20100101_Cawston-Dunchurch Circular New Years Day Walk
When : 1st January 2010
Who : Me and my Family
Where : Cawston, Rugby, Warwickshire.
Start + End Point : 469,735 Cawston Estate (end of Trussell Way is as a good place as any to start from).
Approx Distance : 6.25 miles, (10 km)
Significant Heights : approx 70 ft (25m) climb up Toft Hill., otherwise none worth mentioning.
Parking : On street parking on the Cawston Estate – end of Trussell way off Cawston Grange Drive I suppose is as good as place as any …. Please park politely and with consideration as this is a residential area.
Public Transport : No.4 Bus stops on the estate, on Calvestone Road near the large Island at 474.734.
Summary : Circular walk starting (and therefore finishing) at Cawston, south-west of Rugby and including :- Cawston, Cawston Woods, Northampton Lane, Thurlaston, Toft Hill (near Draycote Water), Dunchurch, Dun Cow Pub, Northampton Lane (again), Cawston Woods (again), Cawston.
This is almost a reprise of my early morning walk of 4th October 2009, but this time it was with my family as a “New Year’s Day – Clear-away the Christmas Holiday Cobwebs Walk” in pleasant countryside near where we live. This time though, instead of autumn it was very much winter and the timing was much later in the day – I don’t think my family will ever be out walking with me before sunrise, as I’ve occasionally done in the past – I think they think I’m a bit loopy enjoying being out that early!
New Year’s Day turned out to be bright and chilly and I readily agreed to a family walk when my wife suggested we take advantage and get some fresh air. Our two kids took a bit longer to persuade, but they eventually came round to the idea (they had no choice in the matter really). We all donned warm clothes and suitable foot-ware (walking boots or wellies) and headed through the Cawston Estate to join the perimeter path (it passes the end of Trussell Way). Turning left along the path lead us up to the B4642 (used to be called the A4071) where we turned right for a very short distance before then turning left to cross the main road into Cawston Lane. This looks to be a quiet lane, but don’t be fooled as it sees regular traffic and cars can (and do) zip along here at a rapid rate of knots. So, single file was required until we reached a dirt lay-by at the boundary with a small wood. This is Fox Covert, but it’s better known as Cawston Woods and it was here we turned right off the road, to enter the woods passing a disused brick water-works construction as we went.
I’d tried to sort out a route that I thought would give plenty of interest throughout, (especially good if you’re walking with youngsters), and the woods really fitted this self-imposed brief very well … woods always have interest, especially deciduous ones, and we decided to take a longish route through them, making an arching swing to the left, to follow a pathway up into Boat House Spinney. I’m not sure where exactly the woods change name, but they narrow to a quite thin strip between farmer’s fields until a group of small ponds is reached. Even though sheltered by the trees the ponds were frozen over, in places the crystalline structure being quite pronounced and pretty to look at … along the path though, the ice didn’t completely save us from some muddy patches – small enough for me to stride over and shallow enough for welly-booted feet to test out.
At the end of Boat House Spinney a bridle track crosses to get us onto an official right-of-way and we turned right (heading south) across pastureland, easy grassy walking to reach Northampton Lane – another bridle track, but this time a very well used farm track which can be very muddy at times, the tractor ruts being very pronounced.
We turned right to reach and pass Windmill Farm. Luckily, it wasn’t as muddy as I’d feared, because the heavy frost had hardened the mud and grassy verges to a solid, allowing us to easily circumvent the deep puddles, themselves with a frozen film of ice. It took quite an effort to keep my 8 year old son from trying to walk on water – his hiking boots are not Gore-Tex lined and would have soon left him with soggy feet!
Upon passing Windmill Farm and Cottages (no sign of a windmill though!), the track becomes better finished as a drive (called Windmill Lane) and makes a left bend heading towards the B4429 Coventry Road. Rather than head down the drive, almost straight away we turned off to the right to pick up Northampton Lane once again. The Lane pretty much continued as before with distinct lines of tractor ruts heading off in front of us, a perfect example of perspective – parallel lines converging to a vanishing point in the distance.
Everyone seemed very happy, highlighted by the two girls singing songs. Craig and I were serenaded with a combination of Christmas carols and not so seasonal pop songs … They even played Mica, Natasha Bedingfield and Take That on one of their phones to sing along to … Craig was happy just breaking the ice on the puddles, although I did manage to get a photo of one that stood out from the others, it’s formation had resulted in a series of concentric rings, looking a bit like the contours of a hill on my map (imagination is a wonderful thing). As for me, it was just nice being out in the sunshine with my whole family.
Anyway, the green lane gave way to become just a pathway with the way ahead narrowing, with more trees either side in the substantial hedgerows. I got everyone to keep a look-out for a footpath heading off on the left. The path was duly found (it wasn’t difficult to spot really – it’s harder in the summer when the verges are in full growth). Once we’d left the bridle way we headed almost due south to join the B4429 Coventry Road, where we turned left for a several hundred yards to reach a small group of buildings. These included a pick-your-own farm and a used car lot. However, by far the most stand-out building was a large but simple cottage with extremely bright white-washed walls (nothing unusual in that you might say) but topped off with an even brighter sunshine yellow roof made from some sort of corrugated material (metal at a guess) … Personally it’s not to my taste, but hey what a statement!
Almost directly opposite is a side road (Main Street) and we crossed the main road to follow this (heading south) where it rose gently to a bridge crossing the M45 motorway and then a gentle decent on the other side which brought us into the village of Thurlaston. We took advantage of a bench on a small green next to a set of stocks for some refreshments (I had the drinks and snacks in a rucksack). The stocks are positioned at the junction of a side road (imaginatively named Stocks Lane). The younger members of our party enjoyed pretending to be trapped as I think kids of all ages tend to do.
I like Thurlaston, with its mix of cottages: – some thatched/some tiled; some modern/some old; some half-timbered/some not; but the most visible is the old converted windmill which stands tall above the surrounding buildings. Quite close to this, is St Edmunds Church and my kids liked the nativity scene in the grounds just off Church Lane (note, Church Lane not Church Walk). From the corner of Church Lane, our route took us through a large gate to drop down a drive to some trees at the bottom of the slope. We had to take particular care near the bottom in the shade because the frost was still quite hard and very slippery…. a short distance later we emerged onto the perimeter road that encircles Draycote Water Reservoir.
Draycote Water (pronounced Dray-kott) is the largest body of water for many a mile and the full circuit is about 5 miles, but this wasn’t our plan; our route was to turn left for a fraction of that distance, to reach the most north easterly tip of the reservoir. I think this northern edge of the lake is the most interesting, with a few ups and downs and groupings of trees. Along the little section we were walking there’s been a wooden walkway constructed nearer the water’s edge to give good views out over Toft Bay where quite a number of gulls and other water birds congregate.
There are several possible paths that can be taken here and we chose the bridle track heading up the hill to Toft House. It’s a bit of a pull up this hill compared to the rest of the walk, but really nothing to write home about and we soon reached the top of the rise, which affords some super views of the reservoir and over to Thurlaston and the old windmill standing proud. Toft farm rears Alpacas (always very cute looking) and these can be seen in several fields hereabouts and especially by the side of the drive way that leads past the farm buildings to meet the A426 Southam Road.
Turning left here, along the side of the Main Road, we had to endure a section on hard footpaths, I say endure, but it’s not too bad really as it facilitates crossing over the M45 and then into Dunchurch village, with modern houses giving way to quainter cottages and then a fair few shops clustered around the main cross-roads. There are a couple of pubs in the village; The Green Man which I’ve never been in, and The Dun Cow which was our next port of call, but not before passing the statue of Lord John Douglas Montague Scot. The statue is dressed up as a film or cartoon character every Christmas and it’s always fun trying to guess what or who it’ll be each year – Normally a figure from a big film hit of the year just gone. It’s reputedly pupils from Ruby School that do the dressing in secret overnight just before Christmas. This year it was Homer Simpson standing sentinel over the cross roads.
There’s a lot of history in Dunchurch, not least members of The Gunpowder Plot holed themselves up in the village awaiting news that Guy Fawkes had successfully blown up Parliament … A half timbered house in the village is reputedly the very building (then an inn) and carries the name “Guy Fawkes’ House”. Also in a more modern vein, Wing Commander Guy Gibson (leader of the famous WWII, 617 Squadron’s Dambusters mission) had family links with the area and there is a framed photo & letter mentioning the Dun Cow hanging on the wall quite close to the inn’s main entrance …. We sat directly under the picture enjoying a drink and warming ourselves …. I think the kids really appreciated the rest.
When we emerged from the pub we turned left to follow the A426 away from the cross roads (towards Rugby). We had another short length of road walking to do now, which included leaving the main road to head down Cawston Lane, almost immediately passing The Methodist Church. As we continued down Cawston Lane the houses on the left gave way to farmland with just a line of properties remaining on our right. These petered out at the junction with Northampton Lane. To the right Northampton Lane is a proper tarmac road with houses; to the left however (and our route) the Lane is the wide muddy farm track we’d walked on earlier in the day and we headed off towards Windmill Farm again.
After a short while we had another stop, this time for the kids to say hello to a couple of handsome looking horses, although they didn’t seem too bothered about coming over to say hello to us and we set off again, not least as it was now getting really quite cold and the weather was all of a sudden closing in with dark angry looking clouds replacing the blue skies that’d been with us most of the day. In an odd sort of way I liked the juxtaposition of conditions, the light taking on a pinky-orangey-steely sort glow. A couple of hundred yards or so before reaching Windmill Farm we turned right off the farm-track onto a bridlepath down a grassy field.
We were now on familiar ground (walked on earlier in the day) heading back to Boathouse Spinney, but before we reached the trees the threatening weather broke as a flurry of snow swept in across us. Iit was odd though, as we were still in sunshine and the large flakes were lit up as they swirled around – quite magical in a chilly kind of way. When we reached the trees, we turned left to make our way back through the thin strip of woods and then, as we entered the main body of the woods, we hung to the left to meet a farm track that splits the woods in two. We turned right along this very pleasant track to emerge onto the B4642 (was the A4071 until recently) between Cawston Farm and Nature Trails Nursery. I particularly liked the glow of the late afternoon sun on the Nursery buildings brickwork, with strongly contrasting shadows of nearby trees in stark contrast.
The walk was coming to an end now, dusk was drawing in and all that was required was to cross the road, turn right along the footpath set back from the road, pass the end of Cawston Lane before entering the Cawston Estate and making our way home ….. And that’s exactly what my family did to end their walk – but not me – No, I decided to head off on my own to extend the walk but that’s for my next diary post.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings. T.T.F.N. Gary.
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