Walking Shakespeare’s Way
The thought of walking Shakespeare’s Way from Stratford to London, and back again, would not have been Shakespeare’s way, if the young Bard had any choice in the matter.
Walking was a necessity ; the idea of walking the Shakespeare’s Way for pleasure ~ “thou jesteth” , would not have been understood in Shakespeare’s day.
But between 1585 and 1592 who knows how many sonnets, pieces of verse, or characters were born as he walked the 146 miles to London through some of the most beautiful countryside of middle England
You can enjoy walking Shakespeare’s Way at a leisurely pace in one go, or divide it into two parts with an interlude at Oxford.
Stratford to Oxford: The first part follows as closely as possible a route which Shakespeare would have travelled. From Shakespeare’s house in Stratford, you cross the beautiful River Avon over the same bridge by which Shakespeare left his home for Oxford, walking through his familiar formative Warwickshire countryside, along the Stour river valley. Your journey continues up over the rolling landscape and wide views of the Cotswold hills, referred to in Richard II as “these high wild hills and rough uneven way”
Your route descends from the open Cotswolds, into natural wooded valleys and you find yourself unexpectedly entering the magnificent groomed landscape of Blenheim Park where you catch your first sight of Blenheim Palace one of Britain’s great country estates.
Blenheim was the backdrop to one of the most ambitious Shakespeare productions ever filmed, Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Hamlet’. An extra day in Woodstock to enjoy Blenheim Palace and Grounds is recommended if time permits.
And so on along the Thames to Oxford where Will broke his journey to stay with his friend and inn-keeper, John Davenant at the Crown Inn, no doubt putting reams of accumulated thoughts to pen and paper.
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired:” Sonnet 27 (1-4)
Oxford to London: Departing his lodgings in 1585 from this finest of all University cities, Will’s likely route would be along the coach and cattle drover’s route to London, now expanded into the M40 motorway
Therefore the preferable alternative leaves Oxford along the more tranquil River Thames, passing the boathouses of the University College’s famous Rowing clubs. Briefly leaving the riverside to cross the Thames valley, and up over the undulating beautiful chalk Chiltern Hills, past Stonor House, a lovely Tudor mansion nestling in the folds of the Chiltern Hills’, returning again to the ever widening River Thames near Marlow. Your walk continues through the beautiful woodlands of Burnham Beeches, to London’s western fringe.
Avoiding the bustle of the capital’s traffic , you walk along the peaceful Grand Union Canal,once again re-joining the Thames, now walking all the way to Bankside. Ending your journey from Stratford at the Globe, tired dusty but happy as Shakespeare did in his time, you look forward to a hearty dinner and enjoying an evening of Shakesperian entertainment at the Globe .