Ilmington Downs, highest point in Warwickshire

The Ilmington Downs. The television masts visible are just below the summit of Larkstoke Hill, the highest point in Warwickshire. (Click to view bigger)
© John Clift, via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tom is out on one of our regular scheduled tours today, showing some more Stratford visitors the wonders of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I have also been out and about in the Cotswolds today, but while our customers have no doubt been enjoying our cosy 16-passenger minibus and leisurely strolls around lovely towns and villages, I’ve been going at a rather different pace!

Today I’ve been in Ilmington, a quaint little Cotswolds village in Warwickshire, just a few miles outside of Stratford-upon-Avon. Home to approximately 750 people, this small community features charming Cotswolds stone buildings, has two village pubs and two lovely churches.  It is also where the UK’s first (and so far only) female Nobel Prize winner, Dorothy Hodgkin, once lived.

The name ‘Ilmington’ is derived from the medieval name, “Elmington”; so-called because the streets were once lined with many elm trees. (Sadly, these all succumbed to Dutch Elm Disease). If you’re a local runner or cyclist however, you might know the village better as “Hillmington”!

Lisa Benjamin did the first of the Tempo Events 10km races

Lisa’s pre-race selfie: post-race selfie too sweaty to share!

Today I took part in the first of five 10km running events known as the Tempo Winter Series. Starting and finishing at Ilmington Tennis & Multisports Club, the 6.2 mile run is notorious for not exactly being the flattest in the area…!

Lulling you into a false sense of security, the race begins with a lovely downhill descent, but then…just past the 1km marker…you are faced with ‘The Hill’. Larkstoke Hill might not exactly be a mountain, but it is the highest peak in Warwickshire and was certainly a challenge for me!

At over 500ft high, and in places with an 8% gradient, I confess I had to power-walk up most of it rather than run. Never mind finishing the race, reaching the summit of that hill alone felt like an enormous achievement! The view from the top is stunning though – ignoring the rather ugly television masts plonked on top of the hill, you get an almost 360 degree panorama of gorgeous rolling countryside. That said, I didn’t stick around too long as I was very pleased to note that most of the rest of the run was downhill!

Somehow – and I’m still not entirely sure how this happened – I came away from the run today with a new personal best for the 10km distance! I must’ve made up for the slow trudge up the hill by going twice as fast down it again! One down, four to go!

barry the Butcher sausages

Better than a medal – finishers of the first Winter Series run got a pack of locally made sausages! They didn’t last long once I got home!

If you fancy the challenge of Larkstoke Hill, the next of the Winter Series runs is on the 23rd November and every month after that until the last one in February. You can register for each run individually, either in advance (click here!) or on the day. The races follow the same route, but it’s reversed every other race. Next time it’s a slightly less steep but longer uphill climb to the highest point and a sharp descent! See you there?!