First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A cold, still day of early spring, with the clouds layered in motionless lines over the Worcestershire hills. The low whine of an organ from the red sandstone Church of St Kenelm heralded the end of Matins as we left Clifton-upon-Teme and headed out over pale pink ploughland. Down in the steep wooded cleft of Witchery Hole, dog’s mercury had taken over the world, a brief flush of tiny green flowers at the crack of spring before the primroses and wood anemones had got properly into their stride.
The Teme is a beautiful river. A.E. Housman called its landscape ‘the country for easy living, the quietest under the sun’, and there’s something leisurely and seductive about the slow green flow of the river, the miniature red cliffs of its steep banks and the winding valley it has smoothed out under high ridges of hard limestone. We walked upstream along the river to Brockhill Court with its stumpy old oasts (this was hop-growing country once upon a time) and red brick barns where a tawny owl was softly hooting.
A series of shallow billowing valleys led up to a little wood. We sat to eat our buns and cheese, watching a pair of tree creepers scuttling up an ash trunk, their neckless heads tucked down into their shoulders as they picked insects from winter shelter in the cracks of the bark.
On up past Hillside Farm with its three architectural eras all jammed improbably together; a steep little burst up to the ridge, and then three glorious south-going miles along the Worcestershire Way, hurdling the dips and striding along the crests with a broad plain stretching out eastward, and the Teme to the west running unseen in its lumpy green valley far below. We saw frogspawn in thick clumps in a pond at Woodbury Old Farm, smelt a whiff of wild garlic on the rim of a petrol-blue flooded quarry, and heard the first chiffchaff of the year in the woods on Pudford Hill.
Down in the valley we recrossed the dully glinting Teme and went up a long bridleway towards Clifton-on-Teme, with the pocket mountain range of the Malvern Hills rising in the south, smoky grey and insubstantial in the last sunlight of the March evening.
Start: Lion Inn, Clifton-upon-Teme, Worcs, WR6 6DH (OS ref SO 714616)
Getting there: Bus 308, 310 from Worcester
Road – Clifton-upon-Teme is on B4204 between Martley and Broadheath (M5, Jct 7; A44 west)
Walk (9 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer 204): Take signed footpath between Lion Inn and church. Follow yellow arrows (YA) into field. On far side, over left-hand of 2 stiles (716617). Ahead with hedge on left. At field end, left over stile (718619); follow hedge on right. In 50m, right over stile (YA); on to cross lower stile (YA). Aim across field to right-hand corner of Harrisfield house (719621); bear left around house, and on down to cross stile into woodland (720623). Right along waymarked track, steeply down Witchery Hole for ½ mile to road (728624). Right, then left across New Mill Bridge. Left (729625) along east bank of River Teme for ¾ mile to road at Brockhill Court (728635).
Right at foot of drive (YA) through gate. Up and through next gate; right (YA) into shallow valley. Bear half right to gate (731639, faded YA). Follow valley bottom NE to stile into wood (735642). Follow path clockwise to cross stream (736642); 50m up the far bank, bear right to leave wood over stile (737643). Aim for far top corner of field (738644); over stile, and follow fence on left. Just past Hillside Farm house, left through gate (739645) onto drive; right to road (741646).
Cross road onto waymarked Worcestershire Way/WW; follow it south for 3 miles to B4204 (743608). Right (take care!) for half a mile to cross River Teme by Ham Bridge (737611). First right after bridge (‘Shelsleys’); pass 2 houses, then left (736611) up bridleway. Climb through wood; in 400m, at top of first rise, dogleg left/right through gate (732612, blue arrow, ‘Sabrina Way’). Continue uphill with fence on right for 1 mile to Church House Farm. Left to road (717615); right to Lion Inn.
Conditions: Strenuous walking, plenty of up-and-down. Steep, slippery, and many steps in Witchery Hole wood.
Lunch/Accommodation: Lion Inn, Clifton-upon-Teme (01886-812975) – friendly, clean village inn.