Rock House trail
This longer walk takes in all aspects of the Edge, from the heathland buzzing with wildlife to leafy woodland paths with children's natural play areas. It takes in two different rock house complexes that you can explore, and spectacular views. This ramble cross the country boundary from Staffordshire to Worcestershire and back again.
The majority of the walk is a gentle slope to the views, apart from a couple of short steep slopes in the woods. There are several accessible kissing gates - wide enough for buggies.
Compton Road lay-by parking, SO 83575 83631
From the noticeboard, turn right across the sandy area and take the uphill path into the woods, waymarked with a purple arrow. Keep following the purple waymarkers straight over the crossroads and past the children's natural play areas.
At the five-ways crossroads follow the arrow to Nanny's Rock. There is a short, steep descent here.
Nanny's Rock is an unrestored rock house carved into the sandstone. You can climb inside it and peer through the empty remains of windows, and walk around the five bare rooms. Look for the chimney leading up through the rock, known as 'devil's chimney', and evidence of where doors used to hang. Was 'Nanny' a herbalist, a potion-maker, a white witch? There are very few records to explain the intriguing name. Also know as 'Meg o' Fox Hole', this could refer to an inhabitant known as Margaret, who died in 1617.
As the landscape opens out into heathland on your right, you may be able to spy Vale's Rock through the trees on your left-hand side. This rock house is closed to the public, but we are working on clearing the vegetation to improve views of this impressive rock-cut dwelling. Continue following the purple arrows and you will return to woodland, climbing up to the top of the Edge. Spectacular views emerge from gaps in the trees on your left, and mature heathland sweeps across your right. In spring it is heady with yellow gorse, in late summer the heather blooms purple.
Heath land restoration area
We are restoring heath land habitat in this area, which is currently aging pine plantation. This is a return to the landscape which would have been here for thousands of years before the much more recent encroachment of woodlands, and the bare patches of land will create opportunities for animals to lay eggs, hunt and bask. Cattle are vital to this restoration work - you might spot them and their quirky curling horns as you walk through the heath. It only takes a few years for heathland to re-establish - the heather seeds lay dormant under the ground for over 100 years until the ground is cleared for them to grow.
When you reach the topocope on the Hill Fort, turn around to head down the slope towards the ramparts, following the purple arrows. As you approach the Warden's Lodge you will cross short grassland, and have a final view of the heath from below. Head down into the woods on your left at the war memorial. This woodland path is full of bluebells in spring, and has places to stop and rest.
Continue down the slope to approach the restored Rock Houses, and a further couple of minutes passed them you will return to the car-park, which is signed from the Rock House tea-rooms.
The Rock Houses
Holy Austin Rock Houses were lived in until the 1960's, and have since been restored to feel like the cosy, comfortable dwellings they were. Carved straight into the rock, they were warm in winter and cool in summer. Volunteers are on hand to tell the stories of the families who lived here, and children can have a go with traditional toys and games. Please check the opening times before you pop in.
Compton Road noticeboard, SO 83575 83631
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