May 112024

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Monarch's Way in Hidcote Combe 1 Monarch's Way in Hidcote Combe 2 Buttercup pasture near Upper Quinton 1 Buttercup pasture near Upper Quinton 2 near Meon Hill looking to Upper Quinton from slopes of Meon Hill path beside oilseed rape crop

The three neighbouring counties of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Warwickshire butt up against one another near Mickleton, and today’s walk would be shared between the latter two.

The houses of Mickleton stood in beautiful Cotswold stone, more cream than gold in colour. In the high wall of the manor house a line of musketry loopholes bore witness to the invasion fears of 1940.

In the buttercup pastures beyond St Lawrence’s Church, newly shorn ewes bleated in phlegmy voices for their fat-legged lambs. Steep green parkland slopes led us east below the Italianate red tiled roofs of Kiftsgate Court. The treble atonal humming of a swarm of bees, invisible but close overhead, made us duck as they flew by like a cloud of djinns.

From the footpath alongside Hidcote Manor’s gardens we glimpsed visitors in bright summer clothes strolling by flowerbeds and borders of every artful hue and design. Then it was out across the sloping fields of Hidcote Combe, following the Monarch’s Way above Marchfont Brook. Sheep snoozed and grazed under a cloudless sky where a vintage single-engined aeroplane purred like a throaty old cat – the sound of a warm summer’s afternoon.

Hidcote Combe is a sharp extremity of Gloucestershire, a finger rudely poking the backside of Warwickshire. At Admington Lane we crossed the county border and began to traverse the lower slopes of Meon Hill. This flat-topped hummock is laden with stories and superstitions ranging from witchcraft murders to the red-eared hell hounds of King Arawyn, Lord of the Netherworld.

All seemed as peaceful and rooted as could be on this day of glorious views across the Vale of Evesham. Yellowhammers wheezed among the hawthorns. We sat on a field headland for the pleasure of staring across many miles of sunlit countryside, down over acres of buttercup fields to the pale spire of Lower Quinton church backed by a distant line of low green hills.

Up and on at last across fields corrugated into ridge and furrow by medieval farmers. The long whaleback of Bredon Hill and the pale blue silhouette of the Malverns came into view as we followed the margin of a ploughed field sown with pumpkins, their varieties recorded on golden labels – Mellow Yellow, Gladiator, Hot Chocolate, Chucky. What would a literate ploughman of the Middle Ages have made of that?

How hard is it? 6¾ miles; easy; field paths

Start: St Lawrence’s Church, Mickleton, Glos GL55 6RZ (OS ref SP162435)

Getting there: Bus 21/22 (Stratford-Moreton-in-Marsh)
Road – B4632 (Stratford-Broadway)

Walk: Below church, through gate (‘Heart of England Way’/HEW); follow bridleway. In next field, gate (164434, blue arrow/BA, HEW); path with hedge on right. At next gate HEW goes right across stream (166431), but keep ahead, following BAs for ½ mile to road at gate (173430). Right for 40m; left (gate, fingerpost); fork left uphill (yellow arrows, kissing gate/KG) to cross top of Hidcote car park (177430). Left through gate; follow Monarch’s Way/MW (posts, waymarks) for 1⅓ mile to Admington Lane (187447). Right along road – take care! In ¼ mile, at Admington Road Farm, left (191446, stile); follow MW and Centenary Way/CW for ⅔ mile to road (185454) at Homeleigh. Dogleg right/left; follow MW/CW for ¾ mile to road in Upper Quinton (178462). Left; from ‘The Orchard’ follow HEW across fields (KGs). In ½ mile with wooden gate (‘Permissive Access’) ahead (122458), turn left through KG (white arrow). Right along hedge and on. In ⅓ mile, through woodland. On emerging (171452), right downhill; through KG (170451). Left along hedge; follow HEW to Mickleton.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Three Ways House Hotel, Chapel Lane, Mickleton GL55 6SB (01386-438429,

Info: Chipping Campden TIC (01386-841206)

 Posted by at 02:08

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