Teme Valley Musings, January 2022

by Stephanie Mocroft

The first frost of winter heralded a bright crisp day, perfect for walking, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to explore the Clent Hills. I had been keen to visit since reading Francis Brett Young’s “The Ballad of St Kenelm AD 821”. I liked the poet’s description of the woods there, “a brambled brash of oak and ash, hazel and holly and yew”. St Kenelm is a Worcestershire saint, but he became obscure here after his relics were moved to Gloucestershire’s Winchcombe Abbey. A Saxon child-king, legend has it that Kenelm was murdered on the Clent Hills by order of a jealous sibling during the turbulent times which followed the death of Mercia’s mighty King Offa. A recent revival of interest in his story has led to the creation of a walkers’ trail from Romsley to Winchcombe, it follows the route his relics once took.

From the Clent Hills’ car-park the West Midlands conurbation stretches away to the north in all its urban and industrial glory. A short climb to the top of Adam’s Hill, complete with stone circle, presents the walker with an even better view. A full 360 degree panorama takes in the Wrekin to the north, The Clees and Malverns to the west, Wales’s Skirrid Mountain and Bredon Hill to the south and the Midlands plain to the east. A toposcope points out the direction to both Clows Top and Tenbury Broadheath, but even with binoculars they were hard to spot. I wondered why, having lived for 26 years in north Worcestershire and, before that, for 13 years in Birmingham, I had never been up here before.

We headed down to Clent church then made a detour out to Ufffmoor, (previously Offa’s Moor), Wood before returning via Romsley with its holy well and Norman church of St Kenelm. The woods were beautiful, mainly of broad-leaved trees which were well spaced, allowing plenty of light to reach the woodland floor. A jay made a few alarm calls at us, but I think this was largely to announce that all the acorns round and about belonged to him. We saw a few late flowers, purple clover and lesser knapweed coming to an end and some straggling yellow sowthistle, but the only other wildlife interest was supplied by some brightly coloured waxcap mushrooms in Romsley churchyard.

Perhaps the most unusual sights on the walk were tiny toy dogs, some decked out in natty coats and cable-knit jumpers. Many were accompanied by owners whose fashionably bronzed cheeks undoubtedly obscured a rosiness beneath. I can whole-heartedly recommend a visit to the Clent Hills. If further encouragement were needed, The Countryside Walking Magazine grants its café the accolade of serving the best walkers’ bacon sandwich in Britain. I’m happy to concur.