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.
As 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 found 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). My 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 cropped 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 pleasant 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.
Whatever 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 Field) – 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.
After 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.
Back 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.
Anyway, 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 shallowwaters.
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.
From 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.