November 2012 Walk
On 15th November, there were no apologies for re-visiting one of the leader’s favourite local walks, setting off down Magpie Lane from The Saracen’s Head at Balsall Common. The omens in fact were not good - the pub itself was temporarily closed for refurbishment and the weather forecast promised fog. We were lucky, however, to park in a conveniently close lay-by and, though it was indeed murky and obviously there were no extensive views, it was just a little misty but this was no handicap to us. The aircraft preparing to land at Birmingham Airport were audible but lost to sight in the gloom above our heads.
Tackling the route this time in an anti-clockwise direction (decided after a little debate), we turned off the lane and soon encountered our first unavoidable mud. The mud, strangely enough, continued to provoke laughter rather than distress and complaints. The first part of this walk is on the Heart of England Way where, it seems, all the stiles have been replaced by metal kissing gates. Love, however, was not in the air, but with reasonable paths punctuated by muddy areas and then a concrete farm drive, we duly came up a slope to a grassy field and a derelict building which seemed a suitable place for our elevenses. Here, undisturbed and in the middle of nowhere, out came our flasks and we shared jokes and generally put the world to rights, glad that it was dry and not too cold just to linger.
Proceeding further, we left the HoE signs behind and met more slippery stiles and bridges to give us a little extra exercise and the need to use a bit of care - no accidents please! Field verges were fairly easily negotiable and the muddy patches not too difficult. Everybody in fact appeared to be in very good spirits on a drab November day, perhaps cheered up by some lively conversation and some late autumn colour still to be admired in the hedgerows and trees.
A spell of easy strolling followed along traffic free lanes and we peered over the hedges and into the gardens of a few isolated properties before a final field, strewn with the remains of a beet crop, returned us to civilisation in the form of a newish estate and the outskirts of Balsall Common. Steps down a bank brought us back into Magpie Lane, boots reasonably clean after a last grassy stretch. How long? How far? - Almost exactly two hours and probably just under five miles.
We all agreed that the companionship and just getting out into the fresh air had been really worthwhile. If it had been of benefit to us, four walkers undid any good by repairing to The Oak where we enjoyed a drink and the usual filling and tasty good value meal. One of our number even made himself at home by adding more logs to the fire where he had previously been standing with his back to the grate, blocking off the heat from the rest of the pub. No names, but you know who you are.
October 2012 Walk
“Once more into the breach dear friends” and so we met at The Bell Inn, Monks Kirby, on a beautiful autumn morning for our October walk, postponed from September as most of our walkers were cavorting elsewhere. Our initial exploration of this walk in August had presented a sorry sight of soggy fields as yet not harvested and crops apparently likely to be abandoned. However the scene was much improved today as fields had been ploughed, the new season’s crops sown and the sun was shining as we strode forth to enjoy some of Warwickshire’s beautiful countryside.
Although tiny, the ancient village of Monk’s Kirby has two pubs and a splendid Anglican church dominating its centre, as well as a small Catholic church whose arched windows framed the view across the farmland around the village. Once through the village our route took us across neatly ploughed fields, over a footbridge and alongside woodland where pheasants were foraging, and eventually we arrived at a track adjacent to an isolated cottage. Three fields and much conversation later, we reached a lane near Little Walton and after a short distance climbed a stile to continue across more fields, two more footbridges (one of which was pitched at a rather precarious angle!) and eventually negotiated a slippery path leading down to reveal a secluded meadow.
Here we paused to enjoy the view across a large lake and then continued on our way via a very tall kissing gate (for giraffes??) to arrive in Pailton. After a short distance we joined the bridle path on the outskirts of the village. This led us alongside fields and more attractive views of open farmland as we strolled back to Monks Kirby to change out of our muddy boots to drive back to Baginton.
September 2012 Walk
Our September walk was cancelled as most of our members were on holiday.
August 2012 Walk
Some may have been on holiday, others perhaps been put off by the longer route, for there were only seven walkers who duly met at the top of Stoneleigh Hill for the August walk. The skies were cloudy, but the breeze was quite warm and although it was mainly dry underfoot, the occasional muddy puddle told the tale of the previous day’s downpour. We set off across the deer park along a path well trodden by dog walkers. This took us over the River Avon to the hamlet of Stareton, where we crossed the road to Park Farm. As we walked along the track towards Furzen Hill Farm, a pungent smell filled the air. Looking through the hedge into the adjacent field, we saw dozens of workers busy picking and bunching spring onions.
Crossing Leicester Lane, we passed a property with aviaries housing birds of prey, although there was only one Harris Hawk in view. The footpath on this section was enclosed by a hedge and a wire fence and was obviously not well used as it was very overgrown – in fact a machete would have proved useful! After a distance of about a quarter of a mile, having passed through fields of ripening wheat, we crossed the Rugby Road. There were more wheat fields from which snapping sounds could be heard and someone said it was a sign it was ready to harvest. Buzzards could also be heard and we saw four circling above the trees. We skirted Cubbington village and picked our way through South Cubbington Wood on our way to Weston. There were grumbles in the camp that we had missed a coffee break, so it was decided to have our picnic lunch slightly earlier than planned just near Weston Hall.
The sun came out as we resumed our travels past the church in Weston–under-Wetherley. We had to travel along the road a short distance before returning to a footpath. The farmer had not made much provision for walkers, as the path was not very obvious even though the rape had recently been harvested. This path then led us along the edge of Waverley Wood, where it transpires a member of our party got lost as a youngster. We crossed the A445 Ryton to Leamington Road on to The Coventry Way and Centenary Way footpath, which led us to the familiar landmark of Tantara Lodge. We had to walk along the road back to Stareton and the footpath where our walk began
July 2012 Walk
Our “get away from it all” paths around the fields from Grandborough for our July walk were, to say the least, somewhat overgrown and certainly not frequently walked, though not impassable and in fact were fairly well signed. Observing the corn and oats that seemed to be growing in nothing but mud, and the cattle, calves, sheep and horses in completely sodden fields after all the rain, brought home to us the very seriousness of the situation for those whose livelihood depended on the land. Hayfields too were overgrown, bashed down and far too wet to cut.
We were reminded of the children’s story “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” – “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we’ve got to go through it”. This, therefore, your intrepid adventurers did, with true gritty Baginton resolve, through slimy mud and unavoidable lying water (Baginton Waders someone suggested would be more appropriate), tackling shoulder-high soggy thickets and field verges, negotiating a variety of dodgy stiles, gullies, bridges and gates, not all in the best condition. At least it kept largely fine for us despite some threatening dark clouds – a wet morning would really have ruined a challenging escapade from which we actually derived a lot of fun; a sense of fun perhaps not shared by non- ramblers.
In two and a bit hours (4 miles walking), not a soul was met. There was no sign of life at the farm we passed when we crossed the Leamington Hastings to Flecknoe road and the only other farm, the large building at Calcutt Elms near our stop for elevenses, had obviously not been occupied for some time and was derelict and in a disastrous state of disrepair. You will be pleased to know that, despite all this, we were happy to have had the exercise and arrived back unscathed and in good spirits at The Shoulder of Mutton, thirsty, of course, and more than ready to enjoy an extremely good value two course meal. Some rather mucky boots will have needed to have been cleaned and muddy clothes washed before our next expedition.
June 2012 Walk
Five intrepid walkers elected to defy the weather forecast and their optimism was rewarded by sunshine, scenery and a little excitement. From Wootton Wawen’s The Bull’s Head, a rambling timber framed building built in 1387, we walked through the village passing the church and the swirling double weirs in the grounds of Wootton Hall. We soon turned off the main road to arrive at a track leading to Lucy’s Farm and the towpath of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal, its banks bright with yellow iris. Here we passed a number of moored craft and a mother mallard leading a convoy of chicks.
At bridge 51, we left the canal to join a track which led to our next landmark: a kissing gate into a field. However, an earlier reconnoitre had revealed that this was impassable due to the quagmire that had been created by the herd of cattle which gathered there. Our attempts to remedy this by providing stepping stones had also been inundated, so we clambered over a fence and we rejoined the path which led across to the River Alne. This followed the river as it meandered alongside a recently ploughed field and past a large area of brilliant blue comfrey, to arrive at a fork in the path. Here we had to detour from our planned route as the bridge by Blackford Mill was unsafe.
Our diversion led us across farmland into Henley and we were soon back on track via Warwickshire College, walking over the railway bridge and onto farmland. Here we paused for our coffee break to enjoy the view across beautiful, unspoilt and peaceful Warwickshire countryside: no motorways and roaring traffic, only grazing ponies, an occasional deer, lush pastures and hedges of sweet scented briar roses. Our pleasure was selfishly enhanced by learning that a few miles away in Birmingham it was pouring with rain and we wondered if some of our regular walkers who had chosen to go to Ascot were similarly blessed.
On the next section however, the rural idyll was soon disturbed by an encounter with some very skittish bullocks that careered across our path dividing our group. They seemed intent on establishing ownership of the meadow, so we were very relieved to reach the road and cross to the field opposite. Here, deep in conversation, we continued past a small pond then along a track passing grazing cows with sleepy calves, thence via a kissing gate to more pasture and eventually to a country lane. After a short walk along here we climbed a stile back on to farmland and uphill through a field of wheat to Wootton Hill Farm and the lane back to The Bull’s Head and a delicious lunch.
May 2012 Walk
We walked Dunsmore Heath starting at the boarded up Red Lion P.H. in Wolston. We followed the village stream in the direction of the school, taking the narrow walkway up into the woods. There seems to be less bluebells this year, but they were evident in the woods and hedgerows throughout the walk, provoking discussions about their variety by the expert horticulturists in the group.
On entering the wood, we descended to the River Avon and the ruins of the Silk Mill that once stood on the banks, passing views back to St. Margaret’s Church, which dates back to Norman times. Once out of the woods, we followed the “Coventry Way” passing Brandon Golf Club onto the A45 where the pools, at the now closed Ryton British Legion, were once used to refill steam lorries travelling the A45.
After a short walk along the A45, we crossed over to take the footpath to the ridge, at which point we rested at a style on Knightlow Hill for the customary coffee break. The walk along the ridge back into Wolston is a great vantage point over Coventry, prompting discussions about the skyline and landmarks that are visible from here. Descending back to the village we retired to the Old Smithy in Church Lawford for lunch via the scenic route when we took a wrong turn – at least we were in the cars at this point making the extra distance easier to take.
April 2012 Walk
The weather looked dodgy as 11 of us gathered at the Old School in Bubbenhall. However, undaunted, we set off on a circular walk of the village, through the fields, approaching the rear of the church. The rain kept off, but our walk took us through a field of waist-high rape and we all got pretty soaked! From there, we crossed the main road into Ryton Pools, where there were convenient seats and loos for our coffee break. We took a circular tour of the pools (on dry paths!) to the bottom of Pagets Wood, but were a little early to see the bluebells in all their glory. Next month they should be gorgeous. A right turn up the lane back to the cars and then to a hearty lunch at The Oak finished off a very pleasant morning.
March 2012 Walk
After an invigorating uphill walk from the pub car park at Ratley, we reached high ground to admire the rolling Warwickshire landscape. Grazing sheep, however, fifty yards away, appeared as murky outlines in the prevailing fog. As we started to lose height, early spring birdsong was replaced by the crackling of gunfire. We descended into a field used for clay pigeon shooting. The marksmen were hard at it. Horses in the same field ignored them. Passing banks where primroses were blooming we travelled on along Edgehill's ancient pathways.
Half way into our walk, we stopped in the corner of a damp field for coffee and, for a short while, the sun came out to reveal the countryside we had come to see. Then we trekked uphill once more through silent, ancient woodland littered with fallen tree-trunks and branches. Mid March had produced 'Lords-and Ladies', Dog's Mercury, an occasional Aconite and tufts of bluebell leaves, which will be crowned by their flowers in May. A final climb up to the road generated a thirst to be slaked at Ratley's historic Rose and Crown before their excellent lunch.
February 2012 Walk
With cars safely parked at the Peeping Tom, Burton Green, and to the sound of a woodpecker drumming, our group of 9 walkers (more always welcome) stepped out enthusiastically at 10am prompt for our February walk, along Cromwell Lane, over our first of many stiles and across muddy, but not too muddy, fields to skirt Nailcote Farm and emerge onto Hodgetts Lane. Conversation inevitably turned to the weather - dry and fairly mild for the time of the year. A few days earlier and it would have been a different story - how fortunate we were.
An enclosed path through woodland led us, dodging fallen trees, over the disused railway cutting, across pastureland, past stables and through what appeared to be two brand new gates to a private drive to Hob Lane. A short distance on the road past Beanit Farm (horses for sale), we climbed our next stile into pleasant countryside with a good path left on the edge of cultivated fields. With the sun trying very hard to come through, we checked our watches and stopped at the exact, correct and ordained time for our elevenses. Conversation centred around future holiday plans and the replacement of some stiles by easier to negotiate kissing gates. We noted new growth on a hedge - a first sign of spring?
Setting off again at a distinctly unhurried pace, our route took us round fields, across the top of Cromwell Lane and a few yards down Red Lane to a stile on our left. This next track crossed the old railway by some rather steep steps (will the HS2 eventually come this way and change everything?) and continued along the side of Black Waste Wood, with the University of Warwick buildings in view. Across a bridge over boggy ground, further stiles and paths brought us to disused, very sorry looking playing fields with derelict goalposts.
A narrow entry between properties and we were back, with the woodpecker still at work, in Cromwell Lane, right opposite the pub where, also in need of a drink of course, we enjoyed a very ample and good value carvery meal. Total mileage registered - 4.3 miles of easy walking.
January 2012 Walk
The night before the January walk was miserable and wet, but 11 hardy walkers turned up for our walk from the Bull and Butcher pub at Corley moor. We commenced with a route over a soggy Corley Moor before crossing a footbridge over the very noisy M6. We carefully descended a greasy bank on steps that were covered in clay: fortunately no mishaps on the way down. The footpath continued through fields of winter wheat, which seemed well established so early in the year.
The next point of interest was the remains of Fillongley castle built in the early 14th Century by the De Hastings family. One could clearly see the location of the moat and the stream which fed it as well as large parts of the castle’s masonry. In Fillongley village, we crossed over the main road and on to the sports field where we paused for a well-earned coffee break. Here the rain started, but as we were all equipped with waterproof gear we pulled on our hats and continued on our way.
Once again the path led through planted fields and woodland until we reached Corley Ash where we crossed the main road to follow the path around the perimeter of a large field. We arrived once more at the noisy M6 where we crossed another footbridge to follow the path back to Corley Moor, our starting place and a welcome warming meal at the Bull & Butcher pub.