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Pastimes: Rambling A canal runs through it.

Byline: Richard Shurey

I t is a little difficult to find the canal in Cookley near Kidderminster where we start our stroll this week. When Brindley came to build his waterway at the end of the 18th century he was faced with a sandstone ride above the valley of the River Stour on which Cookley was perched.

His solution was to dig a 65-yard long tunnel which goes under the main thoroughfare -Bridge Street.

The bridge is the oldest canal bridge in Worcestershire. The canal is a contour canal, hugging the river and (like the river) twists this way and that to avoid the building of more locks. In spite of the sinuous route, this was one of the more prosperous canals and paid high dividends to shareholders for many years. It took six years of construction and opened in 1772.

My guide book to Cookley says 'Cookley is not a picture postcard village'. True, perhaps, but there does seem to be a fine community spirit. This has been shown over the centuries.

In 1849 funds were raised by the villagers to build a parish church. About fifty years ago, land was purchased to provide a playing field, more recently, there was a splendid clock built to mark the millennium . . . and so on.

From the clock (keep on the left) walk along Bridge Street. (Map 138/842803). Just before a junction on the left a path is signed down to the canal. Turn left along the towing path and go along the tunnel.

We now follow the canal with the river nearby on our left. At Caunsall we leave the waterway -the bridge here is numbered 26. Go to the lane and go over the canal. Follow the lane to a main road.

Take care to cross to a stile which we climb. We are now on the North Worcestershire Way. This popular route runs for 27 miles along the top of the county from the country park at Kingsford near Kinver to end near Wythall on the outskirts of Birmingham.

Follow the clear way with plenty of waymarks to confirm the route. The waymarks show an arrow and a pinecone symbol. We go through the fields then the delightfully-named Fairy Glen woods. Keep ahead to reach a lane. This is called Sugar Loaf Lane. Some say that it is so named because the Sugar Loaf Mountain on the Welsh borderlands can be seen when the weather is clear.

Turn right. The lane becomes what the maps term 'another route with public access'.

Follow the stony way to a main road at a junction. Cross to the opposite lane signed to Churchill. Within 400 yards, take a signed bridleway on the right.

After 300 yards, the tractor way twists sharp left. We maintain the old direction and follow the bridleway to a lane. Go right. Keep ahead at a junction to reach a main road.

Cross the road to the opposite lane which is signed to Axborough. Follow the quiet way which soon goes through woods -nice and cool on the hot day I was here. On the A451 cross and turn right to walk along the footpath bordering the road.

Drop down the hill. By an inn turn left along a lane. The lane climbs then goes past a wonderful timber-framed house. At a mobile homes park turn right along the vehicle way which is signed as a footpath. At the end of the vehicle way keep ahead to go down a footpath.

There is a seat to rest awhile in a peaceful spot just before the canal. Over the bridge turn left along the towing path. Retrace steps beside the waterway to return to Cookley.

Fact File

Map: 1:50,000 OS Landranger Series Nos. 138 and 139.Approach: A449from Kidderminster and lane to Cookley Parking: Car Park or quiet streetside. Refreshments: Inns Cookley and Caunsall

CAPTION(S):

Cookley is not a picture postcard village but there is a fine community spirit -and places to stop and rest on your ramble
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 27, 2003
Words:673
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