20090906_Ryton to Kenilworth Walk – A Coventry Way
When : 6th September 2009
Who : Just Me
Where : Ryton-on-Dunsmore to Kenilworth.
Map : 1:25,000 OS. Explorer Map No.221, Coventry & Warwickshire.
Start Point : 386,744 [Ryton-on-Dunsmore]
End Point : 285,723 [Abbey Fields, Kenilworth]
Approx Distance : about 11 miles, (17.5 km)
Heights : Hardly worth mentioning really as there wasn’t much in the way of heights climbed. The route is over gently undulating terrain, the biggest climbs being about 20 metres (65 ft) in any one stretch and then only in two or three places.
Summary : Following the route of “A Coventry Way” through Warwickshire Countryside including Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Bubbenhall, Stareton, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth Golf Course, Kenilworth Castle & Abbey Fields Park.
There’s not much of a preamble to this walks post; I just had a little time on this Sunday morning/early afternoon and my good lady wife kindly agreed to drop me off outside The Blacksmiths Arms in Ryton-on-Dunsmore and to pick me up in Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields Park later on, so allowing me to do a linear walk.
Ryton-on-Dunsmore is a kind of an odd place, in that it’s in Warwickshire, but to me feels much more akin to Coventry, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise for a couple of reasons. To start with it’s only about a mile and a half from my home city’s outskirts; if it wasn’t for the floodplain of the River Avon (and I believe protection of green-belt designation), I’m sure they’d have joined up years ago. The other major factor was the large car factory (an industry synonymous with Coventry) just on the outskirts of Ryton. This was recently closed down and has now been levelled, unceremoniously razed to the ground, with just heaps of broken up rubble and acres of bare concrete to mark its former presence. Sadly the long and proud history of car production [Hillman ; Humber ; Rootes ; Chrysler ; Talbot] was finally put to the sword by Peugeot-Citroen when they switched production, to Eastern Europe, in pursuit of a little more profit. That’s enough of that, I think, before I dig a big hole for myself and this diary post becomes a political diatribe … let’s get back to the walk ….
Well, I started just outside The Blacksmith’s Arms (a pub I’ve always liked) on High Street, not far from the A45 dual carriageway and after taking a minute or two to orientate myself-map-to-ground, I headed away from the A45, turned right into a side road and then very soon a left turn to skirt the edge of a sports pitch and the backs of houses eventually reaching the edge of the village. I then turned right to skirt the back of the local school. To my left was a tall wire fence topped by coils of razor wire, behind which was the wasteland of the old car plant; not at all attractive, but striking none-the-less. After a couple of hundred yards or so, the path took a sharp 90-degree turn to the left to head off south-westwards through what would have been the middle of the car plant … why the need for all the razor wire I don’t know, after all there’s absolutely nothing left to steal or damage, save for concrete and scrub.
Carefully crossing the A423 (Oxford Road), I picked up the path again, and although no longer an industrial landscape it still felt rather scratty which was summed up by an extremely smelly and ugly stagnant pond-cum-stream crossed by a footbridge. This little corner certainly would not win any prizes for best beauty spot in Warwickshire. At least three named “ways” :- A Coventry Way, Centenary Way and Shakespeare’s Avon Way, all follow the same route here, I wonder if any of them mention the grottiness of this area. After a biggish dogs-leg in the path, I was hopeful that the path across farmland to Bubbenhall would drastically improve [it couldn’t get much worse] and it did improve but just by a small amount, the walking and map reading was now very easy on a wide farm track, but the terrain was quite boring, not aided I suppose by all the crops having been harvested already and just ploughed fields or rough pasture on either side of me. The only good thing was I could now stretch out my legs and pick up the pace a bit.
I’m not giving a good impression of the walk so far, but it was to improve as I entered Bubbenhall. I stood a while to watch a local football match and after seeing two or three gilt edged scoring opportunities fluffed (really badly fluffed !), I headed into the village. In counterpoint to Ryton, I thought the village had a very Warwickshire feel as I passed grand looking half timbered buildings, a good looking village pub (the Malt Shovel, which I’ve never been in), a square towered stone church (St. Giles’) and horse paddocks and all not far from the banks of the river Avon … lovely …. but it’s not a big place and it’s charms were soon left behind as I again headed out into the fields, still in a roughly south-westerly direction. (ps: I didn’t see the other pub in the village, The Three Horseshoes).
In the next few fields, a series of large modern metal kissing gates have been installed … I think they are designed to maximise accessibility into the countryside for as many people as possible. At a guess, I’d suppose the new gates replaced old stiles. The way marking was good and most remarkably next to a number of the new gates, simple wooden benches had been installed – a very nice touch – and well done to the land-owner for allowing an “opportunity to stop” as well as the legal “right of way”. After a couple of more fields (past Broomhill Farm) the route took a right turn to follow field boundaries to emerge onto a minor road.
Turning left along this minor road marked the beginning of about a mile of road walking and after a couple of hundred yards a T-junction with a slightly larger (and certainly faster road) was reached with the striking building of Tantara Lodge directly opposite. I guess this would have been a gate house entrance to Stoneleigh Deer Park, now surrounded by the fairways of a golf course. To continue the road walking, the route turned left and then right at the next junction … This leads past the sprawl of a business park (sorry, business village) set back from the road, which was once home to offices of Massey-Ferguson Tractors (The main M-F factory was not far away in Tile Hill in Coventry). This was another company synonymous with Coventry and now shut down completely and like “The Peugeot” with production switched abroad – I think it’s a shame not only because of the thousands of jobs lost, but also as I played for the M-F works cricket team for several years.
Not far past the business park, the road reaches the small grouping of houses that make up Stareton itself, blink and you could miss the hamlet, but please don’t, as the route takes a right turn here, leaving the road to head gently down through a strip of woods to cross The River Avon where there was a small clump of geraniums or cranesbill in flower – they were worth a short stop to admire even though I have cultivated varieties in my back garden. Being the end of the season, there hadn’t been much colour in the way of flowers along the way; perhaps enhancing the purple-blue flowers charms beyond what would normally be noticed.
The route then rose roughly northwards on open ground, with a park-land feel, to meet the Stoneleigh Road. There were quite a few people around here, most walking dogs and a lay-by was well frequented by cars, I assume left by the dog walkers. The countryside was much nicer now and after a short walk (northwards) along the road, I crossed to take a path over Motslow hill to pass an old quarry (looking more like an old castle mound to my eyes) and then picked up a wide sunken path that dropped down to meet the The River Sowe.
There are a number of delightful thatched half-timbered cottages here and I stopped to pass the time of day with a gentleman crossing the footbridge in the opposite direction to me. I mentioned how nice the lobelia flowers were that were planted across the bridge semi-masking some ugly utilitarian piping. It turned out he lives in one of the cottages and the flowers have become a tradition every year since they “dressed” the bridge for their daughter’s wedding to brighten the walk to the nearby church on the opposite bank of the river. A nice story and a lovely touch of public spiritedness … There are still good things happening in our fast paced rat-race of life.
I could have continued on past the village of Stoneleigh, but this is another charming village so rather than pass straight by, I took a small detour along a side road as far as the old smithy, where I found somewhere to rest and have a bite to eat and have an experiment with some odd photo’s of the village … I think they turned out OK … as well as some more conventional views of the village. I then retraced my steps to pick up the path to rise up to meet the B4115, watching a number of dogs undergoing some sort of training as I went … oddly all the parked vehicles were varying sizes of white van. I’ve since been told that the police use this spot for dog training, so maybe that’s what was going on. There now ensued a little more road walking, first turning right alongside the road and then left at a cross roads. There was a narrow strip of rough tarmac path to the side of the road, which meant I didn’t have to brave the cars zipping past still trying to maintain the speed of the A46 they’d probably just left.
After about ½ a mile the aforementioned A46 dual carriageway was reached which I crossed on a major bridge/junction. Immediately after this the path turns left down a field boundary following the line of the slip road heading towards Kingswood Farm. This was made a little awkward by lines of electrified wires forming temporary horse paddocks … These had to be crossed in places, but it does make good map-reading very important as it does feel wrong to do this. I always feel electrified fences shout “keep-out” at me, even though I know I’m on a right of way.
My awkwardness around Kingswood farm was nothing compared to the next “obstacle” to negotiate … Kenilworth Golf Course! … I really dislike crossing golf courses and this was even worse …. there were a couple of fairways to cross (look left and look right signs warning of the potential of flying missiles, I mean golf balls) and then a walk down the length of two fairways within a line of trees separating the two strips of lush grass.
Negotiating past a pond near a putting green, the path then exited the golf course to become a narrow path at the back of some residential gardens. This was quite an unpleasant path, as the golf course fence was at times falling over the path and hedgerow shrubbery/trees were heavily encroaching on the other side of me making progress horrible and I was relieved to emerge onto the residential street of Frythe Close in the Park Hill area of Kenilworth. This soon led to the larger road of Knowle Hill and after turning right down onto the quite sizeable Dalehouse Lane, I then turned right (away from Kenilworth) for about a hundred yards and then left into Common Lane. Rising up here, I soon reached a made-up path heading off into Kenilworth Common following the line of a small stream (Finham Brook). Information boards gave a potted history of the area and what butterflies might be sighted etc. The path went under the broad arches of a railway line and eventually the green corridor ended and I had to pick up side roads, which wasn’t unpleasant as on one side of me was a sizeable area of allotments extending the green feel for a little longer.
Not long afterwards I’d made my way to Abbey fields Park. There are open fields, tennis courts, a small indoor/outdoors swimming pool, kiddies play area and a sizeable pond/small lake with a good number of ducks to feed … Oh and the remains of an Abbey (hence the name) … I was lucky to arrive when one of the better preserved buildings was open with a small history exhibition inside, which I had time to peruse as my family hadn’t arrived yet … for once I’d arrived ahead of our pre-arranged time.
In fact I also had time to :- Take some refreshment ; Walk through to the western end of the park alongside the mini-lake ; Walk around the outside perimeter of the famous castle ; Wander down Castle Green ; Resist the temptation of the Queen & Castle and Clarendon Arms Pub’s and then head back into the park, alongside the other side of the pool to meet my family who’d just arrived.
And that was that, a mixed bag …. a poor start but some nice countryside and it’d stayed dry as well … not bad for 2009 … and 11 miles under my belt … perhaps the start would be better at another time of year rather than at the end of what had been a rather poor summer overall.
I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….