The Barton under Needwood 9.5 mile circular walk. Pulling in the hamlet of Wychnor, the village of Alrewas, Yoxall Meadows and Dunstall Park.

This lovely atmospheric walk through the woodlands and farmland of East Staffordshire is a walk that on a fine midsummers day would be hard to beat.  Making it an excellent counterbalance to walking on the bleak high moorlands on the northern edge of the county.  As it wanders in a clockwise direction southwards, through some of the mellow low midland countryside surrounding the floodplain of the Trent Valley.  To work its way back north towards the Needwood Forest through a land of small hills, and the atmospheric little smears of woodland that stand within the rich pastoral farmland of this most beautiful part of the north midlands.

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Parking

Leave the B1056 and take the small road opposite the Church of St James in the centre of Barton under Needwood, {Dunstall Road}.  Drive north along the lane and park on the side of the road just past the John Taylor High School, usually plenty of spaces.

OS  Explorer Map, The National Forest 245.  SK 185 188.

{Within the text R’F’M’ indicates
Round Footpath Marker}.


The Walk.

Walk down Dunstall Road, {south} towards the centre of the village and its junction with the B5016 {Barton Gate Road}, Shoulder of Mutton pub on the left.  Turn right and walk along the road until opposite the notice board and gates of the church of St James.

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Cross the road and enter the churchyard {wooden footpath post} to walk up to the church tower.  Take the footpath on the right and walk in a diagonal direction through the gravestones under a shaded arch of variegated Holly trees and Yews, to an opening in a low red brick wall standing under a big old Large Leaved Lime.

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Pass through and turn left to walk along a metalled path between the wall and the cemetery, pass through a pair of black metal gates to a cross path.  Carry straight on following the path to the left of a playground {Collinson Park}.  Leave the park, bearing left then right to cross over a narrow bridge above a small stream.  {Barton Brook}.

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Walk for thirty metres and take the path on the left through a gap in a post and rail fence.  follow the path as it again curves to the left then back right through trees and shrubs to bring you up to the rear of Barton’ Cottage Hospital.  Turn Hard right and walk on under its boundary hedge up to the end of a wide metalled road/drive {Collinson Road}.
Take the narrow footpath to your left to walk between a red brick wall on the right, leading on to Larch Panel fences and a tall Ivy-covered hedge on the left.  Plod on under the shade of trees and the high hedge until eventually, you come out onto a road called Short Lane.  Turn right and walk down the lane for about fifty metres to the junction of two roads, The Green on the left and Wales lane to the right,

dsc03759-1{The road sign opposite the junction with a nice traditional red G’P’O’ post box alongside}.

Walk down The Green for about 180/200 meters then take the road called Captains lane coming in from the left until after about fifty meters, in the hedgerow on the right you will see a stile {Broken wooden footpath post}.  Cross over into the meadow and walk across it in a slightly diagonal direction towards a narrow wooden bridge in its the far left-hand corner, {R’F’M}.
Walk over the bridge and immediately turn right to walk alongside the tall Hawthorn hedge up to a stile that will take you out onto a narrow metalled road called Dogs Head Lane ! A great name that.  {Overgrown green footpath sign in the hedge to the right}.

Turn left and walk down the lane for fifty metres to take a wide gravel track on the right called Green Lane.
{Wooden footpath post and a blue National Cycleway Sign. Route 54}.

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Scrunch on down this gravel/metalled bridle track, by-passing scattered cottages and houses for about a hundred meters or so up to a metal farm gate across the ride, pass through a gap in the post and rail fence to its left. 

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Ramble on down the lane between tall hedges and scattered Oaks enjoying the odd glimpse on either side of the wide flat, fertile arable fields of the Trent valley, until before too long on the left an expansive view opens up over a large cornfield.  {A blue national Cycle Way sign, Route 54 and a wooden footpath sign standing to the right of the track}.

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Keep scrunching along the track with the old hedge line to your right until soon over the wide arable prairie to your left, on the horizon you can just discern the square squat tower of the small church of St Leonard’s, in the hamlet of Wychnor.

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Soon the old hedge to the right peters out and a low hedge on the left of the track takes over, this leads on to a taller section dotted with the occasional large hedgerow Oak.  To the right of this and just before the track meets a small metalled road can be seen a wonderful wildflower/Buttercup meadow, particularly showy in June/July.

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Walk straight over the road onto a metalled drive called Church Lane and meander on down it between meadows towards the hamlet of Wychnor, until after passing some rather posh dwellings and scattered cottages you come to the tiny parish church of St Leonards.

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On the opposite side of the road from the church and set in a post/rail fence stands a kissing gate, behind it is an information board displaying a brief history of Wychnor and the remains of its 12th-century medieval village.  These remnants take the form of humps mounds and hollows indicating where the village and its mill along with the outline of its dwellings once stood.
These can plainly be seen standing out on the meadow just behind the board.

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Pass through the gate and walk in a diagonal direction leftwards on a vague path across the meadow, keeping the humps and hollows of the ancient village to your right, carry on past a deep hollow on the left with a large old Ash standing above it and towards a gap in the tree-lined high overgrown hedge that lies in front of you.
Enclosed with a post and rail fence on either side drop steeply down through the break to a wooden stile, {R’F’M’ to the rear of stile}, this will take you out on to the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

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Placed just to the left of the stile is a wooden bench, a nice place to sit and lig around on under the shade of tall Crack Willows and Ashes, while listening to the joyful descending descant of Willow Warblers and the emphatic Chip chip of Chifchaffs, disturbed only by the occasional narrow-boat as it slides past ponking and spluttering its way along the cut.

Haul yourself up and turn to the right to saunter on along the canal’s tow-path {west}, towards a raised section with white metal handrails on either side, the first of several.

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Wend your way over the walkway following the side of the cut and accompanied by the shrill croaks of Moor Hens and the whirr of Dragonflies wings pass over more raised sections of the tow-path that carry you over the low marshy areas and small ponds full of Lilly pads, their banks lined with Yellow Flags and tall Reed mace.

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The next few hundred metres are the pure essence of tranquillity and a delight to wander along, as the navigation slowly meanders its way through the lush green water meadows that lie on either side.  Pastures that by the month of June are stocked with fine red cattle, lying down or just standing motionless up to their belly’s in the rich herbage and tall grasses of high summer, as if in some sort of bovine dream time.

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Eventually, on the far side of the navigation, you will see a floating barrier strung across the mouth of a weir.  This is the point where, after joining the canal system for a brief section, the River Trent leaves the cut.
Stride on past the weir for about 100/150 meters to the start of another raised walkway/bridge that carries the towpath over the river at the point where it flows into the canal.

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The point where the River Trent leaves the navigation.

At the entrance to the walkway, you will find another wooden bench, a nice spot to sit and watch the narrow-boats slipping past.
Down the bank behind the bench and hidden in the hedgerow is a kissing gate, {R’F’M’ on a short wooden post by the side of the tow path}.  Drop down to the gate and enter the meadow, {tall wooden footpath post and R’F’M’}.

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The towpath walkway with the river Trent coming in from the right and feeding into the Trent and Mersey canal beneath it.

Before you do this and if you have the time, it’s well worth the short walk over the walkway to stand above the Trent and take in the fine views up the river to the north and to the west along the canal towards Hunts Lock on the edge of Alrewas village.  Or even walk the extra 100 metres or so to take a look at the lock and perhaps if lucky see a boat pass through, before returning to the kissing gate and resuming the walk.

The name of the village of Alrewas is thought to be a derivation of the old English name of Alder Wash; a place where alders grow.  Alder was a valued timber in the middle ages and was used for making clogs, wooden bowls, spindles and piles to be sunk in water.  It’s still used today, mainly for wood carving and turning.  The wood is unusual in that as soon as its felled, due to the tannin’s within the wood the cut surfaces turn bright orange, though when carved after it’s dried out and seasoned the wood remains bone white.
Alders grow on the side of rivers, streams and ponds and especially on the wet and boggy ground in low lying areas.
And as such !
The next three or four fields can be a muddy quagmire, particularly so in heavy rain and after a Trent flood.

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Once through the gate, leave the canal and river behind to start heading northwest in a slightly diagonal direction over the meadow, heading for a gap to the right of a large Crack Willow standing in the broken hedge-line in front of you.

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Walkthrough the gap, turn right and walk up to a stout wooden footpath post, {R’F’M’}, pass through a break in the tall hedge-line just beyond it onto a wide shady tree-lined track/ride.  Cross over the ride to a stile, {wooden footpath post, R’F’M’}.

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Clamber over the stile and leave Alrewas, the Alder washes and the river’s flood plain behind you to walk along the enclosed footpath to its end, here turn right to cross a low paved bridge between rails leading up to a wicket gate, {R’F’M’}.

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Pass through the gate and turn left to walk in a diagonal direction towards a break in the hedge-line just left of the meadows far right-hand corner, {R’F’M’} on a stout wooden fingerpost standing in the fork of a dead and fallen thorn bush.

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Pass through the break to cut across the right-hand corner of the next meadow to find a raised walkway/bridge {hand rail} taking you over a muddy ditch/brook, {R’F’M’}.  Walk-in a diagonal direction leftwards through the middle of the next meadow, towards its distant far right-hand corner and a stand of large Crack Willows with a wooden wicket gate standing under them.

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To the left and behind the Crack Willows, flows a lovely little beck called the River Swarbourn.  This sleepy little stream rises from a spring about a mile to the north of the village of Hoar Cross upon the Needwood Forest, before lazily meandering its way south for six or seven miles until it joins the River Trent just north of Alrewas.

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Enter Potters Meadow Wood and keeping to a line of tall White Willows, follow the grassy ride through the shadowy willow woodland, passing through the odd clearing until just after a short mixed section of young Ash and Oak saplings you arrive at a broken wooden wicket gate on the edge of a large wide meadow, {R’F’M’}.

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Make your way over the meadow in a slightly diagonal direction heading for its far left-hand corner, then curve leftwards around a clump of large Crack Willows until you come up to a wicket gate, {F’W’M’}.  Go through and cross over a small wooden bridge above a wide ditch to wend your way through a clearing/butterfly meadow, to the edge of Lady’s Walk Wood, a lovely mature Oak/mixed woodland.  {These woodlands mark the edge of the Wychnor Hall Country Club}.  Stick to the path curving leftwards under the wood to a grass cross ride. {stout wooden fingerpost in the undergrowth on the right, R’F’M’}. 
 Turn left here and walk a short distance steeply uphill to a second {stout wooden fingerpost, R’F’M’}, standing under a large Sweet Chestnut tree on the right-hand side of the ride.

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Turn left here and wander along the wide grass ride through a delightfully scruffy piece of mixed woodland, dotted with the odd conifer and false Acacia trees to bring you hard up to a black plastic water tank and a wooden shed.  {footpath post with R’F’M’}.  Here you are on the edge of the old parkland of Wychnor Hall, now part of the Wychnor Park Country Club golf course.

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Enter the park and follow a hard track towards the superb old Queen Ann pile of Wychnor Hall.  Plod on under the hall’s ha-ha, with lovely views over to the right of the old parkland and estate woodlands, now transformed into part of the country club’s golf course, to leave the club’s grounds by the entrance to the hall.
 {Tall wooden footpath post with R’F’M’}.

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Step out of the park onto a metalled road leading up to a large grass triangular island with a large showy octagonal wooden plant container and a young Copper Beech standing in the middle of it, along with large a white notice board announcing the entrance to the country club.  {Stout wooden fingerpost, R’F’M’} on the islands far left-hand vertex.

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Take the left-hand fork and tramp along the road, by-passing a wooden footpath post on the right and standing just opposite the entrance to the Grange, {sign posted The Grange Wychnor}.   Keep on the road for four or five hundred meters until you arrive at a pair of wooden five/bar gates across the road.  To the left in a post and rail fence on the edge of the woodland stands a wooden stile, {wooden footpath post, R’F’M’}.

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Scramble over the stile or if open pass through the gates into a large Oil Seed Rape field, push diagonally through the Rape aiming for the left-hand end of a Mature Oak woodland to find, just in from the left-hand edge of the wood a tall {wooden footpath post, R’F’M’}.

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Enter the woodland and follow a well-worn path under and to the left of a large Beech tree to by-pass an old overgrown brick byre on the left of the trail.  Saunter on in dappled shade under a line of six fine old mature Oak trees standing to your left and a line of young Oak saplings on your right, until on reaching the sixth large Oak tree the path bears to the left taking you out of the wood onto the edge of a wide arable field, {wooden footpath post, R’F’M’}.

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Turn right and walk along the edge of the plough following a wide grassy track/headland by the side of the Oak woodland, that as you progress gradually develops into a pure mature conifer woodland.  Here, there are some lovely views over to your left of the Trent valley towards Rugeley, with Cannock Chase standing out on the horizon above it.

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As you reach the right-hand corner of the field the track breaks away from the trees and curves to the left following a scrubby broken hedge/field boundary line.  After about thirty metres you will see a gap between two large Crab Apple trees, {footpath post with R’F’M’ hidden in the undergrowth to the right of the gap}.

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Walk between the Crab’s to pass over a wide overgrown grass ride, bringing you immediately up to a wooden stile set just to the right of a large metal farm gate,{R’F’M’ on the post and rail fence to the left of the stile }.
Climb over into the young  National Forest plantation of
Swarbourn Meadows Wood.

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When I explored this lovely and well thought out little plantation in mid-June, the woodland rides within the wood were alive with the flickering shadowy flight of Speckled Woods, Ringlets, Skippers and Meadow Brown Butterflies.

Push on slightly uphill on a narrow overgrown path, passing under the young Oak, Ash and Hazel saplings, with the ride gently curving alternatively to the left then right until gradually it levels off.  Keep brushing through the undergrowth by-passing and hidden in the herbage on the left, an observation platform with an information board explaining how the plantation came to be.

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Carry on working your way through the wood, occasionally coming across the odd clearing allowing you more fine views over the Swarbourn valley and on towards Rugeley, with the Chase standing out on the skyline above it.   Until eventually, you arrive at an overgrown wooden stile on the edge of the planting that leads out onto a wide and roughly overgrown ride, {R’F’M’}.

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Carry on straight over the ride, by-passing an old decaying wooden footpath post to walk up to a rail fence with a broken wooden stile leaning up against it, {wooden footpath post and R’F’M’}. Clamber over the fence to enter a large and most delightful wildflower meadow, that by the month of July is frothing with the foamy flowers of Yellow Lady’s Bedstraw and dotted with the spikes of Wild Agrimony, Burnets, and Trefoils, all mixed in with the lush meadow grasses. 

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Trudge straight ahead uphill to pass under an electricity line and skirting just to the right-hand side of a large solitary old Oak tree, carry on up to a lonely fingerpost standing on the brow of the hill {R’F’M’}.  From the post head straight over the meadow and keeping to the left of four old Oaks pass through a line of scattered thorn bushes; the scruffy remnants of an old hedge line.  Pass under a tall high voltage power line, from here head straight for the right-hand apex/corner of the field where you will find a metal farm gate with a wooden stile to its right, {R’F’M’}.

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The stile will lead you out onto a narrow metalled road, {Meadows Lane}.  Cross over this quiet little road to the entrance of a green lane, {footpath fingerpost.

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Once again accompanied by the flickering black velvet shadows of Ringlet butterflies, wander on down the lane between its tall hedges and under hedgerow Oaks and Ashes to a metal/five bar gate at the end of the ride, {wooden stile and fingerpost to its left, R’F’M’}.

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The next three meadows are pure pleasure to walk through, most of the hedges complete and the pastures almost untouched by the plough for generations.

Climb over, or easier open the gate to enter the fine hay meadow, wander on by-passing the left-hand end of a tall hedgerow and continue up to wooden stile in the hedge-line facing you, {R’F’M’} on the fence post in the hedge to its right.
Go through into the next meadow and sticking to the hedge line follow it curving leftwards around the wide meadow to pass over a wooden stile in its left-hand corner, {R’F’M’} on a fence post to its right.
Continue following the hedge on a mown track around the bottom of the superb large hay meadow rising up to your right.   

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Towards its left-hand corner, pass between the hedge and a short section of high Hawthorn’s to your right, leading you up to a metal farm gate with a wooden stile to its right, {R’F’M’}, this will take you out on to a wide grass track with the name of Browns Lane.
From here there are more splendid views to be had to the north-west, up and over the village of Yoxall and even further on to Cannock Chase.

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Turn right and amble along Browns lane as it gradually rises up towards Masons Barn Hill, {eastwards}.  Plod on as the ride slowly rises and curves up to the brow of the hill, where on the right you will find a set of steps leading up to a National Forest information point and viewing platform. 

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The viewing platform is the highest point for quite some miles around and provides great views over the mid-Staffordshire countryside.  A good spot for a break utilising the picnic benches to sit, enjoy the view and eat your sandwiches.

Return to the ride and turn right to walk downhill {north}, as the ride gradually becomes more enclosed passing between high overgrown hedges and scrub trees, {butterfly alley} until eventually the hedge on the left falls away and a view opens up of a large wide meadow.  Continue to plod on down the ride up to a large metal farm gate, pass through the wicket gate on its left and out onto the bottom of the large wide meadow.

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Looking back towards Browns lane and the wide metal farm gate.

Down below you to the left on the edge of the field stands the crudely made statue of a man with raised arms, attached to it is a National Forest notice informing you of the Browns Lane woods its meadows and a little of their history.

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Opposite, on the right-hand side of the track, stands a large and rare Black Poplar tree with a metal cattle trough set in the fence beneath it, just past these hidden in the corner of the meadow and a few metres to the right of the five/bar gate at the end of the ride, stands a small metal wicket gate, this leads through onto the bottom of a long narrow meadow, {no footpath marker}. Pass through and follow a mown path under the hedgerow to the far side of the meadow to a wooden stile, {R’F’M’ on stile}.

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Scramble over the stile to walk a short distance through some young Oak and Ash saplings up to a homemade wooden wicket gate, {R’F’M’}.  Pass through and cross over the dry ditch on a narrow bridge made out of railway sleepers to a second wicket, this will lead you through into the recently planted Yoxall Community Allotments and Woodlands.

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Wander on straight ahead and wend your way on a mown grass track weaving its way between the recently planted young woodland on the right, the whips standing out in their bright green tree shields and the village’s allotments over to the left, to meander on up to a notice board with information about the allotments and the origins of the plantation.
The board stands on the edge of an area provided with picnic benches and tables, another opportunity; or excuse! to rest your legs and have a well-earned break.

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Follow the ride as it curves first left then back right bringing you closer to the allotments.  Continue walking up the track {eastwards}, following a line of young fruit trees on the right up to a wooden wicket’ standing in the tall thick hedge-line  50/60 metres right of the lottys’ left-hand corner, {no footpath Marker}.

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Go through the gate and enter a large arable field, {planted with sugar beet when I last did the walk-in July}, head straight over the plough, keeping just to the left of a pair of large old Oaks.  From the trees keep heading east directly through the centre of the green desert, following wide tractor tracks between the dense rows of sugar beet.  Follow the tracks for several hundred meters until you arrive at the fields far distant boundary hedge and wide headland, bringing you close to the angle of the hedge’s left-hand apex.
Just to the right of the apex hidden in a tunnel cut through the tall thick Blackthorn, you will find a wooden stile and immediately after it a second one.   {R’F’M’}.

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Looking back down the rows of beet from the Blackthorn hedge.

Scramble over the stiles onto a narrow meadow and walk across the pasture and keeping close to the left-hand hedge-line walk through a gap in the rough hedgerow in front of you, cross straight over the apex of the next meadow to pick up the overgrown hedge/treeline on the left.  Follow this to a wooden wicket gate standing at the end of a low beech hedge on the edge of the garden/drive of a barn conversion.   This will take you back out again on to Meadows Lane, the lane that you crossed over earlier on the walk.  {Wooden footpath post on the roadside}.

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Turn to the left and walk along Meadows lane northwards, through the scattered dwellings of Wood Houses, by-passing several smart barn conversions with well-kept cottage gardens and taking in on the left, a particularly lovely old half-timbered farmhouse with the name of Well Croft.  After about four hundred meters you arrive at the junction of the lane with the busy B5016 road.

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Turn right here and taking care walk along the sometimes busy road towards Barton’, {east}, for about 200 metres until you see a small road coming in from the left, named Lucepool Lane.
 Take this quiet narrow little lane and wander on down it between high tree-lined hedges for just over a third of a mile, by-passing several dwellings and a stable until after walking through an area charmingly named on the map as Thistledown, the road bends sharply to the right and leads steeply downhill for a few metres to bring you up to its junction with Sych Lane.

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Turn right and walk up the lane {south}, under hedgerow Ashes and Oaks for approximately a quarter of a mile until on the left you come to a large white cottage/house called The Round House.  Immediately on the right-hand side of the cottage is a wide farm track, overgrown with thistles and grasses etc.  
{Wooden fingerpost hid in the hedge to the right of the track}.

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Force yourself through the thistles and brambles between The Round House and the hedge to pass between a couple of old wooden gate posts until you come to the edge of a large arable field.  Stick to the right-hand hedge-line and carry on up the side of the cornfield to a wooden stile that stands just to the right of a rusty old five/bar gate.  {No footpath marker}.

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Looking back to the rusty gate and its stile.

Step over into a grass meadow and wander alongside its right-hand hedge-line up to the tall fencing panels that mark the boundary of Hollyhurst House.  Follow these round to a wonky wooden stile standing under the end of a high red brick wall just to the right of another rusty old farm gate.  Totter over the stile to continue following a broken hedge line under tall Oaks and assorted trees around the perimeter fence while getting the odd glimpse through the thin vegetation on your right of the grounds and garden of Hollyhurst House.  Carry on up to a post and rail fence with a wooden stile, just left of the fields right-hand corner, {R’F’P’}.

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Struggle over the stile to push through a thicket of dense Nettles Thistles and Goose Grass growing on the wide headland of a massive potato field.  From the edge of the field stumble straight across the potato ridges, {slightly north of east},  by/passing just to the left of a large solitary Ash.  Hidden in the hedgerow on the far side of the crop and to the right of an Ash tree stands a wooden post with a {R’F’M’} footpath sign attached to it, aim for this.  Squeeze between it and the old overgrown rusty gate hidden in the hedge to its right, taking you out onto a large grass field.

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Head directly over the centre of the meadow to find a wooden stile in the far hedgerow, climb over or squeeze between it and the post and rail fence on its right {no R’F’M’}.
Follow the hedge on the right alongside the grass field, which at the time of writing had only recently been sown.  Keep on up to its right-hand corner and a barbed-wire fence, cross over into the next meadow via a new and stout wooden stile, {R’F’S’}.
Continue following the hedge-line and cross over a short wooden bridge leading up to a wooden stile standing in the corner of the meadow.

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The R’F’M’ post and hidden gate on the edge of the potato field.

Enter the following meadow by-passing after ten meters, on the right a rusty old five/bar gate with a wooden stile and a footpath sign with a {R’F’M’} standing in the post and rail fence to its left.  This marks the entrance to the delightful green lane called Brick Lane.  If you were to follow this lovely old ride for just under a third of a mile it would take you up to the junction of Scotch Hills Lane with Forest Road at Barton Gate.

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The rusty gate guarding the entrance to Brick Kiln Lane.

Sadly though we ignore the lane and keep walking east alongside the hedgerow to pass under a power line and large pylon, bringing you up to a pair of wide galvanised steel double gates, wooden stile to their right.  Climb over on to Scotch Hills Lane, {wooden footpath post on side of road}.

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Looking back to the west down the line of hedgerows and meadows that you followed from the large potato field.

Turn left and walk down Scotch Hills Lane {north}, for about thirty meters to find on the right-hand side of the road a tall wooden footpath fingerpost with a two-stepped stile hiding in the hedgerow behind it.  Take the stile and pass straight over a soft sandy horse track/ride on the wide headland surrounding a narrow Barley field.  Walk on a mown path straight through the crop to its far side from where a wooden stile takes you out on to the traffic busy Forest Road.

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Head northwards along Forest road {to the left}, by-passing after about thirty metres on the right, a wooden footpath post and a stile.  Ignore the stile and carry on for a further fifty metres or so to a wide gateway/lay-by.  At the back of the lay-by stand a pair green solid wood five-bar gates, with a wide wicket gate to their left, this leads into a mature deciduous wood.   {Tall metal footpath sign pointing towards Dunstall, 3/4 miles}. 

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Enter the woodland and saunter along on the broad hard ride towards Dunstall Old Hall enjoying the sun-dappled shade of the estate’s boundary woods and by-passing on the left a small overgrown pond filled with the tiny floating leaves of Duck Weed, that in mid-summer sunlight can transform itself into a glowing and bright emerald green jewel. 

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Carry on, by-passing on the right and just before reaching the second pair of green gates, a large information board displaying a map of the estate and its woodlands.  Walkthrough the left-hand gate to continue drifting along the wide grass/stone ride beneath tall Oaks taking you out of the narrow strip of woodland into the sunlight and out onto the estate.

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Before too long, on the left, a view opens up of wide meadows and distant woodlands.

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After about a third of a mile, the track starts descending steeply down through the second piece of pleasantly mixed woodland named The Kennels Wood, bringing you up to a wide cattle grid across the track where a wicket gate on its right will take you out into the fine old parkland of Dunstall Old Hall.  

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Keep on along the smooth metalled drive, curving leftwards under the cottages of the Old Keepers Kennels and through the beautiful wide-open parkland towards the distant church of St Mary’s that stands just to the west of the village of Dunstall.

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On reaching a wooden electricity pole the road bears sharp left, {wooden footpath fingerpost, R’F’M’s x 2 }.  Here just to the right of the track stand a magnificent old parkland Oak, just one of the several fine trees to be seen within the park.

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Head down-hill to the north, by-passing on the left Dunstall Old Hall and its red brick walled garden up to a wicket gate set in the fence to the right of a wide cattle grid. Go through the gate to follow the drive between the superbly manicured hawthorn hedge surrounding the hall garden and a line of young Oaks up to its junction with the main drive leading down from Dunstall road.

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Turn right and walk up the drive under an avenue of large spreading Oaks to Dunstall road.  Turn right again and ramble along the road, {east} towards the village and the little church of St Mary’s.

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The charming estate church of St Mary’s is a most enchanting grade 2 listed building, old but not ancient {1853}, and well worth taking a short break from your walk to have a look around it and its interior.  When I first did the walk one midweek day in July the church was open, I assume it’s left open all day every day.

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On the right and a few yards before the church is an estate drive coming in from the south with a cattle grid and wooden wicket gate at its entrance.  {Wooden footpath post to the left of the cattle grid}.  Go through the gate and walk down the hard metalled drive under an avenue of venerable old Oak trees up to Saw Mill Cottage, School House Cottage stands to its left. 

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From here the drive skirts around the righthand side of Saw Mill Cottage.  Wander on in the shade of the tall trees until eventually’ a large wide meadow opens up on the left as it climbs up towards the Smiths Hills Woodlands.  Before long you come to the end of the ride and Smiths Hill Cottages come into sight.  Just before the cottages, on the right stands a tall wooden electricity pole and opposite on the left, at the wooded corner of the meadow set in a post and rail fence is a wooden wicket gate.

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Enter the meadow and grind steeply up the sheep walk in a slightly diagonal direction towards the meadows far left-hand corner on the edge of Smiths Hill Wood, {south east}.  Here you will find a large wooden wicket gate, {R’F’M’ on the rear of the gate}.

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Walk into the wood and overshadowed by several fine old Ashes push your way through an under-story of Snow-berry to pass through a mature section of the woodland up to an old gateway.  From here a wide ride leads you steeply down through a pleasant young and mixed deciduous/Larch plantation to a wooden wicket on the southern edge of the forest, {R’F’M’ on the rear of gate}.

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Head south across the wide meadow, aiming for the narrows between two pieces of woodland that lie in front of you, to find a tall lone {wooden footpath finger post} standing just to the left of the right-hand wood.
If by now you’re feeling tired, looking south from the finger-post away on the distant sky-line sticking up above the trees you can see the cheery site of the church of St James in Barton under Needwood.  So only half a mile to go to the end of the walk and maybe a well-earned pint in the Shoulder of Mutton pub’ in Barton’.

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Turn left at the fingerpost and head south-east over the field towards a white information board and wicket gate standing in the hedgerow fifty metres to the right of the meadows left-hand corner
Carefully step through the gate and out onto Dunstall Lane.
The gate is situated on a slight bend in the lane so it’s quite difficult to see up or down the road until you step out onto it  Take care !!

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Keeping an eye and ear open for speeding traffic carefully cross the road, turn right and walk back along the footpath by-passing on your left the fine old 18th c’ building of Barton Hall, to arrive back at your car and with luck that well-earned pint in one of the pubs in Barton’ village.

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Dunstall Wood.

 

 

 

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