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Lilleshall Adventure Fitness Trail

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Lilleshall Adventure Fitness Trail
Author: NSC, Published: 18 Aug 2015 Walk rating : Rating:star1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar1 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UKstar0 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
Shropshire, Telford
Walk Type: Garden or park
Lilleshall Adventure Fitness Trail
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK boot iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK
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IMPORTANT NOTE: As this site is a designated National Sports Centre, DOGS are currently NOT ALLOWED in the grounds or gardens of Lilleshall. Should this position change in the future, we will remove this note.

A 6 mile (10km) circular walk around the beautiful gardens and grounds of Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre near Telford in Shropshire. Set in spectacular and secluded surroundings, Lilleshall is one of the UK’s National Sports Centres, training grounds and centres of excellence for the country’s leading sportsmen and women. This 10km route gives you chance to test your fitness, taking you through the woodland belts alongside the estate’s 2 mile sweeping drive, before returning (a steady climb all the way!) to explore the heart of the estate. You will have chance to discover Lilleshall’s many gems including the golden gates (an exact replica of those at Buckingham Palace), the Italian water garden, the pet cemetery and the world-class sport facilities.

The walk includes one long, steady descent and the equivalent ascent and you will also need to negotiate a couple of gates plus several flights of steps. The route follows a mixture of garden surfaced paths and un-made woodland and meadow paths, the latter of which can be uneven underfoot and very muddy at times. One section of the route follows a quiet country lane, so take care of any occasional traffic here. There is a cafe bar, Queens Bar, at the start of the route to allow you to enjoy refreshments before or after your walk. Please note that dogs are NOT allowed in the grounds. You are likely to come across free roaming peacocks within the grounds. Approximate time 3 hours.

Lilleshall National Sports and Conferencing Centre is located just north of Telford close to the A41, approximately 3 miles from the town of Newport. The main entrance gates to the centre are situated on Pave Lane, which can be accessed from the north via the A518 and from the south via the A41. In both cases please follow the signs for National Sports Centre. Once you have passed through the entrance gates, the centre is accessed via the two mile sweeping driveway and free parking is available in the visitor car park. Approximate post code for Sat Nav TF10 9LQ.

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Walk Sections

Start to Park Lodge
Start to Park Lodge

Start point: 52.7275 lat, -2.3726 long
End point: 52.7286 lat, -2.372 long

To begin the walk, make your way to the main customer reception and entrance for Queens Bar at the centre of the site. Queens Bar serves a range of refreshments throughout the day, including hot and cold food and beverages, making it an ideal place to prepare for the journey ahead. Equally, if you want to continue your peaceful and relaxing experience at Lilleshall after your walk, the Queens Bar is a perfect setting for a relaxed meal on your return.

Standing outside, with your back to the Queens Bar entrance, walk ahead for a few paces to reach the vehicle turning circle, with the gatehouse and its guarding lions on the left. Turn right (heading away from the gatehouse) and follow the access lane steadily downhill between the red brick facility buildings. At the T-junction, turn left and walk along the driveway edge (with the car park over to the right). Cross over the road to join the right-hand grass verge alongside the black and white small property, Park Lodge.

Park Lodge is one of the 12 original Lilleshall Estate lodges that were located at various points on the numerous carriage drives. They added to the picturesque quality of the arrival scene for visitors, whilst at the same time having a protective function, providing security at a time when colliery and industrial work in the locality was in decline.

Park Lodge to Stone Arch Bridge
Park Lodge to Stone Arch Bridge

Start point: 52.7286 lat, -2.372 long
End point: 52.7407 lat, -2.3688 long

Continue along the right-hand grass verge to join the main estate access drive, heading away from the Lilleshall Centre. As you round the first right-hand bend you will see lines of beautiful conical trees along this section of the entrance drive, Wellingtonia Avenue.

After a short distance, you will see a sign marking the entrance to the woodland path on the right. Bear right to join this and follow the woodland path ahead, with the access drive running to the left and open fields across to the right. Continue along this woodland path as it meanders between the trees and the grass verge. The path is well-signed and is used for the annual 10k Mud Run held at Lilleshall.

Along the way you will pass the large pond, Cotes Pool, on the right and then pass under a stone arch bridge. This is the ideal point to understand the fascinating history of this narrow stretch of land. In 1764 Earl Gower, then owner of Lilleshall, formed a company to expand coal mining within the estate. Coal and ironstone mines were opened in the area and limestone was quarried around Lilleshall village. As part of this early industrial expansion, the Donnington Wood Canal was created from the bottom of Wrockwardine Wood to a wharf at Pave Lane. The limeworks closed in the 1870s and by the late 1800s much of the canal had closed. The Duke of Sutherland, descendant of Earl Gower, transformed part of the canal bed to become the access drive for the hall and estate. The drive here was once part of this canal and the bridge overhead, Little Hales Bridge, carried estate traffic over the canal. If you would like to explore more of this old canal you may also like to follow another local iFootpath walk, Granville Country Park Trail.

Stone Arch Bridge to Golden Gates
Stone Arch Bridge to Golden Gates

Start point: 52.7407 lat, -2.3688 long
End point: 52.7513 lat, -2.3628 long

Further along the drive you will come to the crossroads with Pitchcroft Lane. Go straight ahead, passing another pretty lodge, Wren’s Nest Lodge, on the left. Continue now on the left-hand woodland path which once again meanders through the woodland belt and the grass verges.

At the end of the drive you will reach the entrance gates for the Lilleshall Estate. This has been the main entrance to the estate since c.1897 and these ‘Golden Gates’ are an exact replica of those adorning Buckingham Palace. They are intended to be a dramatic feature heralding the importance of Lilleshall Hall to visitors.

Golden Gates to Pitchcroft Crossroads
Golden Gates to Pitchcroft Crossroads

Start point: 52.7513 lat, -2.3628 long
End point: 52.7459 lat, -2.3667 long

Pass through the gates, alongside Golden Gates Lodge, and turn left. Follow the pavement past a number of houses and, immediately after the Wheatsheaf Inn pub, turn left into Littlehales Road. NOTE: This is a narrow, quiet lane without pavements so take care of any occasional traffic. Follow the lane leading you steadily uphill, the start of your long and steady climb back towards the Lilleshall Centre. The long gradual climb is a good test of your stamina and fitness, in keeping with the ethos of this flagship National Sports Centre.

The lane meanders between hedgerows, leads you past a row of houses on the right and then heads downhill past a woodland on the left to reach a crossroads. Turn left and after just a short distance you will come to the crossroads with the entrance drive. Turn right along this and then join the signed woodland footpath running to the right of the entrance drive.

Pitchcroft Crossroads to Dairy Cottage
Pitchcroft Crossroads to Dairy Cottage

Start point: 52.7459 lat, -2.3667 long
End point: 52.7283 lat, -2.3738 long

Follow the woodland path back towards Lilleshall Centre, climbing steadily all the way. The two mile estate driveway was designed to add anticipation and intrigue for visitors. The ground rises gradually all along and every curve was designed to lead expectantly into another, along a wooded corridor with glimpsed views to the wider landscape before turning into a formal avenue of elms in the approach to the hall. The elm trees became victim to Dutch elm disease and have since been replaced by the Wellingtonia Avenue that you saw on the outward leg.

As you approach the centre, take the first tarmac drive on the right and then, a few paces along, keep left at the fork signed for Estate Workshop, Kent Hall Car Park and Archery Range. Pass the accommodation block on the left and a belt of woodland begins, also on the left. About 40 paces later (and before you reach the car park ahead), turn left onto a subtle narrow path leading you up a slope into the woodland. The path winds between rhododendron bushes and emerges out opposite the pretty red sandstone Dairy Cottage.

Dairy Cottage to Apple Walk
Dairy Cottage to Apple Walk

Start point: 52.7283 lat, -2.3738 long
End point: 52.7273 lat, -2.3745 long

Turn right along the gravel drive, passing the cottage on your left. Continue ahead on the narrow path which runs alongside the retaining wall on your right. Beyond the car park, you will have good views of the archery range. Lilleshall is the home of Archery GB, a dedicated archery centre for both indoor and outdoor high performance archery training camps. The archery range sits within the original walled kitchen garden of the Lilleshall Estate.

Continue through the wooden gate and join the paved path ahead. The path leads you past an accommodation block on the right and up a flight of steps. You will emerge out alongside the entrance for the main hall at the centre of Lilleshall. Turn right, passing through the stone arch to the right of the entrance, to reach the raised terrace alongside the house.

Take a moment here to enjoy the views of the formal gardens (which we will explore in detail later). This viewpoint gives the perfect opportunity to explore the estate’s history. Lilleshall Hall now stands on land which was part of the 12th century Lilleshall Abbey, originally commanding some 30,000 acres. The ruins of the original abbey stand nearby and are managed by English Heritage. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Lilleshall itself was granted to a wool merchant, James Leveson and became the ancient seat of the Levesons, ancestors of the Earls Gower and Dukes of Sutherland, Lords of the Manor of Lilleshall.

The estate was one of several country estates for the Sutherlands, used in holiday times with friends invited to hunt and play polo, tennis and billiards. The present hall dates from 1830 and most of the landscaping was undertaken after this. In 1927 the estate and the manorial rights were bought by Herbert Ford, whose wealth was acquired from the industries of Ironbridge and through marriage to Alice Perrins (of Worcestershire Sauce fame). He ran Lilleshall as an early stately home with pleasure gardens open to the paying public. From 1930 until 1939 the hall and grounds existed as an amusement park with a miniature railway, a children’s playground, tennis courts, 18 hole golf putting greens, archery fields and bowling greens as well as the formal gardens surviving from the time of the 5th Duke of Sutherland. With such a rich history of sport and recreational use, it seems fitting that in 1949 Ford sold the hall and grounds to the Central College of Physical Recreation to become a National Recreation Centre. More about that later...

Standing with your back to the archway from which you entered, turn immediately right and follow the path down several flights of steps to reach the start of the arched garden walkway known as apple walk.

Apple Walk to Temple
Apple Walk to Temple

Start point: 52.7273 lat, -2.3745 long
End point: 52.7277 lat, -2.3785 long

Walk through the tunnel of apple walk. Apple walk was once a pergola walk of c.600ft in length, consisting of a series of iron arches built into stone foundations. The pergola itself was covered throughout with apple trees and climbing roses. Today, just a third of the original length of pergola remains and is planted with roses, vines, wisteria and clematis.

As you emerge from the apple walk, turn right and, before you reach the archway ahead, turn left to join a tarmac path with the red sandstone wall running to your right. The grounds of Lilleshall are managed by Serco on behalf of Sport England and are undergoing restoration as part of a 21 year masterplan. Restoration plans are aided by the well-documented history of laying out the original gardens at Lilleshall. The garden-making phase was relatively short and covered two distinct periods, around the 1830s (the period for which Lilleshall was the main Sutherland country residence, whilst Trentham Hall was being extended), and again between 1900 and 1910 (when the decision to sell Trentham Hall had been made making Lilleshall the focus for development).

At the end of the path (with Sutherland Hall on the right), head across the lawn at about 11 o’clock to reach the stone arches of the temple loggia. This structure sits some 290m from the hall itself and was brought from Trentham Hall (another of the Sutherlands’ country estates) and re-built at Lilleshall in 1912.

Temple to Pet Cemetery
Temple to Pet Cemetery

Start point: 52.7277 lat, -2.3785 long
End point: 52.7266 lat, -2.3784 long

Having passed under the temple arches, follow the grass path through this wilder section of the grounds (passing to the left of the first oak tree and to the right of the second). Immediately after the second oak tree the path swings sharp left then right and leads you between the rhododendron bushes. You will emerge to a crossroads with a tarmac access track.

Go straight ahead (passing another large oak tree) and continue across the grass to reach a pair of old oaks. A few paces later, where the rhododendrons on the right end, swing right to reach the pet cemetery which sits alongside the tarmac access lane.

The main plinth is to Csar, a Russian wolfhound acquired by the Sutherlands in Moscow in the 19th century, whilst other pet graves, including those of Zozo, Meg, Simon, Puff, have more simple headstones.

Pet Cemetery to Italian Water Gardens
Pet Cemetery  to Italian Water Gardens

Start point: 52.7266 lat, -2.3784 long
End point: 52.7272 lat, -2.3754 long

Standing facing the cemetery, turn left along the tarmac access drive (Duchess Walk) to continue your journey around the estate. The driveway swings steadily left, leading between many more impressive tree specimens.

The parkland contains a wealth of trees including some veteran trees. Work first began on these gardens in 1827, including the design of garden walks in keeping with the style of the new house, influenced by Duchess Harriet’s travels in Italy. Throughout the 1830s mature tree planting continued, with the aim of providing an appropriate backdrop to the house. Tens of thousands of trees were planted with records showing 26,000 trees purchased from one Liverpool nursery alone. Tree species included Spanish chestnut, beech, lime, sycamore, laurel, holly, oak, elm, ash, birch, mountain ash, hazel, larch and spruce.

Take the first tarmac driveway on the left, which leads you towards the walled gardens. Turn right through the opening in the wall to enter the Italian water garden. Completed in 1914, the water garden consists of a series of five lily ponds laid out as an octagon centre with four lozenge shaped surrounds. The ponds are intersected by stone flagged walks, originally inset with antique marble panels inlaid with figures representing scenes from Aesop’s Fables. The lily ponds are bounded by flower borders and the whole garden is enclosed by a balustrade dwarf wall.

Italian Water Gardens to Sports Grounds
Italian Water Gardens to Sports Grounds

Start point: 52.7272 lat, -2.3754 long
End point: 52.7247 lat, -2.3726 long

Make your way along the stone walkway which leads you between the pools (taking particular care with children) and head up the steps at the far side. Keep ahead to enter the dial garden, a formal circular flower garden, enclosed by yew hedges and dating from 1832.

Continue directly ahead, towards the main house, climbing the next set of steps to reach the terraced lawn. Directly ahead you’ll see the twelve bay arched loggia which runs across the head of the garden (today home to one of the original stone lions from the gatehouse). Go up the next flight of steps (just to your right) to reach the gravel driveway.

Turn right along the driveway and keep straight ahead through the wrought iron gates. Follow the path through this next section of grounds which is under restoration to bring it back to its former glory. The path swings left and you will come to the opening into the Dutch garden on the left. The Dutch garden was originally constructed during the Edwardian period as an old-world romantic rose garden interspersed with flower borders, tessellated stone work and rock gardens all surrounded with climbing roses and a dwarf yew hedge. The restoration plan for the Dutch garden is to create a flower meadow with a central bench, an ideal spot to pause and admire the grounds.

Leave the Dutch garden the way you came and turn left to continue along the path. At the T-junction turn right and follow the gravel path to reach the mini temple, brought from Trentham Hall in 1912 to act as an eyecatcher for visitors on the terrace. Pass through the centre of this, noting the beautiful mosaic floor. Continue between the trees and through a gateway and you will emerge to the corner of the Lilleshall Sports Grounds.

Sports Grounds to Clump of Trees
Sports Grounds to Clump of Trees

Start point: 52.7247 lat, -2.3726 long
End point: 52.7203 lat, -2.3738 long

It is at this point that you can appreciate the scale of the sporting facilities here at the UK’s flagship National Sports Centre. Having been sold by Herbert Ford in 1949, Lilleshall was officially opened as a National Recreation Centre in 1951. By 1954 the centre was extended to become home for a number of sports including cricket, rugby league, rugby union, lawn tennis, badminton, hockey, lacrosse, netball and association football. Famously the England World Cup squad stayed at Lilleshall before their World Cup victory in 1966. Today, several national governing bodies of sport and other professional organisations are based at the centre, including the Olympic sports of gymnastics and archery, together with the English Institute of Sport. The centre has helped many medal winning gymnasts and archers achieve Olympic and Paralympic glory.

Walk directly ahead, passing the archery field on the left, which in the 1800s would have hosted the Duke of Sutherland’s polo matches. Note the particularly impressive veteran oak tree sitting at the edge of the archery field, with its enormous bulbous trunk. Immediately before the artificial turf hockey pitches on the right, turn right onto the tarmac path. Follow this path which leads you between the world-class artificial turf pitches on the left and the pavilion on the right.

Beyond the pavilion, keep straight ahead across the grass and join the mown grass path through the wild meadow. Take time to enjoy the views of the Shropshire rolling hills ahead. On a clear day you will be able to see The Wrekin hill topped with the radio tower as well as Telford towards the west. The path swings left along the bottom of the meadow and then left again, heading back uphill towards the pitches, with a tree line on the right.

As you reach the corner of the pitches, fork right through the field opening to reach the corner of a second large meadow (with a clump of trees at its centre). Walk across the meadow on the path, heading for the right-hand edge of the clump of trees. NOTE: there are deep pools of water within the clump of trees so take particular care with children.

Clump of Trees to End
Clump of Trees to End

Start point: 52.7203 lat, -2.3738 long
End point: 52.7276 lat, -2.3725 long

Follow the path swinging left, following the edge of the clump of trees on the left. When you see the artificial turf pitches ahead, walk back towards these and, as you reach a smaller copse of trees, turn right to exit the meadow. After just a few paces you will emerge to a T-junction at the edge of the grass sports grounds.

Turn left and follow the stone drive, passing the rugby and football pitches on the right. Continue past the artificial turf pitches on the left and the archery field on the right. At the top corner, with the small property (Gainham’s Lodge) on the left, go ahead through the gateway and pass through the trees to return back through the mini temple.

Keep straight ahead along the gravel drive and the path will lead you past the bowls club on the left, heading for the clock tower on the main house. As you reach the T-junction with the raised terrace (with the fountain and fish pond ahead), turn right and follow this drive through the gateway. You will reach the Queens Bar on the right for some well-earned hospitality.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2015 by the author NSC and may not be reproduced without permission.


2 responses to "Lilleshall Adventure Fitness Trail"

I have walked quite a few walks with iFootpath but this one so far has been the best. It is an excellent walk (which my tracker said it was just over 7 miles and not 6 as stated). It takes in just about most things to cater for most people who take the walk. Tree lined routes, forest sections, open fields, beautiful wooded areas and then you get fantastic sections in the grounds such as the sunken gardens, the ponds, the sports facilities and so much more.
It's a fantastic walk and it does what it says on the tin in the fact that it keeps challenging you every now and then by taking you up hill and down dale but not just on flat surfaces but uneven surfaces etc.
At the end of my walk I spent a pleasant 10 minutes chilling with a nice cappuccino in Queen's Bar which is a must and should be visited.

Thank you iFootpath for this walk (which I have already spoken about to someone else who is interested) :-)

Andy - 23 September 2015

By andyt2404 on 2015-09-23 16:14:34

Rachel Myatt: Did this as my first iFootpath walk today. The grounds really are lovely. Not sure I will ever be clever enough to make up my own walk though...

By Facebook on 2015-09-18 16:59:57

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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1 images to "Lilleshall Adventure Fitness Trail"

4799_0Richard1441481863 iFootpath - walking guides and directions for the UK Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 01 Jan 1970
We loved the design of the accommodation block with its sweeping lines.

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