Hidden away just south of Brewood in the Staffordshire countryside is a little strip of land that makes for a perfect get-away for the locals to the area. It is a great quick stop, ideal to be linked in with an even grander adventure, but just because it is only a small parcel of land sandwiched between farmland in the Midlands doesn't mean it has nothing to offer. Between the beautiful sections of the countryside that surround it, the wildlife that inhabits the woods and its beautiful connection with the Shropshire Union canal, this is a great place to wander amongst nature without a care in the world. Let us take a tour of the approach road to Chillington Hall and see if we can sell you on a splendid day out in the countryside.
There are multiple ways to get to the Lower Avenue near Brewood, but the easiest is a little dedicated car park just off of Park Lane - this can get pretty crowded at peak times but is the best option for parking if you wish to pull up close by. Alternatively, there is a small layby at the opposite end on Brewood Road but you shouldn't rely on this as it can probably only fit 3 cars comfortably, any more and you would end up blocking access to the gates here. As the Lower Avenue has a connection to the canal, you can always join this walk on the Lower Avenue by parking up in the nearby town of Brewood or somewhere further afield and making your way down the tow-path; one side of the bridge has a tucked-away staircase that will allow you access up and down. Due to the country lanes that link you to the Lower Avenue, if you are looking to explore the area via public transport then a bus to Brewood is going to be your most reliable option, then you can take the aforementioned short walk down the tow-path to get started on your adventure.
How you got to the Lower Avenue will determine your start point, but there isn't too much to worry about on this walk - there are a few separate paths but they all follow a similar route and the avenue itself is pretty much a perfect straight line. The best way to get the most out of your walk here is to take a circular route, selecting a different path on the return journey and enjoying the views out from the woods as well as all the local wildlife that should greet you if you get lucky enough. Birds and squirrels should be aplenty and on our last visit, we were lucky enough to spot, or should I say hear, a woodpecker busy at work on one of the trees. For me, the main attraction is that stunning bridge in the centre over the canal, bridge number 10 (sometimes listed on maps as Avenue Bridge or Chillington Bridge), it is a wonderfully ornate listed structure dating back to the early 1800s; arriving at the bridge in the early hours of a nice morning will give you the best view of this space, with birds singing away as the sun just about breaks through the trees over the canal below it is quite perfect. This is also one of my favourite sections of the canal - it has a wild feel with the rough rock slopes and dense foliage opposite to the towpaths and a thick canopy overhead, it loses the feel of a man-made canal and is more like a properly wild space.
Speaking of the canal, if you didn't arrive via canal then it would be a missed opportunity to visit the Lower Avenue without taking a walk along the towpaths and possibly extending your day with a larger adventure. You have two options, heading south where you will find yourself amongst blissful farmland for a good long way with plenty of bridges to escape to if you fancy exploring before eventually passing under the M54 and reaching the outskirts of Wolverhampton. Alternatively, if you head north not only will you still find plenty of countryside to enjoy but you will also arrive at the charming town of Brewood, where if you choose to ascend the steps you will be immediately greeted by a pub where you can refuel before continuing on with your day. Continue even further north and you will be completely surrounded by the English countryside but there are still a few small hamlets to visit and interesting landmarks - for example, a bit of a walk north of Brewood is the Watling Street Stretton Aqueduct, constructed by Thomas Telford in 1832 for the then Birmingham and Liverpool Canal it is another grade II listed structure and a cool little icon of our industrious history. I love the idea of being able to drive under the canal and I am sure plenty of drivers around these parts have no idea that all of that water is passing over their heads!
I was unable to find too much information about the Lower Avenue's history, although it is pretty reasonable to assume this formed part of the long driveway to the Grade I listed Chillington Hall. The hall has its Upper Avenue, a well-manicured drive all the way up to the hall's entrance, which meets the Lower Avenue by crossing Port Lane and when seen from above it unmistakably must have been a single path at one time. In fact, when you visit the Lower Avenue you can see a very clear central path, the straightest and widest of the paths here is more or less the same width as the path at the Upper Avenue. The bridge appears to date back to around the 1830s too, implying the Lower Avenue predated this and Thomas Telford would have had to build the bridge to keep the avenue functioning. On the point of history, Chillington Hall's is certainly an interesting one, with the current house being the third on the site, being completed in 1724, with both a stone castle and a Tudor home predating it. By most accounts, Peter Giffard is said to have planted a long avenue of Oak Trees in 1725, but whether this incorporated both the upper and Lower Avenue is not mentioned. Visitation to the hall and grounds is restricted, so check on their website before arranging a trip there.
Sometimes, wonderful things can be found with a bit of curiosity and
maybe studying a map; I stumbled upon this strange bit of beauty in two
ways, firstly, I had cycled beneath the bridge many times and always
noted how pretty it was, far more decorative than the others and draped in leaves as the bushes on the bridge above grew over the top. Secondly, I had happened to be browsing OS maps and spotted this strange-looking perfectly straight strip of green (which you can see on the map above), and just had to know what it was. These little hideaway spots are the kind I live for, peaceful retreats away from the crowds that offer a taste of solitude and natural wonder. Even though this is just a stone's throw from the urban sprawl of the west midlands, it is still chock full of beauty and rich in nature while still being easily commutable for those in the city. My preference is always to walk or ride the canals to reach the Lower Avenue, but however you choose to get there I can assure you it is a great strip of nature and a perfect escape to the countryside.