Part one of the Monarch’s Way takes you on a historic hike from where the first and last battles of the English Civil War were fought to where William Shakespeare was born.
The Monarch’s Way traces the escape route taken by King Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the final battle of the civil war between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. At 615 miles (990 km) in total, it is the longest inland trail in England.
The epic journey begins at Powick Bridge, where the first and last battles of the civil war took place. From the tower of Worcester Cathedral, Charles II watched his forces defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s army and so began his six-week escape.
From Powick Bridge, this first part of the Way winds 175 miles (282 km) through the heart of Worcester, around the patchwork countryside of Worcestershire and into Shropshire to the River Severn, where Charles’ attempt to escape into Wales was thwarted.
The Way then loops back around Wolverhampton, skirts Birmingham and drops into the beautiful and wildlife-rich Warwickshire countryside to finish in Stratford-upon-Avon, where playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born and laid to rest.
The trail is waymarked throughout and follows well-maintained paths. The hiking is generally quite leisurely but there are some challenging sections, making it a good choice for all abilities.
In this Collection, we split the route into 12 stages, each averaging 14.6 miles (23.5 km). Of course, you can divide each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or couple of stages, in isolation. As stages 4 and 6 are both around 18 miles (30 km), however, there is a suggestion on how to split the routes in the stage description.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, Worcester has excellent transport links, including regular and direct train services direct from London and Birmingham. From the city centre, it is a 2-mile (3.2 km) hike to the start of the route at Powick Bridge. Alternatively, you can catch the 44 bus, which runs regularly to the start. To get home, Stratford-upon-Avon also has excellent public transport links.
If you plan to drive, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B owner in Worcester to stay for a night either side and leave your car for the duration. Alternatively, there is long-stay parking available in Worcester. To get back, there are regular trains between Stratford and Worcester, which typically take two hours.
For more information about the Monarch’s Way, visit: monarchsway.50megs.com.
For the 44 bus timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/44-county-hall-worcester-the-malverns.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
Click the links below for more Collections on the Monarch’s Way.
Part 2: komoot.com/collection/914707/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-2.
Part 3: komoot.com/collection/918048/conquer-the-longest-inland-trail-in-england-monarchs-way-part-3,
The first stage of the Monarch’s Way starts from where the first and last battles of the English Civil War took place, winds through the historic city of Worcester and finishes in Droitwich Spa.The start location is highly symbolic for the story of this route. The Monarch’s Way traces the escape route taken by Charles II after his crushing defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, fought in and around this location. Charles’ defeat was the end of the English Civil War between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians, resulting in a decisive victory for Oliver Cromwell and his armies and the end of Royal rule.The Battle of Powick Bridge, fought at this spot in 1642, however, marked the very first skirmish of the Civil War under his father Charles I, who was beheaded for treason in 1649.From this historic spot, you follow the River Terne to where it meets the River Severn and hike along the banks of the Severn to Worcester Bridge, which leads into the heart of the city.This route cuts-off a meander to visit Worcester Cathedral and then heads along the Worcester and Birmingham Canal for 2.7 miles (4.3 km), crossing over a couple of times.You leave the canal, follow the edge of a golf course, cross underneath the A449 and continue through a suburban landscape.The trail joins the Droitwich Barge Canal and follows it to the historic spa town of Droitwich, where this stage finishes. Droitwich has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This hike explores a patchwork of farmland dotted with pretty villages and historic buildings.From Droitwich Spa, you cross Westlands, follow Kidderminster Road to Hampton Lovett, head underneath the railway line and continue through farmland. Rock fans behold when you reach the small village of Rushock. Within St Michael’s churchyard, you find the grave of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham (1948-1980). You hike through fields to Chaddesley Corbett, where you find another interesting church, St Cassian’s. This Grade I-listed church was built in the 12th century on the site of a much older place of worship.A short step later you come to another historic building, Harvington Hall. Built during the 1580s, this Elizabethan manor house has the largest surviving series of priest hides of any building in England and is Grade I-listed.The trail zigzags northeast through rural landscapes past Ladies’s Pool, Windmill Pool, and Sweet Pool to the village of Hagley, where this stage finishes.There are accommodation options in the area and plenty of places to eat and drink. Hagley train station is also nearby and has good links to places like Stourbridge, which have more options.
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Fine views over the Severn Valley and gentle walking along tree-lined canals await on this hike.The stage begins with a steady climb over Wychbury Hill. Whilst the ascent is small, the rewards are great and you experience lovely views over the Severn Valley, Malvern Hills, and Clee Hills.You also find Wychbury Ring Iron Age fort on the summit, as well as Hagley Monument, an 18th-century obelisk that is routinely graffitied with slogans relating to an unsolved murder.The trail descends to Stourbridge, cuts through the heart of town and joins the Stourbridge Town Arm canal link to Wordsley Junction. Here, you follow the Stourbridge Canal southeast to where it meets the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.The directions are simple from here: follow the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal north to Bratch Locks.The canal-side paths along this route are great for wildlife spotting. Look out for otters, kingfishers, and dragonflies.This stage finishes in Wombourne. You will find accommodation in and around the village, plenty of places for food and drink, and shops.
The narrative of King Charles II’s escape really comes alive on this stage as you visit some of his most famous hideouts. Whilst the climbing is minimal and the paths are easygoing, at 18 miles (29 km) this challenging hike will really test your mettle. (See below for a suggestion on how to split the stage).From Wombourne, head along the South Staffordshire Railway Walk for 2 miles (3.2 km) and then hike north through farmland and small woodlands to the outskirts of Codsall.You follow country lanes for the next 3 miles (4.8 km) until you reach Boscobel House and the Royal Oak, both hideouts for Charles II.After his crushing defeat in the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles set out to cross the River Severn into Wales, but was blocked by Cromwell's army. He initially hid in the Royal Oak before taking refuge in Boscobel House.A short time later, you find the impressive 12th-century ruins of White Ladies Priory, which also sheltered Charles for a while.The trail continues west through pretty countryside and joins National Cycle Route 81 into the market town of Shifnal.Shifnal has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions. If you wish to split this hike, Codsall is an excellent choice as it has two train stations with good links to Wolverhampton.
This stage explores stunning Shropshire countryside and takes you to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution.From Shifnal, the trail heads southwest through farmland and small woodlands, cuts through Kemberton and continues to Ironbridge, a town on the Severn at the heart of the Ironbridge Gorge.Along a short stretch of trail, you see the impressive Bedlam Furnaces and experience fine views from the Rotunda.The most notable sight, however, is the Iron Bridge, which was the first of its kind when it was built in 1779. The bridge has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it marks the spot where the Industrial Revolution began.You follow the River Severn to Coalport Bridge, cross into woodland and hike through fields to the village of Norton, where this stage finishes.In Norton, the village pub has rooms and serves food. An alternative would be to find accommodation in Ironbridge.
Peaceful farmland interspersed with woodlands, nature reserves, and sleepy villages lies ahead on this stage.You complete a loop on this hike, too; returning to Whiteladies Priory, Boscobel House, and the Royal Oak, before continuing east as Charles II would have done.From Codsall, follow the A442 briefly and then take country lanes for the next 1.5 miles (2.4 km). You hike into woodland from the lane, emerge into fields, and continue through Beckbury.You burst into farmland once again and hike northeast to Albrighton. Here, you find the pretty Church of St Mary Magdalene, which was built in the 12th century.A short step later, the trail leads to Donington Pool, a valuable habitat for wildfowl, nesting birds, and wetland plants.You head north along lanes, head over the railway, over the M54, and through fields to Whiteladies Priory, where you retrace steps from stage 4.This stage ends at a junction. If you take the lane to the right, it is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) into Codsall, which has good train links to Wolverhampton.If 17.4 miles (28 km) in total is too far, Albrighton falls almost on the halfway point and has accommodation options and places to eat and drink.
You see another one of Charles II’s hideouts on this stage, which explores natural habitats on the edge of Wolverhampton.From Codsall, you head north before making a tight loop and dropping into Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, which has been naturally-managed since the 13th century.The trail then heads through fields, crosses over the M54, and continues through farmland.At the imposing mass of HMP Featherstone, you join country lanes for 1.3 miles (2 km), at which point it is worth a quick detour to see Moseley Old Hall, which was built in the 1600s and famously hid Charles II.A short time later, this hike takes a little diversion from the official route to climb Bushbury Hill, which affords lovely views over the Wrekin, Sedgley Beacon, and Cannock Chase.From there it is a short step to Wood End, where this stage finishes. There is no accommodation in Wood End but you can catch the 65 or 69 bus into Wolverhampton.
For this 65 bus service timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/65-wolverhampton-fordhouses-via-new-cross-hospit-2.
For this 69 bus service timetable, visit: bustimes.org/services/69-walsall-wolverhampton-via-new-cross-hospital.
The urban landscape on this stage is interspersed with a surprising amount of nature and tells a little more of Charles II’s tale. You begin by hiking along the tree-lined Wyrley and Essington Canal path to Rough Wood Chase Nature Reserve, which is home to many species of birds, amphibians, mammals, and plants.The trail then winds through civilisation and emerges into green space at Bentley Cairn, which marks the location of Bentley Hall.During his escape from Cromwell’s army, Charles was sheltered by Colonel John Lane, the owner of the hall, before heading on the run once again disguised as a servant.You walk along roads for a time before joining a quieter footpath to the Walsall Canal, which you follow all the way to West Bromwich, where this stage finishes.If you fancy a little extension, take the detour shown here to explore Sheepwash Nature Reserve.West Bromwich has a good range of accommodation, places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
This contrasting stage explores an industrial landscape reclaimed by nature, visits one of the largest Hindu temples in Europe, follows many canals, and affords great panoramic views.You begin by hiking south along on Wednesbury Old Canal, cross to follow the Birmingham Canal, and then head left along the Gower Branch Canal.When you reach the A457 bridge it is worth a brief detour to see the Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple, one of the largest Hindu temples in Europe.You wander along the Birmingham Canal and then head southwest through an urban landscape interwoven with green spaces and quiet paths.The trail leads into Warrens Hall Nature Reserve, a place that was once ravaged by industry but has since been reclaimed by nature. The trail follows the Dudley No 2 Canal, climbs gradually over Mucklow Hill and then drops into Leasowes Nature Reserve. You dip back into the urban landscape briefly before emerging into open countryside once again. Right at the end of this hike, you rise onto Waseley Hills Country Park, a nature reserve with hilltops, hedgerows, pastures, and woodlands. Along this stretch you get fantastic panoramic views over Worcestershire.This stage finishes in the village of Rubery, which has accommodation, plenty of places for food and drink, and shops.
This stage explores a landscape that is hailed for its wildflower displays, birdwatching opportunities, and beacon-worthy views.You start the hike with a short ascent of Beacon Hill. One of the highest points for miles around, this summit affords breathtaking views over the countryside and into Birmingham. The hilltop is situated within Lickey Hills Country Park, which was donated by local chocolatiers the Cadbury family in 1888. The former Royal hunting ground has been renowned for its pretty woodlands, wildflower displays, abundant wildlife, and sense of serenity ever since.The trail drops straight into another wildlife haven, Beaconwood Nature Reserve; a serene woodland synonymous with bluebells and birdwatching.You descend through fields and woodlands and along country lanes, rise briefly over Fairfield and Pepper Wood, and continue to Bromsgrove.You snake through the town and emerge into fields. The trail then crosses the Worcester and Birmingham Canal at Tardebigge and winds through fields to Redditch, where this stage finishes.There are options for accommodation and food and drink close to the finish, as well as good transport links into the centre of town.
This stage skirts the urban landscape on a surprisingly-green journey filled with history and beauty.You start by hiking around the western edge of Redditch and then follow footpaths and country lanes through farmland to Astwood Bank.You continue along quiet paths through patchwork fields, hedgerows, woodlands, and brooks.When you reach the Roman town Alcester, there is plenty to explore. Be sure to visit the 14th-century St Nicholas Church and the stunning medieval town hall.Alcester has a range of accommodation, plenty of places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.
Literature fans who appreciate great countryside will be in heaven on this stage, which takes you to Shakespeare’s home town, Stratford-upon-Avon.This stage, the last in this first Collection on the Monarch’s Way, begins by following serene footpaths to Wootton Wawen.You cross the River Alne and walk along the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal for a short time before crossing over and continuing south.The spellbinding landscape is filled with nature reserves, pockets of woodland, sleepy villages, and pretty farmsteads.After passing between Clopton Park and Welcombe Hills Country Park nature reserves, you enter the historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon.Once in Stratford, this hike deviates from the official route slightly to take in the full William Shakespeare (1564-1616) experience; visiting his birthplace, the church where he was baptised and where he praised as man and boy, as well as his final resting place. Stratford has an excellent range of accommodation, plenty of places to eat and drink, as well as shops and other attractions.