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1. The Elephant Stone, Bredon Hill and Elmley Castle, Worcestershire
The Elephant Stone (Banbury Stone) in Worcestershire
Plot your own route from the wide range of paths that criss-cross this impressive Iron Age hilltop and wind your way up through swathes of wild thyme to the summit of Bredon Hill. Packed full of historical significance, you can let the kids do battle with imaginary Belgic Tribes along the cross-banks of Bredon’s citadel, seek out the aptly named Elephant Stone (Banbury Stone) tucked away just below the summit, then picnic with a game of hide-n-seek in the medieval Elmley Castle earthworks.
Start in Elmley Castle village where the dog-friendly, 16th century, community-run Queen Elizabeth Inn offers a roaring log fire and a local pint as a well-earned post-walk treat.
2. Edvin Loach Old Church, Bromyard, Herefordshire
Edvin Loach Old Church, Bromyard
Ruins within ruins: the fascinating remains of an 11th-century church with unusual herringbone stonework lie inside the bailey of a Norman Castle. The small, conical mound of the motte is still visible to the west of the newer, 19th-century, church designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the renowned Victorian architect.
Start at Edvin Loach Old Church (HR7 4PW) and plot a route west, to meet the Herefordshire Trail footpath which takes you south past the Medieval Site of Edvin Ralph.
The pretty little Norman Church of St Michael & All Angels, with its captivating collection of medieval stone effigies is well worth a visit.
3. White Ladies Priory, Wolverhampton
White Ladies Priory, Wolverhampton
Hidden away from the public eye, behind a corpse of ancient woodland, the enchanting remains of this 12th-century church are all that remain of the Augustinian nunnery of ‘white ladies’ dedicated to St Leonard. The priory’s claim to fame is that it hid Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, as he fled the Parliamentarians. The lichen-covered, ageing stone arches offer the perfect spot for a picnic and a well-deserved rest.
Originally, Brewood Forest, surrounding the monastery, was a vast and remote wooded area. Pockets of it still exist and can easily be accommodated into an interesting circular walk along the Monarch’s Way.
4. Anchor Church, Ingleby, South Derbyshire
Anchor Church, Ingleby
These exceptionally stunning and curious grottos were thought to have been home to St Hardulph, a 6th-century anchorite, living a frugal, prayer-based life. Carved out by river water as tiny caves before the Trent changed its course, they were painstakingly extended by hand over time to allow them to become a simple dwelling.
Footpaths in the area, including the National Forest Way, link to Foremark Reservoir, Ticknall and Staunton Harold.
5. Old St John’s Church & Well, Boughton, Northamptonshire
Old St John’s Church & Well, Boughton
Enter through a creaking, rusty, old gate into all that remains of the medieval village of Boughton. These 12th-century church ruins with their sacred spring create an atmospheric backdrop to a family ramble in the Northamptonshire countryside. Legend has it that the well is haunted by a red-headed woman who bestows a kiss that brings death exactly a month later. Maybe a tale to tell the kids after they’ve left, depending on their disposition for a ghost story!
Head north to connect to the Northamptonshire Round footpath and Pitsford Reservoir. To spot a local curiosity, walk north past The Spectacles, the castellated arch of an ‘eye catcher’ built around 1770 to frame a view of Moulton Church from the estate.
6. Tysoe Windmill, Warwickshire
Tysoe Windmill, Warwickshire
Technically not quite a ruin, but this majestic and curiously 12-sided windmill stands atop Tysoe Hill, challenging those below to be the first one to reach it. Glorious views are afforded over the South Warwickshire countryside as the lush green meadows of the county unfurl towards the Cotswolds. There’s a lovely tearoom in the Village Stores, Upper Tysoe.
There are many footpaths in the area, including the Centenary Way which can include the windmill in a variety of circular walks.
Discover more great family-friendly wild ruins near Birmingham and the Midlands with Wild Guide Central England by Nikki Squires. Wild Guide Central England contains over 1000 places covering the Peak District, Cotswolds, Midlands, Welsh Borders and Lincolnshire coast.
Wild Guide Central England