Although only a short walk from the centre of Church Stretton, to walk through Rectory Wood and Field is to step back in time and allow yourself to relax completely with only the sound of the wind rustling through the ancient trees.
Free parking is available all year round.
Church Stretton, Grid Reference SJ 450938.
Lat/Long: 52.540165, -2.8123701
The site is open at all times. Both car parks are open at all times.
A picturesque site that is nestled between the pretty town of Church Stretton and the wild expanse of the Long Mynd, in the heart of the Shropshire Hills AONB. In a study in the Independent newspaper in 2009, this site was voted the ‘least stressful spot in England!’ It is believed that the design of Rectory Wood has been influenced by Capability Brown and the remains of old buildings and pathways still lie hidden in the trees. Rectory Field is a wonderful community asset that is used for local events and dog walking.
Rectory Wood and Field is a 10 hectare site that forms a gateway from the town of Church Stretton onto the Long Mynd. The woodlands awaken in late winter when drifts of snow drops emerge. Through the spring these are replaced by a carpet of bluebells. Take a wander through this site to experience the ‘least stressful place in England!’ A picnic site is located at the edge of Rectory Field.
The path network through the site is good. Bridges cross the brook and steps lead up the steep hills. A family-friendly walking route is available for download from this webpage. Some areas can be muddy in winter. Walking through the site reveals wonderful views of the surrounding Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is a great starting point for longer walks exploring this landscape with a plethora of footpaths and bridleways radiating out.
Rectory Wood and Field incorporates part of a historic park associated with the adjacent former Old Rectory. These grounds were laid out in the late 18th century and have associations with Lancelot (Capability) Brown. The well-preserved remains of this landscape comprise woodland walks, a stream and artificial pool, and sites of buildings, which include a pumping house, summerhouse and icehouse.
About 1775 John Mainwaring began to improve his glebe including Rectory Wood. Mainwaring knew Brown and there is evidence that he visited the site and provided guidance. It is not fully possible to be certain which improvements are of that period and which were the responsibility of 19th-century rectors. In 2008 a grant was awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore and preserve the history of the site. Through this project the boundary wall and a leaking dam was repaired. Trial excavations also uncovered the base of the summer house and an ice house. This gave a much-needed insight into the fascinating history and highlighted that more research is needed.
The wildlife interest of the site is also high. The woodland is particularly well-blessed with ancient trees. The most impressive of these is a veteran 18th century sweet chestnut. Such trees have tremendous cultural value as living monuments but also play host to a range of birds, bats, small mammals and invertebrates who make use of rotten wood and cavities. Management of the site always aims to maximise biodiversity and increase the range of habitats. A pond has been restored at the edge of Rectory Field to create suitable conditions for amphibians and wetland plants. Grassland areas are managed to encourage flowering plants.
Future management decisions regarding Rectory Wood and Field will need to take account of the historic interest of the woodland, the community usage of the site and the need to encourage biodiversity and diversify habitats. Local people play a key role in making such decisions. A partnership between Church Stretton Town Council, Shropshire Council, National Trust and Rectory Wood and Field Interest Group are responsible for ongoing management of the site. If you would like to find out more or get involved, we would love to hear from you!
Things to see and do
- This is truly a place to ‘stand and stare’. Take a wander through the woodland, with plenty of rest stops to admire the views and soak up the unique atmosphere of the ‘least stressful place in England’.
- Hug a veteran tree. There are several very old trees on the site to choose from, including the 18th century sweet chestnut. To get even more closely acquainted, why not climb the curly wurly tree (an old lime tree on the bank of the Town Brook).
- For something a bit more adventurous, lace up your walking boots and follow the brook through Rectory Wood, continue up Townbrook Hollow and if you are feeling fit follow the way-markers to the summit of the Long Mynd (516m).
By walking: The site is readily accessible from the middle of Church Stretton. Simply follow Church Walk past St Leonard's Church and you will see the entrance to Rectory Field between two brick pillars.
By car: Please see above for car park information.
You can visit this site on the Shropshire Hills Shuttle Bus.
By train: The site is within walking distance of Church Stretton Railway Station.
Rectory Wood and Field Interest Group organise meetings and practical work parties. For more information, please get in touch.