PASTIMES: Walk in medieval footsteps.
It is always a delight to come back to Henley-in-Arden - in spite of the traffic problems. This place is crying out for a by-pass but I have never read of any such plans.
Jutting out into this mile-long High Street is the church of St John Baptist which has been contending with the traffic since the 15th century. Alongside is the Guildhall, also 15th century and built by Sir Ralph Boteler.
We go over the little River Alne to another old church at Beaudesert that is only a few hundred yards from Henley's place of worship. This is the older church, the church of St Nicolas from Norman times but was built on earlier Saxon foundations. The great architectural expert Pevsner suggests the tower is only half the height that was intended perhaps because of unsafe ground.
Above the church is the Mount on which Thurstan de Montfort built a motte and bailey castle in the 12th century. Unfortunately much of the structure was of wood so little remains today although a TV Time Team did much interesting research a year or so ago.
The walk starts by going along the lane by Henley's church (Map 151/151660). We go over the river then pass Beaudesert's church. Just beyond a path is signed.
We now go over The Mount on which the castle was perched. Keep ahead to dip steeply down then climb to the next upland. We are now following a waymarked Heart of England Way.
The route for us is well signed by arrows to an ancient track called Edge Lane. Go left then right to resume the old heading to cross a farm drive. Keep ahead still following the Heart of England Way signs to another farm drive. Turn right to a lane then go left. Go over a brook and around bends. After about half a mile of lane walking take a bridleway down a farm road on the right. This leads over a fine open landscape to a lane. Turn right. We now follow a lovely byway to Preston Bagot. The church here is a gem, being a fine amalgam of the old and the new. There is much work by the Norman masons but also a shingled little bell turret.
Almost opposite the drive to the church our next fieldpath is signed through a new metal gate. Take the indicated direction to walk through meadows to a bridge to cross the brook. A few steps further is a bridge to go over the canal.
On the towing path continue with the water on your right side. This waterway is the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. We pass a distinctive lock-keeper's cottage. By bridge numbered 47 we leave the canal for a short distance by a lock go through the kissing gate left. Regain the towing path to walk under a road bridge. We keep by the canal for a further mile.
At a farm bridge leave the waterway and continue down the farm drive. On a lane turn right to go over a bridge.
Within a few steps take the next path on the left. Take the arrowed way over the field. We are gradually nearing the River Alne on the left to a far corner. The path in the next field still has the river away to the left.
We reach Blackford Mill. Go left then right around the mill. Follow the way over the river then along a well-used track to a school playing field. Go over to a gate on the A3400. Turn right. Go over the crossroads to the centre of Henley.
Map: 1:50,000 OS Landranger Series No 151Approach: A3400 to Henley-inArden Parking: Signedcar parksRefreshments: Cafes and Inns Henley