December 2015 Walk
The final walk of 2015 took place in the grounds of Coombe Abbey Park. Having paid our dues (which hopefully will be spent on much needed car park repairs!) we set off along the main footpath towards the head of the lake in front of the Hotel. The resident waterfowl were dabbling and preening as we walked across the bridge and alongside the brook past the majestic redwoods. The top of one of these partially felled trees has been carved into the figure of a praying monk.
Upon reaching ‘Top Pool’ we took a short detour from the main thoroughfare and followed a subsidiary path through the trees and around smaller pools before rejoining the major route. After a stormy weekend the weather was mild and the blue skies highlighted the fascinating silhouettes made by the branches of the bare winter trees. We stopped for a while in the bird hide, but bright sunlight reflecting on the water made viewing difficult. Following the path alongside the lake we made our way back to picnic tables near the visitor’s centre where we enjoyed a festive treat of mince pies and a drop of mulled wine.
In contrast, the second part of the walk was around a more exposed open field, signposted for visitors to discover Capability Brown. A series of information boards along the route tell of the landscaping commissioned by the Craven Family. The original driveway was curved and deliberately planted to give tempting views of their residence and the lake was dug in a serpentine shape to give the impression of continuing beyond its actual length. New planting is being undertaken by the current groundworks team to recreate the original deer park. Heavy rain began just as we drove to the Baginton Oak where we enjoyed a very pleasant meal, pulled crackers and wished each other a Happy Christmas.
November 2015 Walk
Fourteen hardy ramblers assembled at The Bowling Green, Southam, accompanied by their four-legged (what an advantage!) friends, Jasper and Ash. After our habitual discussion about the weather prospects (well, we are British), we set out along the road but, over a stile, the dogs were soon enjoying the freedom of the fields as we followed, then crossed the River Itchen heading for Bascote. This river joins the Leam at Marton, giving its name to Long Itchington. What “Itchen” means no one seems to know except that it is a very ancient word and nothing to do with irritation. Bascote comprises only a few houses scattered on one side of the lane opposite farmland and we soon turned onto a concrete track uphill. Levelling out, this gave us a fine all round view but quite a buffeting from the wind and we were glad to find a sheltered spot in woodland for our elevenses. From here it was downhill and our return route took us through the Stoneythorpe estate, where, on a mild, dry morning (were we not lucky?), perhaps we should not have been surprised to find no shortage of slithery mud. This presented no problem for Jasper and Ash but one of our two-legged number suffered a tumble, luckily without serious injury: rather dirty trousers though.
Over a fast flowing weir and a series of fields, we reached the Holy Well, a sacred site first recorded over 1000 years ago. Restored in 2007, the spring water was said to have medicinal and healing properties. From here, a more solid path pointed us towards St. James Parish Church. Past the well-equipped playground
and through the churchyard, we were soon back in Southam’s main street and to our cars. Here we swapped our very muddy footwear for something cleaner, speculating that Warwickshire’s mud must be the stickiest in the land, and enjoyed a well-earned drink and our pre-ordered lunches. One mucky job when we returned home – boot and welly cleaning.
October 2015 Walk
The walk in October took in Claybrooke Marshes, the site of the old Binley Coal Mine that stopped being worked in 1963, and Binley Woods. Starting at the Mitsubishi garage on the A46, we walked around the marshes and through the lagoons that were the settling areas for the slack being drawn from the mine, which have now become a haven for birds. Walking alongside, then under the A46, we crossed into Binley Woods and, after 25 minutes of walking, found ourselves at the BP station on the opposite side of the main road where we could see our parked cars 100 yards away. The path follows the boundary of the woods with good, dry, well maintained paths leading past clearings and ponds, with one such pond being our stopping point for coffee with the luxury of benches for those that wanted a seat.
The return follows the line of Brandon and the Coventry City Farm then alongside the railway track which Ash, our young collie enjoyed chasing the trains along, and then past a memorial for Declan Callum who died crossing the railway tracks in 2012. Finally we returned under the main road and into a park in Willenhall and through the original main gates into the colliery across the old railway siding and back to the car. We then adjourned to The Royal Oak in Brandon where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch.
September 2015 Walk
In September, ten of us set off from The Bell pub in Shottery, passing Anne Hathaway’s picturesque cottage (and resisting the invitation to sample the fare in “her” tearooms). Our route led us alongside a group of pretty thatched cottages and followed Shottery Brook as it meandered through a residential area and wooded parkland. Once past a children’s play area, a footbridge over the brook took us through a commercial area to arrive at Timothy Bridge. Here we descended to the canal towpath turning left towards Stratford. For the next mile we enjoyed the familiar scenes of chugging narrow boats and friendly ”mariners” operating the locks as we walked by. The towpath crossed to the other side of the canal via a bridge and continued past an attractive canal side housing development. It led us into the busy canal basin and the recreation area near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where we enjoyed our coffee break sitting under a huge beech tree.
Once refreshed we set off across the bridge over the River Avon and turned south to walk alongside its banks to enjoy the view of the theatre, the picturesque Holy Trinity Church and the pounding weirs pouring into the river. We crossed at a footbridge to walk alongside a pleasant housing development to reach a busy roundabout where the path followed the track of a former railway line and ran alongside Stratford Racecourse. The route turned right towards Shottery and we met up again with Shottery Brook as it wove its way towards the village. We passed the picturesque timber framed village school, noisy with children out for their morning break, and arrived back at The Bell for a tasty lunch.
August 2015 Walk
A lovely summer’s day greeted 11 of us for our August walk from the centre of Alcester. Our route took us along the High Street, busy with folk browsing the interesting range of small shops, into Malt Lane and its beautifully maintained timber-framed houses, where we were invited to explore further. An invitation we had to postpone for another day. After a short walk through a small park we joined the lane to Oversley Green crossing the bridge over the River Arrow where the annual duck race is held: no ducks to be seen today.
The next stretch led along a short path behind houses, then through kissing gates and fields with grazing sheep who happily ignored us. Our reverie was disturbed for a while as we walked parallel with and then under the busy A46 to enter the peace of Oversley Wood. Here the route followed a wide track and after about ½ mile we turned right up a steep path through the woodland. On arriving at a lengthy fallen tree, the group decided it could not resist the opportunity to sit and bounce here for a coffee stop! Once refreshed and rested we continued up to reach a clearing with a convenient bench facing a wonderful view across open countryside towards Ragley Hall.
We descended through the wood and over a stile to walk along a farm lane past 2 enormous silos, and then to the footbridge over the noisy A46. This led to peaceful Primrose Lane with its attractive thatched cottages where we followed the River Arrow to cross a footbridge and complete the walk back into Alcester and a tasty meal at The Swan.
July 2015 Walk
There was light drizzle in the air as walkers gathered in the village of Farnborough on the edge of Warwickshire. Prepared for rain we headed for St Botolph’s Church; St Botolph being the patron of wayfarers and beggars! Going downhill from the church the sun appeared and raincoats came off. After a short walk up a lane we took a footpath alongside a large barn, at the corner of which a sharp eyed member of the group saw a small deer that then disappeared into the crops nearby.
The footpath exited the field through a hedge on to the A423 right on the Oxfordshire boundary. Crossing the road and the border we then made our way through another hedge into a grassed area used for horse training. From here our route involved clambering over a fence and stiles further along the way were somewhat hidden with long grass. On higher ground we stopped for a short break, taking in the views of open countryside and the sun reflecting on Clattercote reservoir.
Continuing on our way, the footpath was again overgrown and nettles surrounded the next stile so it was a relief to pass through shorter grass before crossing back over the A423 towards Mollington. On the edge of the village we took the well walked D’Arcy Dalton Way, named after the late Col. W. P. d'Arcy Dalton who worked for over half a century to preserve rights of way in Oxfordshire. A walk through Farnborough Park led us back to our starting point; where there was light drizzle. Lunch was enjoyed just two miles away in Fenny Compton where it had been raining all morning!
June 2015 Walk
Our happy band of 16 ramblers met up at Stockton, accompanied by Jasper and Ash, our four-legged friends from The Oak. Jasper fulfilled the role of seasoned walker, while the much younger Ash, on her first outing like this, showed unbounded energy. Both needed some tuition on how to negotiate stiles! The blue sky beckoned, though there was still a chill in the air as we set off north-eastwards into territory unfamiliar to most, skirting the exhausted gravel workings and crossing first the old railway line and then the Grand Union Canal. Stiles then indicated our way through fields to the handsome and quiet little settlement of Broadwell with its extensive village green. Some new and attractive housing to be seen but no shop, no church and no pub!
A change of direction here brought us to a halfway stop for elevenses with far-reaching views towards the higher ground marking Shuckburgh and Napton. It was warm enough now to shed some outer clothing. The very large arable fields that followed bore healthy crops of field beans, the path through the middle of one field being at least waist-high and far above the heads of Jasper and Ash. Re-crossing the canal, we briefly turned right onto the road and then left into a farm drive. In the pasture here, we encountered cattle that were curious about the dogs, now, of course, on a lead. The dogs were equally intrigued about the cattle but we headed on a correct course to the next stile and it was the cattle who finally beat a hasty retreat.
Further field paths lined with wild flowers led us to the outskirts of Stockton where a jobsworth groundsman preparing the cricket pitch took issue with us over our route and the presence of the dogs. Undeterred, we returned to our cars nearby and disbooted in preparation for a short drive to the Blue Lias Inn where we commandeered a suitable end of the dining area and enjoyed an excellent lunch together. The Warwickshire countryside has a lot to offer, particularly at this time of the year.
May 2015 Walk
The May walk saw us return to Corley: a planned move to coincide with the bluebells and we were not to be disappointed. To add variety to last year’s walk we went round the other way and I think by half way everybody realised!
We parked at the Bull and Butcher at Corley Moor and went down Watery Lane, passing bluebells in Elkins Wood, and turning into the entrance of Hollyberry Hall Farm. Our one hitch was to lose the footpath in a field of rape and unfortunately we were left to cross some barbed wire which took its revenge on Norman’s trousers. We then picked up the green lane to Eaves Green and the verges were again festooned with bluebells. On reaching Eaves Green we headed back northwards following the Coventry Way and came back via the wood known as Meriden Shafts. This was once again carpeted in – you’ve guessed it—bluebells.
By now the morning had greatly improved but with a strong wind behind us we were carried back in the direction of the Bull and Butcher where we had a most enjoyable meal. Once again a good walk, through beautiful countryside enhanced at this time of year by the bluebells and this time the leader was very careful to make sure everybody got back safely!
April 2015 Walk
For the April walk led by Mick Sanders we returned to familiar ground in the area south and west of Kenilworth Castle. This time we parked at the Castle Farm Sports Centre and the promise of good weather produced a party of 17.
Crossing the playing fields we picked up the Centenary Way and headed due south across Rouncil Lane and then passing the old wartime artillery site. By now it had developed into a beautiful Spring day and we turned west to form the circuit. We attempted to follow the footpath as shown on the 1999 edition of the OS Map, but the section through Deer Park Farm is no longer possible and we had a certain amount of retracing our steps to do. We soon found the new route and cut across to the path which follows the lovely Inchford Brook – once again crossing Rouncil Lane, returning to Oak Farm and the Centenary Way.
However, this ramble will be known as the walk of ‘the Lost Lambs”: firstly a new-born lamb, caught in loose fencing and seemingly abandoned, was extricated and allowed to find its mother. Secondly, two party members lagging behind, despite being returned to a familiar path from the early part of the walk, strayed off in the direction of the Castle and had to be found and brought back to the car park. We all reconvened in the Clarendon Arms and had a very enjoyable lunch.
March 2015 Walk
After last month’s rather muddy experience, we were taking no chances this time and opted for a ‘dry’ walk. On a beautiful, sunny spring morning, twelve of us met at the Park and Ride car park for our walk round Canley Ford and the perimeter of the Memorial Park. We set off up Coat of Arms Road, over the Kenilworth Road and down the drive towards Canley Ford. We crossed over into the field and followed the path through the golf course to Beechwood Avenue. Old memories were stirred for some of us when we saw the old wooden Milk Bar hidden by shrubs and trees, looking in a very sorry state – apart from the Milk Bar sign still there in good condition! In our youth this was a haunt for courting and riding our motor bikes.
We followed the path through the Golf course, back into the Memorial Park and made our way past the coffee shop where, conveniently, next to the children’s play area, there was a row of seats for us to enjoy our coffee break. We took a look at the cenotaph, which some of us hadn’t seen before, and continued round the perimeter of the park and back to our cars, and to The Oak where some of us enjoyed a meal. A lovely dry walk, we needn’t have worried about mud today!
February 2015 Walk
After several efforts to encourage Jasper (the pub dog) to get out of the car and go “walkies”, the February walk eventually started from the car park of the Anchor Inn at Leek Wootton. We headed out of the car park and, after turning left, we continued for a short distance along the road until we came to the well-marked footpath.
The walk circles around the Warwickshire Golf Course with the initial path inside the course passing Woodcote House, Warwickshire Police Headquarters and following the line of the 604 yard 6th hole on the Earls Course. At this point Jasper heard the sounds of guns firing and decided that he would prefer to return to the car. The main group of walkers continued slowly while Gayle ran back to catch the dog and return with him, this time firmly secured on a lead.
The path started to get muddy before entering a small coppice and leaving the course into open countryside and joining Centenary Way. The path re-enters a wooded area called Larch Covert, which is used by Warwickshire Police as a dog training area and shooting range. Luckily the range is only used on Wednesdays, so Jasper didn’t need to panic this time. The route makes a small climb to the hamlet of Middle Woodloes where the group stopped for coffee, before continuing the rise to the trig point, giving views over the surrounding countryside at 84m above sea level. We then descended back onto the golf course and through old gardens of Wootton Court and back into the village through the church yard. Retracing our footsteps to our starting point meant that we could enjoy a nice lunch in The Anchor Inn after discarding some very muddy boots and a rather relieved Jasper!
January 2015 Walk
The walk was well supported starting out from the Lady Katharine Leveson Estate car park at Temple Balsall. We walked through the farm yard following the footpath through the woods Then a short walk up the Knowle road across the plantation to the rear entrance of Springfield House. Then across country walk towards Lidgate Form where once again we joined the main road turning left along the canal footpath. We passed the Boatyard where they manufacture the boats and countless moored boats. We eventually reached The Black Boy pub where we took our well deserved coffee break; after consulting the menu at the pub it was decided to book a table for lunch for our 12 walkers.
We continued down the track to the main road where we crossed and once again followed the well indicated footpaths, although the final section was a struggle with the path rutted up by 4x4 vehicles and recent heavy rain. We left the footpath to a short walk down Temple lane; we passed through Temple Balsall cemetery and made our way back to the car park. Another good walk enjoyed by everybody.