Some Information about The Midland Hill Walkers

Some Information about The Midland Hill Walkers

About a year ago, my sister introduced me to The Midland Hill Walkers (she’d learnt about them via an ad’ at the Go Outdoors store in Coventry). I’d never heard of The MHW before and I suppose there are a lot of other people out there who might not have heard about them also. Having walked with them a few times now, I can thoroughly recommend the club and because I’ve enjoyed their walks, I thought this post might be of interest to anyone “out there” who’s looking for a hill walking club and is unsure about joining the group on a walk.

Rather than regurgitate everything that’s already on the MHW’s web-site it’s probably easier to just direct you to their home site: www.midlandhillwalkers.org.uk/

However, if their site is “down” for any reason (in my experience, the world wide web certainly isn’t infallible) the main points I think are most relevant about the club are :-

  • Walks are on a Sunday, once a month.
  • Coach picks-up in “Square West” Car Park, near the Police Station, in Kenilworth. The car Park is free on a Sunday (at least at time of writing in Sept-2010).
  • Coach leaves at 7:00 am (pretty much on time as-well)
  • Main areas visited are : North Wales ; Mid Wales ; The Peak District … but I’ve been out with them into the Cotswolds as well.
  • A and B walks are normally provided : One of the leaders gives a short synopsis about the “strenuousness” of the two walks during the out-bound journey so that walkers can decide which route most suits them on the day.
  • Coach is often full, so pre-booking is really pretty much essential.
  • Walks are all day so enough food and drink should be carried, as the coach isn’t met at lunch time.
  • There’s an annual membership fee and obviously a charge for the walks.
  • Often the walks end near a pub and some time is given to have a drink before the journey home.
  • Their web-site is very simple with four sections :- Home Page ; Walks Programme ; Noticeboard  and Gallery. The Programme page has costs and contact details for booking purposes.

Obviously, all the above is relevant at the time of writing (Sept-2010) and details may change on their official web-site without this blog page being updated – That’s why ther are no names or ‘phone no.s given here as these are liable to change from time to time. There is no link or update routine between the MHW site and my blog … Therefore, for the most up-to-date and reliable info use the MHW web-site not this blog page … I just decided to flag-up and advertise the clubs existence really, as a possible route to finding them.

Eventually, I’ll be writing a few words about my personal take on the MHW walks I’ve done – and a few photo’s as well which might give an idea of the places and terrain they cover …. these might also be of interest to anyone who was on the walk as well; to that end :- Next post to follow = my 1st walk with the MHW = 20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest A-Walk.

20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest Linear Walk

20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest Linear Walk

When : 18th October 2009

Who : Midland Hill Walkers – Club Walk – A-Walk

Where : The Peak District, Near Buxton

Maps : O.S. Outdoor Leisure Map No.24 – The Peak District – White Peak area

Start Point : 018,759 (Goyt Valley)

End Point : 114,794 (Peak Forest)

Approx Distance : 12.7 miles, 20.3 km

Heights : 2165 ft ascent + 2070 ft descent

(Heights are totals per my memory map programme and include gentle ups and downs as well the more strenuous slopes/terrain)

Transport : Full size luxury coach – From Car Park in Kenilworth.

Summary : Goyt Valley, North West facing slope of Combs Moss, Combs Edge, Dove Holes (village), Peak Dale (village), Tunstead, Wind Low, Hargatewall, Peter Dale, Hay Dale, Dam Dale, Peak Forest (village).

My sister had been on a few walks with The Midland Hill Walkers and she’d suggested I’d probably enjoy a trip out with them too. The M.H.Walkers go out once a month (on a Sunday) and the first date I could join them was on their October Walk 2009, billed as the 2nd stage of a west-east traverse of The Peak District (It’s a pity I’d missed the first stage, but hey, that’s life I suppose). I do like walking in The Peak District, so I made some ‘phone calls, paid some money and was booked on for this walk and the next one in November (Llyn Celyn to Pentrefoelas) in Wales.

It meant a very early start though, as I had a bit of a drive (A45 + A46 mostly) to get from Rugby to Kenilworth for before 7-o’clock in the morning, which is when the coach departs for the day. I found it a little bit daunting climbing aboard the bus full of total strangers but soon found a seat near my sister and brother-in-law who were also out with them for the day.

Once on the go, one of the leaders made his way up the bus to talk through the two walks options with me; the A walk being more strenuous than the B. The club normally recommends newcomers to start with a B-walk, just to be on the safe side, but he agreed after talking through my experience that I’d cope with the A-walk, so that’s what I decided to do.

After passing through Buxton the coach picked up the A5004 and then soon turned left into the minor road of Goyt’s Lane to descend steeply towards Errwood and Fernilee Reservoirs in the Goyt Valley. I didn’t get a good view of the lakes though, as the A- party was dropped off just beside the small knoll of Burnsal Cob on the eastern side of the reservoirs. As it happens, my sis’ & her husband stayed on the coach to walk with the B-team.

Just for description purposes, I can effectively split the walk into three stages. It would seem sensible therefore to start at the start of stage-1 :-.

1st Stage :

As often happens on walks, the route started off steeply uphill and at a surprisingly quick pace and the group was soon spread out over a fair distance as we rose up a track swinging round in a generally north easterly direction. Several people spoke to me on that first climb, their opening line generally something like “I haven’t seen you out before, is this your first time with the club?” … a good way to break the ice and I was quite happy to have a chat as we all rose through the grassy moorland. The views back over The Goyt Valley were superb! I loved the autumnal colours spread out all around. Being towards the back of the group, I must admit I felt a tad out of touch from the leader, not a good feeling for the first time out and I was quite relieved when the whole party regrouped where the track crossed the A5004.

The path crossed straight over the main road and continued to rise still quite steeply and I resolved to keep myself closer to the leader now; just so I’d feel more comfortable in myself – it’s amazing how much easier the pace seems to be when you’re nearer the front than at the back. The terrain was quite wild; tussocky, grassy moorland and after the path had made a few twists and turns (including passing behind White Hall Outdoor Pursuits Centre) we crested over a rise where my legs appreciated the little rest-bite from the climbing done so far. The views ahead had really opened up by now with a series of knolls and rocky edges forming part of the vista dropping steeply from the mass of Combs Moss above us on our right. 

I’d never walked in this part of The Peak District before and was enjoying the views northwards across a slightly lower and much tamer area of farmland below. The higher rougher ground formed a rough shaped bowl around the green almost manicured meadows and the handful of farmsteads beneath us; a lovely contrast, especially with a scattering of trees turning various shades of red and orange. The weather had begun to close in a little as well, but I think the contrast between the sunlit bright areas against the more gloomy shadows added a super depth to the landscape. By now we were again climbing quite steadily on a faint path, diagonally rising to the flatter almost plateaux like edges of Combs Moss. The path on my OS map is shown as a black dash line  (not a right of way) so I assume the recent open access rules have opened up the moors to walkers – definitely our gain today!

A small group split away at the front, getting their heads down for the pull up to a small shooting hut positioned above a steep sided side valley cutting it’s way into the high ground. It was here that the party regrouped with a short refreshment stop and everyone enjoyed the views. I particularly liked the ridges on the hillside covered with drifts of purple heather and the shiny shimmering silver of dried grass tussocks; the soft colour palette in counterpoint to the harsh looking gritstone walls and rocky outcrops.

The last mile or so had been pretty much westwards but we now swung north for a few hundred yards before turning almost west, ignoring an inviting looking track, to instead climb a rough slope for a short distance up to a faint path running alongside a drystone wall (beginning to look like it’d seen better days). The views back across the lowland bowl to where we’d come from were brill’, amazing to see just how far you can cover by just keeping a good steady pace.

 By now I’d relaxed into the walking much more, keeping up with the leader quite easily now even to the point of taking a couple of ‘photos of him in a rather clichéd pose on top of a rocky outcrop above Alstone Lee.. The MHW’s are currently using my pic’ in a fun caption competition asking “What’s Brian saying”. I feel quite honoured that they think my pic’ is good enough to use in this way.     

   

The path and wall were now contouring easily around the edges of the moor swinging round from east to west and then northwards again … the last rocky outcrop we traversed is called Combe Edge before we dropped steeply down a short way to a minor road close to an ancient fort at the northern tip of the moor. We then turned right for a section of road walking probably for the best part of a mile.

2nd Stage

After the rough terrain of the moor the smooth tarmac was quite welcome at first, being easier on the ankles and concentration in equal measure. I wasn’t sad however when we branched left onto a path into farmland at Cow Low, passing through Cowlow Farm before rejoining the road just on the outskirts of the village of Dove Holes.

This really marked the start of and by far the most uninteresting stage of the walk which I’m going to skip over pretty quickly … I didn’t take any pic’s for at least a couple of miles, which tells its own story. Dove Holes has a pretty name but is an ugly place – Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, but there’s no other way to describe it; the villages overall facade mirroring the extensive quarrying in this area north of Buxton not protected by National Park status – I guess industry has to have its place but this area looks pretty much devastated over large areas and it doesn’t look like there’s been much attempt to mask the impact. Having said that, we all like our roads and other constructions and the raw materials have to come from somewhere.

There was now some considerable amount of road walking as we left Dove Holes heading southwards to the next point on route, Peak Dale ; again a nicer sounding name than the reality. It was here that we stopped for lunch, spread out on the touchline of a community football pitch. This has to go down as one of the stranger places I’ve had lunch on a country walk. After lunch there was more road walking, to reach Buxton Bridge, where we crossed a railway to then climb steeply, still on the road. After so much tarmac it was good to turn off onto a path, in a stand of trees, heading towards Tunstead. The views down the hillside, overlooked the grey ugly plant of Tarmac’s Tunstead Works. Although undeniably ugly there’s something compelling about these types of industrial landscapes, and they are photogenic in their own way.

3rd Stage.

Leaving the works behind marked the end of the 2nd stage of the walk and the start of a more rural final stage of the day. Instead of the gritstone moors of the morning and the industrial stuff in the middle, we were now heading into limestone countryside [The White Peak] and we crossed the invisible line back into The National Park, just before skirting north of the settlement of Tunstead itself. We were now heading eastwards away from the works and I wasn’t sad to see the back of them as we rose up to the ancient site of “Wind Low”. No one knew quite what the strange lump of stone was on top of the hill and there wasn’t an info’ board to tell us … so guess work was the only option –

  • An ancient burial site ?
  • A drinking trough for travellers horses ?
  • An ancient boundary marker at the top of the hill between ancient hill tribes ?
  • Or my wild guess of an alms drop off point ? like the ones around the Eyam area when villages were isolated by the plague ?

A subsequent look on the internet has told me it’s on the “List of Scheduled Ancient Monuments in the National Park” and is noted as “SAM No. S13351” and the sites full name is “Wind Low Bowl Barrow & Standing Cross”. According to several sites I’ve looked at : The stone is the base of a medieval stone cross which in turn sits on top of a bronze age barrow (burial mound) ….so, Wind Low is really two things on one site.

The route was very much easier now as we picked up a track at Hayward farm. The easiness didn’t last long though as we came across a rather horrible difficulty as we passed Hargatewall. The walled track now doubled up as a shallow slurry pond stretching out ahead. There was no option but to paddle through the liquid cow poo deep enough to reach half way up our boots. Some of the back markers crossed into a side field in an unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the mess, but in the end they had to hold their noses and splash their way through … Yuk and double-Yuk.

Eventually we emerged from the not-so-green green-lane into grassy fields descending steadily to reach and then drop down into Peter Dale to join The Limestone Way quite near to Dale Head. I was now on familiar ground as I’d walked here on a number of occasions before. The Dale is shallow with quite an open aspect, the upper slopes a line of craggy limestone outcrops. This, combined with the autumnal trees makes a very pretty scene especially if you’re lucky enough to get some sunshine on the cliffs …. unfortunately the sun didn’t grace us with its presence and although dry it was quite grey giving a certain flatness to the view …. however, when looked at more closely there were some lovely colours in the trees and the landscape as a whole.

Turning left, heading northwards, the dale became even shallower, now not far from our final destination. Although a continuation of the same long valley the dale changes its name several times …. Further south it’s called Monk’s Dale then becomes Peter Dale where we joined it towards its northern end. It then becomes Hay Dale and Hay Dale becomes Dam Dale and then it peters-out into virtually no dale at-all as we finished the walk over easy farmland into the small village of Peak Forest;  passing a large church on the way in. We then had a short time to enjoy a pint (or two)  in The Devonshire Arms before the journey back to Kenilworth.

A good walk … well the 1st and 3rd sections anyway and more importantly, an enjoyable first time out with The Midland Hill Walkers, I was now looking forward to the November Walk already booked.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Other Posts = Some Information about The Midland Hill Walkers

Midland Hill Walkers Leamington Courier Article

Midland Hill Walkers Newspaper Article 

Next post = 20091031_Wolston Ryton Stretton Circular Walk

20091107_A Wander in Wolston

20091107_A Wander in Wolston

When : 7th November 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Wolston, Warwickshire

Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry.

Grid ref. : 41,75

Significant Heights : Virtually None

Summary : An autumn wander in Wolston, approx mid-way between Coventry and Rugby.

This is just a simple follow on from my last post (A wander by the Avon – Wolston) and as before, I’d dropped my son off at the Leisure and Community Centre in Wolston for an hour long Karate lesson. It was an absolutely stunning autumn morning with not a cloud to be seen and a deep blue sky. It was perfectly still, with a slight chill in the air: the sort of nice chill that makes you feel alive rather than uncomfortably cold! I left the car at the leisure centre having decided there was enough time to walk down into the village and go for a wander around with my camera.

First “port of call” though, was for a coffee from a small take-away sandwich bar (opposite the millennium stone) in Main Street near the central green … I resisted the temptation of a bacon batch (a batch is a bread roll or cob for those not from the Coventry area), which I think was very restrained of me as there’s nothing quite like the smell of bacon cooking to get the appetite going.

According to the Wolston Village website :- “In 1999, a pair of heavy Millstones was recovered from the woods near the old Wolston Mill. Several villagers had suggested that the stones should be used as a feature on the bank of The Brook, something that would act as a link with the village of the past and the village of the new Millennium. Unfortunately one of the stones disintegrated before it could be used, but the remaining stone was safely installed in August 2000. Mrs Kathleen Holloway (nee Lissaman), the oldest Wolstonian at the time, and Mackenzie Newman, the youngest child on the school roll, unveiled the Millstone and plaque on Saturday 30th September 2000, during a special ceremony to mark the event.”

Similar to the nearby Stretton-on-Dunsmore and Princethorpe villages, a brook runs through the middle of Wolston, passing in front of the millstone construction. It is culverted with brickwork banks and has a couple of simple arched bridges giving access to the row of cottages running down to the war memorial cross. My OS map doesn’t give a name to the brook and I haven’t been able to find a name via the World Wide Web either! … Perhaps it hasn’t got a name ? Can anyone tell me otherwise ?

Once past the memorial cross, I branched slightly to the left away from Main Street; the minor road passing through a set of white painted gates (in need of a spruce up) just before the village school. There’s a small path cum alleyway that heads off about here up the side of the school. The “A Coventry Way”, “Centenary Way” and “Shakespeare’s Avon Way” all utilize this path as part of their combined routes on the way to/from Ryton-on-Dunsmore.

         

Upon passing through the gate, on the right, there’s a meadow, which the brook bisects (but now no longer culverted), with a scattering of mature trees and nearly always a handful of livestock (mostly sheep). The trees were colouring up nicely into their autumn finery; the beech tree nearest the school particularly striking in the morning sun … lovely.

Heading further along the road, on the left, is a small area of woodland with some lonely looking fancy brick gateposts bordering the undergrowth. These were the entrance gates to the old manor, which I believe was demolished in the 1920’s (???). If that is indeed true, the old gate posts have withstood the test of time remarkably well!  A grey squirrel sat for a while as I tried to get close enough to take a photo’ of him/her (my 18-55 lens wouldn’t do all the work for me so I had to do a bit of tip-toe-ing) and I managed a shot, luckily just before it zoomed off high into the tangled web of branches.

The road then led me on to St Margaret’s Church, a rather squat looking building, but attractive none-the-less and with a very rural aspect with the woods, farmland, River Avon and the meadow and brook all around. I’d guess this aspect is unlikely to change as The Avon is Liable to flood here as it has done in the past. In fact a new housing estate (more or less opposite the church on the old Bluemels’ engineering works site) has been designed and constructed with discussion with the environmental Agency. To prevent the estate increasing the risk of flooding, the houses and roads are built on raised areas. The lower areas, including the gardens and central green area have particular rules about leaving a good flow path for any potential flood waters. To this end, things like solid fences, sheds, solid paved patios, etc. are banned from these lower areas. I think the general view is flood risk to the houses is quite low though.

I’ve digressed a tad from my wander. I took the narrow fenced path that heads away from the church to rejoin Main Street, just where the brook feeds into The Avon and where Main Street crosses the old narrow brick-built bridge on its way to Brandon. There’s a set of traffic lights allowing vehicles in only one direction at a time and a separate metal footbridge runs alongside to allow pedestrians to avoid the traffic. On the other side of the Avon are some rather messy looking grassy mounds topped by a small stand of trees and bounded by an ugly rusty fence and ditch. These are the remains of Brandon Castle (dating from medieval times) consisting of a keep and moat. Heading back to the Wolston side of The Avon, I stopped to take in some nice little views of the river. I could have dallied for some time, but the hour to myself was very nearly up and I ended up having to jog most of the way back to The Community Centre to pick up my son and head back home – I don’t “do” jogging or running, preferring to walk for my exercise, but I did manage to be “on-time” for his class ending, albeit a tad out of breath. Maybe I dallied on the bridges above The Avon for a little too long after all, it’s amazing how quickly an hour can disappear!

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next Posts :-

Some Information about The Midland Hill Walkers

20091018_Goyt Valley to Peak Forest A-Walk

Midland Hill Walkers Leamington Courier Article

20091017_A wander by the Avon – Wolston

20091017_A Wander by the Avon – Wolston

When : 17th October 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Wolston, Warwickshire

Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry.

Grid ref. : 41,75

Significant Heights : None

Summary : An autumn wander down by the River Avon in Wolston, approx mid-way between Coventry and Rugby.

I’d dropped my son off for his Karate lesson at Wolston Leisure and Community Centre (not the village Hall), which is an hour long, and, as it isn’t worth going home for that amount of time and it was also a nice sunny morning I decided to go for a wander around down by the River Avon with my camera.  I found a place to park on St. Margaret’s Road [in a new housing development on what was once the old Bluemels Engineering Works] and easily found my way through to the banks of the Avon.

    

 

Because it was such a still morning there were some half-decent reflections of the railway viaduct that separates Wolston from the smaller Brandon. The viaduct and the river allow the two close neighbours to retain their own identities. I was lucky enough to see a few trains zoom past overhead, the track being the main-line from London to Birmingham via Rugby and Coventry. It’s strange how the air for some distance seems to rattle as the trains zoom by; I suppose the local residents just get used to it. 

    

The bank-side access isn’t very long really and after a “play” taking a few photo’s I made my way around to the brick road bridge and separate metal footbridge over the river between Wolston + Brandon and then back to my car and then on to pick up my lad from his lessons. A nice way to spend an hour.

    

 I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next post = 20091107_A Wander in Wolston

20091011_A walk through Cawston Woods

20091011_A Walk Through Cawston Woods

When : 11th October 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Cawston, Rugby, Warwickshire

Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry

Start + End Point : Cawston Housing Estate – South West of Rugby

Approx Distance : Couple of miles or so.

Significant Heights : None worth mentioning.

Summary : A wander of a walk starting (and therefore finishing) at Cawston to the south west of Rugby, taking in :- The A4071 B4642 ; Cawston Lane, Cawston Woods and back again.

There’s not much to say as a pre-amble to this really, other than I live close to Cawston Woods; I had an hour or two to spare and there were blue skies, stormy looking clouds and a bright low sun, all of which combined to make a lovely interesting light and long shadows.

I used the perimeter path that skirts the outside of the new Cawston housing estate to reach what was the A4071 but has now been renamed the B4642 since the opening of the Rugby Western Relief Road and crossed over to head down Cawston Lane (towards Dunchurch).

After about ¼ of a mile at a slight bend in the road (and just before the entrance into the Lime Tree Village retirement complex) is a dirt lay-by which can take a handful of cars (often used by dog walkers) and it’s here that I headed into Cawston Woods. To be more accurate, according to the OS map, this is called Fox Covert and it merges into both Boat House Spinney and Cawston Spinney, but collectively they are known locally as Cawston Woods. At first there’s an old disused circular brick built water-works construction and a couple of pathways then lead into the woods with improvised “bridges” to cross some boggy/muddy bits.

I think the woods themselves are probably quite unremarkable in the wide scheme of things, but in this part of Warwickshire they are by far the largest grouping of trees for many a mile, a green island in a very gently rolling sea of fields. If you look at the Rugby and Daventry OS map there really is a dearth of green splodges representing woodland, so I suppose the resource really is quite important for both wildlife and humans alike.

I guess they’ll always be a degree of conflict between nature and people, and at times between people and people who want different things from life. This is shown quite markedly by youngsters who very resourcefully dug-out and constructed a bike jumps track and they zoom back and forth, at times flying through the air before landing and heading off to the next jump. I will say that when-ever I’ve had to walk on the paths across the line of jumps the cyclists have always stopped to let me pass. However, there is a claim that they’ve dug up and displaced the residents of a badger sett which if accurate would seem a terrible shame. There is a new campaign just starting up trying to redress this and restrict/stop the dirt-trackers. As I said people in conflict with people, people in conflict with nature … it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a compromise that can be had, especially as I believe the woods are private property and there’s no official access at-all apart from two footpath rights-of-way that briefly pass through. What I hope is that the outcome isn’t that the landowners ban everyone from the woods (probably impossible now, but let’s hope there isn’t another conflict brewing!)

I like the woods, they’re a good place to wander, I especially like early morning or late afternoon and you don’t need to go very far in to get a degree of quietness with the noise of normal life being left at least a little way behind; the sound of cars being replaced by bird-song and the rustle of the breeze in the tree tops (oooo that’s almost poetic, but hardly Wordsworthian!). Anyway, I did a bit of a circuit enjoying the dappled light piercing through the trees casting long shadows onto the undergrowth and crunchy leaf-litter below and I was soon back to the lay-by on Cawston lane.

Turning left, I headed back up the lane towards Cawston and was struck how wild a couple of the fields looked, perhaps giving a glimpse of how the area could revert to the heath-land that long ago once covered this region but is now tamed and lives on only in names like Marton Moor, Bog Spinney, Bourton Heath, Dunsmore Heath and closest to Cawston Woods, Lawford Heath. Also dotted around are farmsteads with names like Heath’s Barn, Heath farm (more than one), Wilcox’s Gorse and Heath House.

Stopping to take a photo’ of this scene allowed me to see a large but rather raggedy looking red-admiral butterfly alight on some ivy in the hedge here. It stayed still just about long enough for me to take a couple or three close up pic’s (well as close as my kit-lens could cope with) and which proves that if you take time to look there’s allsorts to be seen.

  

    

The trees lining the A4071, B4642, were turning colour with a vengeance now that autumn had well and truly arrived, the low sun picking out the yellows, oranges and browns: A portent that winter was coming [and what a winter it turned out to be, the coldest and snowiest for years]. Crossing the main road, I was soon back to the outskirts of the Cawston Grange housing estate and it didn’t take long before I was home again.

 

Not a long walk by any means, but enjoyable none-the-less and all within minutes of my front door – wonderful, the type of thing that moving out of Coventry to the outskirts of Rugby was meant to achieve.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk = A wander by The Avon – Wolston