Chipping Campden to Bidford-on-Avon Back to Heart of England Way index Henley-in-Arden to Berkswell

The Walk

Today's walk is arguably the loneliest and most rural part of the Heart of England Way, excepting the last half day over Cannock Chase. It's a world of pastures, fields, woods and low hills, of church spires and grazing cattle and half timbered cottages. We pass through Alcester, the second largest town on the route, which makes an ideal lunch stop; apart from which we visit two small villages (Broom and Wixford) which are both encountered during the shorter morning section. Only the north-eastern outskirts of Alcester disappoint, where the path skirts an industrial estate - the rest is charming. The six mile stretch between Alcester and Henley-in-Arden is quite empty, with no major transport arteries and very little habitation, and is a superb walk for a sunny day.

Maps: 1:25000 Explorers 205 (Stratford and Evesham) and 220 (Birmingham)

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Bidford-on-Avon bridge

The path leaves Bidford remarkably quickly. Initially it hops through two lanes and a suburban back road, after which it runs along a path hugging the back gardens of a long row of older properties facing the main road to the west. The older properties give way to a new estate, after which the path converges with the road. Ahead is a humpback bridge carrying the road across the abandoned branch line from Stratford to the equally defunct Redditch to Cheltenham line.

Negotiating lanes in Bidford on Avon

Suburban roads in Bidford

The HOE through Bidford-on-Avon

The route is a little confusing here as the path leaves the bridge to the east to continue at ground level, yet afterwards strikes off diagonally north west from the road immediately north of the bridge. You can either take the path beside te bridge and then walk back to the bridge parapet to then find the steep flight of steps off to the northwest, or ignore the path and use the road direct to the bridge (less satisfying but more straightforward).

The path east of the bridge, and the steps leading down from the bridge parapet

The path goes diagonally across a pasture between wooden fences to cross a back lane, and then hugs the boundary of a recreation ground to come into the village of Broom.

The approach to Broom



Broom is short, sweet and charming. Immediately beyond Broom is an extensive stretch of pastures apparently dedicated to the exercising and breeding of horses.

Moor Hall

Moor Hall, the principal farm to the north of Broom, has the air of a major stud farm. At first the path strikes across an area marked out as a racecourse, then skirts the farm itself to the east. Further fields, each entered by a succession of stiles, either have horses grazing within or contain practice show jumping or steeplechase fences. There are few trees or hedges hereabouts but the greenery begins again immediately beyond the stud farm grounds. The houses of Wixford become visible, perhaps ten minutes' walk ahead.

The Heart of England Way south of Wixford


The Heart of England Way near Wixford

The pastures leading into Wixford are quite delightful, undulating swards grazed by a small number of cattle and boasting two footbridges across tiny side streams. The River Arrow, a tributary of the Avon, lays just to the left and the main road bridge over the river can be seen up ahead. Wixford itself lays along the road to the right but we continue to the north.

Wixford and the caravan site

Once across the road the HOE runs through a caravan park bordering the river. Beyond the caravan park the Way briefly becomes a narrow and muddy path squeezed between trees before turning right to hug the boundary of a new development of executive houses.

Wixford Church and the entrance drive to Oversley Castle

You now come to a crossroads of dirt roads. To your left is Wixford's church, and within the grounds is a lovely little thatched stable, which served to house the horse of the visiting cleric some two hundred years ago.

Take the drive straight ahead, which is the entrance to Oversley Castle.

Oversley Castle

Ahead now is the line of the Alne Hills, which in turn overlook the town of Alcester to the northwest. An outlier of this range and the next objective of our route is the extensive Oversley Hill, topped by a wild nineteenth century fantasy called Oversley Castle. It is a stately home rather than a castle yet it looks like something out of Tolkein, standing stark and white above the surrounding countryside and looking every inch the home of witches and warlocks.

The driveway to Oversley Castle

The Way now runs along the drivewy to the castle. The drive is planted either side with laburnum trees, which look glorious in May when in blossom. They smell lovely too, but don't touch them - laburnums are poisonous. The drive climbs the western aspect of the hill quite steeply before doglegging to the left and then swinging clockwise round three sides of a plantation of trees, hugging the 210 ft. contour. The trees hide the castle from view.

The drive to Oversley Castle, and a view back towards Wixford

Nearby fields of oilseed rape

The track around Oversley Hill

From the north side of Oversley Hill the path turns left again, to head downwards to a col short of Primrose Hill, the next objective. From the col climb up to the ugly and enormous grain silos at Lower Oversley Lodge. Primrose Hill drops sharply from here and you will be rewarded by a view of Alcester, nestling below.

The HOE north of Oversley Hill

Lower Oversley Lodge and the first sighting of Alcester

Oversley Green

The path drops diagonally yet steeply down the hill to reach a bridge carrying what used to be a back lane over the new bypass. Once across the bridge we're briefly back in picture postcard country as we reach the first houses in Oversley Green, now a suburb of Alcester.

Approaching Oversley Green

Crossing the bypass

Oversley Green

Walk through Oversley Green and turn left onto the main road towards Alcester.

Oversley Green


Alcester is a very pleasant little town, the ubiquitous half-timbered buildings coexisting with some very elegant stone facades in the Georgian and Regency styles. The official path misses the bulk of the town centre, preferring to creep in alongside the river, through a park and then along the delightful Malt Mill Lane to reach the church. However, you will probably want to explore a little, and stock up on provisions or have some lunch here.

Approaching Alcester theough the park

Malt Mill Lane and the church


The Alcester Globe

If you're breaking the journey at Alcester you should be aware that not all buses go through the town centre - services to Evesham, among others, leave from the stances on the far side of the roundabout southwest of the town centre. This roundabout features the Alcester Globe, erected in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war. The Globe Inn formerly occupied the same site.


Go north from the town centre along Butter St and then head out on the main road to the northeast, the B4089. Alcester's housing estates stretch for some distance to the north beyond a further crossing of the River Arrow. The main road began to climb again as it reaches the northeastern outskirts of the town.

The road out of Alcester

When the B4089 turns off to the left, ignore it and go straight on. Shortly afterwards look for the narrow footpath to the left (third image above) which takes the Way northwards out of Alcester. The path leads through through a copse of trees and up to a trig pillar, at about 200 ft, sitting in the middle of a field. On the other side of the tiny hill is yet another abandoned railway, this one a link which once connected the Stratford to Birmingham line with the Redditch to Cheltenham route, now also defunct. Alcester's industrial estate lays about three hundred yards to the left, but there is an uninterrupted view of open country ahead and to the right.

Copse and trig pilar

The route, view left to the industrial estate, view right

Abandoned railway


The nature of the terrain subtly changes again. The Way now crosses the northern half of the Alne Hills, which are bisected by the River Alne itself. There are no more villages on today's itinerary, just a succession of fields and pastures, hedges and fences, hills and woods, farmsteads and short stretches of road. Immediately beyond Alcester the route traverses a draughty little hill, hugging a hedgerow alongside crops.

The route alongside hedgerows northeast of Alcester

First you stay to the right of the hedge, then at a gap (second image above) switch to the left. The field boundary now goes downhill to approach a road, marked as Coughton Fields Lane on the OS map. About halfway down the slope you have to go through another gap and switch to the right-hand side of the hedge again. The field boundary eventually reaches the lane, partially hidden by a substantial row of trees.

The descent to Coughton Fields Lane

Twenty metres of road walking to the left brings us to the next gate, which gives access to a sloping pasture across which the path makes a beeline for the next stile. This stile then leads into a wood. The right of way is supposed to plunge straight through, coming out into the open fifty yards beyond, yet the actual path chooses to meander sideways through the wood. Beyond the wood there are yet more field boundaries, up and over another hill and down to another road.


The route from Coughton Fields Lane to Spernal Lane

Approaching Spernal Lane

Another uphill stretch greets us beyond the road, for which the Way adopts the driveway to Dinglewell Farm. Don't miss the bifurcation which takes the Way up and across a pasture to the left. At the top of the pasture the Way meets a minor road and follows it for some 250 metres to the north west before dodging into a farm track to the right.

The Dinglewell Farm driveway

The route around Dinglewell Farm

The lane to Alne Wood

This track climbs fairly briskly up Lodge Hill and approaches Alne Wood to the left, or west. Walk alongside the wood. At the far corner the route passes a motley collection of sheds and then enters the short stretch of Burnet Brake before hugging the side of the rather larger Newslands Wood.

Arriving at Alne Wood

Alne Wood to Burnet Brake

Burnet Brake to Burford Lane Farm

Beyond this wood is a rather confusing section of intersecting field boundaries at which it's easy to go the wrong way. Cross the stile and then go half left, ignoring the footpath onwards to Tut's Cottage and the road. Your route crosses a pasture (third image first row above) and then hugs the eastern side of a field boundary to approach Burford Lane Farm.

Burford Lane Farm

Burford Lane Farm turns out to be a pretty little locality comprising several cottages. Turn right and walk up to the nearby junction then take the footpath to the left (third image above). Ahead and to the left is the aptly named Round Hill, an abrupt and shapely knott of about 450 ft. The Way avoids Round Hill to the right, or east. A narrow lane which the path once followed is overgrown and choked with debris, so instead follow the boundary of the pasture on the Round Hill side. There now follows a succession of pastures and stiles as the path approaches the large plantation of Spernall Park Wood. A discreet Heart Of England waymark directs you to a minor path running parallel across an open field.

The HOE passing Round Hill

The route just to the east of Round Hill

Field crossings near Spernall Park Wood; note the heavy clay soil

The soil hereabouts is heavy clay and this section could well be murder during or immediately after rain. Beyond the field is a grassy pasture, then another small wood through which the path goes steeply downhill. It comes into the open again at a footbridge over a stream (second image , second row below). Then it's uphill once more, across another pathless pasture, to reach the collection of houses clustered around Greenhill Farm. You come out onto a road, and the next section involves walking this road, north and then east, to reach the corner of Bannam's Wood.

The approach to Greenhill Farm

The short road section from Greenhill Farm to High Field Farm

Bannam's Wood

Bannam's Wood

The footpath enters the wood by a gate to the left of High Fields Farm. The wood is very pleasant though most of the path through it is uphill again, and the constant gradients can become a chore. The wood is quite a big one, nearly three quarters of a mile in length, though for the further half of this distance the path runs alongside the fence just inside the eastern edge of the wood.

Bannam's Wood

Bannam's Wood

Hunger Hill

The far end of Bannam's Wood

At the point where you leave Bannam's Wood the route is clearly visible for the next mile ahead, down to a road and up another hill. Hunger Hill is the last major hill between here and Henley-in-Arden, but there are no signs of habitation. Follow the hedgerow down to the next country road.

Descent to the road

Beyond the road it's hedgerow walking again, and the heavy clay soil returns. The path is now ascending a nameless hill of around 300 ft in altitude. As the path climbs upwards the crops gave way to grazed pasture and you will find yourself on pathless grass once more, picking your way through groups of sheep and lambs as you search for the next stile on the far side.

Field paths, Oldberrow

Once you cross the stile at the top of the hill (middle picture, first row above) you can see the next few hundred metres of route, crossing another huge pasture downhill to a line of trees concealing a brook. Henley-in-Arden is now only a mile and a half away but it is hidden behine Hunger Hill, directly ahead.

Field paths, and a local resident

Follow the path (which may or may not be obvious on the ground depending on the time of year) to a little gap in the trees (first image above) and cross the footbridge over the brook. 

Bridge across brook

Beyond the footbridge is a tangle of vegetation and then a short uphill stretch of pasture, followed by another. This is Hunger Hill. As you top the rise the view ahead is blocked by a substantial row of trees, disappointing as you expect to have the town in sight by now. You reach the grounds of Hunger Hill House, and the path is routed between a pasture and an orchard. Head for the exit to the road.

Hunger Hill

Hunger Hill House and the final road crossing


There is still no sign of the town, which remains hidden until you cross the railway bridge. Following the map carefully, cross a succession of pastures to the south of Builth Farm to reach yet another footbridge hidden in a dell.

Pastures south of Builth Farm


After the footbridge there's another short stretch of dense vegetation, after which you emerge at the edge of a field. The  Way turns north, then east, following around the edge of this field. Beyond the field is a short grass path leading between a few allotment plots. And then, finally, a footbridge over the railway. The station platforms are just below and the town of Henley-in-Arden lays to the eastern side of the tracks.

Pastures west of Henley-in-Arden

Henley-in-Arden station
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Chipping Campden to Bidford-on-Avon Back to Heart of England Way index Henley-in-Arden to Berkswell

This page last updated 25th November 2007