20091031_Wolston – Ryton – Stretton Circular Walk
When : 31st October 2009
Who : Just Me
Where : Wolston, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Stretton-on-Dunsmore and Dunsmore Heath.
Start + End Point : 41,75 Wolston Village
Parking : Residential side-street where I parked as tidily and considerately as possible.
Public Transport : Wolston is on a bus route.
Approx Distance : 9 miles, (15 km)
Significant Heights : Gentle rolling countryside with some rises but generally no more than about 10 metres upwards at any one time and never very steep. The longest single rise however is about 30 metres (approx100 feet) spread over a bit less than a mile (from A45 near Ryton up Knightlow Hill approaching Stretton).
Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry and 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 221, Coventry & Warwick.
Summary : Wolston village, Coventry Way, River Avon, Ryton-on-Dunsmore village, Stretton-on-Dunsmore village, Dunsmore Heath and back to Wolston.
As I’d walked a section of the “A Coventry Way” from Ryton to Kenilworth earlier in the year (see my earlier posting), I decided to do just a little bit more of the 40-mile round, a short section between Wolston and Ryton and then make a loop back via a different route. Happily the “A Coventry Way Circular Walks“ book, I’d bought a short while before had an ideal solution with a route taking in Stretton-on-Dunsmore and then up and across Dunsmore Heath. This saved me the job of sorting a route out myself but as it happens it’s a fairly obvious circular given there aren’t a huge number of rights of way in the area anyway.
After parking up in Wolston, I headed off to Main Street and the Memorial Cross next to the brook that runs through the village (see my previous 2x recent posts for more about Wolston), from there I quickly found the path I needed – a narrow alleyway alongside the school grounds which brought me out into an area of garages associated with the nearby Manor Estate. This path is used by at least three named ways the “A Coventry Way”, “Shakespeare’s Avon Way” and “Centenary Way”. Instead of the hard surfaces past the garages/estate, you can walk through a narrow strip of woodland instead.
However, just to get a reasonable pace going to start with, I stayed out of the trees and soon reached a line of metal railings (the boundary to The Community and Leisure Centre) and on turning right the path skirted around the outside of the railings, still with the line of woods on my right. A little explore in the woods afforded some gentle views down over fields to the Avon and St. Margaret’s Church. In early spring, clumps of snowdrops and crocus’ emerge from the leaf litter in the trees – really pretty, but obviously no sign could be seen of these with autumn heading into winter.
After a short distance, the wood was left behind; an obvious path stretched out across the field ahead, this made route finding extremely easy aided by a set of circular way-mark disks advertising the previously mentioned “ways” and another one just for good measure saying “public footpath” … Having all four seems just a bit O.T.T. but leaves it in no doubt which way to go!
Carrying on, the path reached and passed alongside a small sewage works which, as is the way with these things, was a bit grotty and I certainly didn’t feel inclined to hang around too long (certainly not a good place for a picnic!) and I pressed on to rejoin more ploughed fields to meet the Avon at one of it’s meanders. The countryside on the opposite bank was in marked contrast, consisting of the manicured greens, fairways and stands of trees of Brandon Wood Golf Course. Somehow, although being large areas of green space, golf courses seem a little sterile within the “real” countryside where they reside. They almost seem to be plonked down on top of the landscape rather being an integral part of it. This isn’t a criticism, more an observation and I’d certainly prefer this to prairie fields of crops with all hedges ripped up and the like. I wonder how many small dimpled balls are settled in the mud at the bottom of the river? or how many clubs discarded in a fit of anger at a bad shot ?
The route followed around the banks of the Avon for a short while, before cutting across fields, crossing a couple of drainage ditches on footbridges along the way. The path wasn’t completely obvious here so a bit of map reading was called for, but it didn’t take long to suss out where to go. After crossing one of the ditches, the ground rose up ahead, the route heading roughly southwest whilst the river swung away more northwards towards Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. The vertical height of the rise ahead was only about 10 metres or so (30 odd feet) but this was enough to make the next decision a little awkward. My compass pointed along the side of a very rough looking hedge, but which side to take ? ….
I choose the left hand side hoping there’d be a way out at the other end and that I wouldn’t have to back-track to this point again.
I needn’t have worried as the hedge turned out to be very badly maintained and large gaps soon appeared, eventually becoming just a wide and very rough “central reservation” running through the large ploughed field. Once again, I was amazed at the different attitude different farmers seem to have. The earlier fields were easy to navigate and cross with paths on the ground; here though, the field was ploughed right up to the headland which was impossible to walk on, forcing me to walk on the newly sprouted crop, the loose tilled soil sinking beneath my feet made progress quite hard work as there was no purchase to push off against. I wasn’t at-all sad when I found the exit from the field to descend a small flight of steps to a tarmac path by the side of the A45 dual carriageway.
It was here that a rather weather-beaten planning application was pinned up; Aggregate Industries UK Ltd. seeking to extract sand and gravel from the site nearby. This would affect public rights of ways R144, R144c/d/e + f. Representations to the County Council had to be in by 28-Feb-2008 which was some 20 months earlier. [It’s now nearly another year on at time of writing this post and looking at the planning authority’s website it says the application was withdrawn in May 2008].
Now, I could have just tried to cross the A45, turn left and continue the walk towards Stretton; but this would have left a very short distance up into Ryton on the Coventry Way not completed. So I turned right rising up towards St. Leonard’s Church which has a super position at the top of the small hill. The A45 splits Ryton-on-Dunsmore in two here and there is a very utilitarian subway to take pedestrians under to the larger part of the village at a small row of shops, including a butchers and post office. I visited the P.O. for some cash and then the butchers for a pasty as a snack – The advantage of walking on a Saturday – and then walked up to outside The Blacksmith Arms (where my previous section of the Coventry way walk started).
It was then I realised I’d no longer got my new sunglasses with me. I quickly revisited the shops; neither place had them! … So I then started back-tracking eyes down to the ground scanning the floor! What a pain!!!! I knew I’d had them with me down by the Avon and now I didn’t – Bother! (or slightly ruder words to that effect). I re-navigated the subway, down the side of the A45 and back up the flight of steps into the ploughed field – where, after reaching the top of the rise, there they were, settled in a shallow furrow by the side of the verge. Relieved but still annoyed at myself I turned around to re-walk the ploughed field for the third time! … I was extra-pleased to re-meet the A45 once again.
I didn’t walk back up into Ryton Village again, instead I found a safe place to cross the dual carriageway – it was reasonably quiet on the road anyway but a speed camera (50mph) and traffic island at least slows the traffic down here. I then crossed the A445 near the large island to head more or less eastwards still alongside the A45 (heading towards Rugby) and after about a couple of hundred yards (at a track to manor farm) I took a path heading up Knightlow Hill, following the line of a hedge for quite some distance on grassy pastures; much nicer walking than the earlier ploughed fields. As my elevation increased some good views back over Coventry and the surrounding countryside opened up before reaching and crossing over Freeboard Lane on the outskirts of Stretton-on-Dunsmore.
Rather than take the path straight on (as suggested in the Coventry Way Circular Walks book), I decided to take the other option here, heading half-right to meet and cross Plott Lane and then walk past some allotments named “The Plot” on my map. Judging by the number and size of his crop, one of the gardeners had had a lot of success growing plastic bottles on canes alongside the path.
At a junction of paths, I took the left turn to follow alongside a sizeable hedge (on my left). On the other side was what looked like a dressage horse training arena and across one side of the arena a row of very large mirrors had been erected attached to a large wooden framework. The mirror wall consisted of several not fully aligned panels which split up and distorted the reflections of the nearby farmhouse and outbuildings. It was really quite disorientating looking into the mirrors. I can imagine it’s caught out quite a few birds as well – I wonder how many have knocked themselves senseless flying into the wall.
The path then led past some farm silos to join Fineacre Lane and I then took the dog leg in the road up towards All Saint’s Church. The lane changes it’s name to Church Hill here and I followed it past the church and down into Stretton Village itself, taking a right hand turn just past the Village Hall to reach and enter The Shoulder of Mutton Inn for a well earned pint of beer. I don’t really know why, but I prefer the Shoulder of Mutton to the villages’ other pub “The Oak and Black Dog” but you’ll need to make your own mind up about the “best one” for you – a good excuse for visiting both hostelries.
Once refreshed, I headed through the pleasant village centre with its stream and small greens, the weak sunshine of the day highlighting the autumn colours all around as I passed the village general store and “The Oak” to head out of the village on Brookside. This reaches the Fosse way (B4453) as a Tee-junction and the route crosses straight over the road to the car park of the recreation ground. A track runs up the left side of the rec’ at the rear of back-gardens to reach farm fields again. After easily navigating these I reached Rugby Lane, turned right for several hundred yards of road walking and then left into a broad and inviting bridle track heading more or less westwards. It was here that I met the only other person, (other than in shops/villages) that I saw all day and we passed the time of day briefly before heading off in opposite directions.
The bridle track lost its double line of hedges to open up onto a farm track heading up the final rise onto Dunsmore Heath at Limekiln Farm, where I turned left onto another farm-track heading northwards. Dunsmore Heath is a misnomer as there isn’t any moorland that the name heath conjures up; the area is almost exclusively farmland. However there are occasional pools dotted throughout the landscape, little havens for wildlife.
The track led me to again reach the wide A45 dual carriageway which again had to be crossed. There are no speed cameras here and the 60 mph limit is regularly exceeded – excessively so by quite a lot of drivers – Please be extra vigilant and careful when crossing, which has to be done to get back to Wolston.
The route north of the A45 reverted to footpath status rather than bridleway and this led past a couple of attractive tall trees and their long shadows to what should have been two sizeable ponds (at The Holdings) in a stand of trees; but they were almost empty; looking like they’d just been dredged and re-landscaped – The muddy hollows just waiting to fill up with water again.
I guess the area will be really pretty when this process is complete but it more than sufficed as a bit of a refreshment stop before heading out across cow pastures to almost reach the buildings of Manor Farm. Luckily the cows were mainly in adjoining fields, but unluckily their slurry flowing away from the farm made navigating past one corner of the path decidedly awkward – Yuk!
It was now getting quite gloomy as time pressed on making me “get my head down” and pick up the pace to reach Coalpit Lane. A short section of road walking ensued until branching off diagonally left near Hill top Cottage. A few fields later (some ploughed unfortunately) brought me back to The Fosse way which was crossed as carefully as the A45 earlier. The path then climbed Lammas hill before descending into Wolston.
It was on this final section that I had a mini run-in with a dog owner who’s large dog was extremely aggressive to me (stopping short of actually biting me) but made me feel decidedly vulnerable. The owner’s attempts to call the dog back to him several hundred yards away went unheeded for what seemed ages. Eventually the dog was leashed allowing me to finish my walk in peace – Just a shame a good walk was nearly spoilt. I think my heart beat harder at this point than at any other time during the day, as I think my fight or flight adrenaline rush kicked in. I’m afraid I gave the dog-owner a bit of verbal. Why is it that dog owners seem to think everyone likes and gets on with dogs, especially theirs! – The truth is somewhat less than that. Dogs not on leads can be and at times are VERY intimidating! … oh and while I’m on the subject and in rant mode, why do some dog owners pick up their dogs mess in a plastic bag, carefully tie the open end and then instead of taking it home to dispose of, prompty throw it into the branches of trees and hedges and the like ? It’s disgusting! Why, why, why! I just don’t understand it.
Rant over, and walk just about over as well, just the short distance along village roads (Including Dyer’s Lane, School Street and Main Street) in the late afternoon gloom to re-find my car and drive home.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….
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