December 2018 Walk
Today we were fortunate for the weather once more, as really throughout 2018 – a dry, bright December morning, was ideal for our walk from Long Itchington. In fact, one of our members, clad for winter, complained consistently of being too warm. In the unlikely chance of getting lost, our leader carried his trusty old OS 1:50,000 map of the area, having recently acquired two larger 1:25,000 maps, but where our route annoyingly could only be followed on the fringes of both.
We set out crossing the River Itchen and negotiating a challenging stile leading to sheep pastures. A gate then pointed the way slightly uphill to steps down to an old railway, here in a cutting. Climbing up the other side, we skirted the edges of a large field to reach the Grand Union Canal. A stretch on the towpath, definitely single file, took us to Bascote locks where a sharp turn up to the right brought us to a farm track and higher arable ground with extensive views in all directions. Elevenses (a few minutes early) were enjoyed in the shelter of a large barn, packed high and full with straw bales.
Our return was somewhat downhill as we joined a pleasant country lane, meeting horse riders, then past a farm to find the faint path right across a ploughed field. This is shown on the map as part of the Millennium Way. Across two further fields, we soon reached the route of the old railway again, now a green corridor here accessible to walkers and others but formerly carrying a passenger service linking Leamington, Daventry, Weedon and Northampton. This ceased as long back as 1958, goods services lasting a little longer. Here we reconnected with the River Itchen in some woodland, our paths then leading us through fields, obviously popular with local dog owners, on a direct line towards the church tower of Long Itchington in the distance. An alley between new houses, past a large and well cultivated allotment and a burial ground, provided us with a direct route to “The Harvester” for refreshments and most enjoyable meals.
November 2018 Walk
This month’s walk was something of a last minute decision following a light hearted remark about the Coventry Canal from our organiser wanting a volunteer for November.
In stark contrast to earlier walks led by Linda and Allan, which usually involved a drive followed by walking up and down hills and views over multiple counties, this one was almost all flat with no stiles (welcomed by our canine friend) and mostly well-defined paths taking us around North Coventry along various green corridors and canal towpaths.
Starting from the Greyhound Inn at Longford with its view of Hawkesbury Junction where the Coventry and Oxford Canals intersect, we followed the Oxford Canal, passing numerous narrowboats, some being used as full time residences, with the ever present sound of the M6 in the background to remind us that civilisation was never far away. Leaving the towpath at Tusses Bridge, we passed the site of the old Elephant and Castle pub, now transformed into a very nice residence with a huge garden and even larger car park, but very close to the M6! Crossing over Alderman’s Green Road we entered another path alongside the Corral, part of the Wyken Slough Nature Reserve, where we caught our first site of the top of the Ricoh Stadium looking like some sort of bridge or part of Disneyland.
After a short stretch of tarmaced lane, we joined the Sowe Valley Way alongside Wyken Slough, one of the many holding pools for the River Sowe in Coventry and also one of the largest areas of grassland in Coventry. This area has a large flock of mute swans and other waterfowl, most of which joined us by the small bridge to enjoy a snack of bird seed, peas and corn; our own stop for refreshment was still some time away though.
Heading across the Sowe and along Windmill Road we came to the entrance to Longford Park. Crossing the park towards the ornamental gardens we took our well-earned break at the sundial, sadly screened from the sun by an unfortunately positioned tree. Crossing the Longford Road and along the Nature Walk we came to the Coventry canal and took the towpath past the Arena Retail Park and all the new houses and apartments which line this area. We passed by an unusual sofa on a raft constructed from stone and information boards giving the story of the Coventry canal construction. Following the canal we passed the Exhall Basin residential moorings and made our way back to the Greyhound pub, where we all enjoyed a well-earned drink and lunch having enjoyed some of the greener parts of this area of Coventry.
October 2018 Walk
When the walk was planned, for me, it was about starting at The Stag and Pheasant, not about the walk as there are a mass of footpaths marked and therefore not a problem creating a walk.
My first attempt to create this walk was to cross the border into Leicestershire to Shawell Hall. However, once out of Warwickshire the weeds and brambles made early attempts at creating the route impossible.
My next attempt was to take the Greenway created by the demise of the Rugby to Market Harborough Railway route, canal and Swift Valley. This also proved to be impossible due to house building which caused the temporary closure of the footpath and an altercation with builders when the only way to return required breaking into the builders compound.
Eventually, with help from a friend who lives in Rugby, we made the walk work by starting with a trek through an industrial park and house building site before following a disused canal past the Brownsover Hall Hotel to join the Oxford Canal. Here we had the luxury of picnic tables for our mid walk refreshments followed by an unplanned stop due to Ben (the special one) having fallen into the canal.
The canal joined the aforementioned Greenway before returning to Newton and a fabulous lunch.
The Good - A rare walk that David Grimsey hadn’t walked, but I guess he won’t be the only one as I don’t think that it is in any book. And not losing Roger Horsfall en-route!
The Bad - The effort to get public the footpaths to work. They were either overgrown or building works.
The Ugly - The Industrial and housing estates being built.
September 2018 Walk
The September walk saw 12 of us plus dog meeting at The Castle Inn, Edge Hill. We took a steep path down through the woods and were rewarded with magnificent views over the countryside and the site of the Battle of Edgehill.
Walking down the steep hill very carefully, we were watched, with only slight interest, by a large herd of cows. At the bottom of the hill we came to the pretty village of Radway. Making our way past Radway Grange and some lovely thatched cottages it was uphill again! At the top of the steep hill we were then able to admire the view while having a well-earned breather on a rock bench. This was followed by yet more climbing through the woods, including having to scramble round a rather large tree trunk which had fallen across the path. It was then up a long flight of steps known as Jacob’s ladder. Fortunately we then had a very gentle path through the woods to the top of the hill.
Across the road and along a footpath we met up with Centenary Way and then it was downhill again towards the village of Ratley, the highest village in Warwickshire. As we came down a small road into the village we stopped to admire the garden of a house set into the hillside. The owner invited us to look round his magnificent garden and we were surprised to hear that he was 85 years old. Some of us also bought jars of homemade jam and marmalade from his stock in the garage. The 14th century church, with its Medieval preaching cross, was also worth a visit, although we failed to find the mounds under which some of the soldiers from the Battle of Edgehill are buried.
It was soon time for a little more uphill past Manor Farm then down again and the last uphill stretch before arriving back in Edge Hill where we had a very well earned lunch at The Castle Inn, an 18th century folly built in the style of Guys Tower at Warwick Castle. By then the views across the battlefield had unfortunately disappeared into the mist due to rain.
August 2018 Walk
Blessed again by a sunny day, 9 walkers set off from The Stag at Offchurch to cross over the fields and stiles of Manor Farm, passing a very tall ancient water pump en route, to reach the cool shade of a small copse. This opened into more fields which had been harvested, the furrows baked hard by the sun, and then past some barns and on to a farm track. At the end we turned right to cross the River Leam to enter a small wood and then continued across a field of corn and then uphill alongside a hedge of sloes and blackberries (no bags for harvesting) to arrive at Cubbington Wood. We skirted the wood following the field edge until we reached a tarmac drive leading into Cubbington, where we enjoyed our coffee break sitting on benches in the beautifully kept churchyard.
Once refreshed we continued through the village to join a path which skirted the rear of the Thwaites factory and led across a cattle grid and through a kissing gate. The narrow path ran by another field, where a tiny pony was grazing, via another kissing gate and then skirted more fields where we could see the Lillington tower block in the distance. After turning left across a bridged ditch and following the path along the edge of this field, we approached Red House farm to climb a stile into a paddock where horses were grazing, then through a gate and over another stile into a riverside field. After a while we arrived at a bridge over the River Leam and followed the path to the next bridge over a weir, where we turned right to walk parallel to the river in the very welcome shade. The route led us alongside the challenges of the eventing course at Offchurch Bury, up the tarmac drive then left across the fields above the River Leam to reach the final stile onto Welsh Road, and a delicious lunch in the garden of The Stag.
July 2018 Walk
Our July rendezvous was The Kings Head in Aston Cantlow where nine walkers met on a beautiful sunny morning for the start of our route in Shakespeare country. We strolled past the 15th century church (where his parents were married)nand left the churchyard via a stile which led to a footbridge and another stile. Having followed the Arden Way over sun-baked clay, alongside fields full of ripe grain we climbed another stile to reach a country lane and a track which thankfully took us through the cool shade of woody Aston Grove for some respite from the blazing sun.
This ceased as our path led us alongside four fields to reach Walcote, an attractive village of timber-framed houses one of which displayed a magnificent ancient cider press in the front garden. Further on we passed a roadside platform for milk churns and the well-stocked hay barns of Walcote Manor Farm. At a bench near the village church, we paused for refreshment and resumed our walk by leaving the village via a gate guarded by a group of heifers enjoying the shade of a huge tree. They showed little interest in humans foolish enough to brave the blazing sun, so we continued across parched fields and past an amazing tree which in spite of the decimated appearance of its gnarled hollow and bark-free trunk still sported a cap of green leaves.
At Wood Lane we paused to inspect the nearby weir before traversing the footbridge and mown path which opened up to a view of the magnificent chimneys of Great Alne Mills. An attractive wooden bridge took us across the River Alne and through the well-kept grounds of the mills which have been converted into a number of exclusive dwellings in a beautiful setting. Back to earth we found the route across the fields to reach the outskirts of Great Alne village where at the entrance to the path to the church we encountered the warning sign “Thou shalt not park in front of these garage doors”! So we moved on through the churchyard to join a shady path which eventually led back to the road for a short distance until we turned down a narrow lane to a steep rather overgrown path. This took us through more fields and across the river via a footbridge which led into a well-kept caravan park. After realising that 2 of our number were missing (distracted by something en route) one of our leaders retraced the route to find them. Finally we left via the well maintained path which took us past the lovely old village school and back through the churchyard to lunch in Aston Cantlow.
June 2018 Walk
Research indicates that there are 127 pubs in England called The Anchor but not many can be further away from the sea than The Anchor at Leek Wootton, which was the base for our June walk. Twelve reasonably energetic ramblers and one very energetic four-legged friend set off at 10.00 am prompt, negotiating a series of kissing gates alongside a large field with horses and then into the woods, crossing bridges over the A46 and the Coventry to Leamington railway line.
Across the B4115, paths through the trees led us to the River Avon, then back uphill to emerge in Chesford Grange Hotel’s car park. Here we crossed the busy A452 by the lights and took the enclosed path alongside the B4115, then the lane into Ashow, admiring the old cottages and a number of pretty and well-kept gardens. Recorded in the 1086 Domesday Survey as Asceshot, Ashow is now the peaceful home of just over 100 people, but has no facilities apart from the Village Club (in what was the reading room and school) which acts as a pub but with very limited opening hours. A rest was called for and elevenses were enjoyed in the tidy churchyard – it is said there has been a church on this site for about 900 years.
We resumed our mud free route via the footbridge over the Avon, closely watched by a swan, and across arable fields until our progress was halted at a road where we were warned that an extra wide load was approaching. This turned out to be a prefabricated home on the back of an HGV, presumably having been exhibited at the NAC. Further on, leaving the rugby club playing fields, we were ushered across a fast section of the A452 by helpful drivers in both directions and took a left turn to the 18th century Blackdown Mill and back across the Avon, one walker recalling his past canoeing exploits. The lane continued further on and the leader nearly missed a gate we needed on the right. An overgrown path led us back into the woods, where we eventually retraced our outward route back to our cars. We were rewarded for our efforts by very good and much enjoyed meals at the landlocked Anchor, accompanied by lively conversation in a room we fortunately had all to ourselves.
May 2018 Walk
May is the traditional month for bluebells, so our walk, led by Linda and Allan, started at the Windmill Inn in Badby, a small pretty village just outside Daventry, where at least one of our walkers claimed memories of the woods, although probably as a forest and with waist high bluebells; admittedly this was more than half a century ago.
With eager anticipation 8 regulars, 2 newcomers plus a four legged friend, Tosca, started through the pretty village and picked up Knightley Way opposite St Mary’s church. Following the path uphill and along the edge of Badby woods, we had our first views of the bluebells carpeting the floor of the woods. Emerging from the woods at the top of the hill we were greeted with beautiful views over the countryside, including a landscaped park by Capability Brown and lots of sheep and lambs. One of the sheep seemed to have lost her way as she was found all on her own on a small bridge between two kissing gates…...we hope we put her back with the correct flock.
Across another field we found ourselves outside Fawsley Hall Hotel and Spa. Unfortunately we did not have time to call in! Another time!
Passing by the Horse pond, we walked up the hill to another St Marys Church dating from the early 13th Century and surrounded by a ha-ha and with more amazing views over open countryside and two areas of water, Big Water and The Canal, as well as Fawsley Hall itself.
We then had an uphill trek back up to the woods, passing by the ruins of the Grade II listed 16th Century Dower house, originally built as a hunting lodge. Mother was obviously housed some distance from the main house!
Walking back along the edge of the wood we took a small path into the middle of the woods. The bluebells were truly spectacular, spreading as far as we could see. Picking up Knightly way again, we made our way down the hill, back around the church through the village and to a well-earned meal at the Windmill, with ale to the satisfaction of our expert.
April 2018 Walk
Waking to a rather grey and drizzly day confirmed the wisdom of choosing to enjoy the benefits of the firm under- footing around DraycoteWater for our April walk. It also enabled our two youngest participants to cycle ahead of our group of eleven more mature members, stopping occasionally to allow us to catch them up.
Once booted and suited we left the car park and chose to take the anticlockwise direction, past the visitor centre and following the curve of Hanborough Hill. After some time we realised that one of our party was missing so an emissary was sent to check on said person who had taken advantage of the centre facilities en route. The tarmacked path topped a raised bank which ran parallel to the hamlet of Draycote and provided a good view across the reservoir.The weather had not deterred the fishermen who were dotted around the banks with their kit beside them, while a few hardy souls were fishing from boats. The amount of kit surrounding some of them was impressive but overtaken by the lengthy rods strapped to the roof rack a car which passed us en route. To the ill-informed it was puzzling to understand why such equipment is needed to trap the humble trout.
At approximately half way we stopped for refreshments at a clearing near the tiny village of Thurlaston, home of llamas, historic buildings and a windmill without sails, and were met by a cloud of midges which followed us for the remainder of the walk.Once back at base and with bicycles secured on their high spec rack we returned to Baginton and a tasty lunch at The Oak. Thanks to Gayle and Chris Goodwin for accommodating us inspite of the wallpaper hanging etc in the dining area.
March 2018 Walk
A select band of eight walkers and one dog gathered in the sunshine outside The Royal Oak at Brandon. Once booted and suited, and having placed our orders for lunch, we set off towards Wolston. Our route led us under the stately railway arches, currently closed to road traffic, and past Castle Hill Riding School. A large mound amongst the pastures there was allegedly once the site of Brandon castle. As we approached the bridge over The River Avon, the reason for road closure became apparent as workers were drilling in the road before the bridge. The Avon here was in flood and had washed over a large area of the adjacent fields towards the church, but fortunately we had the benefit of a raised walkway alongside the bridge and safely crossed into the village. Near the war memorial one of our leaders confidently crossed the road, neglecting to mention that the group should follow, but they soon realised that this was the plan!
After a short walk through the housing estate on the outskirts of the village we continued along a lane which passed the site of Wolston Priory, the attractive stone building set well back from the road was once the rectory but is now used as a business centre. As the houses petered out we passed some agricultural sheds, no sound but maybe they held battery hens, then under the elegant arched railway bridge. The route went past Marston Mill farmhouse, an attractive regency style building, some barns and across a cattle grid into a huge field. Here we were greeted by a large flock of sheep with many lambs who rushed back to their mothers as we passed. We walked parallel to the Avon where two swans paddled along the river which had flooded a wide expanse of pasture, but fortunately our path ran above the riverbank and the going underfoot was good. The last of the snowdrops decorated our route as we made our way to walk along a short stretch of road and over the Avon bridge at Bretford.
Once across the road we followed the bridleway past the village hall and along a sunken track. This ran uphill past an enclosure with two noisy geese that were very effectively on guard duty. Here we heard the first complaints about mud as we climbed the hill and through a gate to arrive at our coffee stop. The track went alongside a hedgerow and through vast ploughed and planted fields where presumably hedgerows had been removed to facilitate modern farming equipment. Once through a small copse we turned onto another bridleway which we followed through fields to the road about a mile away. We decided to avoid another field crossing and continued along the road leading us back to Brandon and a delicious lunch.
February 2018 Walk
Due to a heavy fall of snow followed by freezing conditions, the December walk was postponed until February. In contrast to the sunny Monday, with wind, rain and possibly sleet forecast for Tuesday it was thought that numbers might be low, but a hardy thirteen met on the 13th in the car park of The Friendly Inn, Frankton.
It was raining steadily as the well wrapped group gathered and waited until the allotted ten o’clock start. Roger confidently led the way along Main Street towards the Church of St Nicholas, which has a 13th Century tower. The frontage of the Old Rectory had a bright display of yellow wood anemones, and it was alongside this property that we climbed a high stile into a very wet field, known to be boggy at the best of times. The field exit was completely waterlogged, and agility was tested again as one by one we crouched under barbed wire to reach a drier route to another stile and kissing gate. After crossing two shorter fields the view ahead was far reaching with Draycote Water and Rugby to the left and Southam and beyond to the right. However, with splattered spectacles and the wind driving sharp raindrops into our now ruddy cheeks we did not linger but headed down hill to a meadow sheltered by the embankment of the disused Rugby to Leamington railway line. By the time we had picked our way down a slippery slope the rain had stopped and there was a glimpse of the sun.
Immediately under the high arched bridge beside the river Leam, we followed a tarmac driveway for a short distance before once again climbing into fields that kept us walking parallel to the railway embankment. A fluorescent jacketed scarecrow waved at us as we made our way round the edge of a very long field into the peaceful village of Draycote, where we stopped for a short refreshment break.
There were murmurings of concern at the sight of one or two limping sheep amongst a herd as we continued our muddy route. After crossing under the embankment there was an upward walk to the appropriately named Hill Farm. The footpath to Bourton passed through the again aptly named Bog Spinney where a spring bubbled and snowdrops flourished. In Bourton, the ‘Round House’, probably once a toll house and for a time the laundry for Bourton Hall, is now part of the village hall. From hereon it was a pavement walk back to Frankton, where the full contingent of walkers enjoyed a well-deserved meal at the Friendly Inn, which also lived up to its name! Incidentally, it was ten out of ten for Roger leading the way!
January 2018 Walk
Eleven intrepid ramblers gathered at Stoneleigh Church on a murky, damp morning, happy in the circumstances to have “kept local” with an easy walk for our first expedition of 2018. We will save journeys further afield for the better weather we hope is to come. There had been no frost overnight and, crossing the river, we found the path up the hill away from the village and under the trees muddier than we expected. Over the main road, our waymarked track crossed a field and directed us up the slope to Stareton, where we turned right, walking down the road to the showground entrance then taking the path that led us across the old bridge over the Avon parallel to the present road. Re-joining the large field once used for Royal Show parking, we paused for elevenses overlooking Stoneleigh from the high ground with a distant misty view of Coventry.
Our route became a figure of eight as we re-crossed the river and made a full circuit of the fields on the opposite side, noting where the Sowe joined the Avon. The going underfoot here was good and we were glad any rain had kept off and we had stayed dry. Towards the end, we came across our only stile and, having thought that our boots were not going to be too mucky after all, we unfortunately met unavoidable mud on the narrow enclosed path back to the village. Changing into more respectable footwear, we drove the short distance to Bubbenhall, where we enjoyed excellent meals at the Malt Shovel, being joined by a party of bell ringers who had sought their exercise in a different way.