20150405_Great Witley_Clifton Upon Teme_Circular Walk

20150405_Great Witley_Woodbury Hill_Teme Valley_Clifton Upon Teme_Circular Walk

When : 5th April 2015
Who : 11 members of the Coventry CHA Rambling Club (including me).
Where : Great Witley, Worcestershire
Start and End Point : SO,753,663
Distance : Approx 11.75 miles ( 19 km)
Significant Heights : 1,805 ft up and 1,560 ft down … details at the end, after the text.
Maps : 1:25000 O.S. Explorer Map No. 204 Worcester & Droitwich Spa.

20150405_A Hilly Teme Valley Walk

Waking Route mapped out on “WalkJogRun”

Summary : A strenuous (at least for me) circular walk in the hills either side of The River Teme a good few miles to the west of Droitwich Spa. Starting at Great Witley ; over Woodbury Hill ; Worcestershire Way over the ridge of Rodge Hill/Pudford Hill ; Across the River Teme at Ham Bridge ; Rise up to Clifton Upon Teme ; Down and over The Teme again at New Mill Bridge ; and then a final climb back over the ridge before dropping back to Great Witley to finish.

I’m a member of The Coventry CHA Rambling Club and this walk was one from the Sunday A+ walks programme. These “A+” walks take place on the first Sunday of the month. If you’d like to know a little more about The Cov-CHA Rambling club, please see my previous blog-post or for more details please go to their web-site.

20150405_By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Great Witley Walk

By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Great Witley Walk (Me striding out)

I would normally now give a link to an extensive set of photo’s I’d taken during the walk, on my photostream on Flickr. But, I was very annoyed with myself, for, when I took my camera out for the first photo of the day, I found I hadn’t inserted the SD card (it was still in my computer at home, coz I’d been downloading photo’s the night before).

This became doubly annoying as the walk took in some absolutely beautiful scenery that I’d never walked through before … and … it turned out to be the best day’s weather of the year so far, a perfect spring day for a good walk and for taking photo’s … Grrrrr …

However, a couple of my friends in the party have shared a few pic’s of their own with me and, with their permissions, I’ve been able to attach them to the post, along with some “generic” non-specific images of my own and I hope these make for an interesting post for you.

Many thanks to Gerry and John for use of their images.

I’d arranged to share a lift with a couple of ladies that were going on the walk; the meeting time in Coventry based on some details emailed out by the walks leader. I won’t mention names in the interest of privacy, but thanks to the lady who drove, it was very much appreciated. We were the first of three cars to arrive at the starting point, a large car park just to the side of The Hundred House Inn at Great Witley in Worcestershire, on the A443 road between Droitwich Spa and Tenbury Wells. The impressive grade-2 listed building looked decidedly closed and tired (writing in Apr-2015) and a quick search on the web suggests it may have been that way since 2013. Anyway, that’s where we parked.

20150405_By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Ploughed Field Crossing

By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Ploughed Field Crossing

Once we’d all gathered, donned boots and adjusted walking poles to desired lengths, we set off in a southerly direction, crossing the main road with care because there was virtually no road-side verge in front of the stile on the other side. As with all stile crossings, the party quickly started to string-out somewhat. This wasn’t helped in that, once over the stile, we were greeted by a wide, very rough-ploughed field. The path hadn’t been re-instigated across the churned up lumpy soil, but luckily we’d had a little period of dry weather and the crests of the ploughing were reasonably solid. Even my weight was supported OK!, so progress across to the far side wasn’t too bad (quite frankly it could have been horrible if we’d had recent rain). Hopefully the farmer will put the path back in again (as he is legally supposed to do) in a short time.

20140309-03_Cawston Grange Pussy Willow

One of my “generic/stock” photo’s – Pussy Willow.

We soon regrouped to cross another couple of fields, eventually reaching a minor road which was reached by means of another stile. This one was particularly rickety, the tread being held in place on its rotting upright by the end point of a single nail. To hinder some more, the whole thing was also at an awkward angle. The slow progress here (even with only eleven of us) meant the group got rather spread out again very rapidly, especially as the onward route was on the road (after turning left over the stile) and the first people over obviously moved relatively quickly on the tarmac surface.

20150405_By John Osbourne_Coventry CHA_Above The Teme Valley

By John Osbourne_Coventry CHA_Above The Teme Valley

After just a couple of hundred yards along the road, a side track leaves the road on the right. Bisecting this track and the road is a footpath heading up into some woodland, this was a little indistinct at first and as the walkers at the front started to disappear up into the trees, I held back a touch to ensure the back markers (who’d stopped briefly to shed coats in the warm spring air) knew which way to come. I soon came to realise I should have put my own fleece into my ruck-sack, but I waited until I reached the top of the climb as we all re-grouped again. We’d now completed the first climb (about 460 feet) and it felt good to have raised a little sweat and, as we moved on, it was great to be high above the surrounding countryside spread out in a superb vista – a very English feel of mixed farmland, small fields, hills and valleys, farmsteads and pristine country cottages (well some were more akin to small country mansions). Having made the climb, the path (continuing pretty much southwards) promptly dropped, forcing us to quite rapidly loose most of the height previously gained, passing around Lippitts Farm en-route and then further down to Woodbury Old Farm situated on another minor road.

Our route was left along the road (Camp Lane) skirting high above a deep flooded quarry. It must be something about the minerals in quarry lakes, but the colour of the water was a notably turquoise bluey-green; it was quite beautiful looking down into the man-made bowl with sparkling jewels of light playing on the water below us. After a short distance we took a right hand turn onto another minor road (heading west). We were still dropping in height.

We were now on The Worcestershire Way and after a short distance, we turned left, off the road and onto a footpath (still on The Worcestershire Way) heading up Cockshot Hill and alongside/into another area of woodland (Cockshot Coppice). The climb started steeply, but eased somewhat to become a long ridge of maybe two miles long, including Rodge Hill and Pudford Hill. About half way along the ridge, a perfectly situated bench prompted a short break for some well-earned drinks and nibbles (we’d completed just over 3-miles by now). It was here that a box of Quality Street chocolates were dug out from a ruck-sack and handed around several times. Well it was Easter Sunday, and chocolate is THE order of the day (isn’t it?). Anyway thanks Jan’, very nice thank you very much.

20150405_By John Osbourne_Coventry CHA_Near The River Teme

By John Osbourne_Coventry CHA_Near The River Teme

Some lovely wide open views had opened up here out to the west, over The Teme Valley and up to Clifton Upon Teme high up in the distance (the church spire just about visible). Our leader for the day pointed out part of the route we’d be taking to get to the village, our intended lunch stop. This including crossing The Teme via a bridge. Now you’ve probably guessed that as we were high on the east side of the valley, and Clifton was high on the west side we first had quite a drop to negotiate, still following the ridge southwards; as we descended through some more woodland (Callow Coppice) it was just a tad muddy and slippery in places. After a while, we crossed a minor road (Pudford Lane) and then after a couple of fields, crossed what felt like a main road (in fact it was just a B-road; the B4204). After a little drop down some roughish pastureland we arrived right down on the banks of the river.

20150405_By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Great Witley Walk_Mistletoe

By Gerry West_Coventry CHA_Great Witley Walk_Mistletoe

I was really enjoying the day and turning north along the river bank added yet another dimension to the walk – Pretty much flat walking! I will admit, it felt good. Although the map shows a path heading diagonally across to Hambridge Farm, the footpath in fact hugs the line of the river to arrive at where the B4204 crosses the river via Ham Bridge. The re-routed path happily prevents the need to do some road walking. We regrouped and crossed the bridge in a neat single file, but not needing to worry about vehicles – there weren’t any around.

Once over the bridge and after a hundred yards or so, we turned right off the B4204 into a minor road, giving way for a sizeable tractor and a large fork-lift truck to rattle past at quite a speed, they certainly weren’t worth arguing with for space on the road. This tarmac section didn’t last long at-all, instead we turned left onto a bridlepath. I seem to remember it was quite muddy here, but extensive muddy sections seem to be more of a a recurring theme on country walks these days, perhaps a sign of global warming and differing rain patterns over recent years?

We now had a long climb ahead of us, rising about 500 feet over about a mile. At first through some woodland (Slashes Coppice), but soon after, exiting the trees into a grassy field still rising steadily following the edge of the woods and then more open farmland. The warm spring sunshine and the exertions needed for the climb raised a sweat across my brow. In fact, it was quite a pull, however it was definitely worth it as the views once again were simply beautiful and a good excuse for a breather-stop every now and again to look behind, back down into the Teme Valley. The gradient eventually started to ease and soon after passing through Church House Farm, we entered Clifton Upon Teme, emerging in the village next to the spired church.

Clifton became our lunch stop, where we given about half-an-hour, it was also pointed out that there was seating in the church yard, and also on the triangular green situated opposite one of the village pubs (The Lion Inn, if memory serves me right about the name). The pub was open, but none of us investigated the charms inside, preferring to sit outside and chat, whilst eating our packed lunches.

IMGP5253_wood anemone

One of my “generic/stock” photo’s – Wood Anemone

We were now over half-way (around-about 7 miles completed) and we had some easy walking to re-start the walk; at first retracing our steps past the church and out into farmland, picking up a route over/around a few fields (with a degree of muddiness) to arrive at some more woodland hugging the steep western flanks of The Teme Valley between Harrisfield and Top Barn. Our way was directly into the trees on a narrow path descending steeply in a small side valley heading down towards The Teme. We were entering the brilliantly named Withery Hole in Rock Wood. The way was, well, difficult underfoot, being wet, muddy and steep, at times with fallen trees and branches across our route and always just wide enough for one person at a time. Sometimes it was a case of just planting a foot and letting it slide in the clay and leaf mold whilst hoping not to be the first to “come a cropper”. Progress certainly wasn’t as elegant as skiing or ice-skating but kind of felt akin to them both. I was pleased to have carried two walking-poles with me; they’ve paid for themselves on this trip alone.

The descent through Withery Hole [I love that name] was slow going, probably the slowest pace of the whole walk, but the half mile or so was eventually negotiated and, as far as I know, not one person ended up going head over heels or even sat down in the mud. A short section after exiting the trees (more muddy bits) brought us out onto a road which in turn soon brought us to New Mill Bridge and our second crossing of The River Teme.

There was now about ¾ of a mile of flat riverside walking (heading north), sandwiched above the high banks of the river and farmland, some arable and some pasture, walking on the rivers’ flood-plain until heading gently up to Brockhill Court. There was a lovely display of daffodils here, which just kind of fits in with my write up at this point in the walk, but the spring flowers had adorned several places along the walk, along with primroses, and various other pretty starry flowers adding attractive displays along the route. I’m no wild-flower expert but I think these included celandines, wood anemones, miniature violets and such like. I like spring!

20130330-19_Daffodils - Cawston Rugby

One of my “generic/stock” photo’s – Daffodil – A happy sunny flower.

Having not walked very much during the winter, I was starting to feel the walk now, but a short rest-stop as we re-grouped again, a drink and a chocy-bar revived me somewhat as we chatted. The way ahead (more or less north-eastwards) was over more pastureland rising steadily over quite undulating ground. The way was very indistinct here and I’m sure our leader would have been concentrating hard at this point, but his skill wasn’t at-all in doubt and the way into a small wood was reached dead-on, absolutely perfect!

IMGP5185_wood anemone

One of my “generic/stock” photo’s – Wood Anemone

If the path just followed was indistinct, then the way in the woods was practically non-existent. But we wound our way onwards, picking our way through, crossing a small stream en-route (the foot-bridge marked on the map no longer crossing the stream, but uselessly placed at a slant up the far bank). The ground was covered with the thick new-growth leaves of wild garlic (not in flower yet) but decidedly smelly when-ever it was stood on or even brushed against. I don’t find the pungent aroma unpleasant, but you certainly wouldn’t want to wear it as a perfume! It’s not a floral scent at all !

We were still generally climbing as we wound on through the woods and this continued after we exited the trees heading upwards (still north-easterly) towards the very aptly named Hillside Farm. In fact this hummocky grassy field was quite awkward to negotiate as we had to climb half left; the slope trying to throw me off to the right added a particular strain on my ankles and knees, again, my walking poles came into their own. Upon reaching the farm we joined a wide well-kept drive still climbing but much easier underfoot and we emerged onto a minor road (Camp Road again as it happens).

We had now increased our height by about 120m (over about a mile) since leaving the riverside. However, the climbing wasn’t over yet, as we crossed the road to pick up a distinct footpath heading up into a narrow strip of woodland. We were now back on The Worcestershire Way, heading almost northwards now and soon found ourselves turning almost back on ourselves as the path made a single hairpin bend and a very short (still upward) section brought us to the top of the hill … Yay, made it ! … In fact, we’d been climbing up the western side of a ridge stretching south from Walsgrove Hill maybe half a mile to the north. Effectively this ridge was the very same one as the one we’d followed during the morning, just separated briefly by the quarry area we’d walked around several hours earlier.

IMGP5199_Celandines (I think)

One of my “generic/stock” photo’s – Celadine ( at least I think they are Celandine – can anyone confirm please ? )

Our route from here was away from the trees dropping into farmland above Easthope Farm. The views were once again more than worth the exertions of the climb and as we turned north again we could see our finishing area about a mile away. Our way was pretty much contouring/slowly descending now with the views off to our right kind of spoilt by a messy plethora of caravans, motor homes and food & beer trailers scattered across the large field below us.

This turned out to be the Red Marley motor-biking hill climb meet, an annual event each Easter Sunday & Monday. Our path had to cross the actual hill climb route, forcing us to step over the bright tapes marking the course boundaries. I say we had to step over the plastic ribbons, but in fact only the taller of us straddled the tapes, many of the party choosing instead to stoop low to pass underneath, although I didn’t see anyone actually try limbo dancing – Maybe it was a little late in the day for that, or maybe heavy muddy hiking boots don’t lend themselves to limbo (he-he, it’d be fun to watch though). Thankfully, there were no motors heading up the course, making the crossing no problem at-all.

Once over the course route, we made our way down to the buildings of Walsgrove Farm, picking up a surfaced drive dropping past the red brick buildings with two distinctive oast house tops (you’d think we could have been in Kent rather than Worcestershire). We now had a section of road walking along a very minor road (heading north) pretty much on the flat now. The walking was easy but we just had to step aside several times as some rather large camper vans etc., trundled past heading towards the hill climb base-camp. To end the walk, we left the road, headed around a field boundary to emerge out onto the A443 main road almost exactly opposite The Hundred House Inn and our parked cars.

Well, what a superb day of walking.
• A sense of discovering an area previously not walked through.
• Descent spring weather, the best of the year so far.
• Varied and interesting terrain, including :-
• Woods; Farmland, Riverside; Hills; Ascents; Descents; A pretty Village,
• and, Lovely views throughout the day.
And most of all …. The most excellent company to walk with.

The end.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings.
T.T.F.N. Gary

And finally, as promised earlier, the Significant Heights – Both Ups and Downs.
Approx. only; by reading contours on my map.

1. Great Witley to Woodbury Hill.
135m to 275m = Approx 140m ascent (460 ft).

2. Woodbury Hill to Near Flooded Quarry.
275m to 160m = Approx 115m descent (380 ft).

3. Above Flooded Quarry Along the Ridge of Rodge Hill / Pudford Hill.
120m to 200m = Approx 80m ascent (260 ft ).

4. Ridge of Rodge Hill / Pudford Hill to River Teme.
200m to 35m = Approx 165m descent (540 ft).

5. Ham Bridge (Over River teme) up to Clifton Upon Teme.
35m to 190m = Approx 155m ascent (510 ft).

6. Steep Slippery Descent through Withery Hollow.
150m to 40m = Approx 110m descent (360 ft)

7. Brockhill Court over the Ridge of Walsgrove Hill.
45m to 220m = Approx 175m ascent (575 ft).

8. Ridge of Walsgrove Hill to Great Witley.
220m to 135m = Approx 85m descent (280 ft).

Approx total significant ascents = 550m (1,805 ft).
Approx total significant decents = 475m (1,560 ft).

T.T.F.N. Gary.

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20140301_New Purchase – Leki Walking Poles

Just used the last of Christmas gift money (voucher for Go Outdoors) … Added a bit of cash and I’m now the proud owner of a pair of shiny new walking poles …

Make : Leki
Model : Trail – Superstrongseries

… German engineering on the blurb, made in Czech Republic on the poles themselves  …. AND …. I’m going walkies in the Shropshire Hills with friends from The Coventry CHA Rambling Club, tomorrow so they’re likely to be less shiny by the end of the week-end 🙂

I’m informed we are “doing” Earl’s Hill and Oak Hill near Pontesbury, south-west of Shrewsbury and north of the area containing The Stiperstones and The long Mynd.

Weather-forecast, From the BBC web site =
Rather cloudy with some patchy rain possible in places. Persistent, and at times, heavy rain will push in from the west from mid afternoon, accompanied by strong winds.

And this is mirrored by The Met Office Web Site too, with 80% chance of heavy rain during the afternoon.

So the end of winter is looking pretty much the same as what’s been going on for the last few months – RAIN – AGAIN ! … but let’s hope they’re wrong.

Still, looking forward to being in The great Outdoors come rain or shine 🙂

T.T.F.N.
Gary.

20131029_A wander by the sea in Milford on Sea

20131029_A wander by the sea, in Milford on Sea

When : 29th October 2013

Who : Me and My Family

Where : Milford on Sea including Hurst Spit, Hampshire

0131029-05_ The Needles _Panorama_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on Sea

Just a quick diary entry this one, as I can’t really justify it being a country walk as such – How do I distinguish a walk from a wander ? … well, in this case, it’s because I was wearing training shoes not boots, no rucksack just a camera case … and daughter came along too, so it can’t be a proper country walk ‘cause she doesn’t “do” country walking!

I guess an apology might be in order too, as this dates back to last October, and it’d kind of got lost in amongst other stuff I’ve been doing, until that is, Milford on Sea hit the news over this week-end  and it reminded me of our holiday in the 2013 autumn half term.

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

We’d left the caravan site we were staying at, walked down a wooded valley, on a made up path (a bit muddy in places) following a babbling brook to emerge into the outskirts of 20131029-36_Fancy Chimneys - Milford on SeaMilford on Sea. We then headed into the centre of the village, via High Street, turned into Sea Road and followed it all the way down to meet Hurst Road at the coast. Although pavement walking this was fine, as the village is by no means an ugly place to walk through, and we’d never been here before so it was interesting being in a new place anyway.

Once at the coast, the temperature dropped quite noticeably, there being a strong and quite chilly breeze blowing in off the English Channel/The Solent. However, this was 20131029-11_Isle of Wight - The Needles +The Solent from Milford on Seanothing compared to the few days before, when the area had endured up to 90+ mile an hour winds battering the coast line. We’d actually delayed our holiday by a day or two waiting for the storms to subside somewhat.

The bright breezy quite sunny weather was quite nice now, but the aftermath of the storms was evident across the south coast. In Milford, this was shown by loads of pebbles from the beach being thrown up and over the sea wall defences. In fact there was a street cleaner going back and forth along the front sweeping up the stones on each pass to and fro.

20131029-07_After October Storms _ Railings + Beach Huts - Milford on Sea     20131029-08_After October Storms _ Beach Huts - Milford on Sea

20131029-09_After October Storms _ Railings - Milford on Sea     20131029-10_After October Storms _ Railings - Milford on Sea

First up was an attempt to get some evocative photo’s; waves + groynes + sun + wind + silhouettes, etc., are always photogenic, as are colourful beach-huts. I’ll let you judge if I managed to capture the feel of the seaside in my pic’s, but I think I managed to get a gist of the autumnal conditions. We obviously couldn’t go any further straight on (without getting our feet wet), so we had a choice of two directions – West along the coast, or East along the coast. We chose the easterly option, taking a wide surfaced path, I guess you’d call it the promenade, and this soon became the top of the sea wall running out onto the top of Hurst Spit.

20131029-01_Pebble Beach + Groynes - Milford on Sea     20131029-02_Pebble Beach + Groynes - Milford on Sea

20131029-12_Pebble Beach + Groynes - Milford on Sea     20131029-13_Sea Wall - Milford on Sea

A spit, is a narrow strip of land formed by longshore drift (look it up on google if you want), but basically it’s like a long natural skinny length of normally sand or pebbles/stones/shingle sticking out along the coast into the sea. In the case of Hurst Spit, it is made of pebbles and has been reinforced by human construction and protection of much larger rocks. On the seaward side it is rugged with piles of rocks and groynes to take the teeth of the sea when in an angry and aggressive mood, the inward side, is a softer land/seascape of salt marsh, estuary streams, and pools.

20131029-15_Waves and Rocks - Milford on Sea     20131029-22_Isle of Wight - The Needles +The Solent from Milford on Sea

The spit itself is really quite long and leads out to Hurst Castle, and all along there are super views out over The Solent to The Isle of Wight, including what must be one of the most famous, if not THE most famous rock stacks in the country – The Needles, sticking out into The English Channel. Whilst we were here, they were silhouetted against a bright sky with sparkles bouncing off the choppy waters and shapely clouds scudding across the sky. A powerful sight, but beautiful as well ! … Maybe I (we) appreciate this kind of beauty more than we’d otherwise do because we live as far away from the coast as it is possible to do in England, in leafy land-locked Warwickshire.

20131029-35_Waves + Groynes - Milford on Sea     20131029-34_Waves + Groynes - Milford on Sea

Anyway, we decided we weren’t going to hike all the way to the castle, instead dropping down on the landward side to where a stream exits a sizeable pool of open water. This pool is called Sturt Pond and I suppose is what would be called a salt-marsh lagoon. This 20131029-23_Swans at Hurst Spit _ Milford on Seais an obvious haven for water-fowl, with a large number of swans congregating in and around the outflow stream and groups of geese flying in, almost using the spit as a directional marker as they flew in from across The Solent descending rapidly at the end of their flight path to drop in to land on the pool. It’s obviously a well known birding spot, as there were a good number of photographers intermittently positioned around the pool with extremely long lenses putting my 18-55 kit lens to shame.

20131029-19_Sturt Pond - Salt Marsh Logoon - Milford on Sea     20131029-20_Flying Geese - Coming into Sturt Pond _ Milford on Sea

From here, we headed back towards the mainland, staying low on the sheltered side of the embankment. I quite liked the silhouettes of the brave souls on the top of the spit in the teeth of the breeze; it really shows how small and insignificant a human being can appear to be against nature.

20131029-25_Silhouettes - Walkers on Hurst Spit _ Milford on Sea

20131029-26_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on SeaAs we reached the mainland, we decided a warming cup of something and maybe a bite to eat in The Marine Cafe would be just the thing. Prices seemed reasonable, there were tables available inside and the cafe itself looked friendly and inviting in a modern and clean adaptation of art-deco style. We didn’t delay long outside and in we went. It turned out the owners hailed from and 20131029-28_1st floor dining_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on Seastill have family in Dunchurch, just a couple of miles from where we live. The lady we were talking to, gave a potted history about how they’d come to run a cafe in Milford and the story of the re-development of the cafe into the establishment it is today, with the cafe on the ground floor, a restaurant on the 1st floor, along with some very posh looking bedroom accommodation. On the top of all that is a super rooftop terrace. There are fantastic views all around, but especially out to sea, with large plate glass windows on all sides and from all levels of the building; quite stunning really. The owners were so proud of their business, they insisted on giving us a tour, including the bedrooms/suite and the artworks on the walls. Ultimately they were probably trying to build up business, but it didn’t really feel like it.

20131029-29_Artwork Detail_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on Sea

20131029-30_Artwork Detail_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on Sea

Well, I said above that they’d built up their establishment to what it is as of “today”, what I mean is up until a couple of days ago …. Because …. on 14th February 2014 it was completely wrecked by the latest of a series of big storms to blow in during the wettest winter on record. The conditions were so bad the beach was blown inland, over the sea wall, over the road and through the plate glass windows. The thirty or so Valentine’s Day 20131029-27_Rooftop View_The Marine Cafe-Restaurant _ Milford on Seadiners had to take refuge deep inside the building, to be rescued by the emergency services. The cars outside apparently floated off down the street and ended up completely wrecked too.

It’s not often somewhere you’ve visited, and people you’ve met, (especially in a relatively sleepy back-water of a place) end-up on the national news, but Milford on Sea and The Marine Cafe/restaurant have certainly made the news over the last day or so. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all those affected and we hope “The Marine” is up and running again in time for the new holiday season and that they get a little good publicity once they’ve repaired all the damage.

Well, back to the day, we left the cafe, headed back up to Milford on Sea village centre, checked out a local pub (The Smugglers Inn) as a potential place to eat in the evening and then back up the wooded valley to our caravan park, pausing only for the kids to do a spot of tree climbing en-route.

Happy days with my family !!!!!!

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.

20111227_Foxton Locks Mini Walk / Visit

20111227_Foxton Locks Mini Walk / Visit.

When : 27th December 2011

Who : Just Me – But to also meet some colleagues from my scout group

Where : Foxton – Leicestershire – England

Map used : 1:25000 Explorer Map no.223 – Northampton and Market Harborough

Start and End Point : SP,693,892

20111227-08_Staircase Locks - Foxton by gary.haddenDistance : Approx 5 km (3 miles) … but you could do most of this in about half that distance.

Summary : A mini-walk, little more than a visit really, to the staircase locks and associated  canals near Foxton at a Tee-Junction of The Grand Union Canal.

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

As the weather forecast was kind of OK : Grey and overcast but mostly dry, with the odd chance of a light shower or even with a drop of sunshine possible, I decided to head out to Foxton Locks; a place I’ve visited at regular times over many years now. The reason was three-fold really :-

  • Firstly: To test out how my knees were improving after key-hole “arthroscopy” surgery on both knees/cartilage. It was the first time I’d had my boots on since the op’s a few weeks earlier.
  • Secondly: To meet some friends + colleagues in the scout group I help out at (I’m an ACSL with the  Cub Scouts). The group always do a Christmas family walk, and this year they’d chosen a circular based on Foxton.
  • And last, but not least; To potentially take a few photo’s, simply because it’s a quite interesting and attractive place to go.

20111227-15_Lock Winding gears - Foxton by gary.haddenThe village of Foxton is just a couple of miles north-west of Market Harborough and my route to get there was along the A4304 for much of the way from my home in Rugby. Before reaching Mkt Harbro’ though, I took a left turn in the village of Lubenham to take a minor road north to almost reach Foxton village at a tee junction. Taking a left turn onto Gallow Field Road and then another left very soon after onto Gumley Road in fact now took me directly away from the village. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is good reason, as the car-park I was heading for is in fact a little way along this road out in the middle of the countryside and not in Foxton itself. I soon found myself parked up, along with so many other cars that I had to use the over-flow field. Obviously a lot of other people had similar ideas to myself and a real testament to the popularity of the place. There is a charge for the car park but there is a toilet block, which considering this was The Christmas Holidays, I was surprised to find open.

20111227_Foxton Locks Mini WalkAnyway, enough of the pre-amble to the walk. I managed to get my boots on OK(ish); bending my knees wasn’t overly easy, and I set off along a path running alongside but set back from the road in a westerly direction. In only a matter of a few minutes a bridge is reached crossing The Grand Union Canal. The canal side path that I wanted was on the far bank, so I crossed over the canal, but I didn’t need to brave the narrow “hump” of the roadway, as there is a wooden footbridge immediately to the side of the traditional brick built arch. The drop down to the canal is really nothing to write home about, but I took it quite gingerly, easing my way into the walk, not wishing to put too much strain on my knees which I have to admit were rather sore and decidedly stiff ! Once down on the canal side 20111227-01_Staircase Locks - Foxton by gary.haddenhowever, turning north on the tow path, the way became very much easier on the old knees, being absolutely perfectly flat and I soon reached the top lock and lock keepers cottage at the top of the really quite steep hill.

The canal has to descend a total of 75 feet (about 23 meters) in height within a very short distance. In terms of a canal, that has by design got to retain water by being dead flat, this is quite a task. The canal engineer Benjamin Brown solved the problem by constructing two flights of five very deep staircase locks – 10 in all. Unusually, one lock leads directly into another without any linking stretch of canal. This means the bottom gates of one lock are also the top gates of the next lock down. This in turn means that only one narrow boat can negotiate either up or down each set of five locks at any one time. There is just one short passing place between the two flights. As you can imagine when it’s busy on the canal this makes for a real bottle-neck and a single boat can take some time to travel from top to bottom (or vice-versa).

The system is also potentially very expensive on the amount of water needed to transport a single craft up or down the hill. To this end, there 20111227-02_Lock Cogs - Foxton by gary.haddenare a good number of balancing/feeder ponds tiered down the hill by the side of the locks. The result is not only a practical solution but also very aesthetically pleasing on the eye and a superb semi-naturalised environment for wild-life.

I spent some time switching back and forth trying to find the best angles for some photo’s, trying not to be too clichéd in my snaps. Not easy for me today, mainly because my knees really did not like the steeper drops as the pathways descended in a series of steps – It wasn’t just discomfort and stiffness now, there was real pain! and 20111227-10_Bottom Lock - Foxton by gary.haddendisappointing as well as I’d hoped (probably unrealistically) that things were improving. I was also trying to guesstimate when my scouting colleagues might be coming over the fields from Gumley, so headed off to the bottom lock, crossed an attractively arched bridge  and headed up the tow path heading north (with the canal on my left) passing a number of moored narrow boats on the way. The roofs of the boats are often used to carry stuff; bikes, flowers/vegetables growing in pots, decorative buckets, etc., etc., and I particularly liked one boat with a pile of fire-wood, nothing unusual in that perhaps, but the delicate stacking did look very precarious.

20111227-03_Precarious Fire Wood on Barge - Foxton by gary.hadden

After a short while along the tow path (occasionally dodging cyclists), a modern metal footbridge is reached, which I had to wait a few minutes to cross because of the number of people enjoying a post Christmas stroll in the fresh air. The steep steeps however were not good for my knees and I fairly hobbled up and own each side. Once on the other side however the way was very easy, at first walking close to a hedge (on my right) and then after a few hundred yards, passing through to the other side to head diagonally across the adjacent field towards a farm. It was just outside the farm that I met my scouting friends who told me they’d had a super walk (the muddiest part being the farm yard they’d just come through) and I turned around to retrace my steps with some of them back to the metal footbridge and then back down to the Foxton Locks junction. Once over the canal we headed for one of the two pubs here, bought some drinks from the bar and sat on an outside terrace over-looking the basin. Luckily the weather was dry (although rather chilly) which was a good thing because otherwise it was standing 20111227-04_Inclined Plane - Foxton Locks (B+W) by gary.haddenroom only in the pub; all tables being full of drinkers and diners – again testament to the popularity of the area. Slowly but surely, people moved off, leaving just a few of us to finish our drinks, and eventually I said my farewells and headed back into the locks area, this time heading up to the remains of The Inclined Plane.

The Inclined Plane – An innovative boat lift.

As mentioned before, the flight of locks is a bottleneck waiting to happen when the canals are busy. In modern times this is pretty much leisure craft, but back in the late 1800’s when canal traffic was industrial this was a real problem – Time is money and all that! – The narrow 7-feet wide locks also restricted the width of the boats/barges that could negotiate the flight precluding larger wider boats being used. At the same time, the use of canals to efficiently transport goods 20111227-05_Inclined Plane - Foxton Locks by gary.haddenaround the country was coming under stiff competition from the railways which obviously were much quicker.

To try and counter the competition, engineer Gordon Cale was employed to find a solution to the bottle-neck and allow larger and wider barges (that could carry larger loads) to make use of the canals here…. The result was “The Inclined Plane”. This consisted of two huge tanks (known as caissons), each could accommodate two of the normal narrow boats or one of the larger wide barges. One tank would sit at the top of a steeply slanting slope, with the other at the bottom and would link with canal arms at the top and bottom of the hill. When ready, the two tanks would be closed by means of guillotine gates ensuring the tanks were maintained full of water and would run sideways up and down the slope on tracks (resembling railway tracks), one counterbalancing the other. The system was operated by means of a winding drum and thick steel cables attached to the ascending 20111227-11_Boiler House Reflection - Foxton by gary.haddentank whilst playing out cables attached to the descending tank. The whole thing was powered by a 25 horse power steam engine. The Boiler House for the steam engine has now been converted into a small museum.

After all the investment and engineering works, the inclined plane was opened on the 10th July 1900. However, the canal wasn’t widened at Watford Gap, further down the cut; canal traffic didn’t increase and the railways (and ultimately roads for that matter) won the race for moving goods about the country. The inclined plane lift closed in 1911, just ten/eleven years after its grand opening! It then fell into disrepair and only in recent times has a restoration programme been put in place.

Anyway, enough of the potted history, there’s MUCH more info’ available from various sources if you care to look for it. Some examples I’ve found very easily [ they’re all external sites I have no links with or influence over, just some sites I’ve found ] :-

20111227-06_Industrial Barge - Foxton Locks by gary.haddenSo, back to my wander; I headed over to the remains of the inclined plane; The concrete blocks and channels give a sense of the scale of the operation. At the top, there is a beached huge barge, again giving a superb indication of what was achieved here and totally belying the current prettiness of the area : This was an 20111227-07_Balancing Ponds - Foxton Staircase Locks by gary.haddenindustrial place, not a tourist attraction.

Incidentally, the flat roof of the boiler house affords a super view out over the balancing ponds and locks.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I dropped down to look for some interesting camera angles, eventually reaching the bottom lock and basin area once again.

20111227-09_Bottom Lock + Cottage - Foxton by gary.hadden

By now, it was starting to get decidedly cool and I could feel my knees stiffening up even more than before, and felt was time to start moving back up the hill, so started the climb past the museum to reach the dead end of the canal arm that used to feed the top of the incline plane. Walking up the right hand side of this part of the cut felt quite remote, being somewhat removed from the main locks, and I enjoyed trying to get some pic’s here-abouts – My faves being of some sloe berries and a small gorse bush in flower hanging over the dark (almost sinister looking) waters of the canal.

20111227-13_Sloe Berries - Foxton Locks by gary.hadden

20111227-14_Gorse Flowers - Foxron Locks by gary.hadden

The path this side of the canal peters-out, meaning I had to return the way I’d come, then switching over to the opposite side to follow a much wider path all the way back up to the original footbridge used at the start of the walk. 20111227-12_Tree Reflection - Foxton  Locks by gary.haddenFrom here it was a short distance back to the car and the drive home.

An enjoyable wander, I never tire of going back here – If you get the chance, go see it for yourself …. And if you’re after a longer walk, there’s plenty of scope for longer circulars including footpaths to the villages of Lubenham, Gumley, Loughton, Saddington (and it’s small reservoir), Smeeton Westerby and of course Foxton itself.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and photo’s, and if you end up visiting I wish you some blue skies and sunshine, as it’s so much more rewarding in good conditions.

So, T.T.F.N.…. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. Bye-Bye, Gary

20110918_MHW_Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills (B-Walk)

20110918_MHW_Cheddar Gorge and Mendip Hills (B-Walk)

20110918-23_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenWhen : 18th September 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – B-Party

Where : Mendip Hills – Somerset – England

Maps used : 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Landranger map no. 182 Weston-Super-Mare & Bridgwater area.

Start Point : ST475,513 [Draycott]     End Point : ST446,597 [Churchill]

Distance : Approx 16.6 km (10.3 miles)

Approx significant heights : Climb-1 = 200m (656 ft) ; Climb-2 = 220m (722 ft) ; Climb-3 = 105m (328 ft)

20110918_Mendip Hills Walk (Draycott to Churchill via Cheddar Gorge + Black Down)Summary : A very wet walk (at least for ¾ of the day) crossing The Mendip Hills AONB generally south to north, using The Mendip Way for some of the route, starting in Draycott and including the observation tower at Cheddar, climbing up the southern edges of Cheddar Gorge, crossing the highest place on the Mendip Range at Black Down and finishing off by crossing Dolebury Warren and hill fort before descending to Dinghurst/Churchill on the A368.
If you’d like to see a bigger photo’, click on the pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

As with all MHW walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant being out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive to Kenilworth. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc., again please use these links to see my earlier post about the MHW and the MHW’s own web-site.

The coach headed off down the motorway system eventually leaving the M5 to drive right through Cheddar heading towards Wells. Because today was my sister Janet’s birthday and she was 20110918-10_At a view point looking up Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenwalking today, and my other sister Julie was also out on the walk, I decided to join them with the B-walkers for the day. We and the rest of the B-party were regurgitated from in the village of Draycott about two miles outside of Cheddar on the A371, on the edge of the Somerset levels …. we were only about 30m above sea level here, even though we were miles from the coast. The A-party stayed on the coach for an extra mile or so, to the village of Rodney Stoke, for the start of their slightly longer route.

Being so close to sea level, meant only two things could happen :- 1) we could start off pretty much on the flat, or 2) we could set off uphill. Unsurprisingly, being called The Midland Hill Walkers we had a hill to climb. 20110918-01_Batcombe Farm - Draycott - West Mendip Way by gary.haddenThis entailed crossing the main road and then a more minor road, heading north-east(ish), before a surprisingly steep ascent kicked in on a grassy rise up past Batcombe Farm; the going was good underfoot so this wasn’t particularly difficult. Above the farm we continued uphill in a mini-valley, but soon after made a right turn (still rising) doubling back on ourselves to do a big zig-zag, ending up still heading parallel to our original direction. After a while (near the top of the mini-valley) we tended to the left towards the field boundary as the gradient started to ease. From here the effort level began to drop, but unfortunately  so did the rain, as the low, monotonous grey clouds decided it was time to stop being just flat and miserable and become fully fledged rain – Meaning waterproofs in variety of colours (mostly shades of blue) were rapidly found and donned before moving off again.

20110918-03_Midland Hill Walkers heading for Cheddar - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenIt didn’t take long before we reached the top of our climb, took a big swing left and then followed the path (I think it might have been a bridle-way) passing above Carscliff Farm. We were now generally heading in a north-westerly direction on a long descent of maybe a couple of miles towards Cheddar. The way was on grassy fields, a narrow muddy enclosed track and later country lanes as we passed through Bradley Cross to reach the outskirts of Cheddar, having now lost literally all of the height we’d initially gained at the start of the walk.

However, we didn’t make the final drop into the small town (or is it a large village?), famous for its cheese; instead turning right to start regaining all that lost height on a steep rise to emerge in a clearing. At one end of the clearing is a metal observation tower, which a good handful of us climbed to the octagonal viewing platform. This afforded some super views westwards over Cheddar and its oddly circular reservoir and beyond over the Somerset Levels to the coast to the south of Western-Super-Mare (or Western-Super-Mud as we’ve always joking called it). However, today, because of the miserable cloudy weather the sea couldn’t be made-out in the far distance. Looking more to the east though, there was a half-decent view (albeit a rather damp one) up the lower reaches of Cheddar Gorge and the famous cliffs.

20110918-07_(b+w) Observation Tower - Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden       20110918-06_At top of Observation Tower - Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden

20110918-04_(b+w) Cheddar Gorge from Observation Tower by gary.hadden

20110918-08_At a view point nr bottom of Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenOnce the handful of us had negotiated the descent of the tower, we rejoined our fellow walkers who’d patiently waited for us. At least the rain had now eased to a very slight drizzle and the optimistic among us had removed coats (the majority were pessimistic though and kept theirs on) and we again set off uphill. We were now following the southern edges of Cheddar Gorge, not that we could see much due to the trees and scrub hereabouts, but every now and then a viewpoint would afford some better views of the largest gorge in the UK.

20110918-13_Midland Hill Walkers above Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenAs we climbed higher, the views became more expansive, especially where side paths branched off to reach out onto the tops of the cliff bastions / buttresses protruding out into the canyon below. The rain had now restarted (the pessimists had been right this time) and keeping my 20110918-12_On the south side above Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddencamera dry became a difficult task and made me think I’d been right plumping for the Pentax K200D with its weather-seals. This couldn’t stop the lens being covered in rain-drops though and I’ve ended up with a disappointing set of images of the gorge, although I’ve kept a few just as a record of the walk (and to illustrate this diary post).

20110918-15_(b+w) Cheddar Gorge Buttresses and Reservoir by gary.hadden   20110918-14_(b+w) Above Cheddar Gorge by gary.hadden

At the top of the climb, we then had to negotiate a very slippery muddy path down through an area of woodland, not the easiest of tasks especially as the smooth limestone rocks had become treacherous in the wet; there were at least couple of people who inadvertently ended up sat on their bottoms in the middle of the path. This descent through the woods to meet the B3135  road (which runs through the bottom of the gorge) wasn’t too long in length though and we regrouped before crossing virtually straight over the B-road to enter an area known as Black Rock.

This steep sided valley is really just the top end of Cheddar Gorge, although much shallower now and has a different feel about it. There is a wide track in the bottom making walking very easy and the sides are covered in trees, the canopy creating a gloom and permanent dampness, perfect for 20110918-17_Mossy wall - Black Rock Valley (top of Cheddar Gorge by gary.haddenmosses and ivy on the stone walls and exposed rock here. It was towards the top end of this area that we stopped for lunch … I plumped for standing out in the open in the steady rain, whilst others headed under some trees hoping they’ afford some protection – to me I couldn’t see much difference, only the size of the droplets being much larger under the branches and leaves, only maybe fewer of them … either way we stood eating in the rain – a necessity, but NOT a pleasant experience! …. However, a nice treat was in store for us all, as Janet (my sister who’s birthday it was) took out two big Tupperware pots of home-made cakes to hand around :- Very nice Jan’ thank-you.

Once packed away, we set off again and soon emerged onto high almost level pastureland where the rain although still persistent seemed to have brightened – bright-rain rather than dull-rain. The walking had become easier again and the pace quickened and low and behold the rain eased back down to a drizzle. This was most welcome as the inclement weather had become really quite tiresome; I think my other sis’ Julie really wasn’t enjoying herself by now!

20110918-18_Midland Hill Walkers on West Mendip Way nr Gorsey Bigbury by gary.haddenAfter a while, we picked up a farm track (heading north) at Gorsey Bigbury and then, at its end, turned left onto a minor road heading east to Tyning’s Farm (a riding centre). We’d all got spread out somewhat along the road, and we used this as a regrouping place.We’d been walking on The West Mendip Way, but now (rather than continue on its route towards Shipham) we turned right up a muddy track, wire fenced on both sides to reach a pair of gates which in turn led onto an area of rougher land. We were now on Black Down, the highest place on the Mendips. There are various paths heading off in different directions here.

  • One to the right would lead to the highest point of Black Down at Beacon Batch (325m/1066 feet above sea level); this would be the A-parties route, but not ours.
  • A path to the left headed past what looked like a war-time bunker of sorts. It turns out that a decoy bombing town (known as Starfish) was constructed here in World War II in the hope of diverting bombing raids away from Bristol.
  • However, our path went straight ahead on a track heading out into rough grass, heather, bracken and gorse heathland.

20110918-22_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenThe big wide open space was a pleasant contrast to the walk done so far, especially as the bright rain had now given way to dry and patches of weak sunshine breaking through onto the fields below us. However, it was very wet underfoot; all the recent rain filling the ruts and hollows of the track making us weave left and right to find a way ahead.

20110918-24_Midland Hill Walkers Crossing Black Down - Mendip Hills by gary.haddenAs we crested the rise, some super views opened up in front of us including, in the distance, the Severn Estuary and beyond this to Wales. As we dropped on the northern flanks of the hill, we then turned off to the left on a narrow track through an extensive area of waist high bracken, dropping gently to a conifer plantation at Rowberrow Warren. We now headed further north on a track and then hung left once again rising gently onto the hill of Dolebury Warren.

20110918-25 (B+W)_Midland Hill Walkers_Silhouettes Dolebury Warren - Mendip Hills by gary.hadden

20110918-26_Glowering Clouds and a patch of Sun - Mendip Hills by gary.hadden

20110918-28_Midland Hill Walkers - Silhouettes - Mendip Hills Walk by gary.hadden  20110918-27_Midland Hill Walkers - Silhouettes - Mendip Hills Walk by gary.hadden

At the western end of Dolebury Warren we had to climb the earth banks of an ancient hill fort (Iron Age) and then the route took us right through the middle of the sizeable fort cum medieval rabbit warren, to then drop through some woods to a minor settlement, crossed the A38 main road and then one final little rise to join a minor road (well access drive really) for the final drop down, (passing two pubs, one small and one large) to the A368 at Churchill, where we had to find the coach … turned out it was parked in a lay-by just outside the village.

20110918-33_Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.haddenAlthough the final stretch of the walk had allowed my clothes to dry, I changed into clean clothes, before joining my fellow hikers in the walk back up to The Crown Inn which we’d passed earlier (the small pub) which, from the outside, could quite easily be mistaken for a normal residential cottage. The inside was like a throw back in time – absolutely no frills, but the beer was certainly drinkable!

20110918-31_Kegs - Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.hadden

20110918-29_Happy Birthday in the Crown Inn - Winscombe - Churchill by gary.haddenSix more mini-cakes appeared from a ruck-sack …. They’d been carried for the entire length of the walk by my sister Julie, along with birthday candles, which were promptly lit and a rendition of the eternal “Happy Birthday To You” was sung to Janet. With smiles all-round. The toilets were as traditional as the bar areas – I mean they were in an outhouse in the back garden, next to a bunch of beer kegs (I’m guessing empty!) …. And then it was back to the coach for the sleepy drive back up the M5 to Kenilworth …. I can’t say it was the best day of walking I’ve ever had, rain does that to a walk! But – it’s a super area for walking and it was a good day nonetheless.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and my photo’s …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

20110717-31_Distant Poppy Field - Chiltern Hills by gary.haddenWhen : 17th July 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : Chiltern Hills – Mostly in Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire,  England

Maps used : OS. Landranger maps, no.175 Reading & Windsor and no.165 Aylesbury & Leighton Buzzard.

Start Point : SU806,917…. End Point : SU710,995

Distance : Approx  17.5 km (11 miles) (by measuring wheel + 1:50000 map)

Significant heights climbed : Difficult to say total heights as the route undulated up and down all day really ; at any one moment I can’t really remember any particularly difficult hills; longest climb probably about 360 feet.

Approx Route Map :-

20110717_MHW_Chiltern Hills Linear Walk– B-Walk

Summary : B-Party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers ; Starting in Lane End then passing near Ditchfield and Hanover Hill before going through Fingest, Turville (Vicar of Dibley Village), Ibstone Common, Hailey Wood, Vicars Bottom, Lewknor, Under the M40 and finishing in Postcombe.

If you click on a pic’ it should launch as a larger image via my flickr photostream … or, if you don’t want to read my words and just look at my pic’s please use “this link” to my set of images – there are more pic’s there than shown below.

20110717-03_Field Side Poppies - Chilterns by gary.haddenAs with all MHW [Midland Hill Walkers] walks, the coach left almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25 for the drive down the A45/A46 to Kenilworth.

Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use this link to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site.

Once out of Kenilworth, we headed off down the M40 and eventually called in at Beaconsfield Services for a 15-20 minute rest-stop; get boots on; get a coffee; grab a bite to eat; etc’. (The nutty pastry I bought with my coffee was very naughty but nice). Then it was back up the M-way for a short way before dropping further south past Marlow, crossing The Thames and then re-crossing the river again before turning right in Henley-on-Thames. This was a slower journey than it might have been due having to negotiate past competitors in a triathlon or other similar event. Once through Henley the A-party was dropped off (somewhere near Hambleden I think) and those of us in the B-team stayed on-board for a continuation of our mini magical mystery tour. We’d now almost done a full circle as we entered Marlow before taking a left onto the B482 for a longish climb up to Town End. I’m not sure if this settlement is a small town or a large village, but once disembarked we didn’t really see much of the place.

20110717-01_Red Kite and Crane - Lane End Chilterns by gary.haddenOnce assembled by the side of the B482, we immediately headed south passing a flint built church (Holy Trinity I think) and then swung around through a rather ram-shackled looking business yard with cranes and other bits of machinery. I’ve certainly walked through prettier places. One thing I did like here though was a Red Kite flying in amongst the tall cranes. From here things rapidly improved as we followed a path winding through semi-wooded undulating terrain, interspersed with pleasant farmland (some pasture-land and some planted up with ripening cereal crops). Somehow, even though the path was over 6-foot wide at one point I managed to get my legs stung on some stinging nettles – Most unpleasant! and it took another half-an-hour or so before I found some dock leaves to relieve the annoying painful  itching …. The old wives/country remedy really does work though.

20110717-07_Ripening cereal crop - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-04_Field Side Poppies - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-09_St Bartholomew Church - Fingest - Chilterns by gary.haddenAlthough grey and threatening, with rain in the air, I’d just about got away with no coat so far, but eventually I had to succumb and don my waterproofs as the light drizzle became quite steady fine rain, the sort that insidiously gets you drenched without really knowing when it happened. After some distance we arrived in the small village of Fingest, which consisted of a scattering of homes, a pub (The Chequers) and an ancient looking Church (St Batholomew) with an odd double roof atop its tower. After a short rest stop, we moved on and very soon found ourselves in the larger village of Turville.

Turville has at least two claims to fame in the world of film and TV. The first being the windmill (sat on the hillside above the village) was apparently used in the ever popular film, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang; the second is the sit-com Vicar of Dibley was filmed in the village. The pretty village became another short stop, with us stood around having some lunch on the village green. It was just too damp to sit and really enjoy the surroundings. The weather certainly didn’t show the picture post-card like cottages off at their best but I did have a wander round trying to get some pic’s … I’ll let you decide if I did OK … My fave was one of a pink rose with the cottage window behind going out-of-focus.

20110717-19_Pink Rose - Turville  - Chilterns by gary.hadden

20110717-14_Coffee stop on Turville Village Green by gary.hadden

20110717-17_Cottages - Turville (BBCs Dibley) by gary.hadden   20110717-22_Hollyhocks and Narrow Path - Turville by gary.hadden

20110717-18_St Mary The Virgin Church - Turville by gary.hadden

We left Turville via a narrow pathway alongside a wood-clad building lined with deep pink hollyhocks before emerging onto a wide swathe of a path climbing up through a field of maize (still only a few inches tall). This marked the longest climb of 20110717-24_Hill climb - Between Turville and Ibstone by gary.haddenthe day so far, but nothing untoward to cope with, even though it did steepen for a short section as we climbed above the vibrant greens in the valley below. Several Red Kites joined us, effortlessly moving through the grey skies above and then drifting across the valley below us. These raptors really have become a success story since they were re-introduced to The Chilterns some years ago and the numbers we saw during the day certainly seem to back this up.

20110717-28_Standing Stone Ibstone Common by gary.haddenAfter some more pleasant walking through patchy woodland (especially as the rain had stopped now) we reached Ibstone Common and glory be, the sun came out!… actually casting some shadows and the open grassland afforded a perfect place for our main lunch stop of the day. Once sated a couple of us wandered over to a large and isolated standing stone, to my eyes looking rather lonely, but none-the-less stood proudly upright.

Once we were all packed up and raring to go again, we headed into the woodland bordering the common and then once through to the other side, swinging north to meet a track leading up to Wellground Farm. From here we branched left, rising up 20110717-33_Midland Hill Walkers - Hailey Wood - Chilterns by gary.haddenthrough Hailey Wood. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I do like the dappled light that sunshine makes as it filters through deciduous woodland; it’s just one of those things that just can’t help but raise the spirits. We got quite strung out on the climb through the woods which meant a regroup at a salient spot. This was quite important, as our route took a left turn to drop quite quickly and it could have been very easy to lose any back-markers if they hadn’t seen us take the side path. The drop was quite steep compared to the walk done so far, to level out out in a small valley at Vicars Bottom and a very nice country residence. The leaders 1:25000 map shows Vicars Bottom as Lower Vicars Farm which might be more P.C. but doesn’t have the same humour and charm as the name on my 1:50000 scale map.

20110717-37_Vicars Bottom (or Lower Vicars Farm) - Chilterns by gary.haddenAfter skirting the attractive property we picked up a drive way rising up to a minor road (near Upper Vicars Farm). An embarrassing and very annoying squeak then decided to manifest itself every time I put my right boot down. I was told it could be heard several yards away … to compensate, I got my head down and pushed on and soon found myself on our leaders shoulder, upon which he said he was happy for me to go ahead of him, just to stop at the junction with a road.

This turned out to be the last proper climb of the day and I quite enjoyed the short blast to the top of the rise where we all regrouped once again. This point marked a change in the terrain, as, after crossing the road and a small scrubby field, a superb 20110717-38_Midland Hill Walkers - Descent of the Chiltern Scarp by gary.haddenvista opened up in front of us. We were now stood at the top of The Chilterns Scarp Slope; the Oxfordshire plain spread out below us with the M40 cutting a swathe through the fields as a sinuous line into the distance. Although we couldn’t actually see it, we were positioned just a matter of yards to the south of the very recognisable Stokenchurch Gap, where the motorway rises up onto the top of the Chilterns on its way to London. The unnatural gorge through the chalk is also sometimes known as the Aston Rowan Cuttting or Aston Hill Cutting.

20110717-40_Red Kite - Above Lewknor Village by gary.haddenThe descent was easy and we were soon walking across the flat farmland we’d been looking down upon a few minutes earlier. The walking was made even easier by picking up a long access road and after crossing the B4009 into the village of Lewknor.

We were again treated to the sight of several Red Kites flying silhouetted above us.

20110717-41_St Margaret's Church - Lewknor by gary.hadden

20110717-42_Midland Hill Walkers Leaving Lewknor by gary.haddenAfter a little road walking through the village, we were soon leaving the village, closely passing the attractive St. Margaret’s Church en-route to pick up a wide verge down the side of a very large cereal crop field. We were getting ever closer to the M40 and eventually had to cross under the motorway via a rather unattractive utilitarian underpass. This was now the last leg of the route and all we needed to do was cross a couple of fields, the crop was now broad beans – quite a tall scruffy crop, but at least we had some tractor lines to follow.

The walk ended at the “England’s Rose” pub at Postcombe on the A40. Apparently it’s named after Lady/Princess Di. 20110717-50_England's Rose Pub - Postcombe by gary.haddenWe were made very welcome, although it did feel a little of an oddity especially as they had no draught bitter on tap, I think they’d simply run out, so bottles of beer had to be bought. And then it was homeward bound, back up the M40 to Kenilworth including a well earned snooze for many of us ….

And that’s the end of this diary post, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and pics …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.

T.T.F.N. Gary

20110227_Midland Hill Walkers – Wye Valley Walk – B-Walk

20110227_Midland Hill Walkers – Wye Valley Walk – B-Walk

20110227-58_Me at The Round House at The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenWhen : 27th February 2011

Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club

Where : The Wye Valley and Forest of Dean on the England/Wales Border south of Monmouth.

Map : Ordnance Survey 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map no.14 – Wye Valley & Forest of Dean

Start Point : 537,051 + End Point : 505,125

Approx Distance : 16.5 km = just over 10 miles (by measuring wheel/map)

Significant heights climbed : 580m (1903 ft) … see end of diary for details.

Summary : B-party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers – Starting at Bigsweir Bridge and passing through St. Briavels ;  The Slade Brook Valley ; Wyegate Green ; Caudwell Woods ; The Valley Brook Valley ;  Astridge Wood ; Newland Village and Cathedral of The Forest ; Upper Redbrook ; Offa’s Dyke Path ; Naval Temple and The Kymin and finally across The Wye to Monmouth. 

If you just want to look at pic’s instead of reading my diray, please use this link …. clicking on an image launches a larger view or click the icon which will show the set as a slide show. 

20110227-08_Me myself yours-truly - Gary Hadden by gary.haddenThis was the 2nd Midland Hill Walkers outing of the year, but this was my first trip with them in 2011 having not gone out on the walk & annual club dinner in January. Please forgive me but I’m going to be lazy and use MHW as an acronym for the rest of this post. As with all MHW walks, the coach left Kenilworth almost dead on 7:00 a.m. which had meant getting up very early to be out of the house by about 6:25. Rather than go through all the blurb about car parks, timings, etc. please use these links to see my earlier posts about the MHW and the MHW own web-site … ( Some Information About The Midland Hill walkers ) … ( Midland Hill Walkers_Leamington Courier Article ).  

Having left Kenilworth, we headed off down the M5 all the way to Bristol to cross the River Severn and Mouth of The Wye, on the oldest of the Severn Bridges, crossing into Wales in the process. We then skirted around Chepstow to head up into The Wye Valley on the A466 as far as Tintern Abbey where the coach pulled in right next to the impressive ruined landmark. This was the start point for the A-party and I suppose just less than half of the walkers on the coach departed on the longer and more strenuous walk, leaving the B-walkers (me included this time) 20110227-01_River Wye from Bigsweir Bridge by gary.haddento travel further up the very pretty Wye Valley on the coach, closely following the river on the Welsh side until we reached a road junction near Bigsweir Bridge. 

This was our starting point and we all piled off to retrieve ruck-sacks from the coach’s hold. We set off for about a hundred yards or so along the A466 in Wales, to cross over The Wye by means of Bigsweir Bridge. The river was very full and certainly much less benign looking than I’ve seen in the past. I can’t really say much about the bridge itself as it was almost 20110227-02_Track rising from Wye Valley towards St Briavels by gary.haddencompletely shrouded from view because of maintenance works; the only point worth making I suppose, is that half way across we passed into England, leaving Wales behind us, at least for the time being. 

Not long after crossing the bridge, we took a right onto a farm track, which, after crossing Mork Brook soon started rising on the first climb of the day. Our leader decided to do a spot of leading from the middle (or maybe even the back?) of the group, and 20110227-03_Ivy fingers strangling tree by gary.haddenbeing up at the front asked me and the lady I was chatting to, to carry on until we reached Lindors Farm. The climb was steady but easy underfoot and we soon reached our designated stopping point and the party regrouped before moving on again, soon re-crossing the Mork Brook for a second time. A second stop ensued as we regrouped in some trees where the damp conditions allowed a vibrant growth of mosses, especially on an old stone wall which I thought was quite attractive in a scruffy sort of way. I also let my imagination wander a little likening the old climbing stems of ivy to distorted fingers strangling the host tree – like something out of a fantasy story, one could almost imagine fairies or miniature hobgoblins or other such creatures hiding away in the shadows and nooks and crannies … too much imagination? – perhaps!

 20110227-04_Mossy Stone Wall - Nr Lindors Farm by gary.hadden

20110227-05_Lower Meend - Wye Valley - nr St Briavels by gary.haddenMoving on was still uphill and the track became a metalled road passing through the scattered cottages of Lower Meend. We’d probably been steadily climbing for about a mile now, and rather than ease off, the slope steepened as we left the minor road onto a narrow path forcing us all into a single file line and after a another steep pull upwards we emerged onto a larger road where a regrouping was in order, the steep slope and single file walking had spread us all out over some distance. This gave the opportunity for a chat with my sister and bro-in-law (it was them who’d introduced me to the club in the first place) whilst we enjoyed the contrasting sights of wide views out over The Wye Valley and the much more intimate snowdrops lining the path side.

20110227-14_St Briavels Castle Moat + Walls by gary.haddenWe now had a section of road walking (still uphill) to enter the village of St. Briavels. The village is dominated by a remarkably well preserved moated Norman castle now a youth hostel. It was originally built as a hunting lodge for King John in 1205 on the site of an earlier stronghold; its towers were added as part of the Ring of Stone around Wales. I’ve stayed here once before (many years ago) with the Coventry CHA Rambling Club and always thought I’d like to stay again – which is actually going to happen this year as my wife, son and I are booked in during the summer for a couple of nights (really looking forward to it). 

 

20110227-12_Outside St Briavels Castle by gary.hadden    20110227-10_Mossy Stone Wall - St Briavels Castle by gary.hadden

 

20110227-15_St Briavels Church in St Briavels Village by gary.haddenWe walked around the perimeter wall, almost making a full circle around the castle before heading through the church yard to join a minor road heading north out of the village.

The roadside verges were scattered with snowdrops fairly shining out in the sunshine. There are some things that give your spirits a lift and this certainly came into that bracket. We now had a period of descent, at first on the road and then on a farm track (picked up at Andrews Corner) to drop down Mork Hill to Cross Slade Brook on a footbridge at Mork Farm.

20110227-16_Roadside Snowdrops - St Briavels by gary.hadden

20110227-17_Track into Slade Brook Valley - Nr St Briavels by gary.haddenThis now marked the start of the second climb of the day, on another track … this time starting steeply. Our rise was enhanced (if that’s the correct word) by the sounds of a party of clay pigeon shooters down in the valley below but we soon left this behind as the gradient eased to 20110227-19_Snowdrops at Wyegate Green by gary.haddenreach Wyegate Green, a very small group of houses by the side of a minor road (Stowe Lane). Once again, the slope had spread the party out somewhat and this became our next place to regroup, with enough time for a refreshment stop. I found a branch on the road side hedge to hang my ruck-sack to be rewarded by a large drift of snowdrops naturalising in the field/hedge margins – a perfect setting by being slightly unkempt and on the whole out of sight from the road. 

20110227-21_Descent through Caudwell woods into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.haddenWe’d now completed the second climb of the day and now continued north on the road more or less on the flat and soon joined a footpath heading down the side of a couple of fields to reach a narrow strip of woods (part of Caudwell Wood). The route now started to descend much quicker as we passed through the trees to very soon re-emerge into the open, to some super views out over a very pretty valley sweeping past in an arch below us.

 20110227-22_Enjoying the view over the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-24_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden    20110227-25_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-27_Descent into the Valley Brook Valley by gary.hadden

20110227-33_Approaching Astridge Wood by gary.haddenThe stream in the bottom of the valley is called Valley Brook, so our descent was basically into The Valley Brook Valley which is a bit incongruous really. The sun had really come out at this point and the crossing of the fields (diagonally left) down to the stream was really very pleasant walking. A little rise past Birt’s Cottage brought us onto another track and very easy walking heading north in the valley bottom for a short distance. We then branched half right on a faint footpath leaving the track diagonally rising across a grassy field heading for the corner bounded by woods. This was a lovely sun trap and perfect for when our leader announced this was to be our lunch stop. There were some super views from here both up and down the valley. A walk through here in the autumn I thought would be absolutely stunning when all the trees abound in their colourful glories. 

20110227-35_Obstacle Course in Astridge Wood by gary.haddenOnce appetites were satisfied and legs rested, we raised our sacks onto backs and set off again, and in keeping with the profile of the walk it was time for another uphill stretch; heading diagonally up through the trees of Astridge Wood on a broad path.

The steady climb would have been very straight forward except for a good number of fallen trees blocking our way and all at a very awkward height – too high to step over, too low to easily duck under; the impromptu limbo dancing raising quite a few mirthful comments and resulting laughter.

20110227-38_Approaching All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

Once out of the woods we continued upwards to reach the outskirts of the village of Newland, soon taking a left turn into the aptly named Savage Hill … the tarmac lane really was quite steep (I liked the ornamental piglet in a garden half way up) and there was a target to aim for at the top; the large tower and pinnacles of All Saints Church, also known as “The Cathedral of the Forest” [The Forest of Dean that is], dating back to the early 1200’s.     

20110227-37_Piglet in the daffs by gary.hadden

I figured there must be loads of photo’s of the whole church out there on the world-wide-web, so I decided to try and pick out a few pic’s of what I hoped would be more intimate details; although I did end up with the common shots of the stained glass windows from the inside and the large stone cross in the church yard. 

20110227-39_Ridge Tiles - All Saints Church - Newlands Village by gary.hadden

 20110227-44_All Saints Church - Cathedral of the Forest - Newland Village by gary.hadden   20110227-41_Side Door - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-42_Stained Glass - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden   20110227-43_Stained Glass - All Saints Church - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-45_All Saints Churchyard - Newland Village by gary.hadden

20110227-46_Mud - Farm in Newland Village by gary.haddenAfter a while, we set off again, crossing the church yard and then heading further north on a road leaving the village. After just a few hundred yards we took a footpath on the left (just past a farm and opposite a white washed cottage) and immediately had to brave muddy tractor tracks – and the mud really was very deep!

  

20110227-47_Mud - Farm in Newland Village by gary.hadden

There now ensued a relatively level period of walking following the edge of several fields before starting to descend across a tilled field towards Furnace Grove/Swanpool Woods. My boots felt about twice as heavy by the time I’d crossed this last field. After passing through the narrow strip of woods the path then headed quite quickly downhill across a grassy field to join a road near Upper Redbrook, just after passing the end of Mill pond in the valley bottom. It took a little while to regroup again which gave time to enjoy the light shining through some fluffy seed-heads by the road side.

20110227-50_Bridleway-Upper Redbrook by gary.haddenOn the other side of the road a finger post pointed up a path steeply rising away from the road … the signpost was depicting a horse and carriage which is pretty ridiculous really considering the steepness, narrowness and roughness of the byway. Crossing the road here had taken us back into Wales and onto part of The Offa’s Dyke Path. Perhaps the Welsh are extremely adventurous when it comes to horse and carriage driving! 

20110227-52_Ascent on Offas Dyke Path - Duffield' Lane Track by gary.haddenThe path was really quite steep for a while but the rough path joined a lane/farm track becoming wide and much better underfoot. In fact it’s of a size to warrant its own name – Duffield’s Lane. Although I was starting to feel a little weary in the legs, I decided the best way forward was to get my head down and just work hard. This seemed to work well and as the gradient eased (although still rising) my stride lengthened and my pace quickened. The sun was shining, the views were good and the track ahead inviting and somehow from being almost at the back of the group I found myself right at the front ; a quite enjoyable blast up the hill. 

20110227-54_Naval Temple - The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenWe were basically walking up the crest of a broad ridge and just as the track was about to descend into Harpen’s Grove Wood [just below Upper Beaulieu Farm], we branched right to instead skirt the edge of the woods, still rising quite steadily. The path emerged onto a metalled road to reach the monument of Naval Temple. To my eyes a rather odd construction and one that had obviously seen better days. I’m sure the historical message and importance is genuine with Britannia perched atop the roof top arch but I couldn’t help thinking it needed a bit of loving care and a little something extra to stop it looking more like a glorified bus shelter rather than the glorifying temple of its name. According to a National Trust web site, the Naval Temple was built by public subscription in 1800, this Georgian structure is unique in its commemoration of the British Navy and sixteen Admirals in particular, who won important victories during the late 18th century. 

20110227-56_The Round House at The Kymin nr Monmouth by gary.haddenIn contrast to the run-down look of the Temple, the next building just up the way was perfectly pristine in its white washed finery – The Kymin Tower or Round House. This is a circular, Georgian banqueting house built in 1794 by local gentry for use as a small, private dining club. Lord Nelson and Sir and Lady Hamilton had breakfast here in 1802 (description from the NT web site). 

20110227-57_View over Monmouth to Sugar Loaf from The Round House at The Kymin by gary.haddenImpressive as The Round House is, even more spectacular were the stunning views out over The Wye Valley and the town of Monmouth and way, way beyond; in the distance, Sugar Loaf could be made out in the sunny haze out to the west. Such was the highlight of the sights here, I’d have happily ended the walk there and then, but the coach was parked up in Monmouth at least a mile away, so off we set for the final descent of the day, steeply dropping through Beaulieu and Garth Woods to meet the minor Kymin Road which continued to drop, meeting the A4136 before crossing The River Wye for the second time in the day. 20110227-61_River Wye from Wye Bridge - Monmouth by gary.haddenGiven The Wye has a habit of flooding; I couldn’t help thinking the static caravan park just upstream look particularly vulnerable! 

The final stretch of the walk was through the centre of Monmouth to find the coach in a car park over-looked by the Monnow Bridge Gate. This is a stand-out feature where a massive fortified stone gate house is built bang in the middle of the arched stone bridge spanning the River Monnow, both dating back to the 13th C. 

And, there ends my diary of The MHW B-party walk in and around The Wye Valley and The Forest of Dean – A bit in Wales and most in England. 

20110227-62_Monnow Bridge Gate - Monmouth by gary.haddenBreak-down of significant heights climbed: (taken from reading contours on my OS map)

1st rise = 200m (656 ft) … Bigsweir Bridge to St. Briavels.

 2nd rise = 120m (394 ft) … Mork Farm to Wyegate Green

3rd rise =   80m (262 ft) … Valley Brook to Newland

4th rise = 180m (591 ft) … Upper Redbrook to The Kymin.

Total heights gained = 580m (1903 ft)

Start height = about 10m Above Sea Level and finish = about 20m ASL ….. Therefore, there were almost as much down as up, but none of the downhill bits were really taxing. The majority of the ups were on good tracks and paths, so didn’t present a problem. 

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….  T.T.F.N. … Gary.

Next walk = 20110320_MHW_West East Traverse of Peak District, Another Midland Hill Walkers walk – The concluding leg of a series walks across the Peak district.