20120421_Cawston Woods Bluebells Walk (Well more of a wander)

20120421_Cawston Woods Bluebells Walk (Well more of a wander)

When : 21st April 2012

Who : Me and my kids

20120421_Cawston Woods Bluebell WalkWhere : Cawston Woods, Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

General Grid Ref. : SP 47,72

Distance : Approx 2.5 miles (4 km) – But not really important

Significant heights : None

Maps : 1:25,000 Explorer Map No. 222 Rugby + Daventry

Summary : A gentle lunch time wander in our local woods to see the bluebells.

20120421-01_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

If you’d like to see a larger copy of a pic’ left click on the image and it should launch as on my flickr photostream.

20120421-09_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

Very short diary entry this one, just to show that you often don’t have to travel very far to find a place for a pleasant wander. I count myself fortunate to have Cawston Woods on our proverbial doorstep … It’s hard to remember just how nice early spring was this year, the memories being pretty much wiped out by the cool, damp, grey rotten summer of 2012. But there were a few weeks of very dry, unseasonably warm weather.

20120421-04_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden       20120421-07_Down the Path through Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

Heading into the winter (I’m writing this in late October) with the first frosts already upon us (even snow up-north this week) it’s good to look back and remind ones-self that without the long dark cold months of winter we wouldn’t get and certainly wouldn’t appreciate the spring’s arrival. So here are a few pic’s of this year’s “crop” of bluebells – A flower along with daff’s and snowdrops that will always lift the spirits.

20120421-06_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

20120421-08_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

Bluebells never flower for long, only a couple of short weeks if you’re lucky I suppose, and as it happens we were possibly a few days off their optimum of showiness – but hey, who cares, the three of us had a really good hour or so having a bit of a wander, a chat and a laugh – Important to do if you can in our modern hustle and bustle, fast, noisy and at times very stressful lives.

20120421-05_Bluebells in Cawston Woods - Rugby by gary.hadden

Anyway, that’s it, short and sweet but I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

T.T.F.N. Gary.

20120102_Coombe Abbey Winter Walk

20120102_Coombe Abbey Winter Walk

When : 2nd January 2012

Who : Me and my family

Where : Coombe Abbey Country Park (off the B4027), Warwickshire, England (near Coventry/Rugby)

Start and End Point : SP 404,797

Distance : Approx 2.5 miles (Distance = Not important for this diary)

Significant heights : None – Very gentle gradients

Maps : We didn’t need to use one for this gentle wander, but if you are interested :- The country park straddles two OS 1:25000 Outdoor leisure maps:- The car-park is on the western edge of sheet 222 Rugby & Daventry (GR. SP40,79). The majority of the lake-side/woodland path (Coombe Pool/Wrautum) is at the eastern side of sheet 221 Coventry and Warwick (GR. SP39,79) but if you’re not going beyond the park you really don’t need a map!

Summary : A gentle wander around the premier country park in the Coventry & Rugby area to take some blow away some winter holiday cobwebs.

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

20120102_Coombe Abbey Country Park Winter WalkAs I’ve been coming here since I was a boy in short trousers, I could write a very short diary post along the lines of :- We went to Coombe Park, walked around the perimeter path – this time in a clockwise direction and then went home again, and I could add a couple of photo’s. For everyone that knows Coombe well that would probably be sufficient, but maybe you’ve never been here before and that would be quite unrewarding. So, I’ve tried to look back and see the park with fresh eyes (easier said than done) and write a diary with a degree more description.

The last diary I wrote was about a Coombe Park wander in the middle of summer – So as a bit of a contrast, this was some 7 months earlier, in the depths of an English winter. We always try to get a breath of fresh air as a family during the Christmas/New Year break and this year was no different other than it was only a few weeks since having key-hole surgery, so I wasn’t moving very easily! and certainly not very quickly!! And in a certain amount of pain!!!

Places we’ve been to over the years have included Daventry Reservoir Country Park, Draycote Water/Thurlaston, Ryton Pools Country Park or just on footpaths local to home around Cawston & Dunchurch … but this year we chose Coombe Park simply because it’d been a while since we’d been there.

Anyway, the kid’s were persuaded to come along (it took a bit of cajoling, especially daughter, but not too much as she’s quite OK with woodland wanders) and we soon f20120102-19_Coombe Abbey_Pigeons by gary.haddenound ourselves parked up, paid at the pay-and-display machine and walking down the gentle slope of the main path, dropping down towards the lake after passing the ugly visitor centre building and busy playground area (for smaller kiddies). At the bottom of the wide surfaced path there is a short causeway that separates the large informal lake, known as Coombe Pool from a formal rectangular stretch of water leading up to the impressive facade of the Coombe Abbey Hotel.

We hadn’t taken anything for the water-fowl (Swans, Geese, Ducks, Gulls, etc.) that congregate here in large numbers for an easy meal, but there were so many people with bags of bread the birds were never going to starve! … So, we dodged in and out of the crowd of kids, grownups, bicycles, tricycles, push-chairs, scooters hand-bags and various other assorted detritus that attaches itself to human kind and crossed the causeway straight away. We had the choice of heading into the woods (over an arched footbridge spanning the Smite Brook, off to the left), up into the giant red-woods (straight on alongside the Smite Brook) or turning right alongside the formal pool and lawns up towards the Abbey.

The route we chose on this occasion was across the bridge, over the brook and into the woods, where we followed the obvious lakeside path (lake on our left) ignoring any paths branching off to the right towards Wrautums Field. There were several other like-minded families on the path too, but the throng of earlier soon dissipated and the noise levels rapidly decreased leaving us in the quiet of the trees; the cold air and proximity of the lake helping to mute the atmosphere even further. We weren’t moving particularly quickly as we chatted, laughed and sang songs (well the others did the singing, not so much me!).

I seem to remember being the butt of many a joke, primarily about the “old man” not being able to walk very well, especially as I was using two walking poles on such easy terrain: So much for any sympathy after the double op’ on my knees just a few weeks earlier. My family would probably deny anything of the sort, but my heart was deeply wounded and it is now engraved with their unfeeling mirth at my expense! (no, not really, I took it all in my stride, albeit a rather shortened stride). 20120102-03b_Blue Tit at Coombe Abbey (Heavy Crop) by gary.haddenMy knees were quite happy when we reached the bird hide by the lakeside as it allowed me to sit down and rest my rather sore joints.

Unlike my usual self, I hadn’t taken a single photo up to here, a combination of keeping moving to prevent my knees from seizing up in the cold and just enjoying our chat and banter. The bird hide did allow me to break out my camera though, in an attempt to capture some of the small birds flitting about on the nearby feeders and undergrowth. They were all a bit far away though for my 18-55 camera lens; even at its longest zoom and 20120102-04b_Chaffinch at Coombe Abbey (Heavy Crop) by gary.haddencropped in on the computer later, the little birds kind of disappear into the back-ground. One day maybe I’ll be able to afford a longer zoom and so be able to do better; perhaps I’ll even be able to attempt to capture a decent image of the herons on the heronry island nearby – certainly I can’t think about that with my current equipment though!

After a while, we decided to move on, and I hobbled back out onto the woodland path (I had seized up a tad as feared earlier). At this point the lakeside has to be left behind, as a fence prevents any further progress along the waterside. The path is still 20120102-08_Coombe Abbey_Perimeter Trees in Silhouette by gary.haddenpleasant though, heading directly away from the lake still in woodland and soon reaches the edge of farmland. The view out over the fields is unspectacular but does give an unusual perspective of the huge hospital on the outskirts of Coventry. At this point there is a line of conifer trees (Scots Pine perhaps?) along the park’s boundary and these always look interesting and today they were silhouetted against a bright blue sky – nice. The path at this point is at the far outer limits of the park and as it swings around to the right it heads back towards our starting point.

The woods are mixed coniferous and broad leaved deciduous trees with a good variety of types, a high percentage being indigenous, so excellent for wildlife – I’m no expert but according to one web siteI’ve found, there are over 50 species (excluding the gardens) including the obvious types most of us could name : There are Sycamore, Willow, Oak, Scot’s Pine, Silver birch, Ash, Lime, Hornbeam, etc.

20120102-09_Coombe Abbey_Long Shadows Through the Trees by gary.haddenWhatever their type, the low sun through the trees was making long shadows across the leaf-litter, strewn thickly on the floor. Even this far into the winter I really liked the colours on the ground, the muted colours were quite beautiful in their own way; it was almost hard to imagine the vibrant greens of the fully clad trees just a few months earlier. From the perimeter path at various points you can branch off to the right through the trees and find yourself in the huge central field (Wrautums 20120102-10_Coombe Abbey_On The Perimeter Path by gary.haddenField) – This is used by families for kite flying, picnics, ball games, Frisbee-ing, etc., etc., etc. but as a walk I find it a tad uninspiring compared to the woodland path which we stayed on for some time. However, we did eventually head “off-path” through the trees to reach the older kids adventure playground where Craig dashed off for some clambering about up in the air. In contrast, Daughter and Wife found a convenient log to sit and “play” on their mobile devices – They apparently had no difficulty finding a signal.

20120102-13_Coombe Abbey_Top Pool by gary.haddenAfter ten or fifteen minutes, those of us on the ground were getting rather cold, so son was summoned back to us and we moved off on an obvious path, to return to the main perimeter path passing over The Smite Brook en-route. We rejoined the main path at a smaller pool (Top Pool) and today it reflected the pristine blue sky above us perfectly. Once upon a time, this was the kiddies boating pond, with peddle boats and other craft, but this is now long gone. The foundations of a more recent toilet block and ice cream vendor that used to be here are still visible but the building is also now gone, although I believe there are plans to rebuild at some point in the future.

20120102-14_Coombe Abbey_The Arboretum by gary.hadden

20120102-15_Coombe Abbey_Giant Red Wood by gary.haddenBack on the main path, well it’s more of a drive/roadway here, we moved on and soon came to a parting of ways. Straight on would bring us to a large lawn and close to The Hotel, Abbey buildings. Right would pick up the side of The Smite Brook and back to the main pool. Which way to go ? Decision made, we choose straight on, ignoring the right had path. The surroundings here are less rough woodland and much more manicured parkland of a fairly typical “Capability Brown” landscape (he had a hand in laying out the grounds). Open grassland is planted with a multitude of specimen trees forming a small arboretum, including a raised are area planted with Giant Redwoods. These have been here for many years and I still enjoy heading up the banks to wander in amongst the impressive trunks, just like I did as a child. There’s something extra special about these trees somehow, tall, broad and both attractive to look at and to touch; the bark is almost soft and furry, very tactile and the opposite of their branches, needles and cones.

20120102-16_Coombe Abbey_Sun Terrace by gary.haddenAnyway, after dropping back off the raised bank, we crossed over the large picnic lawn, mown in traditional stripes, and with signs saying “no ball games” to reach the flagged paths adjacent to the old Abbey building. Once upon a time the public were allowed onto the sun terrace, but today it’s reserved for hotel guests only, and has been “dressed” with outdoor tables and chairs; this is a favourite with wedding parties but today no-one from the hotel was around, so I tried capturing the slightly moody feel of the long shadows and silhouetted furniture – I quite liked one of my attempts.

The gardens here are much more formal with stone steps, statues, and clipped hedges, all to the backdrop of a formal rectangular pool merging into the moat, tall trees and of course The Abbey itself. It almost feels like a different park here, a transformation from the informality of the main lake and almost wild woods not long since left behind. Just don’t look too hard here as the fabric of some of the stonework etc. is in need of repair and a little loving care (time and money I guess is in short supply). Our circular walk was nearly over; a short distance down the side of the formal pool brought us back to the causeway and the main Coombe Pool.

Just as an aside, like the small pool seen earlier, once upon a time this lake was also a boating pool, with adult sized rowing boats (the heavy wooden types) which were available to hire and I seem to remember a larger “cruise” boat that went out under power for a more leisurely circumnavigation of the pool. It couldn’t be done now with the encroachment of overhanging trees and various branches sticking up out of the obviously shallow20120102-20_Coombe Abbey_Pigeons_Wink-Blink-or just Nodding off by gary.haddenwaters.

There were far fewer people around now and this allowed me to stand a few moments and take some photo’s of a pair of common pigeons stood atop of the balustrade. They allowed me to get rather close and it’s surprising just how intricate and colourful their plumage is – the purples and greens shone iridescent in the weak afternoon sun.

20120102-21_Coombe Abbey_Visitor Centre Pillars_Brick Textures by gary.haddenFrom here, the wide surfaced path led us back up the slope to the visitor centre where my final shot was of the brick pillars at the front entrance. I was trying to capture the warm glow and texture of the orange brick-work, excluding anything else – A very bright colourful monochrome picture.

And that was that, walk over!, a pleasant couple of hours spent with my family the only downside was my now rather sore knees telling me they’d had enough and could they go home to the warm please?

Oh, and I haven’t really touched on everything, I’ll leave you to discover:

  • The huge tree stump carvings of a monk, a falcon and others;
  • The spring flower meadow walk, not long since developed;
  • The remains of the deer fences (just a few posts remain rusting away);
  • The side path that loops around a wet marshy woodland area (near Top Pool);
  • Donkey rides (at peak times);
  • And a small patch of ground near The Abbey with a collection of tiny gravestones;
  • And finally, if you’re feeling rich, you could ignore the park cafe and partake of refreshments in the Abbey Hotel itself and so get a glimpse inside of this unique hotel .. or if you are feeling even more flush actually stay here overnight – its rather nice!!!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

T.T.F.N. Gary.

Have people stopped walking now autumn’s arrived

Rough guide I know, but every month this year so far I’ve had 1000+ hits on my blog – but this month that record is looking under threat – total for 2/3rds of the month = 586 hits … and that equates to just under 900 by the end of the month —- Boooo Hisss Boooo —- Has everyone stopped country walking ? are they not looking for places to go ? and this time of year (despite our awful weather this year) can be so rewarding with all the autumn colours looking great in the sun (when it decides to make an appearance !!!) …. Hope those of you who’ve dipped in have enjoyed my scribblings and pic’s. TTFN … LOL … G.

20120711_Coombe Abbey Photo Wander Walk

20120711_Coombe Abbey Photo Wander Walk

When : 11th July 2012

Who : Just Me and my camera + tripod

Where : Coombe Abbey Country Park (off the B4027), Warwickshire, England (near Coventry/Rugby)

20120711-16_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.haddenStart and End Point : SP 404,797

Distance : Approx 2 miles (Distance = Not important for this diary)

Significant heights : None – Very gentle gradients

Summary : A gentle wander around the premier country park in the Coventry & Rugby area to take some photo’s in the evening sunshine and incoming stormy weather.

Maps : I didn’t need to use one for this gentle wander, but if you are interested :- The country park straddles two OS 1:25000 Outdoor leisure maps:- The car-park is on the western edge of sheet 222 Rugby & Daventry (GR. SP40,79). The majority of the lake-side/woodland path (Coombe Pool/Wrautum) is at the eastern side of sheet 221 Coventry and Warwick (GR. SP39,79) but if you’re not going beyond the park you really don’t need a map!

20120711_Coombe Abbey Photo Wander Walk

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

This is an unashamed excuse to show off some of my fave pic’s of 2012 under the guise of a Country Walk Diary Blog, but really it’s a Country Park Wander and even then I didn’t try to walk around the whole perimeter path alongside Coombe Pool and out through the woodlands of Little Wrautum.

20120711-05_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

It’s strange looking back [writing this diary in the middle of October], but if you’d asked me I’d have said the 11th would have been a Friday; but it was in fact a Wednesday. Why the confusion in my mind? (apart from early onset age related memory deterioration); Well I’d dropped my lovely talented cello playing daughter off at a C.Y.O. rehearsal – and these nearly always happen on a Friday – So looking back it’s a bit of an oddity why this was on a Wednesday … having said that it doesn’t matter one iota for this diary other to say I had a couple of hours to “kill”…. Oh and the reason, there was a big 50th Anniversary concert of The Coventry Youth Orchestra the following Sunday and the Wednesday rehearsal was an extra practice added in just before it.

Therefore, having a little time to myself, I decided to head out to Coombe Park to “play” at taking some photo’s. I was going to attempt to take my time over what I was doing – Normally on a country walk, I’ve got to see the image, compose, take and move on again in quite quick time, especially if I’m walking with someone else, but also as any country walk has some time pressures associated with it.

So, I was spoiling myself this time round …. I arrived at the car-park about 7:30 pm (after picking up a coffee at a local Macky-Ds en-route), paid my parking fee in 20120711-02_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.haddenthe pay-and-display machine and moved off towards the large and rather incongruous (pretty ugly really) visitor centre building; but I veered off to the left into the long lines of conker trees forming one side of the impressive main entrance avenue. My idea was to try and get the tree trunks stacked up behind each other, but I think I really needed a longer lens to do exactly what I wanted – still I liked a couple of 20120711-03_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.haddenthe images here, helped by the low sun, long shadows and angry looking clouds –enhancing the natural warm colours, high contrast and silver linings – it promised lots for the park proper – I was quite excited by the prospect !

Anyway, I returned to the carbuncle of the visitor centre (if I’m giving the impression that I don’t like it – well you’re right, I think it’s completely out of keeping with the landscape in both scale and architecture). I’ve digressed, I didn’t bother with any pic’s here instead walking straight past to pick up the main wide path down a gentle slope to reach a causeway. This separates the informal lake, known as Coombe Pool from the formal rectangular stretch of water leading up to the impressive facade of the Coombe Abbey Hotel.

20120711-07_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

This causeway is a relatively modern addition to the park, allowing access into the wooded parkland, however, in my childhood the Abbey building was semi-derelict and prior to the hotel taking it over, it was the main access into a fantastic playground area – it was always an exciting trip, crossing the stone bridge over the moat taking us into a different world. Even back then, the formal pool was always separated from the main lake by an ornate balustrade with shapely stone pillars and today this still borders one side of the “new” causeway.

20120711-08a_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

The view from the causeway up to the Abbey Hotel is always impressive, but this evening it was quite stunning; I was so very fortunate in that the sun picked out the warm stone of the building and produced a fantastic reflection in the formal pool and even better a lone goose decided to swim into picture adding even more interest – Brill’, loved it. That memory will last in my mind for a very long time – I’ll probably never see it quite like this again!

20120711-08b_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park - Copy by gary.hadden

Moving on, I had the choice of heading into the woods (over an arched footbridge, off to the left), up into the giant red-woods (straight on alongside the 20120711-09_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.haddenSmite Brook) or turning right alongside the formal pool and lawns up towards the Abbey. The more formal route won the vote and I was rewarded with some very nice photo-opportunities, including a small gaggle of geese, reflections, statues (I like the dual gryphon type characters) and highlights on the trees and shrubs both formally clipped and left to grow au-naturelle all backed by dark steely coloured storm clouds.

20120711-10_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden  20120711-12b_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-14_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden  20120711-15_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

It got even better as I headed up onto the large lawn as a faint rainbow began to develop behind the sun lit house. Unfortunately it didn’t grow into anything more than a faint glow against the clouds but I really like my set of images of the building, the long shadows, stripes on the lawn and heavy contrasts creating images which I think have a degree of drama and movement even though everything was in fact physically very static. I’ll let you decide for yourself, but what-ever you think I like them!

20120711-17_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-19_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-20_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-22_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-24_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden     20120711-25_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

Well that was the last I saw of the direct bright sunshine, as soon after, it started to drop behind the woods; this changed the light completely, everything became softer and flatter, so I changed tack and headed up into the redwoods for some experimentation pic’s – which turned out a tad disappointing, just ending up with one image I liked enough to keep; the heavily textured tree trunks one behind the other sort of mirroring what I’d tried to do with the conker trees when I first arrived. 20120711-27_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.haddenA little further on (near the old small boating pool, called Top Pool), I did meet a rather cute family of swans and the parent although a little wary seemed quite happy to lead the fluffy cygnets close enough for me to get some pic’s; maybe they’re a little clichéd, but hey, “cute” is a cliché in its own class, there must be a whole industry based around cute fluffy cuddly creatures! Unfortunately I had nothing to feed them as a thank-you, which I’m sure is what brought them up to me in the first place. I left happy that the adult bird hadn’t taken a dislike to me – Swans can be violent especially protecting their young.

20120711-26_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

After a brief flirtation with the woods bounding the large Wrautums Field, I returned to the main Coombe Pool, (crossing back to the causeway via the arched footbridge) where the light gave me a different looking couple of images and then it was back to the car to ensure I was on the way out before the gates were closed and trapped me in.

20120711-28b_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-31_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

I thought that-was-that as I started the drive up the main access drive running through the middle of the conker tree avenue. As I did so, the sky suddenly changed colour, an almost eerie glow rapidly developed and a double rainbow emerged directly in front of me over Brandon woods. I quickly pulled in, grabbed my camera and managed to get a few pic’s looking along the 12-O’clock Ride (bridle track). Looking at the clouds, I was very fortunate not to have got wet during the evening; but the rain had held off and I reluctantly had to move off again thinking that was the end of my evening photo trip.

20120711-33_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-34_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-35_Evening Images of Coombe Country Park by gary.hadden

20120711-37_Sunset over Coventry by gary.hadden

20120711-38_Reflected Glory - Distorted Sunset in windows by gary.haddenI was wrong though, by the time I’d reached the school where my daughter was rehearsing, the sky was lit up with a lovely fiery sunset – I especially like its reflection in a set of school windows, the glass distorting the colours in quite an attractive way. …. and then, all of a sudden,  it was  gone ! and night drew in …. What a stunning end to the day; a super evening alone with my Pentax K200D.

And the final word – The CYO anniversary concert was absolutely superb too.

Well, 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

20120908-15_Red Admiral Butterfly in Flight + Clouds

Red Admiral Butterfly in Flight + Clouds. This was quite interesting in that I was trying to capture the pink stems against the wispy swirly clouds and vivid blue sky – Only when I got home did I realise I’d got the butterfly in the image which I think works quite nicely.

Taken from the tow path of The Grand Union Canal at Hatton Locks.


For some words to go with my pics please visit my walks diary at : – tothehills.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/20120908_hatton-locks… …. Cheers, Gary

Hatton Locks Walk Diary Post – Photo’s now added

Hatton Locks Walk Diary Post – Photo’s now added

At last – I’ve finally got around to loading my set of pic’s on Flickr, and then post into my previous diary post (Hatton Locks Circular Walk) ….

20120908-07_Warwickshire Farmland - Wheat Field - Close Focus by gary.hadden

To do this I have to upload each individual image as a separate blog post, then copy, paste into my main diary blog post, then go back and delete the original blog pic ….

This takes a bit of time, so I have an apology to the kind people who have commented or liked my photo’s during this process; Most notably Freebirdmani … thanks for all your comments, I’m honoured you like my stuff, especially when compared to your stunning images.


20120908_Hatton Locks Circular Walk (Warwick)

20120908_Hatton Locks Circular Walk (Warwick)

When : 8th September 2012

Who : Me and my wife Justine

Where : Hatton Locks near Warwick, Warwickshire, England.

Maps used : OS 1:25000 Outdoor leisure map no.221 Coventry & Warwick

20120908-16_Narrow Boat - Hatton Locks by gary.haddenStart and End Point : SP243,669

Distance : Approx 9.7 km (6 miles)

Significant heights : Nothing to speak of really, but approx 40m (130ft) from bottom lock to top lock and all on a well surfaced tow path spread over approx 1.5 miles.

Summary : A lovely gentle late summer / early autumn walk with my lovely wife  starting and finishing just off the A4177 at Hatton flight of locks on The Grand Union Canal, taking in a loop of Warwickshire farmland to the west of the county town of Warwick

If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream  … Or use THIS LINK to see just the pic’s and a few more as well.

Ermmm, how to start this diary entry ? … well, it was a Saturday morning; daughter was to be dropped off at her place of work in Rugby and son was going to be spending most of the day at singing rehearsals with The Warwickshire County Choristers / Boys Choir at a school in Warwick. This left me and my wife Justine with several hours together all on our own before 20120908_Hatton Locks Circular Walk - Warwickhaving to collect our son mid-afternoon … This just doesn’t happen very often, so after a quick discussion and a glance over the map, I picked out a circular route based on the superb flight of locks near Warwick on The Grand Union Canal at Hatton, figuring the local Pub would make for a good lunching place.

At the risk of boring you with our driving route on roads around various Warwickshire towns and villages (including Rugby, Bilton, Princethorpe, Western-Under-Wetherley, Royal Leamington Spa, and Warwick itself) we ended up heading out of Warwick on the A425 in a pretty much westerly direction, now minus our two children and with the prospects of a nice gentle country walk ahead of us. The A425 led us to a large island junction with The A45 Warwick Bypass where we picked up the A4177 which runs pretty much parallel to the canal, to turn off into a sign-posted side road near the top of the rise at 20120908-22_Dragon Fly Sculpture Hatton Locks by gary.haddenHatton, [if you pass the nearby Hatton Arms pub, you’ve gone too far and will need to turn around]. The side road is not very large, more of a drive really but leads to a small pay and display car-park by the canal side along with a collection of buildings occupied by some small businesses/workshops. We parked facing a small balancing pond, with a rather attractive large dragonfly sculpture positioned in the middle.

It was a lovely morning, with a fantastic forecast, so we were able to travel light with just the one rucksack between us, and that was just for some water and a small 1st aid kit (and a few nibbles). I’ll let you guess who carried it – you want a clue or two? : Well, it wasn’t the female one of us and was the least good looking of us!

The obvious route would be to head straight down to the tow path, but our chosen route was away from the canal back up the driveway road 20120908-23_The Hatton Arms (was The Waterman) near Warwick by gary.hadden(not very imaginatively, but very accurately named Canal Road) and onto the main road A4177 where we turned left and walked up hill, passing The Hatton Arms (used to be called The Waterman) after crossing to the opposite side of the road en-route. We passed a cottage with a large attractively manicured garden where the owner has obviously got a sense of humour, as there was a full sized multi-fingered, finger post, one of them saying pub … clearly immediately across the road and easily within crawling distance.

Continuing on for another couple of hundred yards brought us to a surfaced farm drive heading off to the right …. 20120908-02_Farm Drive_Approaching Home Farm_Hatton by gary.haddenThis was our route and we soon reached Home Farm. The footpath is then picked up, down the right hand edge of the farm yard, heading into a small wooded area. However, before we could reach the gate across the yard a nasty, angry, snarling, aggressive dog rapidly emerged from the buildings. I hate when this happens – why should we accept being threatened like this – we were on a public right of way and this should be open access with no restriction, including aggressive dogs!!!

20120908-03_Hay Bales - Rotoballe_Home Farm_Hatton by gary.hadden

Having said that, it stopped about 6 feet away from me snarling and growling  – maybe it was intimidated by my size and me standing my ground directly facing him and having my walking pole readied, allowing Justine to reach the other side of the gate into the wooded 20120908-05_Log Pile_Home Farm_Hatton by gary.haddenfringe of the farm. I rapidly followed and left the nasty creature behind. The path down side of the woods (Green Grove) doesn’t last long, emerging into open farmland with some surprisingly open vistas to enjoy. By the side of one of the farm tracks we were following, was a pile of logs heralding a short stop – it’s always a subject I can’t resist photographing. The farm track continues on and by the time it reaches Beausale Lane we’d almost turned through 180 degrees from our starting direction, now heading pretty much in an easterly direction.

20120908-06_Warwickshire Farmland - Wheat Field - Far Focus by gary.hadden

We now had all of half a minute of road walking (after turning right onto the road), before turning off again to the left on another broad farm track heading for Turkey Farm, where we walked down the left hand side of the farm buildings to reach a t-junction of tracks. We turned right to the corner of a field and then 20120908-08_Warwickshire Farmland - Farm Drive by gary.haddenanother left along the side of the hedge (not heading into the local housing estate).

So far it’d been a lovely relaxed stroll in the sun (apart from the nasty dog episode) and this wasn’t to change as we now had just over a mile of easy walking, with minimal map-reading, following a bridleway in a long sweep generally  in a south easterly direction. The route followed field edges, passing ripening wheat fields , small areas of woodland and just generally pretty countryside as we chatted and nibbled on chocolate raisins and even [shock horror for a married couple] held hands occasionally. Part of the route meant passing Wedgnock Park Farm where the bridleway became another farm track to 20120908-09_National Express Coach_A4177_Traffic Lights_Near A46 Warwick by gary.haddenemerge onto the A4177 very close to the large island on the A46 on the outskirts of Warwick.

After the tranquility of the countryside just left, the A4177 and its large traffic light junction with the smaller Old Budbrooke Road was a bit of a shock to the senses; it’s quite incredible really just how much noise and hustle & bustle is created by our traffic dominated lifestyles. I can’t complain too much though as it was only a short time ago that we’d driven through here ourselves allowing us to do the walk in the first place.

Anyway, we crossed the main road by the pedestrian crossing and headed off down the aforementioned Old Budbrooke Road (heading towards Hampton Magna and Hampton on the Hill). This took us down past a works entrance (Warwickshire County Council County Highways Warwick Area Office) to a bridge over the Grand Union Canal. A few minutes earlier, there had been an almost hidden path coming off a drive on the right side of the road (on the opposite side of the road to the highway works) which in hindsight we should have taken to get down to the towpath, but instead we dropped down a short but steep bank on a narrow dirt path at the northern end of the bridge (obviously a lot of people have done this over time), and then a left turn for a few yards to bring us down to the canal just under the bridge.

Rather than turn right to head up the tow path straight away, we turned left under the bridge and soon arrived at the bottom lock and its simple but quite attractive Bottom Lock Cottage. If we were to have continued on, we’d have followed the 20120908-13_Bottom Lock Cottage - Hatton Locks by gary.haddencanal under the A46 and then on into Warwick, but this was to be the nearest to Warwick we were going to be and we used the bottom lock balancing beams to take a short drink and nibbles rest-stop. On the opposite side of the “cut” is a small car park (descriptively called Hatton Bottom Lock Car Park), to which I crossed over the bottom lock gates to reach. I didn’t see any pay and display machines/signage, so I suppose parking here may well be free (although I guess I could be wrong) – but either, way watch out! as the gates are locked at 4pm (quite early to my mind) and there’s a hefty call out charge to extricate your vehicle should you inadvertently get locked in. The entrance to the car park is via a short drive (off The Old Budbrooke Road), so this could be a start and finish point of the walk if you wanted it to be.

20120908-14_Lock Gates - Hatton Locks by gary.haddenAnyway, we started off again, heading uphill, and I could easily have put my map away now, as all we had to do was follow the tow path passing alongside the flight of locks and their black and white painted gates all the way back to our car, parked just below the top lock at Hatton. These couple of sentences although accurate from a map reading point of view, do not 20120908-20_Cyclists on Tow Path_Hatton Locks by gary.haddengive due weight to the scene as there was so much to see; The canal and locks themselves are simply attractive in their own right, but there was a pleasant hustle and bustle of dog walkers, cyclists, fellow ramblers, people just strolling in the sun and of course a mixed selection of boats working their way up and down the flight at an enforced leisurely pace.

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20120908-17_Ugly Bridge - Hatton Locks by gary.hadden

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20120908-22_Dragon Fly Sculpture Hatton Locks by gary.hadden

One place of note is a road bridge, known as “Ugly Bridge” with a piece of graffiti art-work looking oddly and completely out of place (a bi-coloured blue bumble bee with a strange expression on its face). I guess the bridge isn’t the most beautiful in the world, but I’ve seen far worse and I think its name is probably a little undeserved. Anyway we had to go under here to continue up the tow path with the canal still on our left. After a while we reached the dragon fly sculpture effectively completing the full circle of the walk.

We were very soon back at the car, off-loading ruck-sack and walking poles to then wander up to The Hatton Arms pub via a path climbing up a green grassy slope. The late summer sun had brought out a plethora of people all enjoying a quiet drink, and we headed up to the balcony area to find a table to join them 20120908-24_The Hatton Arms (was The Waterman) near Warwick by gary.haddenhaving some lunch. After a little walking up and down, some people indicated they were leaving soon and a short while later we were settled down to read a menu. Quite a few minutes later a member of staff arrived, we thought probably to take our order, but no, he asked us to vacate the table, as he’d already promised it to some other people currently waiting in the bar. We felt this a bit off really as there hadn’t been a reservation sign or anything to indicate the table was allocated already, but we got lucky in that the people on an adjacent table also said they were leaving, so preventing potential upset as we really didn’t want to get up from our seats.

What did we have for lunch ? …. We both chose an open hand carved ham sandwich with thick cut chips and a side salad plus a chunky pear chutney [£5.95 each] and a shared Mediterranean salad with feta cheese, sun dried tomatoes, marinated green and black olives all scattered through mixed dressed leaves [£9.95] plus some drinks – Not a cheap lunch by any means and the service wasn’t fast, but the young man serving us was very personable and polite. However, we soon allowed ourselves to drift into the laid-back pace (not having the kids with us helped) and chatted, ate, drank and people watched, including a table of people who really couldn’t cope with a few wasps buzzing about.  We couldn’t quite justify the cost of dessert though, nice as we thought they’d be.

20120908-34_Top Lock Cafe + Narrow Boat - Hatton Locks by gary.haddenWell, although now fed and watered, we still had some time to “kill” and so wandered back to the canal, crossed via a bridge, and turned right to join the tow path which switches sides here. It didn’t take long to reach the top lock cafe, which was selling ice-creams which we couldn’t resist – and a lot less expensive than the puddings at the Hatton Arms! It was just so nice in the sun that we continued up the slope passing the top lock and then further along the tree lined canal for another couple of hundred yards or so. I really liked everything around 20120908-31_Grand Union Canal Reflections - Hatton by gary.haddenus: the lush green surroundings; super reflections; blue skies; wispy white clouds; boats; folk enjoying themselves in the sun; but most of all just being with my lovely wife.

Eventually however, we had to return back to the car, drive back into Warwick to collect Craig after his singing day, and then motor home where we were later reunited with Katie after her day at work … Over-all, a pretty good day all-round … and that’s that…. Perhaps a diary to revisit in the cold grey depths of an English winter to remember we did finally get a drop or two of sunshine on our backs during the pretty dismal summer of  2012.

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

T.T.F.N. Gary