The Wychavon district is a sublimely scenic part of Worcestershire. Its blend of colourful meadows, charming woodland, verdant orchards, gentle hills, traditional villages and historic towns are the perfect escape from everyday cares. In its southern reaches are the green rolling hills of the Cotswolds, famously beautiful and home to some of the finest walking in the country.
Winding through this glorious land is the Wychavon Way, a wonderful 40-mile (64 km) medium-distance hike. There are few finer and more invigorating ways to spend a long weekend than by ambling along its tranquil trails and waterways, sampling the local produce and delving into quintessential English countryside.
Starting from the historic spa town of Droitwich, you explore: the bygone Forest of Feckenham, once an ancient hunting forest, now a patchwork of farmland and woods dotted with rural idyls; the Lenches, a hilly region adorned by a cluster of villages and fruit orchards; Pershore, an elegant Georgian market town on the banks of Shakespeare’s Avon; Bredon Hill, a magnificent Cotswold outlier boasting huge panoramas; the picturesque Vale of Evesham and its delightful villages; and finally Broadway, one of the gems of the Cotswolds.
Nature lovers will rejoice at the myriad habitats en route. Kingfishers hunt across Droitwich’s canal networks, whilst spotted flycatchers thrive on the many insects that throng to the vegetation in summer. Swans and mallards squabble along the River Avon, whilst sparrowhawks patrol the skies. Orchids and wildflowers decorate the woodlands, and in the orchards, the glad sight of heavily laden fruit trees is marvellous.
The character of the many settlements you visit along the Way is another attraction. Droitwich’s rich history as a centre for the salt trade harks back to the Romans, whilst Pershore’s stunning abbey showcases evolving architectural styles. As you progress further south, the drystone walls and golden brick work of the Cotswolds vie with traditional timbered cottages in the pretty villages.
For this Collection, I have split the Way into four leisurely stages, ranging from 8.1 to 13.4 miles (13 to 21.6 km). Such an itinerary affords you the luxury of time to wander at will, mooch around the towns and enjoy some downtime in the superb pubs and cafés along the trail. Of course, if you wanted to, you could quite easily complete the whole thing in three days. You can also reverse the route, starting in Broadway and finishing in Droitwich.
The Way was devised by John Wren in 1977 to coincide with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and was established by Wychavon District Council. In conjunction with Worcester County Council, it was revitalised in 2012, the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
This rejuvenation means that you can expect the trails to be well signposted and waymarked — just look for the hill and vale logo of the Wychavon Way. It is a walk that is suitable for all levels of experience. The only strenuous section is the pull up onto Bredon Hill, but it is not overly steep and the ascent is short lived; the extensive views more than compensate.
Given the nature of the surroundings, this is a trail that is at its most sublime when all is in bloom, fruit is ripening on the trees and bees and butterflies buzz and flutter from flower to flower. In the warmer months, you also have the option of unwinding in a beer garden or enjoying a picnic by the riversides. However, a winter ramble, when the shadows are long and a frost covers the hills, is splendid during a decent weather window.
It’s a good idea to stash a waterproof in your pack regardless of season. During summer, sun cream is essential, even on cloudy days. Amenities are plentiful along the route; there are many places to grab a quick lunch or relax into a longer meal. The terrain is mostly straightforward, but walking boots are still recommended and things can get a little boggy after rainfall.
There are many accommodation options, though in the smaller villages advance booking is essential. To secure your dinner plans, it is also worth planning and booking a few days before your visit, as places like Pershore and Broadway are popular in the evening.
To access the Way, Droitwich is a 35-minute train ride from Birmingham and is on the M5 between Birmingham and Bristol. The end point at Broadway is not as easily accessed by public transport. The closest train station is Evesham, which links directly to Worcester and Oxford. The R4 bus service links Broadway to Evesham in 20 minutes and leaves every couple of hours.
The opening stage passes through the countryside once occupied by the ancient Forest of Feckenham, which was felled to fuel the salt industry during the Middle Ages. Today, it is …
This stage ascends to the gentle ridgeline of the Lenches and winds its way past delightful villages and traditional orchards. With splendid views all around, you descend into the Avon …
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The penultimate stage reaches the Way’s high point on Bredon Hill, rewarding you with a magnificent panorama. From Pershore, you follow the Avon to the tranquil village of Great Comberton, …
The final stage takes you through some absolutely beautiful settlements to one of the gems of the Cotswolds: the village of Broadway. It is an easy walk across the Vale …