20091004_stretton-on-Dunsmore – Princethorpe Circular Walk

20091004_Stretton-On-Dunsmore  – Princethorpe Circular Walk

When : 4th October 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Stretton-On Dunsmore and Princethorpe, Warwickshire, England.

Maps : OS Explorer Maps: 222 Rugby & Daventry & 221 Coventry + Warwick.

Start + End Point : 407,726

Approx Distance : 5 miles, 8 km

Heights : Very gentle, virtually no relief really but a rise of about 130 ft (40m) from just south of The Woodhouse Hotel to Burnthurst Farm over about 5/8 mile (1km)

Parking : On street parking in centre of Stretton-On-Dunsmore.

Summary : A late afternoon autumnal walk through Warwickshire countryside starting and finishing in Stretton-On-Dunsmore and including the village of Princethorpe.

It was a reasonably nice afternoon and I had a couple of spare hours, so, on the spur of the moment I headed the short distance down the A45 to the village of Stretton-On-Dunsmore for a short walk … it would have to be short as the evenings were drawing in quickly now and I wasn’t setting off till mid afternoon and the sun was already quite low in the sky. I parked as tidily and as considerately as possible (on School Lane) and headed down to the village centre.

Stretton is just off The Fosse Way and doesn’t have a major through route at all, which has meant it has kept a traditional shape and feel with its small greens, mature trees, village store, 2-pubs (“Oak and Black Dog” and “Shoulder of Mutton”), an eclectic mix of houses and cottages, a church a little way up Church Hill and a small culverted stream (Stretton Brook) running prettily through the centre of the village. The community uses the brook for plastic duck races during fetes and the like as a method of fund raising; all in all a very nice English village.

Anyway, from the village green, I followed the brook towards and then past The Shoulder of Mutton; the right-of-way taking the pub driveway, past the pub entrance and then down the right hand side of the car park to reach a stile. A small plaque on the stile greeted me with the words “Coffin Walk Rebuilt & Reinstated by 1st Stretton on Dunsmore Scouts 1994” … unfortunately (at least to date) I’ve not come across anything about the history of this path, but I’d guess it’s maybe an old burial procession route from Princethorpe to All Saints Church in Stretton ? [Anyone out there know?].

The path effectively leaves the village at the boundary of the pub car park, so, still basically following the stream, I headed away (generally southwards) into gentle countryside, following field boundaries and including a small immature spinney, the leaves turning into lovely autumn colours. The low sun was quite harsh in my eyes at times, silhouetting the local trees, hedgerows and broken cloud against the watery brightness behind. It really had a feel of winter coming on, brrrr.

Once through the spinney into more fields the distinctive tower of Princethorpe College appeared in the distance, a direction marker for the next destination on route – Princethorpe Village. It didn’t take long before I emerged onto a quiet road (Sheep Dip Lane) in Princethorpe which I followed down to the A423 (Oxford Road). Princethorpe is the opposite of Stretton, in that several roads zoom into, through and out-of the village, basically in six directions (to A423 to Coventry + Southam, B4453 to Leamington + Rugby, and The B4455 Fosse Way to Morton-In-Marsh + past Stretton on its way to Leicester), all of which serve to divide the settlement up and I think it lacks a little cohesion overall because of this. Having said that I think the pub (The Three Horseshoes) at least gives a focus to the groups of cottages/houses and it’s by no means an unpleasant place to be.

I crossed the main A423 road to follow the footpath down the side of the B4453 towards Leamington (or Royal Leamington Spa to give its full name). A stream runs alongside the road, culverted in a very similar way to the brook in Stretton, but I don’t think it has the same charm here in Princethorpe, just because of the proximity of the through road. A small amount of tarmac/roadside walking was required now, but not for long really and after a few hundred yards, a footpath branched left into fields again.

This was the start of probably the most boring stretch of the walk, following the line of a hedge for something like 1-Km with large open stubbly harvested fields to my right. The only major point of interest was the dominance of Princethorpe College’s tower. Towards the end of the 3rd field I had to try to pick up a path at 90-degrees to head off to the right – right across the stubble, as, unsurprisingly the route wasn’t on the ground. So, I headed off to follow the rough edge of the field by the side of a stream. The short stiff and very dusty stubble made walking quite difficult and I wasn’t sorry when I picked up where the path headed northwards crossing the stream in the process. The next field was crossed diagonally heading up towards The Woodhouse Hotel and Restaurant and upon reaching the hotel’s boundary; the path crossed into the grounds, but only briefly as the corner was cut off to pass into the next field.

The path across this next, grassy, field steepened quite markedly compared to everything gone before (but not too bad at-all really), and I even found myself a little out of breath as I pushed on, stepping out quite quickly up the rise and I soon reached the B4453 for a second time. This marked the beginning of some more road walking, starting with a right turn along the B4453 (Rugby Road) for a very short distance before turning left into a minor road (Burnthurst Lane) where I passed the time of day with a small gaggle of walkers who’d parked their cars at the side of the road here.

I don’t normally like road walking, but Burnthurst lane didn’t seem too bad as it rose with woods to both sides. Shortly after passing Nunswood Farm I left the road to take a footpath diagonally across a grassy field only to re-emerge onto Burnthurst Lane to resume the road walking. Again, it didn’t seem too bad for road walking, passing some nice looking buildings and Burnthurst Farm but I was quite glad to leave the tarmac behind, picking up a path where the road took a dogs-leg to the left. I was pleased it’d been dry, because the field had been ploughed and planted almost right up to the field edge. I anticipate it would have been quite awkward to negotiate here once the crops had grown. However, I soon reached and crossed straight over the A423 for the second time in the day and into another field, also ploughed right up to its edge.

The day felt like it was moving into early evening as the sun dropped towards the horizon forming long shadows across the fields. I was at the highest point of the walk here and this was marked by a rather dilapidated trig’ point sat in the corner of the field. It wouldn’t be much use these days, being surrounded by mature hedges and woods restricting the view in all directions. Soon after passing the trig’ point I entered a strip of woodland (Bull and Butcher Wood) and the change of scenery made a pleasant change; I particularly liked the glow the late afternoon sun made as it shone into the trees. After only a couple of minutes, the path emerged into another ploughed field, but this time a wide swath had been left for the drop down to Fineacre lane. I find it quite remarkable how one farmer can be so brilliantly considerate (and legal) whilst others seem intent on making footpaths as difficult as possible to negotiate and all within a couple of hundred yards or so of each other!

The drop down across the field was therefore extremely easy and the views were quite pleasant too, especially across towards Stretton, with All Saints Church nestled in amongst trees. An odd quirky looking building also came into view, looking like a mini castle, but I think it’s no more than a water supply or treatment works.  Upon reaching Fineacre Lane I turned right for a final bit of road walking back into Stretton as the sun slowly descended below the horizon. As the road enters Stretton, Fineacre lane its name changes to Church Hill as All Saints is reached. It was getting quite gloomy as I dropped down Church Lane and into the village to reacquaint myself with my car and the short drive home.

All in all, it’d been a pleasant country walk – A good way to spend an afternoon.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk = 20091011_A Walk through Cawston Woods

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