The Heart of England way runs 100 miles through the green heart of England, linking Staffordshire with the Cotswolds, and guess what… it happens to run through our very own Balsall Common!
The Heart of England Way
Crossing Cannock Chase, it leaves the Iron Age fort of Castle Ring and falls gently to Lichfield. Running south and then east into the Tame Valley at Drayton Bassett, it joins the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, passes through Kingsbury Water Park and on to Shustoke.
For the next 30 miles the landscape is typically “Arden” – hilly, green and well wooded. Passing Meriden, centre of England, the Way visits pretty English villages such as Berkswell, the moated Baddesly Clinton Hall and a procession of rural churches. Crossing the Grand Union and Stratford Canals it makes for Henley-in-Arden then Alcester.
Pictured above is an image of Magpie Farm, Magpie Lane, Balsall Common, situated close to where the Heart of England Way passes through Balsall Common.
After a climb past Oversley Castle the way falls into the valley in the river Arrow at Wixford and a flat, willowy landscape. The Arrow joins the Avon at Bidford and the Way crosses the fertile “fruit and veg” country of the Vale of Evesham to Meon Hill and the Cotswolds.
After the lovely village of Chipping Campden the walk heads south through a landscape of long shouldered hills and deep woody valleys, with the stones, the houses and the soil in honey and grey. The Way passes Batsford Arboretum and through the parkland of the extravagant oriental palace of Sezincote towards Swell and Lower Slaughter. There is no more climbing but a steady, slow fall through a land of clear, fast, weed trailing brooks, weirs, tiny stone clapper bridges and low, green meadows to Bourton-on-the-Water.
About the Way
The Heart of England Way follows public Rights of Way or well trodden paths where the public is permitted. It is marked by signposts and waymarks with the distinctive green and white Heart of England Way logo.
The way explored some of the best countryside in the Midlands and for most of its length is surprisingly rural. It visits many historic towns and villages and runs down the centre of the newly developing Forest of Arden, a County Council tree planting scheme which it complements as a recreational asset.
Meeting the Staffordshire Way on Cannock Chase, the Heart of England Way links it with several other Long Distance Footpaths. At Kingsbury Water Park the Centenary Way starts an eastward journey around Warwickshire, returning to the Heart of England Way at Upper Quinton on the edge of the Cotswolds. At Chipping Campden the Heart of England Way meets the Cotswold and at Bourton-on-the-Water it joins the Oxfordshire Way which runs south to the Thames Path. The way forms part of a strategic link for long distance walkers and has been designated as part of the E2 Trans European route, which originates in the South of France and in the United Kingdom goes from Dover to Stranraer.
The Way promotes the use of Long Distance Footpaths, and also of local routes by forming part of circular walks. You can join it at many places using bus or train, many more can be reached by car. The guidebook lists access points and notes whether there is public transport and parking space. Good centres for walking include Cannock Chase, Meriden, Henley-in-Arden, Alcester, Chipping Campden and Bourton-on-the-Water.
Heart of England Way Association
The Association started life in 1977 when several rambling clubs got together to plan a footpath route between Lichfield and Alcester. It grew at both ends, so that the Heart of England Way now links Cannock Chase with the Cotswolds.
Looking after and maintaining the Way is still in the hands of the Association, with help from the Countryside Commission, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire County Councils, Solihull Borough, and bodies such as the National Farmers Union and Country Landowners Association. Communication is regular with regards to footpath issues. The Counties provide stiles, signposts and waymarks and advice on Rights of Way issues. They and the Countryside Commission also support the Associations publicity.
What does the Association do?
- Manage the Warden service. Wardens walk the route regularly, promote good relations with farmers, and note any overgrown bushes, fallen trees or wear and tear to stiles and waymarks. The Associations working party carries out maintenance of stiles and clearance tasks.
- Encourage people to walk the Heart of England Way by publishing leaflets, a guide, an accomodation list, press notices, giving talks and leading groups of walkers on circular country strolls on and around the Way and further afield.
If you are interseted in joining the association please send £4 payable to:
Heart of England Way Association
50 George Road
Members get a newsletter two or three times a year with programmes of walks well supported by individuals, the Ramblers Association, local rambling clubs and Councils.
Ordnance Survey Landranger 1:50000 (1.25ins/miles) 127 128 139 140 150 151 163
The County Councils have a Travel Information Service for buses and trains in their County. They can usually give details of local services and connections along the Way.
Staffordshire County Council: 01785 223344
Warwickshire County Council: 01926 410410
West Midlands (Centro): 0121 200 2700
Gloucestershire County Council: 01452 425543
Tourist Information Centres may also have travel information.
There is a wide range of places to stay along the Way: cottages, farms, guest houses, hotels and camp sites. For an up-to-date list, telephone John Roberts on 01926 776363. Tourist Information Centres also have lists and can often phone ahead for vacancies.
The Heart of England Way Walkers Guide gives a detailed route description with maps. It is available from WALKWAYS, 67 Cliffe Way, Warwick, CV34 5JG or from the association at 20 Throckmorton Road, Alcester, Warwickshire, B49 6QA priced at £7.50 per copy.
Many thanks to the Heart of England Way Association for allowing BalsallCom.Com to publish this information.