First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
On a short winter’s afternoon in Worcestershire I set off from the Manor Arms at Abberley to go wherever the waymarked Abberley Circular Walk might lead me.
The old village of Abberley is a thoroughly charming place of red brick cottages and timber-framed farmhouses, cradled among steep wooded hills. I climbed away up the flank of Abberley Hill, where sheep as tame as dogs came trotting up to have their ears scratched and their bouncy fleeces patted.
Up at the crest, the Abberley Circular Walk joined hands with the Worcestershire Way and ran away east along the narrow spine of Abberley Hill among bare woods of sycamore and sweet chestnut. A view opened south through leafless trees across green farmland to the miniature mountains of the Malvern Hills, ancient jagged peaks, pale mauve under a streaky gold sky.
Down by the side of Shavers End quarry the path grew slippery over fallen leaves. There was a glimpse between the trees of a giant abandoned delving with flooded pits and great sections sliced out of the hillside. Aymestry limestone for road-building was extracted here in thousands of tons from strata over 400 million years old, contorted and sandwiched and turned upside down by gargantuan upheavals in the earth’s crust, nowadays so solid and immobile-seeming.
Down at the northern end of the hill the Abberley Circular Walk couldn’t quite make up its mind what to do. I followed the narrow road, and soon saw the path dipping away decisively along the edge of red ploughlands and sheep pasture towards the pond at Netherton House. Here the Abberley Circular Walk dropped hands with the Worcestershire Way and set off through the steep fields for home.
I passed a hop field – a rare sight only a few years ago, but now on the increase thanks to the success of the microbrewery industry. Long straight lines of pergolas carried a tangle of brown tendrils, the few unharvested hop flowers yielding an oily fragrance when pinched between finger and thumb.
Back in Abberley, the chancel of St Michael’s is all that remains of the village’s 13th-century church. Here I found a Green Man with leafy side-whiskers, and a curious epitaph to a shy 17th-century lady, ‘a Person of Extraordinary Faith, high Generosity and great Charity, mixed with extreme secrecy & modesty, as if her left hand knew not what her right hand did.’
Start: The Village, Abberley, Worcs WR5 6BN (OS ref SO 753679)
Getting there: Bus 758, Worcester to Abberley Stores (½ mile)
Road: M5 Jct 5, A38 Droitwich bypass; A4133 to Holt Heath; A433 through Great Witley. In another mile, right on B4202; in ½ mile, right to Abberley Village.
Walk (5 miles, moderate, OS Explorer 204. Online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): From Manor Arms, cross road (‘Shavers End’); right up lane (‘Wynniatts Way’, ‘Abberley Circular Walk’/ACW). In 100m, left (ACW) through gate; follow ACW up field, steeply up through woods to road (751674). Right (ACW); in 150m, left along Worcestershire Way/WW. Follow WW for 2 miles to road beyond quarry (771682); left along road. WW deviates from map route here – follow it along road for 350m, then right (WW, ACW) down hedge and continue to Netherton House (764688). WW turns right here, but go left and follow ACW waymarks back to Abberley.
Conditions: Some steep, slippery sections of Worcestershire Way in woods
Abberley Circular Walk:
Lunch/Accommodation: Manor Arms Inn, The Village, Abberley (01299-890300, themanorarms.co.uk) – friendly, warm and stylish