cotswolds

Start/finish SP 094374

Dog friendliness Sheep-grazing country (some cattle and horses too) so only off lead in empty fields; some stiles may be tricky

Parking Pay-and-display, short stay, 4hrs maximum in Church Close, Broadway; longer stay options well signposted

Public toilets At Church Close car park and at country park

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1 Walk back down Church Close then turn left. At the far end of the church wall turn left, soon passing a tiny, narrow orchard. At a gate before a strip of grass turn immediately right, to reach a simple log bridge over a rivulet. Turn half left, across uneven pasture. Go to the right-hand field corner. In 40yds (37m) reach a bridge of two railway sleepers beside a stone barn.

2 Cross this to a waymarker through a boggy patch to two stiles. Maintain your line to reach a gate. Cross a large field, now scarcely gaining any height. On joining a vague, sunken lane bear right, to descend briefly to a gate (there's a water trough near by). A tree-lined, dirt track soon reaches another gate within 60yds (55m).

3 Slant uphill, passing in front of a stone building with, sadly, modern windows - Dor Knap (close by) is better. At the woodland ahead turn left. Join a tarmac road, steadily uphill. At the brow turn left, into Broadway Tower Country Park, and pass the Rookery Barn Restaurant. A tall kissing gate gives access to Broadway Tower.

4 Beyond the tower go through a similar gate, then take the little gate immediately on the right. Move down, left, 20yds (18m) to walk in a hollow, through pasture and scrubby hawthorns, to a gate in a dry-stone wall. Soon cross a tractor track and walk parallel to it in a similar hollow, guided by Cotswold Way acorn waymarkers. Aim for some bright metal gates among trees. Beyond these go straight ahead and in 45yds (41m), at the next marker, bear right, walking above the road. Soon cross it carefully, to footpath signs opposite.

5 Leave the Cotswold Way here. More care is needed in following these next instructions: descend, initially using wooden steps. Ignore a path on the left after 50yds (46m), then after another 50yds (46m) take the yellow arrow waymarker pointing up to the right, over more steps. About 25 paces beyond these steps use a wooden handrail to go down a few more steps. After another 50yds (46m) you'll see an orange Badger Trail disc. Go forward on this for just 10yds (9m). Here the orange disc points left, but take the yellow marker, straight ahead. Follow this narrow path (beware many exposed tree roots) near the top of this dense wood. Eventually take steps on the left, down to cross a road junction.

6 Take the field path signposted 'Broadway'. Descend sweetly through pastures. Swing left then right to pass under the new road, emerging near the top end of the old one. Turn right, on to the dead end of Broadway's main street. In the centre, 50yds (46m) beyond three red telephone boxes, turn left, through an arcade, to Church Close car park.

If Caspar Wistar were alive today, a springtime visit to Broadway would give him much pleasure. Visitors come in swarms to this Worcestershire village which lies against the edge of the Cotswolds - understandably, for it is one of the sweetest places in England. They buzz around a linear honeycomb, the honey-stone buildings stretching for the best part of a mile (1.6km). Horse chestnut trees flame with pinky-red candelabras and walls drip with the brilliant lilac flowers of wisteria. Caspar, the 18th-century American anatomist after whom the wisteria genus was named, would surely not miss this photo opportunity. (The fact that wisteria and pink horse chestnut are not 'authentic', as both were introduced to Britain centuries after Broadway's older buildings were constructed, doesn't seem to matter.) There are many buildings of note in Broadway, not least the partly 14th-century Lygon (pronounced 'Liggon') Arms. The Savoy Group bought it for £4.7 million in 1986. History has contributed to this price - in 1651 Oliver Cromwell stayed there on the night before the decisive clash in the Civil War, the Battle of Worcester.

Less historic but more affordable is Broadway Tower. The 6th Earl of Coventry's four-storey folly (1799) has served as home to a printing press and a farmhouse, but is best known as a country retreat for William Morris (1834-96). Appropriately, in 1877, he founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Artistically, Morris empathised with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group, primarily of painters, founded in 1849 by William Holman Hunt. They believed that British art had taken a 'wrong turn' under the influence of Raphael, who, with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, had made up the trio of most famous Renaissance artists. Raphael (1483-1520) was catapulted to fame and fortune in his late-twenties when commissioned to paint the stanze (Papal apartments) for Pope Julius II. The English Pre-Raphaelites challenged the teachings of the establishment, producing vividly coloured paintings, lit unconventionally, which had an almost flat appearance.

In 1859, the middle-class Morris married Jane, an 18-year-old, working-class model for Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his British-born mentor. Rossetti's wife committed suicide after two years of their marriage. Rossetti then proceeded to have an affair with Jane. Morris and some friends (including Rossetti!) set up a company producing crafted textile and stained-glass products. Morris was fascinated by pre-industrial techniques. Ironically, only the wealthy could afford to enjoy his essentially medieval art. Disillusioned by the Industrial Revolution, he was attracted to Socialism in the 1870s. He joined the Social Democratic Federation and became increasingly militant. He wrote extensively on Socialism and gave lectures, even on street corners. All the while he was writing prose and poetry and, when Tennyson died in 1892, Morris was invited to succeed him as poet laureate. He declined the invitation and died four years later.

Where to eat and drink

Part-way round the route, the Rookery Barn Restaurant welcomes walkers (and chess players). Apart from teas and coffees, call in here for simple meals, including a vegetarian ratatouille lasagne. Dogs are welcome - above a bowl of water was chalked the sign 'Water 4 mutleys'. You can sit outside, by the adjacent children's play area. Otherwise, options abound in busy Broadway.

While you're there

The four flights of stairs up the Broadway Tower add little to the already splendid view but inside it's crammed full of history (fee; closed Monday to Friday from November to March). Directly on the route is the Wild Ridge Farm Park, one of the country park's trinity of attractions. You don't have to be a child (or even with children) to enjoy an hour in this modest, hands-on farm park, sited on slopes overlooking the Vale of Evesham. The larger animals include wallabies, llamas, and belted Galloway cattle (a breed distinguished by a wide stripe of white around the torso of its otherwise black body).

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