20120527_Lias Line Walk to The Bourton Festival
When : 27th May 2012
Who : Just Me
Where : Cawston near Rugby, Dismantled Railway (Lias Line), Bourton-on-Dunsmore, Warwickshire,
Start Point : SP472,734 ….. End Point : SP437,704
Distance : Approx 4 miles (6.3 km)
Significant heights : A very short but steep bank up onto railway embankment and Approx 100 ft (30m) on a road, so not difficult at-all.
Summary : A short morning walk to get to a local charity rock festival (run by Southam 2000 Rotary Club) where I was to meet up with some fellow students on a beginners photography course; the walk passes through typical Warwickshire countryside mostly on the old disused Rugby to Leamington Railway also known as The Lias Line.
Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.
On the face of it there couldn’t be much to say about this walk as it was only about 4 miles in length, but, as it turns out, I’ve found plenty to ramble on about – So, here goes :-
I was due to meet some friends on a beginners photo’ course “field trip” (run out of The Percival Guildhouse in Rugby) and because it was such a warm sunny day (a rarity in 2012) I decided to head down to Bourton-on-Dunsmore on foot instead of driving there …. I had planned to and was perfectly prepared to walk back in the afternoon via a different route, but in the end I didn’t need to, as my family joined me at the festival (by car) so I got a lift home.
Well, that’s the basic background … I left my front door on the Cawston Grange estate, and then used the perimeter pathway (shown from the end of Trussell Way on the attached map) to join the B4642 Coventry Road (was the old A4071) where I turned right to follow a path set back from the road heading away from Bilton/Rugby. This is a very pleasant road being lined either side by cherry trees etc., very leafy and quite stunning in the spring when in full blossom and with daff’s scattered about in the verges. After passing a nursery school and Cawston Farm, at the point where the road starts to bend slightly right and downhill, I crossed over the road to then cross a stile next to a farm gate. The wide pathway here leads on for a short distance behind Brickyard Spinney, a stand of trees growing up out of a hollowed out bowl in the ground. I think this was a clay pit in times long since gone, but it’s now a woodland glade garden, again quite stunning with spring bulbs early in the year.
The path ahead then cuts downhill across a crop field (it’s been oilseed rape, potatoes, and wheat over the years) to reach the right hand end of a line of trees in the middle distance. Occasionally the path has been visible as a line on the ground, but more often than not it’s been completely invisible, ploughed up and planted over …. However, it’s not difficult to aim for the end couple of trees as a rough direction indicator when nothing’s visible on the ground, but it can be impassible when planted with maturing crops.
Just around the back of the trees is an attractive pool or mini-lake, in reality it’s a small reservoir, the water being held back by a very low curving earth bank or dam. My map doesn’t give the pool a name, but is known by various names including Potford’s Dam Pool, Cawston Woods Pool, or other similar names. In the past, there has been access into the verges around the pool and various routes into/around the woods here. These were never official rights of ways, just something people have done over many years, but recently there have been signs going up restricting access saying the pool / Cawston Spinney are now a nature conservation site. That’s all very good, but surely if these traditionally used “routes” are now out-of-bounds then the official paths MUST be set down on the ground more distinctly than they are! If anything, the paths have been ploughed up and not re-instated more often in recent years, which effectively forces route finding OFF the official ways. Surely this is completely counter-productive as potentially each person passing through here will find a different way each time.
Now, from here, I needed to get up onto the old disused railway line over to my right and the map shows the official footpath heading off into the middle of a large field, towards an isolated looking building in the distance up the rise. There’s even a direction marker saying the same thing. From this path on the map, a bridleway is shown half doubling back towards Potford’s Dam Farm, crossing the railway in the process. Wonderful you might think; just what I needed, BUT, neither the footpath nor the bridleway have ever existing on the ground in the decade I’ve lived nearby. So, using a little local knowledge, instead of trying to do this, I turned right to head directly across the bottom of the field (can be very wet and muddy) following the line of a drainage ditch. In the corner (which is a tad scruffy and unkempt) you can make your way up the steep side of the railway embankment to reach the old track-bed with a view down to the A4071 road and across to the aforementioned Potford’s Dam Farm. As said above, if the official right of way is blocked or non-existent, you’ve got to find an alternative, so that’s exactly what I did.
Turning left on the railway the way was now very easy, being almost completely level (as is the way with old railways) and I now quickened my pace. It is very evident walking along here that the bridle-path mentioned earlier really doesn’t exist; the crops, brambles, fencing, scrub and other such obstacles making it absolutely impossible to follow the rights of ways shown on my OS map. A little further on though, there is a gap allowing access into the fields near Station Farm. Whilst it then looks possible to then make your way around the wide field-side verges here-abouts, this again isn’t an actual right of way.
However, this wasn’t a problem for me today, as my route was to continue roughly south-westwards on the railway. However, a different problem now presented itself, and one I was expecting. The old railway now heads into a cutting rather than on top of the embankment of earlier, and passes through the remnants of what was Dunchurch Station. As it does so, the ground underfoot becomes VERY wet; the mud and puddles being quite deep and also particularly smelly. There is just no alternative other than to just press on and squelch your way through the middle of the quagmire. One day (although it doesn’t seem to be happening very quickly) Sustrans who own the railway are going to “do it up” to extend their cycle route-41 through here to the Cawston Greenway and Rugby Western Relief Road (RWRR). I’m not holding my breath waiting for it to happen though! as I think I’d turn a very peculiar shade of purple and drop down dead in the process; so I think it’s best that I carry on breathing as normal.
Anyway, I’ve digressed a little, I pressed on through the uggghy stuff to reach where the old railway passes underneath two bridges carrying the dual carriageway of the A45. The path is wider here allowing for a little easier negotiation of the wet and mud. However, the environs are horrible, the puddles being covered in a thick green slime (which I certainly wouldn’t want to walk though) and various bits of detritus such as traffic cones and shopping trolleys discarded randomly in the muck.
From here though things start to improve, there’s still some muddy places as the railway passes through a small group of trees (Far Popehill Spinney) and alongside Whitefields Golf Course. There is a footpath that heads through the golf course to get to Thurlaston, but it wasn’t taken on today’s walk though. No, I just carried on to where the railway has been surfaced suitable to be used as part of Sustrans’ National Cycle Route 41. The railway here becomes much more elevated with views across the local farmland and it has a number of information boards explaining about the Lias Line Meadows and the flora and fauna of the area.
I left the railway at the second minor road that the railway crosses (just outside the village of Draycote). I now had some road walking to do, heading up the hill (away from Draycote) to reach Bourton-on-Dunsmore’s Church. I could hear the festival’s music coming over the local fields. I almost said wafting over the fields but thumping rock beats can hardly be described as wafting anywhere, although the sounds were now rather muted. Walking on the road was no hardship as it was very quiet from a traffic point of view, and it didn’t take long to reach the corner of the church grounds where a path cuts through the grave yard; the mellow ancient looking gravestones and stonework of the church itself are typical examples of country churches throughout our beautiful country; they have become part and parcel of what our country is, perfectly attuned with the fabric of our villages and countryside, harmoniously slotting into the landscape.
Well that’s almost the end of the walking part of the day, all I needed now was to follow the road away from the church to find the entrance to Bourton Hall where the festival event was being held, flashed my ticket and headed into the grounds. My next diary entry will describe what I found inside, so for now I’m signing off.
T.T.F.N, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and pic’s ….
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.