20090329_Brailes Circular Walk

20090329_Brailes Circular Walk

When : 29th March 2009

Who : Me, My sister Janet and bro-in-law Roger

Where : Brailes, Southern Warwickshire, England

Map Used : A really quite old 1:25,000 OS. Pathfinder map sheet SP23/33, Moreton-in-Marsh and Hook Norton

Start + End Point : 317,391

Approx Distance : 5 miles, 8 km

Heights : 2 rises of about 197 ft (60m) & 295 ft (90m)

Parking : I think there is parking at the village hall, although we found a side road just off the B4035 at the eastern end of the village, where we parked safely and considerately.

Summary : A mixture of grassland (sheep country), cropped fields, tracks, charming villages and some nice wide views over rolling countryside. Including :- Lower Brailes, Western flanks of Mine Hill, Sutton-Under-Brailes, Oaken Covert, Contour around Brailes Hill, Grove End, return to Lower Brailes.

Janet and Roger invited me to join them on this early spring walk and I jumped at the chance. They chose a circular route from a book of local walks, starting and finishing in Lower Brailes. They kindly picked me up from home, fairly early in the morning, for the drive down to this charming village, very close to its neighbour of Upper Brailes. Between them, apparently, the two settlements were of great importance in times long gone by, although their now sleepy feel belies the fact that they were once the third largest in Warwickshire, behind Warwick and Coventry.

http://www.brailes-parish.org.uk/about.html

Although they are both Warwickshire villages, Upper and Lower Brailes look and feel like they belong in the Cotswolds of Oxfordshire or Gloucestershire. Not surprising really as both of these neighbouring counties are very close by. Unfortunately, because they fall just outside the Cotswolds, my Memory Map programme (a brilliant tool for route detailing http://www.memory-map.co.uk/ ) doesn’t cover the walk we did, so I’ve had to estimate distances and heights long hand from the OS map. 

Upon parking up, we headed up High Street (B4035), heading towards the imposing tower of the ancient St. Georges Church (Cathedral of The Weldon), and soon after passing it and the stone cross nearer the road we crossed over to the local pub (The George) … no not to go in, it was much too early for that! … to pick up a path cum track to emerge onto and cross Cow Lane. After a bit of careful map reading we headed almost due south across a sheep field to start the gentle rise up the lower flanks of Mine Hill giving some nice views across the Sutton Brook valley and back to Lower Brailes. The church tower still dominated beneath a vivid blue and cloudless sky. Brilliant.

http://warkcom.net/live/cme1861.htm

Upon reaching New Barn Farm, the route steepened, skirting a couple of ploughed fields with views opening up to the west, over the valley to Brailes Hill (and the return leg of our walk). The ascent up the western flank of Mine Hill was not overly taxing, but it did raise the heart rate a tad. However, it wasn’t long before the path levelled out, becoming a track as it approached Rectory Farm … or at least what remains of Rectory Farm.

Janet and Rogers guide book (nor my old map) make any mention that the farm is in ruins and shows how quickly human activity such as buildings can come and go, potentially quite fleeting objects in the landscape. There was a tractor parked here and I liked the shapes the plough-shears made in their raised position.

 

A little side note about the Pathfinder map we used; I borrowed this from my Dad’s collection of OS maps. It’s still got the label, showing it was bought for £2.65 from the long since disappeared Midland Educational Shop in Coventry’s “City Arcade”. It’s also got the route marked where he and I lead a Coventry CHA Rambling Club walk (many years ago now), taking in Shipston-On-Stour, Upper and Lower Brailes and Willington. The most up to date OS. 1:25,000 map of the area I estimate will probably be either Explorer Map 205 or 206, or if you’re very unlucky both of them.

http://www.coventrycha.co.uk/

Swinging right, we picked up a farm track heading down, straight through the middle of a large ploughed field. Extensive views had opened up ahead of us, overlooking our next main destination of Sutton-Under-Brailes and the local golf course (http://www.brailesgolfclub.co.uk/cms/ ), off Sutton Lane in the valley bottom.

A look at my map – What local golf course? … of course, this was another example of how land use changes … back in the 1980s {?} when the map was bought, there was no golf course, but now there is … maybe in another 20/30 years time who knows what’ll be there. Perhaps in my retirement I’ll go back and see?

Anyway, I’ve digressed a little. Back to the walk; we descended easily on the farm track, skirting the southern edge of the golf course, to then rise gently up to Sutton Lane. Turning right here would have given a short route straight back to Lower Brailes, but that wasn’t for us. We turned left to enter the lovely village of Sutton-Under-Brailes with charming honey coloured stone cottages and some really quite grand larger homes loosely assembled around a very large village green. Spring flowers were in abundance and they positively shone in the sunshine.

 

   

Turning right at the far end of the green, we passed the village church, crossed what I remember as an old orchard and then diagonally across a ploughed and finely tilled field towards an area of trees (Oaken Covert).

I was glad the ground was dry as we crossed the field, the route clearly marked by the farmer running his tractor across the normal grain of his ploughing … if only all farmers were as considerate!

 

There now followed the second climb of the day, rising quite steadily in places, first on a track passing a pond in the trees, and then a steeper path up the side of a field, although the track met us again near the top of the rise. Nearby a stand of conifer trees framed the views to the south.

 

We now turned right at a cross-roads of footpath and bridle track. We were now heading east, pretty much on the level, contouring around Brailes Hill to reach New House Barn (farm) where we then swung left to head generally northwards. The super views to our right now the opposite to those we’d had first thing over on Mine Hill.

 

We soon reached a gate heading into a bridle track inviting us on, at first very easy but as it dropped down towards Grove End it became steeper sided and the path was quite muddy and churned up, not helped by what I think looked like a badger sett constructed right across and under the path … decidedly awkward walking! … although the primroses in the steep banks were particularly pretty if we could take our eyes off the next foot-placement.

 

We completed the final stretch back into Lower Brailes, and we were soon making our way through the village on the B4035, re-passing The George and the church, to return to the car, parked under a couple of flowering cherry trees just coming into full bloom in the sun …. Lovely.

 

A change of footwear and a quick drive back up into the village brought us back to The George (http://www.thegeorgelowerbrailes.co.uk/ ) where we did now enter for a drink (Hook Norton Ales) and open sandwiches in a convivial atmosphere: A nice way to end a really good early spring walk.

Thanks Jan’ and Rog’, I really enjoyed the day.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk, a complete change = 20090404_Brixham Harbour

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