Hockley Heath, Packwood House and Lapworth

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Start: Hockley Heath Distance: 5.6 miles (9.0 km) Climbing: 78 metres
Grid Ref: SP 15284 72580 Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Hockley Heath
Start: Hockley Heath Distance: 5.6 miles (9.0 km)
Climbing: 78 metres Grid Ref: SP 15284 72580
Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: This walk is in the lovely countryside to the south of urban Birmingham. Here there is a fine network of quiet footpaths and lanes just waiting to be explored. The starting point is Hockley Heath, a popular village with impressive mansions close by. There are many villages hereabouts with 'heath' in their names signifying the gravelly nature of the soils in the settlements created in the clearings of the vast and ancient Forest of Arden. In days past the place was also known as Hockley Port. There was a salt and general trade warehouse on the Stratford Canal on the south side of the village.

Wharf Bridge, Hockley HeathWharf Bridge, Hockley Heath
Lapworth ChurchLapworth Church

Over the fields from Hockley Heath is the little church of Packwood which is dedicated to St Giles. There are many wood beams in the church that date from the 15th century, traces of a Norman wall painting and a 14th century tower with a curious history. Nicholas Brome lived a few miles away in Baddesley Clinton. He found a priest 'chockinge his wife under ye chin' and promptly murdered him. The crime received a papal pardon; in expiation, Brome added towers to the churches at Baddesley and Packwood. Later, around 300 years ago Michael Johnson brought his bride to Packwood Church. Three years later, their son, the famous poet and critic Samuel Johnson was born.

Opposite Packwood Church is an ancient moated house. The timber framed Packwood Hall has fine chimneys and is of historic interest. Alas it is privately owned and not open to the public but fortunately nearby Packwood Hall is. Manage by the National Trust since 1941 it is a fine place to visit with attractive house and gardens. Thought to have been started as a modest farmhouse about 1560 the house has been greatly added to over the centuries. The interior of the house is considered a fine example of Tudor domestic architecture. However it is the gardens which draws the crowds. Also to look out for is the impressive array of sundials.

After crossing the Stratford Canal the path goes over meadows and a cricket field to Lapworth Church which dates from the 12th century. It is an unusual church in that its tower and spire are almost detached. Lapworth is notorious is it produced the conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot. Robert Catesby, the chief originator is thought to have been born at Bushwood Hall about 1573. Over the main road the narrow lane from Lapworth twists uphill, leading back to Hockley Heath. Across the field you can see two needles pointing skywards. The first, the tall obelisk was erected in 1749 by Thomas Archer of Umberslade to mark his elevation to the peerage. A little further away is a slender spire of a Baptist church, built in 1877.

Acknowledgment: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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