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
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
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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 having 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 Hatton, [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 (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 …. This 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!!!
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 fringe 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.
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 another 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 emerge 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 canal 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.
Anyway, 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 give 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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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 having 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.
Well, 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 us: 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.
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