“If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is forever England.”

THE Soldier resounds with English heroism and idealism in the face of death.

The sonnet’s reading at St Paul’s Cathedral on Easter Sunday 1915 brought instant fame to Rupert Brooke.

For just a few months after the outbreak of the First World War, a number of poets walked the lanes and fields where the Three Choirs counties meet; and among the celebrated Dymock Poets there was no keener rambler than Brooke. The man who was to become an icon for heroic youth in time of war seems to have impressed everyone with his sheer charisma.

The 27-year-old master of the sonnet died of blood poisoning off the island of Skyros in the Aegean on the way to the ill-starred Gallipoli expedition. To add further gilt to the patriotic fervour which grew up around him, like Shakespeare and Wordsworth before him, “the handsomest man in England” took his leave on St George’s Day.

Four months after The Soldier’s conception on battalion notepaper, the newspapers were full of Rupert Brooke. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, saw the chance to glamourize his recruitment drive.

He said: “During the last few months of his life, months of preparation in gallant comradeship and open air, the poet-soldier told with all the simple force of genius the sorrow of youth about to die, and the sure triumphant consolations of a sincere and valiant spirit.

“He expected to die: he was willing to die for the dear England whose beauty and majesty he knew: and he advanced towards the brink in perfect serenity, with absolute conviction of the rightness of his country's cause and a heart devoid of hate for fellowmen.”

Brooke was a visitor to the thatched cottage called The Gallows by Ryton Wood, a mile from Broom’s Green.

It was home to Lascelles Abercrombie, one of the other Dymock Poets, “where one drinks great mugs of cider and looks at fields of poppies in the corn”. Much later, Abercrombie’s widow said: “I remember Rupert Brooke so well when he came to say goodbye before going off to war. There was a huge sloping field of scarlet poppies coming down to the edge of our garden. I can see him now standing gazing absorbedly at them and saying to me “I shall always remember that – always”.

Only a Daffodil Line train journey away from editor or publisher, Brooke hearkened to the stealthy river Leadon rustling through the redsoil countryside between the Malverns and May Hill. As poignant as a falling poppy, The Soldier is often read at military memorial services.

A century on, a latter day golden boy with his own reputation for fierce patriotism has pitched up in this quintessential part of England. Shane Warne, Hall of Fame Australian cricketer, with 195 of his 708 test match wickets against “the Poms”, is now burnishing a corner of a foreign field.

With Elizabeth Hurley he owns 200-acre Donnington Hall just inside the Herefordshire boundary.

Our handsome walk is not too much of a test and takes a spin around their new surroundings. It’s in the shape of a leg-break.

Serene and generally
level country lanes
and field paths. 4¾-
mile easy/moderate
walk. Or 2¼, or 3½
miles. Up to 10 stiles,
and up to four footbridges.
OS Map: Explorer
190, Malvern Hills and

The route 1. Donnington. St Mary’s Church, two miles south of Ledbury, GR 708 344.

Parking for about eight cars on roadside. With back to church, TR along country lane eastwards. At T-junction, follow main lane around to R to Netherways.

2. With wall box over to L, TR over stile (yes!) and pick your way under trees ahead for about 30m. TL over footbridge and out into field via stile. Go straight ahead through crop just to R of a line of three mature trees.

Cross stile and keep ahead on exactly the same line in next crop field. Cross stile (with The Vineyard over to L) along L edge/hedge. Kink R to cross stile in L corner ahead into and out of enclosed area via stile to road.

3. Broom’s Green. With Holly Cottage ahead of you, TR along road for about 200m, passing telephone box. (Carry on along road to Memorial Hall at point 7 for shortest walk). TL along Poet’s Path No 2, an enclosed footpath, cross new stiled footbridge and bear R along R edge of meadow. Go through three kgates, sweep around R edge of next field, through gap and kink down to R to cross footbridge.

(Wave to May Hill). Go straight ahead over crossing path on same line (S) slightly up crop field and over stile.

4. Hill Farm drive. (TR to Road Island at point 6 for medium walk). With grid L, bear slightly L on to country lane from your previous line. Soon pass Knights Green Villa, bend R to junction and TR along road for Dymock and Newent.

Reach Vell Mill Meadow Nature Reserve. Stay on lane for 50m beyond Information Board.

5. Poet’s Path (On the OS map there are footpaths ahead, west, which could not be trusted at time of going to press). So TR through gate gently up swathe cut through crops. This is “Poet’s Path No 2” again. At a hedge corner in front, find and cross footbridge (L) under oak tree. TR immediately along R edge/hedge of crop field. Go gently up again through gate to country lane. TR for just 20m to island at road junction.

6. Road Island. TL for Broom’s Green. Pass Burton Farm and Ockington Farm to T junction at Memorial Hall with Information Board about Dymock Poets.

7. Memorial Hall. Cross road very slightly L and head up path to R of Upper Lodge. Go through two gates and over stile next to gate. Keep ahead along L edge fence. (Don’t follow drive). Cross drive coming in from R, which leads to Donnington Hall, cross stile and head down swathe through crops. At bottom of field, carry on straight ahead across paddock to R of Home Farm complex. Pass to R of weeping willow through gate, over stone bridge, L tree-lined edge of field and cross stile on L after 100m. TR to church.