The Stour Valley.

Start. Stratford-upon-Avon.

Route. Stratford-upon-Avon - Tramway Bridge - Clifford Lane (B4632) - Springfield House - Clifford Mill - Clifford Chambers - Cold Comfort Farm - Jubilee Cottages - Atherstone Hill - Preston on Stour - Atherstone on Stour - Clifford Chambers - Clifford Lane - Shakespeare Way - River Avon - Colin P. Witter Lock - Foot Ferry - Tramway Bridge - Stratford-upon-Avon.

Notes. It seems Shakespeare country is scattered with a liberal amount of chocolate box villages, quaint, picturesque and olde-world come at a price, in this case an onslaught of tourists, including the two of us, we're just as guilty as the rest. We've visited many charming villages this week, now it's time to ditch the car, don the walking boots and pay a visit to some of the special places just a stones throw off the tourist trail. Armed with the worlds worst guide book we strolled out into the Stour Valley, it wasn't long before map and compass made an appearance and the frustration of navigating through crop fields over ploughed up unmarked paths begun to surface.

After parking in the Marina car park in Stratford we made our way passed Cox's Yard to Tramway Bridge, the tramway now a plumb straight tarmac path guided us out of Stratford. On reaching a busy main road we realised the guide book was hopelessly out of date, we improvised. Following a pavement not hedge lined track the book promised, we reached Clifford Lane, turned right and walked briskly along this busy road, after 200 yards a stile on our left allowed access to crop fields, with field paths under foot we wandered on at a more leisurely pace. Via Springfield House we strolled before reaching a small industrial site, it was a mess, disorder and clutter left us scratching our heads, where was the bloody path, according to our guide book this was a shire horse centre, and the path ran between the barns, but which barns, out came the map followed by the compass.

Once through the detritus left by the demise of the Shire Horse Centre way marked paths guided us through fields, a foot-bridge aided our crossing of the River Stour, we entered Clifford Chambers at the south end of the long main street. This is a lovely village, described by one resident as a wonderful place to live visited only by ramblers, cyclists and horse riders. Armed with the map, Sue the guide book, it was vague as ever, we wandered up the picturesque main street, the book promised a pub at the far end of the village, surprise! it was there and still a public house, time for a spot of lunch.

Lunch over we re-traced our steps through the village taking note of a footpath we'd return to later if all went to plan. Once back on track, field paths and hedge rows guided us up hill passed a small cops and on to Cold Comfort Farm, we ignored the farm, turned left to follow more hedge rows, after crossing a large field a stile allowed access to a hedge lined track. This track guided us up hill passed some fishing pools to Jubilee Cottages, at the T-junction, we turned left onto tarmac, then immediately right, with a narrow ribbon of tarmac under foot and open fields to our right this narrow lane ushered us over Atherstone Hill and into Preston on Stour, at this point the guide book went into melt down, the final straw, into the backpack it went before gleaning some advice from a local rambler, it was good old map and compass work from here on.

At the memorial cross opposite the church we turned back on ourselves, wandering behind the houses we just walked passed, the tarmac soon gave way to a narrow trod leading to a large kissing gate allowing access to field paths, on we wandered to another quiet backwater, Atherstone on Stour. After passing the church a wide track guided us across more crop fields, field walking continued, after what seemed ages we stepped back into Clifford Chambers, wandered through the village to join the foot-path mentioned earlier. This trod guided us passed some exclusive properties before depositing us in cow pastures. Field walking soon ended, a stile allowed access to Clifford Lane once more, we swung right, with the noise of traffic for company we wandered on to a foot-path cutting across a narrow field, we crossed said field to join a narrow lane. This was the Shakespeare Way, it guided us to a narrow trod which in turn lead to the River Avon, we passed under the busy A4390 to start the grand finale, an easy ramble over river side paths with views across the river to Holy Trinity Church and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, growing larger with every step the Tramway Bridge and tall slender chimney at Cox's Yard.

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The Marina at Stratford looking to Clopton Bridge and the tall chimney at Cox's Yard.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre viewed over the River Avon.

Cox's Yard seen from Tramway Bridge.

The Tramway, built in the 1820s, horse drawn wagons were pulled the 16 miles from the canal basin at Stratford to Morten-in-the-Marsh, a busy trade route carrying Black Country coal, limestone and agricultural products.

Rising above the tree line, the elegant spire of the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Striding out through the stubble of this years crop, expecting to enjoy a short visit to the Shire Horse Centre, alas it closed in 2001.

The River Stour.

St Helen's Church, Clifford Chambers.

Ascending Atherstone Hill with this view over the Avon valley for company.

Another view from Atherstone Hill, the valley of the River Stour.

Approaching Preston on Stour looking to the Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Autumnal vistas over the Stour valley.

Who lives in a house like this, obviously somebody with one leg shorter than the other, I'd love to live there.

Tudor property passed as we exited Preston on Stour.

Alscot Park set in 4,000 acres of beautiful Warwickshire countryside, mainly within the parish of Preston on Stour and Stratford-upon-Avon, Alscot a thriving country Estate has been in the West family for over two hundred years, a fine example of Gothic revival architecture.

Not a church that one would normally see, despite being immediately south of Stratford-upon-Avon, this village is small and sit's away from the main traffic arteries, thus it retains an atmosphere of remoteness and isolation, one would have to take a detour to see it. the church is neither old, nor, technically speaking, still a church, this former church is Victorian dating back to 1876 it's now a private residence.

Atherstone Hill seen from crop fields just to the north of Atherstone on Stour.

Looking back to Atherstone on Stour.

The River Avon beneath Stratford Weir.

Stratford Weir backed the the Church of the Holy Trinity.

Eight locks enable the River Avon to be navigable for 47 miles, from the River Severn at Tewkesbury to Stratford, the Colin P Witter Lock proved the most difficult to build owing to the nature of the ground and the extreme depth of the lock, the girder supports were put in as the lock was originally going to be deeper, thus dispensing with the next lock down stream.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Looking to Tramway Bridge and Cox's Yard from opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

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