Monarch's Way

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The Royal Oak at Boscobel House
Monarch's Way sign

The Monarch's Way is a long-distance footpath 615 miles long[1] that approximates the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester.[2] In doing so it shows off an eclectic mixture of some of the finest lowland scenery in southern Great Britain.

The path begins in Worcestershire outside the county town, where the battle of Worcester was fought and lost, and ends at Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex where the King embarked for his nine years' exile in Europe. Most of the footpath is waymarked. The waymark shows a picture of the ship The Surprise, the Prince of Wales crown and the Royal Oak tree at Boscobel House.

Description

From its starting point in Worcestershire the route travels north to Boscobel in Shropshire and then south into Warwickshire at Stratford upon Avon. It then continues south up into the Gloucestershire Cotswolds to Stow on the Wold before turning south-west towards Bristol by way of Cirencester.

South of Bristol the path enters Somerset and its route is almost directly south across the Mendip Hills to Wells and then on almost to Yeovil. Thereafter it enters Dorset and runs south-west to Charmouth on the coast. There is then a short section along the Dorset coast before turning north again to Yeovil, before turning east across Wiltshire and Hampshire to the South Downs to Brighton and on to Shoreham-by-Sea.

The Monarch's Way is an approximation of the King's route using available public rights of way and visiting places noted in the historic records. Most of the route has been radically changed in the intervening centuries by enclosure, mining, urbanisation and the building of roads, canals and railways. Use of canals and disused railways allows a more pleasant walk than taking to the public highway and provides an insight into industrial history particularly of the Black Country.

Worcester to Stratford-upon-Avon by way of Boscobel (180 miles)

The path begins at a memorial near Powick Bridge outside Worcester which commemorates the thousands of Scots who perished in the Royalist cause at the Battle of Worcester. Powick Bridge saw both the first and last engagements of the Civil War. From here the footpath follows the banks of the River Teme and River Severn across the battlefield to enter the 'Faithful City' of Worcester - The King watched the battle unfold from the tower of the cathedral before fleeing with Colonel Charles Giffard of Chillington and others.

The Monarch's Way leaves the city past the Commandery, now a museum, on the towpath of the Worcester & Birmingham Canal then crossing to the Droitwich Canal to Droitwich. Heading north it passes Chaddesley Corbett and Hagley on its way to Stourbridge.

From Stourbridge the route joins the towpath of the Stourbridge Canal into Staffordshire, negotiating the four locks at Stourton to join the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. Continuing north along the canal to the Bratch Locks at Wombourne to pick up the trackbed of the former Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway now the South Staffordshire Railway Walk to Oaken. Leaving the railway the northerly route continues passing Pendrell Hall and Boscobel to White Ladies Priory. The King was hidden overnight in the house by Richard Pendrell.

The next part of the route traces the King's unsuccessful attempt to cross the River Severn to escape into Wales. Leaving White Ladies and the nearby Pendrell home at Hubbal Grange the route turns west by way of Tong, Shropshire to Evelith Mill and Kemberton. Reaching Madeley it became apparent that the river crossings were well guarded and the King spent a night in the 'Royal Barn' before beating a hasty retreat back into Worcestershire.

Retracing the route through Norton, Worcestershire and Beckbury to Boscobel House where the King hid in an oak tree to avoid capture. A descendant of the Royal Oak stands in the grounds of the English Heritage property.

An alternative plan was hatched for the King's escape and the path now heads east. Crossing the grounds of Chillington Hall and using sections of the Shropshire Union Canal and Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal it reaches Moseley Old Hall, now a National Trust property, where the King was hidden in a 'Priest Hole'. From Moseley Old Hall the King left in the night for Bentley Hall with Colonel Lane. The Monarch's Way passes Northycote Farm and Essington before entering the fringe of the urban Black Country. The route follows the Wyrley and Essington Canal the 'Curly Wyrley' and the ancient forest at Rough Wood to reach Bentley Hall at Bentley, Staffordshire.

The Monarch's Way along the towpath of the Anson Branch Canal

The Monarch's Way picks up the closed Anson Branch Canal. This section of the Monarch's Way follows the canal system through the heart of the Black Country using Walsall Canal, Wednesbury Old Canal, Netherton Tunnel and Dudley Canal to Halesowen in Worcestershire. Then it runs on to Bromsgrove, Headless Cross and into Warwickshire; to Alcester, Wootton Wawen, Snitterfield and Welcombe Hills Country Park. Then it follows the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal until it joins the River Avon in the centre of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Stratford-upon-Avon to Charmouth (210 miles)

The path at Hawkchurch

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon is the start of this leg of the Monarch's Way. Following the west bank of the River Avon south and passing Holy Trinity Church, with its connections to William Shakespeare. Crossing both the River Avon then the River Stour near to Stratford racecourse. The path then follows the route of the old railway line into Gloucestershire towards Long Marston. Leaving east on the route of the Heart of England Way and passing through Lower Quinton and Upper Quinton to meet with the Centenary Way which it follows east round Meon Hill at the start of the Cotswolds.

Leaving the Centenary Way in a south-westerly direction it passes Hidcote Manor Garden, owned by the National Trust, before rejoining the Heart of England Way. The path crosses Campden Tunnel on the Cotswold rail line and enters Chipping Campden, in the Cotswolds.

Amongst the rolling Cotswold Hills, the route passes through some of its finest towns; Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, Northleach, Cirencester, Tetbury, Chipping Sodbury, and on to Wick.

Across the River Avon, the Monarch's Way enters Somerset, crossing the river at Keynsham, where it diverts from the route taken by Charles II into Bristol and instead runs alongside the River Chew, where it shares the route with the Two Rivers Way, through the Chew Valley to Chewton Keynsham, Compton Dando and Woollard. It then crosses the river at Pensford and turns north to Norton Malreward, skirting the prehistoric henge monument of Stanton Drew stone circles, the second largest stone circle in Britain, and travels along Dundry Down to the village of Dundry. From Dundry there is a northerly loop to Leigh Court at Abbots Leigh where King Charles stayed on the night of 12 September 1651. The path then returns to Dundry and heads turns south to Winford and passes Regil before passing between Chew Valley Lake and Blagdon Lake to Compton Martin, where it climbs up into the Mendip Hills, passing East Harptree before entering the Forestry Commission plantation Stock Hill. On leaving the woods the path skirts the Priddy Mineries and Priddy Pools and continues south to Wookey Hole, before entering the city of Wells, passing the Cathedral and Bishop's Palace.

South of Wells the Monarch's Way crosses the River Sheppey and passes through Twinhills Woods and Meadows before entering North Wootton, continuing across the Somerset Levels and the A361 and A37 roads to Hornblotton. It then crosses the River Alham and travels east crossing the River Brue and the A371 before entering Castle Cary. Then it goes on to South Cadbury and across into Dorset south-east of Trent.

At Trent Manor House the King was sheltered by Colonel Wyndham. The next part of the journey leads down to the Dorset coast where a ship had been found to take the King to France.

At Montacute the Monarch's Way passes in front of the Grade I listed building Abbey Farmhouse,[3] which incorporates the gateway of the mediæval Montacute Priory.

The route passes to Ham Hill, Crewkerne, Drimpton, Hawkchurch, then Charmouth. The King stayed overnight on the 22 of September 1651 at the Queen's Armes before taking passage. Unfortunately the plan fell through and the King beat a hasty retreat inland returning to Trent.

Charmouth to Shoreham (225 miles)

From Charmouth the Monarch's Way follows the South West Coast Path east along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset past St Gabriel's Mouth, over Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast,[4] through Seatown, over Thorncombe Beacon and past Eype's Mouth to West Bay. From here it heads north up the River Brit to Bridport, swinging west and north to Pilsdon Pen, briefly joining the Wessex Ridgeway eastwards before reaching Broadwindsor. The King hid overnight in the George Inn, Broadwindsor on 23 September 1651.

From here the route continues eastwards to the north of Beaminster, before zig-zagging north and east to Winyard's Gap near Chedington, where it meets the head of the River Parrett Trail.

Continuing north, the path re-enters Somerset and passes Hardington Marsh, swinging east from Hardington Mandeville to East Coker and then north through Yeovil and Mudford.

Crossing the River Yeo, the path returns like the King to Trent. The King stayed here before setting out for the south coast and exile in Europe.

Skirting north of Sherborne to Sandford Orcas the path passes to the south of Corton Denham to Charlton Horethorne and South Cheriton, then north to pass under the A303 road to Wincanton. From here it continues north-east to Penselwood.

After crossing the Stour Valley Way and River Stour, the path enters Wiltshire at Zeals. From here it crosses the A303 dual carriageway and passes Zeals House before reaching Mere, passing West Knoyle and climbing Cleeve Hill. Crossing the A350 road, the path continues east to Hindon, Berwick St Leonard, Fonthill Bishop and Great Wishford. Here it crosses the River Wylye to Stoford before heading north and east near Stapleford, to cross the A360, dropping down into the valley of the Avon at Middle Woodford before crossing at Lower Woodford. Traversing the country to the north of Salisbury, the path next crosses the A345 and the River Bourne at Winterbourne Dauntsey. After passing Figsbury Ring the path crosses the A30, to follow the course of the former Roman road from Winchester to Old Sarum. As it approaches Middle Winterslow, the path is joined by the Clarendon Way, the two paths following the Roman road over the county border.

From the flank of Beacon Hill towards Old Winchester Hill
The Bat & Ball Inn at Broadhalfpenny Down

Entering Hampshire, the Monarch's Way and Clarendon Way continue to run together over the chalk through Broughton, crossing the River Test at Houghton. East of the Test the Clarendon Way continues east towards King's Somborne, whilst the Monarch's Way joins the Test Way, heading south down the Test Valley along the bed of the former Sprat and Winkle Line past Horsebridge. The two paths re-cross the Test to Mottisfont, heading south to cross the River Dun at Kimbridge, where the Test Way continues south and the Monarch's Way heads east to cross the Test again to the Bear & Ragged Staff and climbs to Michelmersh. From here eastwards for many miles the route skirts the northern rim of the Tertiary sediments of the Hampshire Basin, alternating between chalk downs to the north and heaths and woodland to the south. From Braishfield, the route crosses the wet clay of Ampfield Wood, passing through the hamlet of Knapp to the north of Ampfield, before heading for Hursley. The path continues east through the hamlets of Bunstead and Silkstead, passing under the M3 motorway and passing the station at Shawford. Here the path crosses the Itchen Way before crossing the River Itchen to Twyford. West of Twyford the path crosses more chalk downs, now part of the South Downs, to Owslebury, before using short sections of Roman road in places to reach Upham. East of Upham the path heads northward for some miles, before joining the South Downs Way (and briefly the Wayfarers Walk) heading east. At Beacon Hill, the Monarch's Way takes a route north of the hill to Warnford, whilst the South Downs Way splits into alternative routes to Warnford or Exton. After crossing the River Meon and A32 the two routes rejoin further east before climbing Old Winchester Hill. To the east the routes diverge, with the South Downs Way continuing eastwards and the Monarchs Way heading south to the Bat & Ball Inn, Clanfield, then west past Broadhalfpenny Down towards Hambledon, before again striking east to Horndean. After crossing the town and A3(M), the path crosses The Holt to Rowland's Castle, where it passes the station.

Arundel Castle

Entering Sussex with the Sussex Border Path at Stansted Park, the Monarch's Way passes through Walderton and Stoughton, crossing Stoughton Down to West Dean. Here it crosses the A286 and River Lavant before climbing to the Trundle Hill Fort, on top of St Roche's Hill. Continuing east along a ridge the path passes Goodwood Racecourse and Goodwood Country Park. East of Goodwood the route diverts briefly north towards East Dean before heading south-east to Eartham. Here the path heads north-east along a section of Stane Street through Eartham Wood, before passing through the neolithic camp below Glatting Beacon and heading east down to the River Arun at Houghton. Remaining west of the river past South Stoke, it heads south through the park of Arundel Castle to the town of Arundel, where it crosses the Arun to Warningcamp. From here it continues east across the parish of Patching to Findon, passing near Cissbury Ring and climbing to meet the South Downs Way above Steyning for a short distance. Passing to the south of Steyning it crosses the River Adur at Bramber to Upper Beeding. After crossing Beeding Hill and Thundersbarrow Hill the path approaches the northern edge of the built-up area near Mile Oak, before doubling sharply back to the north of the A27 to continue east across the downs, before heading south down the former route of the Devil's Dyke railway towards West Blatchington. Crossing the built-up area south-eastwards towards Hove, it crosses Hove Park near Brighton & Hove Greyhound Stadium, before zig-zagging through the streets of Brighton to Brighton Pier. From here it runs westwards along the sea-front through Hove and Portslade, to Shoreham-by-Sea, whence the King embarked.

Outside links

References

  1. "The Monarch's Way". The Monarch's Way Association. February 2, 2006. http://www.monarchsway.50megs.com/. 
  2. "The Monarch's Way". The Quinton Oracle. 2005. http://www.qlhs.org.uk/oracle/monarchs-way/monarchs-way.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. National Heritage List England no. 1057256: Abbey Farmhouse (Historic England)
  4. {{National Trust - Coastal walk

Books

  • Antill, Trevor (2005). The Monarch's Way. Book 1: Worcester to Stratford-upon-Avon via Boscobel (2nd ed.). Meridian Books. ISBN 978-1-869922-52-8. 
  • Antill, Trevor (1995). The Monarch's Way. Book 2: Stratford-upon-Avon to Charmouth. Meridian Books. ISBN 978-1-869922-28-3. 
  • Antill, Trevor (1995). The Monarch's Way. Book 3: Charmouth to Shoreham. Meridian Books. ISBN 978-1-869922-29-0.