First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
I don’t know whether William Shakespeare ever travelled much of the long-distance footpath from Stratford-upon-Avon to London that bears his name. But several of the gorgeous houses in the Warwickshire village of Honington look as though they’ve been there since the Bard was a lad. It was a day to do them justice as we set out along ‘Shakespeare’s Way’ – a tender blue sky, a cool breeze, and a hazy spring sun to bring out the mellow silver and gold of the local building stone.
Parkland stretched away beside the road that led north out of Honington. Sparrows, chaffinches, rooks and wrens all loudly proclaimed the spring from greening hedges and treetops. A jackdaw was pulling strands of nesting hay from the bales in a red-roofed barn, and a great spotted woodpecker drummed a hollow proclamation of ownership from its patch of woodland beyond Wagtail Spinney.
In a boggy dell we parted company from Shakespeare’s Way. We got across the fast-running stream, and stopped in the damp hollow beyond to clear a tangle of sticks that had dammed a spring. Watching the water bursting away from its confines in a wet sparkle took both Jane and me straight back to our muddy-booted childhoods.
Walking up the field boundaries to Idlicote on its ridge, we paused to admire the superb old trees that formed the margin of the path – giant crack willows burst apart and fallen, ancient coppice stools of field maples, and an ash tree split open to expose a heart of writhing tendrils more like those of an animal than a tree.
Up at Idlicote a scarecrow sat on a bench – a smooth customer in a grey homburg hat, with a pink silk kerchief in his breast pocket. Rooks had built a ragged township in the nearby trees, and they challenged our passing with reedy quacks and phlegmy belches. Sticky paths led us up from Idlicote to a high ridge where the long views melted into mist. Before dropping down the slope into Honington there was time for a sit and stare across the plain, where the slender spire of Tredington Church rose skywards from the heart of Shakespeare’s countryside.
Start: All Saints Church, Honington, Warwicks, CV36 4NH (OS ref SP 261427)
Getting there: Honington is signed off A3400, 1 mile north of Shipston-on-Stour. Left off village street (signed) to church parking spaces.
Walk (6¼ miles, easy but muddy, OS Explorer 221): Walk to village street; turn left. Opposite turning to Barcheston, left (‘Old Post Office’). In 40m, ahead through metal mesh gate. Through woodland strip (kissing gate, yellow arrow/YA); half right across field to kissing gate (YA) and road (268427). Left along road. In 1 mile, cross bridge in Wagtail Copse; immediately right through gate (267443, ‘Shakespeare’s Way’/SW). Follow path on left of stream, then between stream and wood.
In 800m, right over footbridge (273448, blue arrow/BA); follow right bank of tributary stream up through trees (BAs), then along field edges to barns near Whitehouse Farm (277446). Cross track; ahead (BA) up field edges to Idlicote. At top of rise, ahead through gate (281443); ahead to road. Pass tower and kitchen garden; round left bend; immediately right between white gateposts (283442, BA). On to cross road (284440).
On up field with hedge on right. In 600m at top of ridge, right at waymark post (288435, ‘Centenary Way’/CW). At Idlicote Hill Farm, left, then right (288433, CW). Follow hedge on right to corner (post with YA, CW); bear right along hedge. In 70m pass yellow-topped post (CW); on with hedge on left. In ⅔ mile pass pond on right (278426); in 100m, bear right round corner of Hill Clumps Wood; in 30m, left (CW, YA) across strip of ground, then right (CW) and follow CW down to road. Right, then left into Honington.
Accommodation: White Bear, Shipston-on-Stour CV36 4AJ (01608 664199, whitebearin.com)
Information: Stratford-on-Avon TIC (01789 264293)