15,000 + views …

Well, what a year so far, now over 15,000 views on my blog since I began scribbling in Sept 2008.

And I’ve so many more walks to write up and photo’s to edit/add too, probably starting with the last three Midland Hill Walkers walks over the summer of 2011.

Thanks to evreyone who’s dipped in, I hope you’ve enjoyed my walks diaries, especially those that have made comments / given feedback.



20110824_Sunset wander and photo experimentation.

20110824_Sunset wander and photo experimentation.

When : 24th August 2011.

Who : Me and my 15 y.o daughter Katie.

Where : Cawston (near Rugby).

If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

Summary : An evening wander  from our front door [hoping for a nice sunset over Lawford heath from the old Lias line railway track-bed] which turned into something just a little bit different.

20110824_cawston (Rugby) Sunset wander and photo experimentation.

20110824-14_Light-Trail Experiment_Green on Dark Green by gary.hadden

This is one of those short posts that really isn’t a country walk, but a bit of fun really … The evening looked like it could develop to have a nice sunset and I mentioned I might go out for a wander with my camera for company …. Then, low and behold, my daughter (who doesn’t “do walking”) said she’d come with me – Well you could have knocked me over with a feather, but readily agreed.

We set off on the estate’s perimeter paths, ending up joining the old and disused Lias Line (Rugby to Leamington) railway near Drummond Road. The railway has a path running along the old track bed which over the years has proven to be rather over-grown at this time of year, with bramble, briar rose and other scrub plants trying to bar the way. However, due to the sterling efforts of a small band of volunteers the path was easily passable, the undergrowth having been cut back considerably earlier in the year.

20110824-03_Evil Eyes - Cawston Sunset - Rugby by gary.haddenThe old Lias Line Railway is being transformed into a local nature reserve and is becoming known as Cawston Greenway. The volunteer group has obtained a little sponsorship and with advice from conservation groups are making clearings etc. to encourage a wider diversity of both flora and fauna … a fantastic effort that will be an asset to the whole local community (especially when Sustrans improve the section south of Potford’s Dam). The “Friends of Cawston Greenway” are easy to find on the internet and I believe the next round of work-days are soon to be started, now the bird nesting season is over for the year. I’m also sure they’d welcome any new-comers to the cause.

Anyway, as we walked northwards chatting, we soon reached a break in the trees giving a view over the farmland of Lawford Heath (out beyond the new Rugby Western Relief Road not more than a 20110824-04_Evil Eyes - Cawston Sunset - Rugby by gary.haddencouple of hundred yards away). We lingered here for a while, taking a few photo’s of the pretty but hardly spectacular sunset over to the west. The most remarkable thing was some breaks in the clouds that (with a little imagination) looked like angry devils eyes glowering down on the gloom covered landscape below.

Compared to some sunsets we sometimes get hereabouts, I was a tad disappointed with this evening’s offering, but despite this we moved on, further away from home, still on the greenway and soon reached a modern concrete 20110824-12_Light-Trail Experiment_Yellow on Blue + Beige by gary.haddenunderpass next to one of the old Victorian brick built bridges. The underpass takes the path below the Cawston link road out onto the relief road. It was here we climbed the quite steep bank to reach the road into the estate …. very quickly we reached a still unfinished traffic island with tall lamp-posts lighting up the gloom.

20110824-08_Light-Trail Experiment_Yellow on Green + Orange by gary.haddenA very poor photo, looking past these lights (low light + slow shutter speed x hand held camera = very shaky image) was instantly deleted. However, this gave me an idea for an experiment. I put the camera setting to B and kept scene on Sunset, then, whilst wiggling the camera about, I held the shutter release button down for several seconds giving a long exposure. Katie loved the resulting effect (I think her very words 20110824-09_Light-Trail Experiment_Pink on Blue + Purple by gary.haddenwere something like “Oh Wow, That’s Cool” or at least something very similar …. We then stood for some time playing, trying to get the best effects we could. Once it started to get properly dark (the sun had gone completely now, with just a faint glow in the distance), we headed home – just a few minutes away along the road.

20110824-13_Light-Trail Experiment_Pink on Purple + Brown by gary.hadden

20110824-10_Light-Trail Experiment_Pink on Purple + Orange by gary.haddenLater, myself and my 10-y.o. son Craig played around with the better of the images on the computer, enhancing/intensifying/distorting the photo’s to make some very colourful results; I quite like them, I hope you do to …. They are certainly a major departure from the landscapes I normally take, upload to flickr and attach in my blog.20110824-11_Light-Trail Experiment_Pink on Cerise by gary.hadden

Well, that’s that, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.


T.T.F.N. Gary.

20110819_A Sunset Walk Around Draycote Water

20110819_A Sunset Walk Around Draycote Water

When : 19th August 2011.

Who : Just Me

Where : Draycote Water (near Dunchurch).

Maps : 1:25000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry.

Start Point + End Point : SP469,709

Approx Distance : Just over 5 miles (8 km).

Heights : Pretty much flat, some extremely gentle undulations.

Parking : On street parking in Thurlaston (as prettily and as considerately to the local residents as possible).

If you click on a pic’  it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream, or if you don’t wont words, use this LINK for a slide show with some extra pic’s as a bit of a bonus.

Summary : An impromptu summertime evening walk around the local reservoir hoping to be rewarded with a half-decent sunset.

Route Map :

20110819_A Sunset Walk Around Draycote Water

20110819-23_Sunset reflections + Swans_Rainbow Corner_Draycote Water by gary.haddenThe night before had turned out to have a lovely pinky-orange gentle glow, just before dusk had taken over completely, and driving home from work I felt the skies promised something similar for this evening. Then, once our family dinner was served, eaten, and tied away I decided to get out and about hoping that a half decent repeat would happen again. I figured the angles might be about right to get some reflections across Draycote Water, although I set off more in hope than expectation that my plan might indeed come to fruition.

The car journey lasted all of five, well, maybe ten minutes, as I parked up next to the small church (near the windmill) in the village of Thurlaston. My plans had started to look a little dodgy as a shower had necessitated windscreen wipers as I pulled into the village and it was still spitting as I set off through a large gate to head down the slope ahead on a wide concrete drive. The sky didn’t look heavily laden with rain so I set off anyway and I was proven right as that was the last rainfall of the evening.

20110819-02_Toft Bay or Shallows_Draycote Water by gary.haddenAfter a couple of hundred yards at the bottom of the hill the path heads into a wooded area (just to the right of some large metal utility gates) and soon crosses a small footbridge and equally as soon, emerges out onto a tarmac’d roadway. This roadway is the perimeter drive that creates a full circuit of Draycote Water, which is by far the largest body of water for miles around and as such is a magnet for waterfowl of all sorts, including a large colony of gulls and various varieties of ducks, grebes, cormorants and other water loving birds. In turn, these attract birdwatchers and there is a bird hide near Toft Bay in the north-east corner of the reservoir. Also, fishermen, sailors and windsurfers use the water; there is a sailing club on the bank almost directly opposite where the path from Thurlaston meets the perimeter road.

I had a decision to make, not an easy one, but with only two options, so I had a fifty-fifty chance of getting it right … a) Turn right on the road to go around anti-clockwise or b) Turn left and head on the road in (you’ve guessed it) a clockwise direction. My difficulty was trying to predict how long any sunset would take to develop and then how long it might last for and where the best place would be to get the best reflections.

I decided to turn right and headed off lickety-split at a fair old pace but it didn’t take long for the clouds of midges to force me off the road and down to the water’s edge where there was a stronger breeze and fewer flying insects. Also, I was in luck in that the waters were quite low and a soft verge, almost like a sandy/muddy beach allowed me to walk around the lake shore with relative ease; occasionally I just had to be careful of the softest mud so that I didn’t start to sink!

20110819-04_Swans taking off_Dunns Bay_Draycote Water by gary.haddenI was generally heading into the sun as it sank towards the horizon, but as yet it hadn’t coloured up at all, but was quite dramatic with the broken clouds and light dancing on the reservoir’s waters lapping at the shore – almost completely monochrome. I particularly liked a small group of four swans at one small bay, and was lucky enough to see two of them sprint across the water before taking to the air as I approached. The other pair were quite happy to see me just walk by, maybe no more than ten feet away.

20110819-05_Swans_Dunns Bay_Draycote Water by gary.hadden

20110819-06_Draycote Water North Shore nr Valve Tower by gary.hadden

20110819-08_Valve Tower_Draycote Water by gary.haddenI now needed to return to the road, and got my head down to pick up the pace once more (staying aware of the handful of lone cyclists that passed me by in both directions) and soon arrived at the northern end of the western dam. This is marked by the valve tower sat in the reservoir and probably in very deep water and is linked to the dam via a walkway (no public access). Although utilitarian, the construction has some degree of design about it, and sort of reminds me of the old round cafe in the lower precinct in Coventry not far away. I think I like it, but I can’t quite put my finger on why, as I don’t generally appreciate “modern” building. I think having the glow of the low sun on the walls helped.

20110819-09_Draycote Bank (Dam)_Draycote Water by gary.haddenIn fact, the sunset had now started to colour up a little, and lit up the grassy banks of the dam’s slopes so that the dry grass almost glowed a rich yellowy colour. This counterpointed with the now two roadways disappearing into the distance in parallel lines converging at the horizon. I tried walking across the dam at a fast pace, but was continually slowed to view the ever changing light playing on the clouds with a small sliver of orange building on the horizon.

20110819-13_Warwickshire Sunset from Draycote Bank_Draycote Water by gary.hadden

20110819-10_Flock-Murder-Storytelling-Muster-Parcel or Horde of Crows by gary.haddenA heron kept flying out ahead of me down by the water’s edge, always just out of reach of my camera lens, so I switched focus onto a very large congregation of crows sat on the grassy slopes. I figured they’d maybe all fly off en-masse and hoped to get them silhouetted against the sky, but they didn’t really oblige, instead of flying upwards above the horizon they all stayed low so I didn’t quite get the result I’d hoped for. After that I did indeed pick up the pace and soon reached the southern end of the dam where the two roads merge back into one as they take a sharp turn eastwards.

20110819-16_Sunset reflections + Swans_Rainbow Corner_Draycote Water by gary.hadden

20110819-20_Sunset reflections + Angler_Rainbow Corner_Draycote Water by gary.haddenThis corner was populated with a smattering of fly fisherman, some out in small boats, others wading out to stand almost thigh deep in the water. The sunset had now intensified considerably and I lingered for some time trying to get some half decent images …. I’ll let you decide if you think they’re any good, but I like them so that’s probably all that matters really. 20110819-22_Sunset reflections + Swan_Rainbow Corner_Draycote Water by gary.haddenI can’t decide if I like the ones with the fishermen or the ones with the feeding swans best.

After a while the glow diminished and the gloom of dusk started to roll in – and I still had almost half of the circuit to complete! So once again I headed off at a good pace on the perimeter road, in fact I even broke into a run (not easy in hiking boots). This was not so much down to a sense of time, but because of the incredible clouds of midges, gnats and mosquitoes around here – Some of them were huge and I didn’t want to hang around with them buzzing around me, getting in ears and nostrils and potentially biting great chunks out of any exposed skin.

20110819-28_Yacht Masts_Sailing Club_Draycote Water by gary.haddenA slight rise brought me to the back of the sailing club, with a multitude of masts pointing skywards. I’ve tried numerous times to get a decent photo of yacht masts like this – there’s an good image there somewhere – but I always seem disappointed with my results – today was no different, and I’ve only kept one from about half-a-dozen this time round and I’m not really convinced by that one, but it helps tell the story of what the walk was like that evening.

20110819-30_Small fishing boats coming in at sunset_Draycote Water by gary.haddenLeaving the yacht club, I dropped down to the start of the eastern dam and almost as soon stopped again, this time to try and get some images of the motor boat marina and the fishermen returning from the far corner before night benighted them out on the water. I set off again across the dam, reaching the north eastern corner known as Toft Bay with the sun now gone completely. 20110819-31_Toft Bay or Toft Shallows at Dusk_Draycote Water by gary.haddenJust a soft blue glow and wispy (almost stormy looking) clouds allowing me to navigate along the road, but this was to almost disappear as I entered an area much more wooded. It was so gloomy that I walked straight past the set-back gate and path back up into Thurlaston and that was despite looking out for it. It only took a minute or two to realise I had started to reprise the outward part of the walk and soon back-tracked and rose up the concrete drive to the church and my parked car.

The whole walk had taken less than 2 hours, which given the time spent taking photo’s, I think is remarkable, showing that when I was moving I must have been moving quite rapidly. Perhaps I’m regaining a little of my old fitness levels? But there again, perhaps not! … to be really tested on the next walk planned, with The Midland Hill Walkers, in the Brecon Beacons on the following Sunday (diary and pic’s of that walk to follow at some point I’m sure).

Well, that’s that, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary.

20110529_Ashby St Ledgers – Braunston – Barby Circular Walk

20110529_Ashby St Ledgers – Braunston – Barby Circular Walk

20110529-21_Brick Bridge over Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenWhen : 29th May 2011

Who : Just Me

Where : Northamptonshire Villages near the Warwickshire Border, England.

Map Used : 1:25000 OS Explorer Map No. 222 Rugby & Daventry

Start and End Point : SP567,683

Approx Distance : 8 miles, (13 km)

Approx Heights climbed : 420 ft (about 130m) the longest “climb” from Braunston to Barby  being about 230 feet spread over about 2 miles.

Summary : A circular walk starting in the pretty village of Ashby St Ledgers; taking in a stretch of The Jurassic Way to Braunston; a short stretch of The Grand Union Canal; footpaths to the outskirts of Barby and then back to Ashby St Ledgers after a mini run-in with a herd of cows.

For larger views of a photo, please click on the pic’ & it should launch on my flickr pages.

20110529-01_Ashby St Ledgers - Thatched Terraced Cottages by gary.haddenIt’d been a reasonably nice day and, with the rest of the family working on homework, university-essays and the like and I felt at a bit of a loose end. So, I decided to head out for a bit of a walk, but somehow I just didn’t fancy covering the normal local paths around the Cawston area where we live. So, I took the quick and easy option and flicked through one of my books of local walks and rapidly settled on one based on the villages of Ashby St Ledgers and Braunston. I’ve known these places for quite some time now and I like them both. Although they’re only separated by a couple of miles they have completely different characters.

 It was a bit of a dash to get ready as time was pressing on and it was approaching half-past-three by the time I’d parked up on Main Street, not far from The Olde Coach House Inn in the small village of Ashby St Ledgers. This is a very pretty little place with mellow stone thatched cottages but with a very big historical story to tell, but more of that later. 

20110529-02_Jurassic Way Signage near Ashby St Ledgers by gary.haddenTo start with, the walk headed out of the village on Main Street in a roughly westerly direction. This was pleasant enough as it’s a quiet lane, but soon reached the A361 road. This fast road had to be crossed (carefully!) to get to a bridle track on the other side. This was very well signed as part of The Jurassic Way, and the wide path headed off up the rise, in a roughly south westerly direction, sandwiched between a crop of oil seed rape and a sizeable hedge. The rape field was really quite large and must have been a stunning sight when in full bloom, but now the yellow flowers had given way to boring seed pods, now leaving just the odd splash of colour in an otherwise uniform sea of green. 

20110529-04_Oil seed rape-lonely flower in a sea of seed-pods by gary.hadden

20110529-05_Cows-Jurassic Way near Ashby St Ledgers by gary.hadden

Cresting the rise brought me into a buttercup strewn pasture field, with a herd of cattle that weren’t in the least bit interested in me, apart from a turn of their heads, as I passed by – just the way I like it, and soon after I emerged onto a minor road. A right turn was needed to walk along the road for a very short distance before turning left onto another track, now heading steadily downhill. 

20110529-08_Jurassic way long straight byway nr Braunston by gary.haddenThe way ahead has a designation of “Byway” on my map. This means that not only walkers, cyclists and horse-riders can use the right of way but it’s also open to all traffic. Not that I saw anything other than another gent’ walking his dog, the first person I’d seen since passing the pub in Ashby. To start with there were some half decent views, including Braunston’s Church steeple and its more diminutive neighbour, a windmill tower (minus sails). The broad Byway is about a mile long and is pretty much completely straight, apart from one small dog leg, and is bounded by high hedges, meaning that as I lost height the views diminished as well. This meant looking for interest at closer quarters and I was rewarded by a selection of hedgerow flowers including some lovely wild dog rose.

20110529-09_Pathside wild rose - Jurassic Way by gary.hadden 

20110529-07_Odd Face drawing-Sign on Jurassic Way by gary.haddenOne thing that bemused me along the track was a rather odd portrait picture that had been attached to a sign post. The stylised black and white line drawing seemed to have a theatrical feel, obviously of a male face, looking skyward with a rather scared expression; quite odd in its own right but even more so for it being stuck in the middle of a farmland track where few people would ever see it. 

As the track rose again, towards Braunston, occasional gaps in the hedges afforded some nice views across the local gentle countryside with lots of subtle shades of green. Just the other day, my son asked what my favourite colour is; Easy answer for football shirts = sky-blue … but in general I might just have to choose green, I love the different shades to be seen in our English countryside. Having said that, when taking photo’s I love having a splodge of bright red; I think poppies are simply stunning or maybe a person’s red shirt or shiny cagoule does the trick. So maybe my son’s question is really answerable in one non-committal reply of “it all depends”. 

Continuing on, the track reached the outskirts of Braunston to become a minor road with houses on both sides; one or two with some super displays of bedding plants. After a while this road dropped to reach the main part of the village near The Wheatsheaf pub. My guide book suggests walking straight through the long village on the road, but I wanted to drop down to The Grand Union Canal; so I turned left, passed the village hall and village green and found my way into Braunston Jetty Field via a pathway.

20110529-15_Grand Union Canal Lock - Braunston by gary.haddenBraunston Jetty Field is a sort of nature reserve cum village facility with a spinney, garden, allotments, wildlife area and main field with medieval farming ridge and furrows. There are a number of paths across the field that I took to drop down to the canal at bridge no.2 and a group of buildings including Braunston Dry Dock. Also here was a shop on the far side of a sizeable lock, wide enough to take two narrow boats. 

20110529-16_Grand Union Canal Lockside Buildings - Braunston by gary.hadden

I20110529-18_Industrial Heritage - Grand Union Canal side in Braunston by gary.hadden bought an ice cream from the shop and spent some time watching various boats negotiating the lock. It’s quite amazing that the lock dates back at least to 1877 (per a plaque on the lock wall). Even assuming there will have been maintenance work done over the years, I find it amazing that the lock’s operation hasn’t changed in well over a hundred years and not been replaced by more sophisticated modern technology; a fantastic piece of Victorian invention and investment. 

Moving off down the canal towpath (westwards) soon brought me along side more canal side industrialisation. I assume the building with a tall chimney was some kind of pump house or similar. Continuing down the towpath took me past more narrow boats and I soon reached an attractive iron arched bridge crossing the entrance to the large and very well used Braunston Marina. The sign saying “Braunston 0 miles” made me smile as that seemed to be stating the plainly obvious. The next building over the bridge is “The Stop House”, which was originally constructed in 1796 and was used for the collection of tolls and registration of passing craft between The Oxford and Grand Junction Canals up to the end of the 19th Century. 

20110529-23_Braunston Marina Iron Bridge by gary.hadden   20110529-24_The Stop House Grand Union Canal Braunston by gary.hadden

20110529-27_Church Boundary Chain - Braunston by gary.haddenContinuing on, the canal passes under the A45, and this is where I left the towpath crossed the bridge and then headed up a grassy field towards the Church emerging onto a road at the bottom end of Braunston Village. From here I took a side road around the back of the church yard (bounded by a decorative metal chain) and the neighbouring old windmill. Continuing on I then took another side road into a modern housing estate and followed this round until I reached yet another side road (a short close called simply “Countryside”.

20110529-29_Flower Meadow - Braunston by gary.haddenAt the end of this dead-end, I then headed north on a footpath crossing pleasant countryside; at first across a field covered in a yellow sheen of buttercups. There now followed a series of fields, the route rising steadily and crossing stiles of varying degrees of difficulty – One in particular was really quite awkward, not so much the stile itself but the metal bar immediately afterwards, stretched between two fence posts at a very difficult height. After just over a mile I reached Braunston Fields (Farm) where the path took a slight dog-leg to the left to drop into a small valley.

20110529-31_Braunston Fields Farm nr Braunston Cleves by gary.hadden

20110529-32_Disappearing Fox - Braunston Fields by gary.haddenI’d just passed over into the next field when a large fox appeared out of the hedge on the left, about 50 feet ahead of me. We both froze and looked at each other and I very slowly started to raise my camera … the fox was having none of that and turned tail and shot back into the undergrowth … all I managed to 20110529-33_Disappearing Path - head for the tree by gary.haddencapture was it’s hind flanks and tail as it disappeared, never to be seen again. Soon after, at the corner of Tiltup’s Wood, I actually had to think about my map reading, the path having disappeared in a field of long grass; I even made a compass bearing to confirm my direction … Just to the side of a prominent tree on the rise ahead. 

20110529-35_Cracks in Crop field by gary.haddenThe next field showed how dry the spring of 2011 had been, with cracks in the hard ground easily large enough to slip my whole hand into. The dryness did make walking across the crop easy though and I’d soon braved an old sign warning of a bull (none was seen) before rising through a small wood (Camps Copse) to meet a minor road just to the south of Barby. A little bit of road walking was now required starting with the final rise to a cross-roads just outside Barby, reached just after a view of an old windmill (looking like a twin 20110529-38_Old Windmill Barby - From Longdown Lane by gary.haddenof the one in Braunston). 

This was now the highest point of the walk since leaving Braunston (a heady 168 feet above sea level). This was not quite the highest spot of the whole round which was just over 170 feet shortly after leaving Ashby. My route headed straight over the cross roads and took the road ahead for maybe another half-a-mile before branching right on a footpath across a field and then down the side of Home Wood. The path took a right turn where this wood meets Briccle Wood. I was disappointed that there was no view of the reservoir just off to my right. 

After a short distance of running parallel to the reservoir dam, I crossed into a corner of a field, and as I struggled to close the heavy gate (I’d not seen the stile in the corner) I was confronted by a large group of boisterous and overly inquisitive cattle. As I man handled the gate shut they 20110529-39_Very boisterous cattle - Briccle Woods nr Barby by gary.haddenencroached too rapidly for my liking and by the time I’d made fast the gate the group was rapidly being swelled by even more of the bovine creatures at quite a trot! I didn’t fancy being trapped by the herd and started to feel quite nervous as two or three of the animals seemed quite aggressive and I had to rapidly do a bit of map reading to work out how to accurately extricate myself from the awkwardly shaped field corner. It took some waving of arms and occasional shouting to keep the cattle a few feet away from me as I followed the field edge around to the right and I felt quite relieved when I got into the next field.

20110529-40_Pond - Near Ashby St Ledgers by gary.haddenI’d become just a little disorientated in the rush and I now took a little more time to take a bearing and confirm that I was indeed heading in the right direction (more or less south now), before rising up over a rise ahead, past a bit more woodland and then down to another stand of trees (hiding a large pond) and then rising once again across the field ahead. Another bearing helped with the accuracy of direction finding, leading me up to pass close by an attractive pond.

It was here that I saw the first person since leaving Braunston (apart from a cricket match near the Barby crossroads). Soon after I reached the A361 and carefully crossed for the 2nd time in the day. 20110529-42_Barbed Wire + Wool by gary.haddenThe walk was now nearly over, Ashby being just two fields away. However, I followed a footpath running parallel to the village to emerge on a minor road near the very impressive Manor House. This is where the gunpowder plotters of Catesby, Fawkes and co. met to plan their audacious bid to blow up The Houses of Parliament; quite amazing that such a huge story emanates from so small a village.

20110529-43_Manor House Ashby St Ledgers by gary.hadden   20110529-44_Manor House Ashby St Ledgers by gary.hadden

20110529-46_Manor House Ashby St Ledgers by gary.hadden

From the manor all that was needed was to follow the lane round to the right and the wander through the pretty village passing thatched stone built houses and the village hall bedecked in union flag bunting, to reach my parked car. And so ended a local walk with some history (both industrial and political), pleasant countryside with some nice views over gentle mixed use farmland and taking in a couple of pretty villages. 

20110529-47_Cottage - Ashby St Ledgers by gary.hadden    20110529-48_Union Flag Bunting_Ashby St Ledgers Village Hall by gary.hadden

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and pics….

T.T.F.N. Gary.