20110130_Frankton-Draycote-Bourton on Dunsmore Circular Walk
When : 30th January 2011
Who : Just Me
Where : Warwickshire villages and countryside south-west of Rugby
Maps : OS 1:25000 Explorer Map No. 222, Rugby & Daventry ….. Start + End Point : 426,703
Approx Distance : 6 miles, (9.5 km)
Heights : 100 ft (about 30m) from lowest point to highest
Parking : On street parking … I parked outside The Friendly Inn in Frankton
Summary : A pleasant circular walk with a reasonable amount of interest over gently rolling countryside with some nice views …. including Frankton, Birdingbury Bridge, Draycote Village, brief visit to Draycote Reservoir, Old Lias Line disused railway, Bourton-On-Dunsmore and return to Frankton.
As with several of my other local walks, the kids were off doing their thing, my wife had some home-study to do towards her degree and it left me at a bit of a loose end for a couple of hours or so …. So, on the spur of the moment I decided a mornings walk would be in order . To cut the decision time down, I consulted my books of local walks and settled on one from Jim Watson’s “More Country Walks in the Rugby Area” listed at just 4-miles in length. During the walk I made a bit of a detour from the suggested route, but that’s what I sometimes do when I’m out on my own, just kind of adapt as I go, and in the process added a little more distance and time to the walk.
One of the reasons behind choosing the walk was the proximity to where I live, around about 10-minutes drive away, and I was soon parked up on the road outside the fantastically named “Friendly Inn” at Frankton. It didn’t take long before boots were laced, ruck-sack was hoisted over a shoulder and car was locked up and being left behind. It was an easy start, at first heading down Main Street (south westwards) passing various cottages and other houses spread out along the road and then crossed straight over a at a cross-roads to continue down as far as St. Nicholas’ church. This more or less marks the end of the village and I felt very honoured to see a large red fox saunter over the road a little way in front of me; cross part of the church grounds and then disappear off into the farmland beyond … a surprising sight given it was broad daylight, but Mr. (or Mrs.) fox didn’t seem to have a care in the world and certainly wasn’t fazed by me!
From outside the churchyard, I left the road to pick up a path heading directly way from the church (roughly south eastwards) to rise up a gentle slope along the right hand edge of a field and then as the field boundary took a joggle to the right, I headed across to the far right hand corner of the field to reach a stile in the fence. As I approached my heart sank just a bit, for a large area in front of the stile was a morass of churned up mud and green slimy slurry and I started to work out the best way to get to the crossing point in the barbed wire fence. It turned out much better than I’d first thought though, because the lumpy mud was frozen solid and even better, so was the liquid slurry, which was solid for maybe a couple of inches … not quite enough to support my 16 stones weight (224 lbs for our American friends) but OK to get across – Yea!
Continuing over the next quite large grassy field was easy walking but I needed to think about direction, as I couldn’t see the next stile where the slope began to drop away. As I strolled onwards, some lovely wide views opened up over the Leam valley and over to Draycote Water, where I could just make out a thin sliver of silvery light indicating the position of the reservoir maybe a mile and half away as the crow flies. From here the path dropped more quickly over a couple more grassy fields – very easy walking – and I soon emerged onto a minor road just as it passes under a large multi-arched viaduct and right next to the River Leam, as it also passes under another arch.
I spent quite a few minutes exploring the area including climbing up the railway embankment to reach the old track bed of The Lias Line (disused Rugby to Leamington Railway). A short distance along the line is the old Birdingbury Station, where the old platforms are still visible through the undergrowth. The old railway here forms part of Sustrans route No.41 and it deserves it’s own diary post, so watch the next space. Once I’d “mucked about” not moving very far, I returned to the road where it passes under the viaduct had headed towards Birdingbury but only for a matter of yards, where I immediately turned left onto a drive running parallel to the railway embankment. After a couple of hundred yards or so, the path leaves the drive to diagonally cross a grassy field, staying a good way to the left of a small pond, and then re-crosses the drive that had itself bent round to cross the field on it’s way to cross a small stream.
I was starting to stride out and despite the cold, my outer layers had to be peeled off as I warmed up and soon reached the edge of the grassy field to cross a stile and wooden “bridge” over a ditch. This led me into a very long narrow ploughed field bounded on one side by the straight line of the old railway and on the other side edged by the winding route of a small stream (a tributary of the River Leam). My map shows the path going straight through the middle of the field which I ignored, instead favouring the wide verge/farm track following the curve of the stream, much easier than the ploughed field and not much of a detour at-all. The field is about a mile long and narrows considerably at its far end and I must admit I was quite happy to pass through a gate into a smaller grassy field where the path heads diagonally down to Manor Farm, positioned on a very minor road on the outskirts of Draycote Village.
I’d never been to Draycote (pronounced Draycott) before, and it does seem very secluded and out of the way, set down below one of the dams of Draycote Water Reservoir to which it lends it name. It’s an attractive quiet little place with attractive cottages and I spent a few minutes just wandering up to Glebe farm (according to the guide book it dates back to the 16th C). At this southern end of the village the wiggly road comes to a dead-end so forcing a retrace of my steps back to the centre of the village and then headed up the hill on the road swinging round to the right.
I’d now departed from the route in the guide book and was adding extra distance, instead of following the published route, I carried on up the road to reach a track heading off on the right with a plethora of signs confirming this would take me up to Draycote Water following the Sustrans route 41. It’s not like I don’t know the route around the reservoir, but I wasn’t sure where the link from the village to the lake actually was, so this was really a little recce for potential walks in the future. Anyway after reaching the nothern end of the western dam, I promptly turned around and retraced my steps back down the track to the road again. Rather than head down the hill into the village again, I turned right to head uphill on the road. At the next bend in the road I happened upon another point of interest – Draycote Meadows SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) a nature reserve recognised as the best example of unimproved grassland remaining in Warwickshire (there’ll be another diary post about this place later). Returning to the road I headed under a railway bridge and immediately found an access path up the embankment to rejoin the old Lias Line disused railway for the second time in the day.
This time I was going to walk a section of the line. Heading north-east for a couple of miles would have taken me to the section being worked on as The Cawston Greenway Nature Reserve very close to home. However, this wasn’t today’s’ route – Nope, I set off south westwards away from home. I generally don’t like walking old railways, I find them pretty boring on the whole, so I wasn’t sad to turn off right down the embankment after only a few minutes walking. The descent brought me onto a footpath that comes up from Draycote village which passes under an arched bridge here … I was now back on the route in the guide book.
Heading north away from the railway took me through a tilled field; the crop showing through a vibrant green. The path was plainly visible as a straight line rising to a gap in a hedge, although trodden down it was still rather sticky and by half way across my boots felt they’d doubled in weight and necessitated frequent sharp kicks to dislodge some of the mud. Thankfully the field wasn’t large and the next field was grassy on the final rise up to Hill farm. The views had opened up again back over to where I’d come from, with Draycote Water again visible as a thin shiny strip in the distance.
At Hill farm I took a left turn to head down the side of a ploughed field, cutting the corner off as sign-posted, to cross through to the next field and a short climb up past Bog Spinney onto the flat farmland of Bourton Heath. It was now pretty unremarkable stuff following the line of a hedge through ploughed fields, the most notable thing being an old farm trailer slowly rusting by the field side. It’s always amazes me how farmers can apparently let their expensive equipment just lie around to rot away ….perhaps there’s enough money in the farming industry for it not to matter!
After passing the trailer, it didn’t take long to reach a minor road and from here it was all road walking back to the car, first turning left into Bourton on Dunsmore and it’s very impressive houses and then taking another road off to the right at the village hall. All that remained was the final stretch down to Frankton of maybe about half a mile.
And that was that, I really enjoyed this little walk, despite the cold and predominantly overcast conditions … but it didn’t rain and I’d got to explore some local places I’d not visited before.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….