Walking in Warwickshire and West Midlands
Warwickshire conjures up countryside images of an undulating farming landscape with mature hedgerows and an abundance of woodland and leafy lanes. Attractive red brick is a common building material typical of many villages and farmhouses and is even seen in much older timber framed Tudor buildings. Warwickshire is perhaps most famously known for Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and the countryside round about is undoubtedly beautiful, particularly along the willow edged river Avon. But there is much more to Warwickshire than Stratford-upon-Avon and most of the county can offer locations for very pleasurable walking, although the south has the edge.
In Shakespeare's day the area north of Stratford, known as the Forest of Arden, was heavily wooded and formed the setting for his play As you like It. There are places in the area which still provide pleasant woodland walks, such as Withycombe Wood near Wilmcote and Austy Wood near Wootton Wawen. A delightful and interesting waterside walk from Stratford-upon-Avon to Wilmcote and Wootton Wawen can be made along the Stratford-upon-Avon canal. This narrow waterway has more the feel of a quiet sleepy river than a canal, particularly once past the long flight of locks south of Wilmcote. Within the attractive village of Wilmcote, Mary Arden's house can be visited.
Ilmington - Ilmington is a pretty village set at the foot of Ilmington Downs in the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village, the highest in Warwickshire, has a real sense of place and is well worth exploring, including the12th century church that is worth a visit. The village maintains a tradition of Morris dancing, including some dances that are specific to the village. The Ilmington Morris Men dance on several days throughout the year, including at dawn on May Day on Ilmington Down.
The village has a more technological claim to fame in that it was the location of the first radio broadcast of a Christmas message by King George V, relayed to the world from Ilmington Manor in 1934. The most memorable aspect of this event appears to have been the broadcast's introduction by a local shepherd named Walton Handy who stole the show. Ilmington Manor is a fine Elizabethan house once owned by the de Montfort family. Hidcote Manor Gardens (National Trust) are nearby and are definitely worth a visit.
OS Maps: Explorer 205
A Walk from Ilmington [SP 213437]
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