A 3.5 mile circular walk along Kinver Edge, a high heath and woodland escarpment running south from the large village of Kinver in southern Staffordshire. The walk provides truly spectacular views from the top of the escarpment. On clear days you will be able to see for around 30 miles across to the Malvern Hills. There is also chance to explore Holy Austin rock houses, dug into the sandstone rock and home to Britain’s last cave dwellers through to the 1960s. The rock houses have been restored and are now managed by the National Trust.
The walk includes a couple of both short-steep and longer-steadier climbs and descents. The surfaces are mainly good gravel paths but the climbs and descents through the woodland can be slippery in wet weather. A handrail is provided in the steepest section. There are no stiles and just a few kissing gates. Parts of the heath are used to graze cattle in the summer so take care with dogs.
The site is owned and managed by the National Trust. Access to Kinver Edge is free and open dawn to dusk all year round. Holy Austin rock house itself has limited opening times and charges apply to go inside the recreated homes so check the National Trust website before you visit. The adjacent tea room also has limited opening hours. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the walk.
The free National Trust car park is provided in a long wide lay-by on Compton Road on the outskirts of Kinver in Staffordshire. There are brown signs (Holy Austin Rock Houses) to guide you to the site. Approximate post code DY7 6DL.
Start Point Compton Rd to Holy Austin
From the car park, walk back along Compton Road towards Kinver village and about 100 yards after Meddins Lane on the left turn sharp right up a track marked with a wooden footpath sign. Just 100 yards along this path, turn right through a wooden gate marked Holy Austin Rock Grounds (open daily 10am to 4pm).
Walk up the short slope to reach the rock houses and tea room. Take some time to explore the site.
Legend has it that Holy Austin Rock is named after a hermit who lived nearby. The rock is home to the last troglodyte dwellings occupied in England, with a set of complete cave-houses excavated into the local red sandstone. From the 1600s to the 1960s whole families lived comfortably in cave dwellings carved into the soft rock. At its peak 11 families lived in Holy Austin Rock in a warren of whitewashed rooms over three levels. The rock houses in Holy Austin Rock are some of the finest remaining in Europe. The restored lower rock houses contain a recreated 1900 parlour and bedroom open to the public (entrance charges apply for the recreated rooms).
Holy Austin Viewpoint
Leaving the rock houses via the exit past the tea room on your right, follow the path downhill and then straight on through a crossroads in a dip to go steeply back up hill heading for tall conifers. As you come to a level grass clearing, take a turn ninety degrees to the right signposted view point.
Head up this mud track and go through the kissing gate. Continue up the steep mud track using the wooden handrails if the path is slippery. As you emerge into the clearing on the top of the ridge, keep right on the path heading further uphill with great views over Kinver village to the right. Follow the edge of the ridge round to the left to reach the concrete half barrel view point marker.
The top of this marker is a brass relief map depicting the local topography and acting as a guide to the views. From this point you will be able to enjoy tremendous views across Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire.
Viewpoint to Trig Point
Continue along the edge of the ridge in a south westerly direction along a wide gravel track with the edge of the escarpment to your right. Continue straight ahead initially following the red and amber waymarkers. Soon the amber marker forks right through a kissing gate – ignore this, just continue straight ahead on the highest path.
Kinver Edge rises to 164 metres above sea level. It was home to an Iron Age hill fort and is a remnant of the Mercian forest, although much of the planting left today dates from post 1945.
Pass through a kissing gate ahead and you will meet a concrete Trig Point.
Trig Point to Underground Reservoir
Continue along the main gravel track marked with the red way markers and with the wooded slopes at the edge of the ridge to your right. Ignore any smaller gated paths off to the left and right.
After a little distance you will pass through a gap to the side of a wooden vehicle gate marking the end of the National Trust site. You are now entering the Kingsford Forest Park, the northern tip of Worcestershire. Continue straight ahead signposted for the North Worcestershire Path, the Woodpecker Trail and the Nuthatch Trail.
Follow the path as it follows the edge of the ridge past a number of benches and ignoring smaller paths into the woods on the left. Follow the path as it skirts to the left of a fenced off underground reservoir. Immediately afterwards you will reach a T-junction.
Underground Resevoir to Main Forest Path
Turn sharp left here, through the gap at the side of the vehicle barrier and then take the first left again, heading back uphill to the north west.
Continue ahead and after a while the path will narrow and start winding through the forest. At a cross roads, turn right down hill for just 100 yards to reach a T-junction with a wider well made forest track.
Main Forest Path to the Kissing Gates
Turn left onto the main forest path still signed for the Woodpecker and Nuthatch Trails. Continue straight ahead through a pair of staggered wooden barriers (now leaving the bird trails) and leaving Kingsford Forest Park. Continue directly ahead, ascending steadily with a fence immediately to your right.
At the end of the fence, go right through a kissing gate onto the heath (note cattle may be grazing here in the summer months). Take the left hand fork straight across the centre of the heath. Follow this obvious path ignoring smaller paths to the left and right. The open heathland ends at a kissing gate.
Kissing Gates to Compton Rd
Pass through the kissing gate and after a few paces go straight on at a crossroads in the path. At the end of the steep bank to your left you will reach a T-junction with a gravel path. Turn left here heading back up hill towards the clearing containing the view point marker.
As you reach the clearing, fork to the right to reach the top of the steep mud path which leads back down to the site entrance. Go down the hill (using the hand rail if the path is slippery) and pass through the kissing gate into the small clearing. Turn sharp left and then by the tall conifers take the right hand fork. Turn right in front of the cave houses and follow the track to the road. Turn left along the road to return to your car.