Welcombe Hills audio trail

Wildlife, Shakespeare and youth theatre all come together in this unique and inspiring project.

At the beginning of 2015 we were awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to embark upon a unique partnership project. Up until recently the odd sign post or interpretative panel would be all you were likely to find in one of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves but that is all about to change as this year will see the production of an audio trail at the Welcombe Hills and Clopton Park Nature Reserve in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Visiting the Welcombe Hills on the outskirts of Shakespeare’s birthplace, it is immediately apparent that this is a unique place on Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve roster. Perched on one hillside a 40 metre Victorian obelisk stands as a memorial to Manchester businessman and political reformer Mark Williams. On another a castle turret rises above the tree line, built obviously for the benefit of the wonderful views across Stratford and south Warwickshire countryside. Rolling slopes with grand veteran trees lead to thorny woodland pockets and cattle-grazed pastures giving the whole area a sense of hidden depths. 

Participants from Playbox Theatre at the Welcombe Hills

Our project has uncovered the stories in these hidden depths. Working in partnership with Playbox Theatre and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust we have researched and produced a ten track audio trail which, once installed, will be free to download onto any smart phone or mp3 player. The trail itself will take listeners on a journey around the nature reserve, providing insights into the many fascinating historical events, some of which relate to the very soil itself.

Playbox Theatre is a youth theatre and their young participants have taken a leading role in researching, scripting and performing the ten tracks. Each team of actors has gone on a journey into a particular element of the Welcombe Hills' history from the mysterious undulating patterns running along the ground, to the cursed family said to have inspired Shakespeare’s plays. This project has strong ties with the wildlife of the area too as we’ll be dedicating tracks to the impressive selection of veteran trees as well as looking at how nature features in the bard’s greatest works.

The audio trail is now complete and will be installed in March 2016. A launch event featuring live performances from Playbox Theatre's Young Shakespeare Group will celebrate the achievements. The event will take place on Saturday 2nd April at the Welcombe Hills and will be a free public event. We will release further details nearer the time.