20140222_Staverton – Flecknoe Circular Walk
Who : Me and Craig
Where : Staverton and Flecknoe, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.
Start and End Point : SP 539,612
Distance : Approx 6.1 miles (9.7 km)
Heights : 3 separate rises, although nothing significant. See end of post for details.
Map : 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Explorer Map No.222, Rugby & Daventry
Summary : A pleasant countryside walk over rolling Midlands farmland.
If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.
This walk was unusual, but only in that it was on a Saturday (Sunday walks being much, much more common), daughter had been dropped off at her job and my lovely wife was unfortunately suffering with flu, not just a heavy cold as many people call flu, but full blown diagnosed by a doctor type of flu and as such I felt it best to leave her to rest and take my 12 year old son out for a walk. Apart from leaving the house quiet for my wife, it would also serve two other purposes : I’d been feeling quite over-loaded at work and I’d been doing a fair few extra hours and I really needed some exercise and fresh air to recharge my internal batteries. Craig on the other hand had been ensconced indoors for the best part of a week during the first half-term of 2014 and I felt some good old-fashioned “get-out-and-about” would do him a world of good too, to burn off some of that energy that all young men have an excess of.
I’d left out my fave’ three books of local walks for Craig to look through and so pick out a walk or two, whilst I was taking my daughter to work; he chose a 5.25 miler straddling the border between Warwickshire and Northamptonshire and taking in two villages : Staverton and Flecknoe, neither of which I could remember having ever visited in the past. Why get Craig to pick a walk ? … well, I figured if he’d picked the walk, he’d potentially be much more engaged in the day. I reckon it was nearer 6-miles long in the end.
A little note about the title – Maybe a little more descriptive would have been Staverton – Flecknoe A Triangular walk rather than Circular; the route basically being north, then west and finally south-east making a right angled triangle, with the last and slightly longest leg being the triangles hypotenuse. It’s also probably worth mentioning the three books I often dip into for local walks, either to follow exactly the walks described within them, or, just as an idea to adapt using my map(s) to suit my needs on the day.
• Evening Telegraph Country Walks, Brian Keates [Coventry Newspapers Ltd.]
• Country Walks in the Rugby Area, Jim Watson [This Way Books]
• More Country Walks in the Rugby Area, Jim Watson [This Way Books]
This walk was lifted straight out of the last one of these books, perhaps it’s a tad lazy, but hey why not every now and again? So off we set, with me getting Craig to follow the drive to the start on the map, through Dunchurch, Willoughby, Braunston and on to Daventry on the A45 and then the A425 for the last mile and a bit to Staverton; entering the village via a side road and then following my nose to reach the village green where I parked up as neatly and as considerately as possible. We booted up, I found my bearings, and we set off with light hearts and a spring in our steps.
Staverton village is charming, an eclectic mix of old and new; many of the cottages are very attractive indeed. In fact the village as a whole is attractive with warm Cotswoldy stone side by side with red brick, detached and terraced properties, different roof levels, buttressed walls, some cottages around the green even had corrugated rusting metal roofs. These in themselves weren’t unattractive but had obviously seen better days; I wouldn’t mind betting they let water in, especially around the chimney stacks. …. all in all Staverton is a very pleasant place to walk through, which we obviously had to do, firstly picking up Oakham Lane, walking away from the green and then joining Braunston Lane heading north away from the village.
After not very far, Braunston Lane becomes a dead end for traffic, leaving the village behind, but continues on as tarmac, reducing in width beyond a pair of metal gates serving no other purpose than preventing vehicular traffic. The way ahead is on The Jurassic Way and is bounded by grassy verges, ditches and large hedges interspersed with mature trees. It looks for all the world that this may indeed have once been a “proper” road between Staverton and Braunston just like its name implies.
The views from the track are super, with a wide vista over both Northamptonshire and Warwickshire farmland. Off to the left across a shallow valley the fields rise to the village of Flecknoe near the top of its own hill. A dominant feature much further in the distance, protruding well above the horizon, is the Rugby Cement works (currently called Cemex) which is some 9-10 miles away as-the-crow-flies. Continuing pretty much due north (give or take a bend or two) the tarmac’d surface gives way to a wide farm track, quite rutted and muddy in places, reasonably firm and dry in others, dropping down off the hill that Staverton sits upon. Craig was quite happy with the change in surface, as he didn’t really want to be on the hard man-made stuff, preferring the natural ground underfoot.
This was to change though, as the track levels out, crossing over a couple of small streams and being at the bottom of the surrounding hills (on three sides) the track had become very churned up, muddy and slurry-like. In fact some of it was real slurry, as there was a large pile of farmyard manure in a field on our left and it was seeping smelly yukky liquid into the tractor ruts along our route. Although the ugghy stuff didn’t stretch a long distance, it still necessitated some careful negotiating before the track started to rise again and in the process return to much dryer, easier and more pleasant walking.
Our route was to turn left (westwards) at a “cross-road” of bridle-paths, but rather than do that straight away, we decided to carry on up to the top of the rise to regain the views lost whilst we were in the dip, although I wasn’t sure quite what could be seen from here, I was hoping for a decent view to Braunston Village. I wasn’t disappointed, as the sun had picked out the church spire and the old windmill at the western end of Braunston village well over a mile away, and it gave the opportunity for me to try out my new 300mm lens on my camera. I was quite happy with the results. Once pic’s were taken, we turned around, dropped back to the afore-mentioned cross-road of paths, turned right and followed a farm track with a hedge on our right and an open unbounded field on our left (looking south into the sun). As a recurring theme over the winter of 2013-2014, the field was sodden with water and the infant crop looked far from healthy. I wonder how many crops will have failed and just got ploughed back into the ground so becoming the latest victims of the wettest winter since official UK records began over a hundred years ago.
Anyway that’s by-the-by really, we now had to follow the hedge on our right, dropping down a slope (with more deep tractor ruts), to reach the bottom where it again became a little soggy underfoot, but we picked our way through to a sturdy, utilitarian wooden bridge across a small river. This is the infant river Leam, which forms the border between Northamptonshire and Warwickshire here.
Now, despite its spelling, this isn’t pronounced “Leem” as might be thought, but “Lem”. However you might pronounce its name, the river isn’t very big at this stage of its life. Its future path is north almost to Braunston, bisecting the now disappeared medieval villages of Braunstonbury and Wolhampcote before swinging west past Draycote Water (it is used to top up the reservoir at times) and then on, eventually to Royal Leamington Spa to join The River Avon (The Warwickshire Avon or Shakespeare’s Avon) at Warwick.
All that is superfluous really, as we crossed straight over – No we didn’t ! I’ve lied to you : We first stopped for a rest and to take on board some refreshment, a drink of water and some nibbles – and only then did we cross straight over via the wooden bridge, called Miry Bridge on my map, heading away uphill (not steep) across a field in a westerly direction. As it levels out, one of the fields has the rolling remains of ancient ridge and furrow farming methods. Each of the furrows were rather waterlogged to start with, and as we progress across the field these became areas of standing water, too deep for my walking boots, so necessitating a series of zig-zags along the top of the ridges to avoid the fingers of mini-lakes. Craig in wellies however had no problems wading straight through, in a much more direct line to reach a bridge over an old disused railway.
There are so many of these old railway routes criss-crossing our countryside; it’s hard to imagine the steam traffic that must have serviced all the villages and towns along their routes. This particular one heads north into Rugby which was once a major rail interchange, but now less so. Just to one side of the bridge, the railway has been deliberately flooded making a small fishing pond, although I think probably not used much looking at the state of the small landing stages. A little further on the fields on our right became horse paddocks – One horse in particular was a right poser in front of the camera!
From here we picked up a farm track, which soon led us into the village of Flecknoe. The first thing of note is a traffic sign-post. Nothing particularly unusual in a road having a sign post you might think; except in this case its height above the ground. There can’t be many signposts much shorter than this one, even the surrounding snowdrops almost reached the bottom edge … in text speak – LOL.
From here we walked up the road passing the rather imposing Manor House. There were a couple of happy smiley daffs in the verge here in full flower – The first of the year. Moving on up the road, brought us into the village proper; the road bending one way and then the other, passing attractive cottages on the way, soon bringing us to the pub – The Old Olive Bush.
The hostelry looked very inviting in a homely understated sort of way and it would have been rude not to partake of a drink (I’d planned to stop anyway).
Rather than drink inside though we sat at a small table just outside the front door in the sunshine; me with an excellent pint of Doombar ale plus a bag of cheese & onion crisps, Craig with a J20 and his fave pub nibbles, salted peanuts. Without fail, every local who either came in or out of the pub passed the time of day with us – Friendly people!, Friendly Pub!.
As much as a second pint would have gone down a treat, we really needed to move on, so, ignoring the path almost directly opposite (more of that in a mo’) we headed off down the road in the same direction as before (roughly westerly). At the next road junction we turned left (away from Nerthercote), and then, around left again still on the road. Now, the guide book suggests carrying on up the road to then take the next left on another minor road. However at a small chapel there is a passageway (marked as a public footpath on my map), so we decided to leave the road-walking and head off eastwards looking out for the 2nd footpath on the right for our route away from the village.
Now you may have worked out that after this many left turns, we were now heading more or less back towards the pub, and yes indeed we were, the passageway track/path crossing the top of the little footpath directly opposite the pub mentioned earlier; so we could have cut out the walk around the village. Anyway, we found the path we wanted, crossing a grassy field towards a group of buildings. Where upon we had to enter the back garden of one of the houses and then head down the side of the house (on its left) to then pass through the front garden. It does feel strange doing this, and Craig actually said he didn’t like it as we passed through the nicely kept gardens. But it’s a right of way, so no problem is what I told him.
We had to then cross a minor road to pick up a path heading through the middle of a sizeable field, although it was worth the turn around to view the pink washed dwellings we’d just come past. We were also now back “on-route” per the guide book directions. Dropping across the field it would have been easy to assume it heads straight to the bottom, but no, about half way down the route takes a slight bend to the left, passes through a line of a hedge and then continues in more or less the same direction (SE) to rise up the bank of a disused railway (the same one as crossed earlier by the fish pond). After a little joggle to the right along the old track bed the path drops down the far bank, through a stand of trees and then following a sign post across the corner of a field to reach a small footbridge over a ditch/brook. The path then carries on in the same direction across a few fields to reach and the cross the River Leam again and in doing so cross back in Northamptonshire leaving our home county of Warwickshire behind.
Our walk was now nearing its final section, with about five fields to negotiate before arrival back at Staverton. The crop in the first couple of these fields was one I’d never come across before. Not your normal, beets, wheat, maize, potatoes, etc., that are often encountered but reeds. Tall, dry, blown about in the wind type reeds, or maybe it was bamboo.
What-ever the actual stuff was, Craig wanted to walk straight through, I didn’t!!! So he disappeared (almost literally) into the margins, the height of the crop dwarfing him, but I soon called him back out to join me in the walk around the left hand side of the crop, following alongside a small stream. A wide margin had been left uncultivated and apart from some surface slipperiness the going was quite easy, just rising gently as we went (Craig heading off into the reed crop margins every now and again enjoying the adventure. After a while of steady uphill we crossed over the stream/ditch and through the hedge line via a small bridge and then immediately turned right to continue upwards (with the hedge on our right), just a few yards further on we reached what looked like a point-to-point horse jumping rail and fence marking the start of a wood. Continuing on between the wood and the hedge, we reached another fence/jump, entered the next field leaving the trees behind and promptly passed by a couple more jumps. How having a cross country horse jumping route following the line of a public footpath works I don’t know, but that’s exactly how it is on the ground. However, we soon had to cross a fence (near a small animal house) and the path steepened as it made its way up the middle of a small valley, eventually picking up a drive way (Well Lane Track) as the path passed a large house and then up into the village of Staverton reaching Manor Road.
Turning right along the road, passing attractive cottages as we went, brought us back to our car, parked by the side of the village green. The next few minutes were spent removing boots (Craig sat in the car boot to do this) and I wandered around the green taking a last few photo’s and then in the car for the drive home. But first I drove around to join the A425 Daventry Road, just to see what the pub looked like and find out its name – Purely to add it at the end of this diary, and so give you the final bit of info’ that you might find useful …. We didn’t go in, so I can’t comment on what it’s actually like, I’ll leave you to discover that yourself if you want to. Oh and it’s name? : “The Countryman”.
Approx’ Heights “climbed” during the walk.
• Muddy valley bottom north of Staverton to Berry Fields = 25m (82 ft)
• River Leam at Miry Bridge to Flecknoe Village = 35m (115 ft)
• River Leam to Staverton Village = 70m (230 ft)
The last 30-35m in height being the steepest part of the walk, but not by any means a problem.
• Total = 130m (427 ft)
• None of the downhill sections were difficult enough to warrant a separate mention.
So, that’s it …. 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.