20150405_Great Witley_Woodbury Hill_Teme Valley_Clifton Upon Teme_Circular Walk
When : 5th April 2015
Who : 11 members of the Coventry CHA Rambling Club (including me).
Where : Great Witley, Worcestershire
Start and End Point : SO,753,663
Distance : Approx 11.75 miles ( 19 km)
Significant Heights : 1,805 ft up and 1,560 ft down … details at the end, after the text.
Maps : 1:25000 O.S. Explorer Map No. 204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa.
I’m a member of The Coventry CHA Rambling Club and this walk was one from the Sunday A+ walks programme. These “A+” walks take place on the first Sunday of the month. If you’d like to know a little more about The Cov-CHA Rambling club, please see my previous blog-post or for more details please go to their web-site.
I would normally now give a link to an extensive set of photo’s I’d taken during the walk, on my photostream on Flickr. But, I was very annoyed with myself, for, when I took my camera out for the first photo of the day, I found I hadn’t inserted the SD card (it was still in my computer at home, coz I’d been downloading photo’s the night before).
This became doubly annoying as the walk took in some absolutely beautiful scenery that I’d never walked through before … and … it turned out to be the best day’s weather of the year so far, a perfect spring day for a good walk and for taking photo’s … Grrrrr …
However, a couple of my friends in the party have shared a few pic’s of their own with me and, with their permissions, I’ve been able to attach them to the post, along with some “generic” non-specific images of my own and I hope these make for an interesting post for you.
Many thanks to Gerry and John for use of their images.
I’d arranged to share a lift with a couple of ladies that were going on the walk; the meeting time in Coventry based on some details emailed out by the walks leader. I won’t mention names in the interest of privacy, but thanks to the lady who drove, it was very much appreciated. We were the first of three cars to arrive at the starting point, a large car park just to the side of The Hundred House Inn at Great Witley in Worcestershire, on the A443 road between Droitwich Spa and Tenbury Wells. The impressive grade-2 listed building looked decidedly closed and tired (writing in Apr-2015) and a quick search on the web suggests it may have been that way since 2013. Anyway, that’s where we parked.
Once we’d all gathered, donned boots and adjusted walking poles to desired lengths, we set off in a southerly direction, crossing the main road with care because there was virtually no road-side verge in front of the stile on the other side. As with all stile crossings, the party quickly started to string-out somewhat. This wasn’t helped in that, once over the stile, we were greeted by a wide, very rough-ploughed field. The path hadn’t been re-instigated across the churned up lumpy soil, but luckily we’d had a little period of dry weather and the crests of the ploughing were reasonably solid. Even my weight was supported OK!, so progress across to the far side wasn’t too bad (quite frankly it could have been horrible if we’d had recent rain). Hopefully the farmer will put the path back in again (as he is legally supposed to do) in a short time.
We soon regrouped to cross another couple of fields, eventually reaching a minor road which was reached by means of another stile. This one was particularly rickety, the tread being held in place on its rotting upright by the end point of a single nail. To hinder some more, the whole thing was also at an awkward angle. The slow progress here (even with only eleven of us) meant the group got rather spread out again very rapidly, especially as the onward route was on the road (after turning left over the stile) and the first people over obviously moved relatively quickly on the tarmac surface.
After just a couple of hundred yards along the road, a side track leaves the road on the right. Bisecting this track and the road is a footpath heading up into some woodland, this was a little indistinct at first and as the walkers at the front started to disappear up into the trees, I held back a touch to ensure the back markers (who’d stopped briefly to shed coats in the warm spring air) knew which way to come. I soon came to realise I should have put my own fleece into my ruck-sack, but I waited until I reached the top of the climb as we all re-grouped again. We’d now completed the first climb (about 460 feet) and it felt good to have raised a little sweat and, as we moved on, it was great to be high above the surrounding countryside spread out in a superb vista – a very English feel of mixed farmland, small fields, hills and valleys, farmsteads and pristine country cottages (well some were more akin to small country mansions). Having made the climb, the path (continuing pretty much southwards) promptly dropped, forcing us to quite rapidly loose most of the height previously gained, passing around Lippitts Farm en-route and then further down to Woodbury Old Farm situated on another minor road.
Our route was left along the road (Camp Lane) skirting high above a deep flooded quarry. It must be something about the minerals in quarry lakes, but the colour of the water was a notably turquoise bluey-green; it was quite beautiful looking down into the man-made bowl with sparkling jewels of light playing on the water below us. After a short distance we took a right hand turn onto another minor road (heading west). We were still dropping in height.
We were now on The Worcestershire Way and after a short distance, we turned left, off the road and onto a footpath (still on The Worcestershire Way) heading up Cockshot Hill and alongside/into another area of woodland (Cockshot Coppice). The climb started steeply, but eased somewhat to become a long ridge of maybe two miles long, including Rodge Hill and Pudford Hill. About half way along the ridge, a perfectly situated bench prompted a short break for some well-earned drinks and nibbles (we’d completed just over 3-miles by now). It was here that a box of Quality Street chocolates were dug out from a ruck-sack and handed around several times. Well it was Easter Sunday, and chocolate is THE order of the day (isn’t it?). Anyway thanks Jan’, very nice thank you very much.
Some lovely wide open views had opened up here out to the west, over The Teme Valley and up to Clifton Upon Teme high up in the distance (the church spire just about visible). Our leader for the day pointed out part of the route we’d be taking to get to the village, our intended lunch stop. This including crossing The Teme via a bridge. Now you’ve probably guessed that as we were high on the east side of the valley, and Clifton was high on the west side we first had quite a drop to negotiate, still following the ridge southwards; as we descended through some more woodland (Callow Coppice) it was just a tad muddy and slippery in places. After a while, we crossed a minor road (Pudford Lane) and then after a couple of fields, crossed what felt like a main road (in fact it was just a B-road; the B4204). After a little drop down some roughish pastureland we arrived right down on the banks of the river.
I was really enjoying the day and turning north along the river bank added yet another dimension to the walk – Pretty much flat walking! I will admit, it felt good. Although the map shows a path heading diagonally across to Hambridge Farm, the footpath in fact hugs the line of the river to arrive at where the B4204 crosses the river via Ham Bridge. The re-routed path happily prevents the need to do some road walking. We regrouped and crossed the bridge in a neat single file, but not needing to worry about vehicles – there weren’t any around.
Once over the bridge and after a hundred yards or so, we turned right off the B4204 into a minor road, giving way for a sizeable tractor and a large fork-lift truck to rattle past at quite a speed, they certainly weren’t worth arguing with for space on the road. This tarmac section didn’t last long at-all, instead we turned left onto a bridlepath. I seem to remember it was quite muddy here, but extensive muddy sections seem to be more of a a recurring theme on country walks these days, perhaps a sign of global warming and differing rain patterns over recent years?
We now had a long climb ahead of us, rising about 500 feet over about a mile. At first through some woodland (Slashes Coppice), but soon after, exiting the trees into a grassy field still rising steadily following the edge of the woods and then more open farmland. The warm spring sunshine and the exertions needed for the climb raised a sweat across my brow. In fact, it was quite a pull, however it was definitely worth it as the views once again were simply beautiful and a good excuse for a breather-stop every now and again to look behind, back down into the Teme Valley. The gradient eventually started to ease and soon after passing through Church House Farm, we entered Clifton Upon Teme, emerging in the village next to the spired church.
Clifton became our lunch stop, where we given about half-an-hour, it was also pointed out that there was seating in the church yard, and also on the triangular green situated opposite one of the village pubs (The Lion Inn, if memory serves me right about the name). The pub was open, but none of us investigated the charms inside, preferring to sit outside and chat, whilst eating our packed lunches.
We were now over half-way (around-about 7 miles completed) and we had some easy walking to re-start the walk; at first retracing our steps past the church and out into farmland, picking up a route over/around a few fields (with a degree of muddiness) to arrive at some more woodland hugging the steep western flanks of The Teme Valley between Harrisfield and Top Barn. Our way was directly into the trees on a narrow path descending steeply in a small side valley heading down towards The Teme. We were entering the brilliantly named Withery Hole in Rock Wood. The way was, well, difficult underfoot, being wet, muddy and steep, at times with fallen trees and branches across our route and always just wide enough for one person at a time. Sometimes it was a case of just planting a foot and letting it slide in the clay and leaf mold whilst hoping not to be the first to “come a cropper”. Progress certainly wasn’t as elegant as skiing or ice-skating but kind of felt akin to them both. I was pleased to have carried two walking-poles with me; they’ve paid for themselves on this trip alone.
The descent through Withery Hole [I love that name] was slow going, probably the slowest pace of the whole walk, but the half mile or so was eventually negotiated and, as far as I know, not one person ended up going head over heels or even sat down in the mud. A short section after exiting the trees (more muddy bits) brought us out onto a road which in turn soon brought us to New Mill Bridge and our second crossing of The River Teme.
There was now about ¾ of a mile of flat riverside walking (heading north), sandwiched above the high banks of the river and farmland, some arable and some pasture, walking on the rivers’ flood-plain until heading gently up to Brockhill Court. There was a lovely display of daffodils here, which just kind of fits in with my write up at this point in the walk, but the spring flowers had adorned several places along the walk, along with primroses, and various other pretty starry flowers adding attractive displays along the route. I’m no wild-flower expert but I think these included celandines, wood anemones, miniature violets and such like. I like spring!
Having not walked very much during the winter, I was starting to feel the walk now, but a short rest-stop as we re-grouped again, a drink and a chocy-bar revived me somewhat as we chatted. The way ahead (more or less north-eastwards) was over more pastureland rising steadily over quite undulating ground. The way was very indistinct here and I’m sure our leader would have been concentrating hard at this point, but his skill wasn’t at-all in doubt and the way into a small wood was reached dead-on, absolutely perfect!
If the path just followed was indistinct, then the way in the woods was practically non-existent. But we wound our way onwards, picking our way through, crossing a small stream en-route (the foot-bridge marked on the map no longer crossing the stream, but uselessly placed at a slant up the far bank). The ground was covered with the thick new-growth leaves of wild garlic (not in flower yet) but decidedly smelly when-ever it was stood on or even brushed against. I don’t find the pungent aroma unpleasant, but you certainly wouldn’t want to wear it as a perfume! It’s not a floral scent at all !
We were still generally climbing as we wound on through the woods and this continued after we exited the trees heading upwards (still north-easterly) towards the very aptly named Hillside Farm. In fact this hummocky grassy field was quite awkward to negotiate as we had to climb half left; the slope trying to throw me off to the right added a particular strain on my ankles and knees, again, my walking poles came into their own. Upon reaching the farm we joined a wide well-kept drive still climbing but much easier underfoot and we emerged onto a minor road (Camp Road again as it happens).
We had now increased our height by about 120m (over about a mile) since leaving the riverside. However, the climbing wasn’t over yet, as we crossed the road to pick up a distinct footpath heading up into a narrow strip of woodland. We were now back on The Worcestershire Way, heading almost northwards now and soon found ourselves turning almost back on ourselves as the path made a single hairpin bend and a very short (still upward) section brought us to the top of the hill … Yay, made it ! … In fact, we’d been climbing up the western side of a ridge stretching south from Walsgrove Hill maybe half a mile to the north. Effectively this ridge was the very same one as the one we’d followed during the morning, just separated briefly by the quarry area we’d walked around several hours earlier.
Our route from here was away from the trees dropping into farmland above Easthope Farm. The views were once again more than worth the exertions of the climb and as we turned north again we could see our finishing area about a mile away. Our way was pretty much contouring/slowly descending now with the views off to our right kind of spoilt by a messy plethora of caravans, motor homes and food & beer trailers scattered across the large field below us.
This turned out to be the Red Marley motor-biking hill climb meet, an annual event each Easter Sunday & Monday. Our path had to cross the actual hill climb route, forcing us to step over the bright tapes marking the course boundaries. I say we had to step over the plastic ribbons, but in fact only the taller of us straddled the tapes, many of the party choosing instead to stoop low to pass underneath, although I didn’t see anyone actually try limbo dancing – Maybe it was a little late in the day for that, or maybe heavy muddy hiking boots don’t lend themselves to limbo (he-he, it’d be fun to watch though). Thankfully, there were no motors heading up the course, making the crossing no problem at-all.
Once over the course route, we made our way down to the buildings of Walsgrove Farm, picking up a surfaced drive dropping past the red brick buildings with two distinctive oast house tops (you’d think we could have been in Kent rather than Worcestershire). We now had a section of road walking along a very minor road (heading north) pretty much on the flat now. The walking was easy but we just had to step aside several times as some rather large camper vans etc., trundled past heading towards the hill climb base-camp. To end the walk, we left the road, headed around a field boundary to emerge out onto the A443 main road almost exactly opposite The Hundred House Inn and our parked cars.
Well, what a superb day of walking.
• A sense of discovering an area previously not walked through.
• Descent spring weather, the best of the year so far.
• Varied and interesting terrain, including :-
• Woods; Farmland, Riverside; Hills; Ascents; Descents; A pretty Village,
• and, Lovely views throughout the day.
• And most of all …. The most excellent company to walk with.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings.
And finally, as promised earlier, the Significant Heights – Both Ups and Downs.
Approx. only; by reading contours on my map.
1. Great Witley to Woodbury Hill.
135m to 275m = Approx 140m ascent (460 ft).
2. Woodbury Hill to Near Flooded Quarry.
275m to 160m = Approx 115m descent (380 ft).
3. Above Flooded Quarry Along the Ridge of Rodge Hill / Pudford Hill.
120m to 200m = Approx 80m ascent (260 ft ).
4. Ridge of Rodge Hill / Pudford Hill to River Teme.
200m to 35m = Approx 165m descent (540 ft).
5. Ham Bridge (Over River teme) up to Clifton Upon Teme.
35m to 190m = Approx 155m ascent (510 ft).
6. Steep Slippery Descent through Withery Hollow.
150m to 40m = Approx 110m descent (360 ft)
7. Brockhill Court over the Ridge of Walsgrove Hill.
45m to 220m = Approx 175m ascent (575 ft).
8. Ridge of Walsgrove Hill to Great Witley.
220m to 135m = Approx 85m descent (280 ft).
Approx total significant ascents = 550m (1,805 ft).
Approx total significant decents = 475m (1,560 ft).