An Escape

View from Monarch's Way

During our walks along long distance paths in England, we’ve often merged with or crossed The Monarch’s Way and eventually, we decided to discover more about this path, which appeared in so many places.

I’m sure that at some time in my schooldays I studied the Civil War and the flight of Charles II from England, but I regret that I am woefully ignorant of the period. Following a little research (if ploughing through a rather tedious Georgette Heyer novel counts as research), I now know that after a heavy defeat at The Battle of Worcester 1651 and with a price on his head, Charles II spent six weeks hotly pursued by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentary forces as he tried to escape to France. His journey was circuitous as he first headed north, then doubled back down to the south coast and finally across the downs to Shoreham and The Monarch’s Way is a 615 mile footpath based on this escape.


Monarch's Way Worcester canal

We thought this walk would keep us busy for a while, so made a start earlier this month. We walked from Old Powick Bridge, just south of Worcester, in glorious April sunshine along the banks of the Rivers Teme and Severn into the hustle and bustle of the city and then headed northwards along the towpath of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which was busy with boats, fishermen, cyclists and dog walkers. We watched the fisherman, sat firmly on their stools with their copious paraphernalia spread within arms’ reach, as they picked bait from their varied selection and then used a catapult to send it flying to the other side of the canal where their line dipped into the water. I was hoping they might mistake their packed lunch for bait and catapult a sandwich across the water or pop a maggot in their mouth but it didn’t happen. Fishing remains a great mystery to me. Leaving that canal and skirting a rather unlovely industrial area we returned to the countryside and finally walked along the towpath of the sleepy Droitwich canal into Droitwich Spa.

Westwood House, Droitwich Spa from The Monarch's Way

The following day we headed out across the fields, past the impressive Westwood House, around numerous fishing lakes, had a chat with a man about ducks as we tried to find our way out of a nature reserve, followed the footpath from the road through a gate in the wall into a private garden where it ran for about ten metres and then emerged back onto the road (which was very strange), across a point-to-point course where they were putting up the rails for the forthcoming races, past a beautifully kept community orchard and into the village of Chaddesley Corbett. For once, our timing was perfect as we arrived bang on lunch time and the pub was open; normally we arrive too early, too late or the pub is shut. After a swift lunch (we were the only customers) we headed off through more green countryside, up and along a ridge with views across Worcestershire and to the West Midlands and finally into Hagley. An enjoyable start to The Monarch’s Way.

Next time we walk the path, we have a dilemma. The first two days were ideal for us – walking through villages and beautiful countryside, exploring a small city and both days there was a railway station conveniently close to the start and finish. The next few sections of the trail are less appealing as they include miles of urban pavement walking, a long stretch of rural road walking and an area with no regular public transport. We are walking for pleasure, not through a desire to retrace the royal escape route nor to tick off a completed long distance trail, so I think we will probably skip a chunk of the trail. It feels a little like cheating but I can’t see the point of walking where I don’t want to be when there are so many places that I do want to explore.

Would you grit your teeth and do the whole thing properly or would you ignore the official trail and walk your own shortened route?

30 thoughts on “An Escape

  1. Hmmm! Hard to say but I think I’d try to do the lot, as I find cities equally as interesting as the countryside. I’m always curious to see how different cities approach urban living. Are there green spaces, pedestrian squares, an interesting blending of old and new structures? Is it people-friendly? And are the townsfolk friendly? How is the regional accent?
    Think of your walk through all this as if it were a bag of licorice all-sorts. You dip in, find some nice things and others that sharpen your awareness and pique your curiosity.
    Have fun. I envy you your walking trails.

    1. I enjoyed walking through London because the route was interspersed with green parks, rivers and fabulous buildings. There are definitely some cities more interesting to walk through than others.

  2. I’d skip walking rural roads if there’s no path alongside – dangerous! And I’d walk the bits I wanted to as it’s for fun 🙂 This bit sounds as though it was.

  3. I’ve never heard of the Monarch’s Way, I’m ashamed to say, but it does look very enjoyable. I think you should walk just what is pleasurable to you – and definitely miss out rural road walking. Absolutely no fun at all in my experience. Btw should you want another novel of the period for historical studies, I recommend The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge. I only read it recently and loved it so much – definitely a 5 star read.

  4. Chaddesley Corbett is a lovely village in a beautiful area. I presume your next section is heading north, I don’t think it would be much fun urban path and rural road walking.

  5. As you are walking for your pleasure, why go where you do not want to? You can take a look at the parts you don’t want to walk with Google Earth or Google Maps. I certainly would not be inclined to walk in areas I did not wish to unless there was some special historical location to see. I’m sure Charles II would really rather not have had to do that long journey during his time, and even less now. Can you imagine him riding madly through those industrial parts? He’d be so confused.

    1. Imagine if he could see the area now! Maybe we’ll just ‘walk’ some of the way using Google Earth – who knows, we may decide it’s not too bad after all and go ahead and do it properly.

  6. If it’s on your bucket list to walk the Monarch’s Way, then you are kind of obligated to do the whole thing. If not, skip to the parts that intrigue you so you can pack in as much as you have time for. Turn it around–if you were trying to walk an urban/city historic trail, would you bypass the parts that wandered through a bland rural scape you weren’t keen on?

    1. I totally agree. In fact, we had previously decided to walk The Cotswold Way but then decided that we could extend the walk by walking the Monarch’s Way as that goes through the Cotswolds.

    1. Haha! You don’t surprise me in the least Glenda! You’re the only person I know who repeatedly makes a recipe until they get it absolutely perfect.

  7. J > As a former LDP-er, I’d really want to do the whole thing. Partly, I admit, because I’d never want to find myself being called (even in jest) a cheat, or having to obfuscate over my recollections of walking the path. However if you are generally just picking bits, and don’t claim to have ‘walked the Monarch Way’, then by all means skip this bit. For myself, I’d want to walk this. That’s because another past passion was inland waterways, including the BCN and ajdoining W Midlands canals (I used to explore every branch and basin, and find the route of abandoned canals between factories and through housing estates), I’d be happy to walk this section of the Monarch Way. However I would be prepared for very different risks than occur in the fields of Worcestershire!

    1. I understand exactly what you’re saying. I’m more a “we walked a rough route from A to B”. We quite often veer completely away from the official route if there’s something that interests us and consequently miss sections. Bill’s passion is arable farming, so we love walking across farmland, which some people would just dismiss as boring fields that all look the same! I enjoy variety in a day’s walking and am not that keen on a whole day of urban walking.
      I like your last comment – that’s exactly what we found when we walking through some run down areas of south London.

      1. J > My longest ever walk was based on: Sussex Border Path, North Downs Way, Pilgrims Way, Greensand Way (crossed Monarch’s Way?), South Downs Way, and Saxon Shore Path – I think there were others too. It was wonderful!! But alas 20yrs have passed and I’m not sure I could do it now.

        1. Nearly 3 wks. started Ashdown Forest. SW to Lewes, then anti clockwise via Folkestone at far E, Winchester far W, finishing back at Lewes. Around the Weald in Eighteen Days. (Hah hah hah!)

  8. Could you borrow bikes and zoom through the road/urban sections all at once? That way you could still say you went along the whole route…but you could spend longer on the parts that you would really like to walk along??

  9. I say follow your heart when it comes to walking Anne! As usual your walking routes look like postcard material. I had to laugh at your descriptions of the fishermen!

  10. On the Appalachian Trail, all of the markers are white blazes and side trails are marked with blue. Walking an alternative route that roughly parallels the official AT is called “blue blazing”. I am a big supporter of blue blazing!

    1. Thank you! That’s an excellent bit of news. From now on, I shall always describe our off track diversions as blue blazing, which sounds so much more exciting.

  11. Late to the party, as usual and no doubt everything that I want to say has been said! I have never heard of the Monarch Way, it sounds interesting. I’d definitely pick and mix parts of the walk I think I might enjoy. I don’t like spending precious fun time on things that I don’t think are particularly fun. Of course you can find pleasure in unexpected places, and it might be worthwhile exploring some of the least favoured parts of the original route… Whatever you choose to do, I hope you enjoy it. x

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