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 :
The 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.
After 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!
I 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.
I 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.
In 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.
A 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.
This 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. I 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.
A 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.
Leaving 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. Just 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.