The trail is one of the major strands of the Dunsden Owen Association and was launched in May 2015. The trail is available as an interactive Smartphone app, designed by students of the University of Reading. It is researched and written by Jennifer Leach of Outrider Anthems and narrated by Eryl Price-Davies and Jack Purkis. For those of you who prefer good old-fashioned methods of trailing, there is a paper copy available. The whole trail can be viewed from the comfort of your computer chair, or you can breathe life into it by visiting Dunsden and experiencing the places and countryside Owen talks about so vividly in his letters.
You can also download a Trail leaflet.
In Wilfred’s short life – he was killed in WW1 at the age of 25 – he wrote over 670 letters, the vast majority to his mother. She kept every letter he ever wrote to her. Although best remembered for his startling war poetry written in the last years of his life, Wilfred was always a wordsmith. His letters sketch such vivid and direct pictures of time here in Dunsden, that we have used their contents wherever possible. We have also used the stories of local people who have a long-standing connection with Dunsden, and whose families may also have had some particular association with Wilfred.
The trail begins at the Village Green in the heart of the old village, where the Mission Hall used to stand and where Owen spent much of his time on outreach duty. There is an interpretation board here. It then visits the old school, now the Village Hall, where there is a sculpture of Owen by Anthony Padgett in the foyer (not always viewable). The route continues to the former Vicarage (now a private home) where Owen lived with the rather dusty vicar Herbert Wigan, and on to the parish church of All Saints where the poet’s religious faith was severely tested. In the graveyard we visit the graves of Wilfred’s parents, Tom and Susan Owen, and his sister, Mary.
There are three outlying stations on the trail. There is Thatched Cottage which Owen cites in his description of the poverty and overcrowding endured by rural labourers. Thatched Cottage is now a Grade II listed building.
There is Alpenrose which was the home of Wilfred’s aunt, uncle and cousins, who were a very important support for him during his turbulent time in Dunsden.
The long version of the trail ends in Emmer Green (conveniently near a coffee shop!), at the house of Wilfred’s parents and sister, the locus where his letters were discovered in extraordinary fashion after his sister’s death.
The heart of the trail can be undertaken on foot and is now a circular route. A lovely extension through ancient woodland will take you easily to Emmer Green. A bicycle (Wilfred’s beloved means of travel) will certainly take you from Dunsden to Thatched Cottage and Emmer Green, and to Alpenrose if you are feeling very fit. A car will take you easily to all points on the trail.
It is hoped that you will make an outing of this, and enjoy a day out drinking in this special and significant part of our national and cultural heritage.
Here are some suggested spots to look out for on the trail:
Loddon Brewery Step into this award-winning brewery for a pint of real ale. Open Mon-Fri- 9am-5pm, Sat 9:30am-3pm, Sun-closed.
Shoulder of Mutton Drop in for lunch at a family-run dining pub with separate British lunch, dinner and BBQ menus and spacious conservatory.
Herb Farm Herb growers, speciality foods and traditional gifts for the home and garden. Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4.30pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The Flowing Spring Traditional country pub that serves fresh, home-made food, including a wide range of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Hosts exciting events throughout the year. Open Tues till Fri 12-3pm & 5pm till late, Sat & Sun midday till late. Closed Mondays.
Bird in Hand A delightful 14th Century Country Inn with a history that spans 600 years. Food served in the pub restaurant: Mon- Sat midday to 10pm, Sun midday to 9pm
Playhatch Wyevale Garden Centre Essential gardening tools, gifts & accessories with events running throughout the year. Open Mon- Sat- 9am-6pm, Sun 10:30am-4:30pm
Binfield Heath Stores A friendly, family-run village shop and post office.
Bite Café The perfect spot for lunch and afternoon tea.
Feel free to post comments on your experiences. We welcome your feedback.
Please be aware that anyone following the trail does so at their own risk.