You’re getting a twobie here, two walks for the price of one. Over two days, I did two Henley-in-Arden walks. Henley West Loop and Henley East Loop. Both were good but which was goodest? (gooderer).
Both start in the same spot and neither are monster treks so I’m including them both below and giving you the choice.
Fear not whichever you choose will give you a rewarding few hours of rambling in some quintessential English countryside. Enjoy!
The Two Henley Loops:
Both walks have the same starting point. So you can change your mind at the very last minute should you see a cloud approaching from one direction, or just arrive and follow a butterfly and let fate decide.
The starting point for each is the 15th-century church of St John the Baptist in Henley-in-Arden tucked away on Beaudesert Lane, just a minute from the High Street.
Henley West goes west from here in an 8.5km loop out to Five-Acre Wood and back.
Henley East goes, well, east. Taking in an 8.9km loop past Buckley Green Farm, Malthouse Farm and a 12th-century church in Preston Bagot.
Henley East is the more popular, more well-trodden route for sure but is it the best? Let’s find out in today’s grudge match. West vs East. Who will win?
Don’t worry drivers. There’s lots of parking around town. We ended up at this spot. I’m sure there are free spots too but this one only cost £3 for 4 hrs so not too bad. (Read that and weep for Londoners). You can pay with the RingGo app.
The first thing you should know is Henly isn’t in Arden, it’s in Warwickshire. About 20 miles southwest of Brum and 9 miles north of Stratford-upon-Avon.
It used to be in the Forest of Arden, an ancient woodland, but somebody went and chopped all the trees down. Doh!
Today it remains a thoroughly pleasant town with a rich medieval history and a high street dotted with charming timber-framed buildings. It’s also a spot I don’t think I would’ve ever visited if it wasn’t for an amazing house sit we found. Our job for the week? To look after 2 chickens.
Yep, that’s right. Free digs in a charming town in exchange for keeping two chickens alive. What a life!
Note, looking after 2 chickens is much easier than the 3 dogs we were looking after during our recent house sit in the hiker’s paradise of Church Stretton. You can check the hikes we got up to there:
Whilst in Henley-in-Arden a little scout on the Alltrails app threw up a bunch of popular hikes in the local area. Including a name that sounded familiar.
A couple of hikes were titled as the Millennium Way. I vaguely knew about the Millennium Way as a long-distance trail through the heart of England. Not to be confused with the Heart of England Way. Which also goes through these parts.
So when I saw these hikes titled Millennium Way I assumed they were part of the main trail. Which they kinda are.
The original 100-mile Millennium Way was created in the year 2000 by the 41 Club. In 2012 they enhanced it by adding 44 circular routes along the trail. The two walks in Henly-in-Arden are part of this 44-hike extension pack.
Thanks 41 Club. Whoever you are.
As I understand it. Each of these 44 touches the Millennium Trail in some way. So If you do all 44 circular routes you will have covered the whole Millennium Trail. Doing all 44 circular routes is 267 miles, so quite an accomplishment, One that will earn you a certificate & free T-shirt!
This is now added to my list of life goals!
Although I technically already have a T-shirt from my Taman Tugu hike. But I bought that from the merch stand, so I’m not sure that counts.
So I decided right there to do both Henley-in-Arden Millennium Way routes to get myself 4.55% of the way to that free t-shirt.
This West Loop starts at St Nicholas Church in the heart of Henley-in-Arden. Which is conveniently where the East Loop also starts.
Well, actually our hike really started at Dolce Cafe on the High Street. Which going by the breakfast and lunchtime crowds seems to be a very good choice.
All good hikes start with good coffee. I read that on a chalkboard somewhere.
From the high street follow the signs for the train station, once there head up and over the footbridge over the train tracks.
Once over the rails, you will wander through some allotments and within minutes of leaving the busy little High Street you will be out into the English countryside and on your own.
After the allotments where we saw a man poking his cabbages. We didn’t see another soul until we returned to town two hours later. Unless cows, horses and butterflies have souls?
Hmmm, to quote Father Ted, that would be an ecumenical matter.
In all seriousness, however, it was deserted which we loved but it also meant the trail was very overgrown in places. So if you’re one of those hikers that just likes to walk but doesn’t like to do any bushwhacking then maybe take that into account.
The route is here somewhere, I promise.
Also if you don’t like clambering over stiles then you may not like this hike. There must have been a good Baker’s Dozen if not more stiles to clamber over. Nothing to worry about for most but if you’ve dodgy knees take note.
Sara, my GF and some time hiking partner, quickly declared her love for this walk. She was a big fan of the variety of scenery on offer. Which she was dead right, was quite impressive.
Each field seemed to have something new to offer. We wandered through bean fields, past golden wheat fields, and over lush grassland populated by buttercups galore.
That’s me in the beans behind with a miniature version of Thor’s hammer.
Once I realised we weren’t going to meet a single other walker I started to unleash a bit of Robbie Williams in honour of Millennium Way and the free t-shirt I was walking toward.
“We’ve got stars directing our fate
And we’re praying, it’s not too late
‘Cause we know we’re falling from grace
Until Sara pelted me with a load of Sticky Willow to shut me up.
Thirsty business those bean fields.
Can you hear the music from The Gladiator playing? I know I can.
Frolicking in the buttercups or being chased by a bee? Who can say?
It made karate chopping and bushwhacking through the lesser travelled paths worthwhile.
We rolled up back to town from Strafford Road to the south. Brushed off all the twigs we’d accumulated from bushwhacking and karate chopping our way around the loop.
It was a bit discombobulating not seeing a single person for two hours and then being straight back into the bustle of this charming little town.
The following day with a slight sense of deja-vu I was standing outside St Nicholas Church with my Dolce coffee in my hand ready to start a hike again.
This time however I was a Billy No Mates, Sara had opted to stay at home to look after the chickens and work/watch Gossip Girl repeats so I was hiking alone.
The East Loop obviously starts in the opposite direction so instead of heading back into Henley town, the hike starts with a short ascent up the hill behind the church, or what is known as The Mount.
A short but steep climb up to about 100 metres rewards you with fine views back over the town and surrounding countryside.
There is a welcome wooden bench that would make for a solid picnic spot but as I was only 3 mins into the hike I thought it best to keep my NikNaks in my pocket and plough on.
The first of many stiles.
From the top of the Mount descend some stairs and then continue uphill again. Up next are a lot of fields, a lot of stiles and a lot of kissing gates.
The initial busyness of this section of the hike wasn’t to my liking after yesterday’s deserted trails but after the first fifteen minutes, it soon got quiet again. Very quiet.
A tiny bullfighting arena for miniature bulls I found en route.
You will skirt along on top of the hills for about the first mile before descending to the lane outside Buckley Green Farm.
Another stylish stile.
Just as I emerged onto the lane outside Buckley Green Farm. I was passed by a car. A few metres past me the brake lights shot on and it quickly reversed back past me. Eek! Drama.
Now behind me again I heard the doors swing open and a shout of “Go, Go, Go!” For a terrifying split second, I thought I was going to be bundled into a sack and stolen. But no, a boy lept out and went running back up a driveway at speed as his dad shouted “Quick!” with dad-like exasperation.
Presumably, he’d forgotten something essential to his young life inside that he’d only been reminded to bring 50 times.
England’s green and pleasant lands looking very green and very pleasant.
After the drama of my near-kidnapping at Buckley Green Farm I continued on through another kissing gate. The route takes a hard right and you are back in the fields.
The scenery was beautiful, made all the prettier by being drenched by buckets of sunshine.
The trail was undulating, one field went up, the next down, but always in a gentle and very rambling way. Nothing that I would describe as taxing.
The Spanish Plains? Nope, just Warwickshire on a sunny day.
Shortly after Ireland Farm Cottages (which looked like a very lovely spot to stay indeed). At around the halfway point of the hike, I crossed paths with another hardcore hiker.
I knew she was hardcore like me because we both had on those bags that you can click together across the chest and waist. And we’d both clicked them closed.
We shared a brief hello but like professional hikers, we kept it brief as we had trail miles to devour.
A gang of horses having a meeting, discussing their carrot rations or some such horse business.
The trail dips steeply as you join the farm track outside Malthouse Farm and then climbs back up steeply on the narrow track after the wooden kissing gate on the other side.
Relatively steeply. Nothing to worry about. Actually, I should really say proceed gently uphill.
It was shortly after this up and down near Malthouse Farm that I found a very nice log indeed to take a rest on and refuel. A Co-op sarnie, a bag of NikNaks and a Bundaberg Ginger Beer. What a combo.
Sitting on a log in the sun sipping a ginger beer, this is what life’s about.
Sipping my fiery beverage gazing out at the hills I was deep in a love buzz moment for Warwickshire when a cyclist rolled by on his mountain bike.
We shared a mutual nod and smile. A simple gesture but in it, we managed to communicate that we both knew how lucky we were to be out on such in the countryside on such a beautiful day.
After I was fuelled up, it was onward with the home stretch.
What a pretty place to be buried. I might bag me a plot.
Back on the trail I passed the very picturesque Preston Bagot Church, a 12th Century Grade II listed building. From the churchyard head through the wooden kissing gate and onto the home stretch. You’re now just a mile and a half away from the finish line.
And an enjoyable final last leg it is too.
With the finish line in sight, I took the opportunity to slow down and take a few happy snaps with a blindfolded horse. I’m not sure he knew I was there.
There he is Hoofy McHood.
And then that was it. After about 2 hours and 40 mins, I was back in Henley and back at the car. 5.5 miles of beautiful and inspiring English countryside under my belt.
What a lovely way to start a day.
But I hear you cry. Which is best, the East Loop or the West Loop? Well, let me tell you.
What a day, look at me here with my invisible dog on an invisible lead.
Sara ranked the Henley-in-Arden west route as her “favourite flat walk” we’ve done together in our one-year history of hiking together. High praise until we realised almost every hike we’d done had been on hills.
But I’d agree it was a charming ramble. I loved how overgrown it was and I always enjoy a hike when you don’t meet anyone else. Not because I’m a grumbling scrooge but because it increases the feeling of getting lost in the wild.
That said, the Henley East Loop was easily my favourite of the two. I can see why it’s the more popular of the two. The views are just that much more impressive. And having little stop-offs like Preston Baggot Church add a little extra spice.
But to be honest, why limit yourself to just one walk? Stick around in Henley-in-Arden for a couple of days and do both. It’s a lovely town. And they are great hikes.
Or. Here’s a wild idea. If you really wanted you could bang out both in a day. It would be long but rewarding. Breakfast in Henley. do one loop, return for a pub lunch and then bang out the second loop. Celebrate with a pub dinner. Happy out!
Oh and by doing both you’re only 95.45% away from that free t-shirt.
Or why not stick around for longer and do some of the Heart of England Way too.
Until next time trail heroes. Believe in yourself and remember, Hiking is LIFE!
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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