20110220_Eathorpe – Wappenbury – Hunningham Circular Walk
When : 20th February 2011
Who : Me and my Son Craig.
Where : Warwickshire countryside, between Coventry and Royal Leamington Spa.
Map : Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 221, Coventry & Warwick.
Start + End Point : 392,692
Approx Distance : 3.5 miles, (5.5 km)
Heights : Nothing of any significance
Parking : The guide book I used suggests using the pub car park (but I wasn’t sure I was going to patronise the pub afterwards so didn’t feel I could); instead I parked as prettily and considerately as possible on the street near the old post office in Eathorpe village.
Summary : A very short circular walk in Warwickshire including the villages/Hamlets of Eathorpe, Wappenbury and Hunningham and crossing the River Leam a couple of times.
I’d booked half-term Monday (the 21st) off work and was planning to do a half decent walk of maybe 6 or 7 miles with my 9-year old son, but the weather forecast was awful, so we shelved the idea. However, Craig had obviously taken the idea to heart and had set his mind on doing a walk and asked if we could do something on the Sunday. The weather looked like it might stay dry during the afternoon so I readily agreed and sorted a route out using one of my guide books (Jim Watson’s More Country Walks in the Rugby Area) …. Just 3.5 miles but it did read well, saying there’s plenty of interest throughout – Important when walking with children!
We arrived in Eathorpe (it’s just off The Fosse Way) and parked up by the road side and soon donned boots and set off (north) through the small village – little more than a hamlet really. Very soon the road bent round to the left to first cross a mill-race (Mill House, being passed nearby on our left) and then cross a substantially built multi-arched brick bridge over The River Leam (pronounced Lem).
Although we’d only been walking a couple of minutes, this became the first stop of the day, whilst I explained how the weirs just upstream from the bridge divert some water down through the old mill buildings whilst the majority of the flow heads off down the main stream of the river. Craig seemed genuinely interested and asked several pertinent questions before we set off again along the road now heading pretty much in a westerly direction, but only for about 100 yards. We turned right, leaving the road, into a grassy field to follow a hedge (on our left) heading just about due north again, with the winding Leam a little distance away on our right.
The going was quite slow, but only because I was giving some impromptu map reading “lessons” to Craig, which he’d showed an interest in, asking how I knew where we were and where to turn etc. After a short rise and descent we reached the far end of the field where we turned left into the next field. This field and the next one were probably the least interesting stretch of the walk, albeit good that a wide verge had been left between the emerging crops and the hedge. It was a tad wet underfoot and we had a bit of fun seeing who’s steps made the squelchiest noise; my extra weight kind of made it an uneven contest really, but that didn’t stop Craig giving it a good go … in fact I had to move him away from the numerous puddles that would have been more splash than squelch!
One point of interest was at a meeting point of hedges and paths, where a bridleway crosses the footpath forming a countryside cross-roads. All I can think is the person fixing the way-mark signs had been a little bored and to relieve their boredom had gone ever-so slightly mad with the hammer and nails. Each side of the gate post had three arrow-discs making a total of 12, plus other bits of plastic labelling. I’m all for good signage but this did seem a tad over-the-top; it did make us smile though and gave me the opportunity to teach Craig about blue and yellow arrows signifying bridleways vs footpaths. Ignoring the bridleway, we continued up the footpath, rising gently to crest some slightly higher ground and then to drop down to a minor road skirting the grounds of the impressive Wappenbury Hall.
Although it was a rather chill’ and very grey overcast day, the daff’s in bud alongside the boundary wall were a welcome sign of warmer spring days on the horizon. I can’t help thinking daffodils add their own little bit of sunshine what-ever the weather. Craig particularly liked the ivy manicured over the Hall’s gate-posts, likening the spherical toppings to be heads on big square shoulders. At the T-junction opposite the Hall’s entrance we branched right heading down to the church (St. John the Baptist) and little grouping of cottages and farm buildings. The verges around the church were enhanced by several groups of snowdrops, another welcome sign that late winter was on the wane and spring was on the way, although delicately pretty, I don’t quite get the same lift from snowdrops as I do from daff’s; perhaps it’s their bowed heads as opposed to daff’s holding their blooms high and proud …. Having said that, this year does seem to have been a fantastically good for snowdrops and the antithesis to the hard winter months we’d had at the end of 2010.
Whilst we stooped to admire the diminutive white and green flowers, a dog bounded over from a neighbouring property and joined us on the drive down the right hand side of the church. Craig is particularly nervous of dogs [ever since a large Labrador had jumped up onto his shoulders when he was a toddler] so I had to shield him from the approaching canine. Luckily the animal was friendly, sniffed at our feet, wagged his tail and after following us for a short distance, headed off to explore farther down the track allowing Craig (and therefore me) to relax somewhat.
The route we needed, branched right on a side track (ignoring the one passing the bright red post box) and then took a left onto a bridleway which dropped us down to a footbridge to cross the River Leam for the second time in the day. One side of the bridge is an arched brick built construction, the second half a much more utilitarian and less attractive looking modern span. It looks as if this could once have been double arched, but both worked equally fine to get us across the very mucky looking river, flowing quite quickly beneath us.
The path ahead was straight forward, rising gently away from the river and we were now heading south having completed a large loop from our starting direction (a necessity at some point during a circular walk!) and soon found ourselves approaching the small settlement of Hunningham passing a rather scruffy looking farmyard on our right, although the large stack of hay bales were piled up neatly in a long line. Nearby, and just before we reached a road junction in Hunningham, Craig was quite taken by a large and very noisy roost of Crows, which totally ignored his attempts to make them take-off into flight by clapping his hands as loudly as possible. It felt like it might start to rain, so we took advantage of the covered bus stop to break out our flasks (warm blackcurrant for Craig, coffee for me). As it happened the threatened rain came to nothing and we set off down a farm track to reach and pass through Hunningham Farm (now heading in a roughly easterly direction).
I’m always quite careful going through farms and stopped to check my map for the correct route. This prompted a farm worker to rise from his tasks and give a helpful and cheery “it’s that way, stay on the track past those hay bales” set of directions. A few paces forward and the way ahead became perfectly obvious. Staying on the track was easy walking and we chatted about this and that although I can’t recall what about particularly. At the same time, Craig had found a long stick and was quite happy making mini-waves by dragging it through the frequent puddles along the way – simple things please simple minds, or just the innocence of youth.
It didn’t take long to reach where a path branched left, leaving the farm track, to head down towards the River Leam once again, although this time we didn’t cross, instead skirting the banks for a short time before heading slightly right to reach a minor road. This was just about walk over, and all we needed was to turn left and walk down the road into Eathorpe, passing some allotments, Eathorpe Hall with drifts of snowdrops down the side of its drive and the village hall along the way. All that remained was to change into non-muddy footwear and drive up to The Plough for a drink in the bar; a J2O for Craig, and a pint for me (Black Sheep if I recall correctly). The surroundings were very pleasant with comfy chairs and a warming log fire; a really nice way to finish a walk with my little mate.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….