The Heart of England Way
Chipping Campden to Rugeley, 85 miles
Part 5 of the End-to-End Walk from Land's End to John O'Groats


The Heart of England Way is a "semi-official" long distance path, designed to link the Cotswold Way to the Staffordshire Way by means of a broad arc of rural country passing to the east of the Birmingham conurbation. It was conceived in 1978 by a group of local walking clubs, whose members put in a good deal of work to bring what was a series of local footpaths up to a walkable standard, largely free from obstacles such as blockages, discontinuities and standing crops. The Way became viable in 1990. It has been rerouted since its inception and, since I incorporated it within the End-to-End Walk, it has been extended southwards to Bourton-on-the-Water and northwards to Milford. These extensions do not form part of my route and will not be included within the narrative.

Despite its proximity to the cities of Birmingham and Coventry the character of the walk is almost entirely rural. The country you pass through is prediminantly farmland, though its charachter changes subtly as you walk northwards. The Way leaves the diminishing Cotswold scarp at Meon Hill to fall to the Vale of Evesham and its orchards and vegetable fields, reaching the river Avon at Bidford. Flattish country of cropped fields and little villages then gives way to the hillier Arden landscapes, dotted with woods and pastures. Grazing sheep give way to grazing cattle and then more crops, broken briefly by the Coventry suburbs of Balsall Common and Berkswell. Some splendid open country follows as you cross the low hills around Meriden, the geographical centre of England. The Tame valley beyond is a post-industrial landscape, a world of water parks created from disused gravel pits, with vistas of motorways, power stations and electricity transmission lines. Fortunately this section is brief, a series of wooded hills around Weeford being followed by the vast, prairie-like fields of Packington Moor and the small cathedral city of Lichfield. And after Lichfield comes Cannock Chase, a world of wooded heathland and long, straight vehicle tracks much loved by cyclists. The Heart of England Way links up with the Staffordshire Way on Cannock Chase just west of Rugeley, and in consequence the last section of the walk described here actually extends onto the latter route in order to reach the closest approach to the town.


This is not camping country. There are campsites dotted around, but they are few and far between. There are also few hostels. This is primarily B&B country, although some villages and towns are so far off the tourist trail that even hotel rooms and places to eat out are in short supply.

It's good public transport country, though. Every obvious start and finish point is within about an hour of Birmingham New Street, making the Way ideal for tackling as a series of day hikes. If the prospect of basing yourself in Birmingham doesn't enthuse you, consider staying in other, more aesthetic locations - I found that Stratford-on-Avon was an excellent base for the southern half of the Way, while Lichfield itself served the northern half adequately. You do need to check on public transport times on Sundays and bank holidays, and remember also that the Midland Main Line - serving Rugeley and Lichfield Trent Valley - has a surprisingly skeletal service even on weekdays. Some journeys will involve travelling into Birmingham and out again, but that's no real hassle.

The various one-day walks that make up the Heart of England Way:

(Click the links for the individual walk indexes and photo galleries)
1 Chipping Campden to Bidford-on-Avon 13½ miles
2 Bidford-on-Avon to Henley-in-Arden 11½ miles
3 Henley-in-Arden to Berkswell 12½ miles
4 Berkswell to Kingsbury 16½ miles
5 Kingsbury to Lichfield 13½ miles
6 Lichfield to Rugeley 20.6 miles


    Heart of England Way organisation's website
Cotswold Way Back to main index Staffordshire Link

This page last updated 21st February 2006