20141231_A Frosty Winter Photo Walk in Braunston (Post1of2)

20141231_A Frosty Winter Photo Walk in Braunston – Post 1of 2

When : 31st December 2014
Who : Just me
Where : Braunston, Northamptonshire, between Rugby and Daventry
Start Point and End Point : Lay-by on the A45 London Road SP533,663
20141231_Another Braunston Winter Canal Side Photographic WalkDistance : Approx 4 miles (6.5 km)
Significant Heights : None to speak of – Very gentle
Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map No. 222 Rugby & Daventry

Summary : An opportunity for a few hours to take some wintertime photo’s down on the canals in Braunston (Grand Union and Oxford Canals) …. but it’d be a perfectly nice walk to do without a camera, There are a couple of pubs by the canal side and a couple in the village as well if that’s your want from a walk (or crawl).

I’m splitting the walk into two blog-posts just to make the writing (and reading perhaps) a little more manageable. This post is post-1 of 2. (Use this link for post-2).

If you click on a photo’ it should launch on my photostream on Flickr where you’ll find a few more images to those shown here.

It was a very cold and frosty morning, ice on the roads and a typically wintry blue sky with light high clouds and the promise that it was going to stay fine for the day. So, it was an easy decision to spend a few hours out and about on a mini-walk with my camera. The more difficult bit was deciding just where to head off to.

• Did I want to drive ?
• If not, it meant walking on very familiar ground, yes or no ?
• Did I want a pub ?
• What type of scenery did I fancy : Farmland, Woods, Town/village, canals, country parks, or even a city ?

In the end, I decided to drive, chose canals as a good base subject, assuming the waters might be frozen-over in places, the potential for good reflections and maybe some mists swirling around above the water; Once that was decided, that led to the next decision – Where to go ?

• Hillmorton Locks ?
• Newbold-on-Avon (and the long tunnel) ?
• Crick ?
• Cathiron ?
• Braunston ?
• And one or two other places here-abouts ?

Well, in the end, Braunston won despite me having been there many times over the years … Why ? … Because it’s not very far away, has a pretty canal 20141231-22_Braunston Marinajunction, various styles of bridges, a large marina, boat works, historic buildings, several locks, one end of a very long canal tunnel and several pubs. Of course there’s also the village itself, including a long main street with an eclectic mix of buildings, including an old windmill next to a typically English church on a hill. If I needed anything else, another good reason, is that my photography tutor (David Harding / Percival Guildhouse) likes the area, and I thought it’d be interesting to compare our images at some point in the future.

Anyway, I packed up my camera, couple of lens (complete with polarizing filters), grabbed walking boots and headed off, the drive firstly taking me through the famous village of Dunchurch and then on the A45 heading towards Daventry; Braunston village being just off the main road a few miles before the Northamptonshire town.
On the way, not quite a mile past the small village of Willoughby is a reasonably sized lay-by (on the left hand side) just before reaching Braunston – This is immediately before the road passes over the canal and is often used by people parking their cars in a line here, I assume mostly by fishermen; I decided this lay-by would suit my purposes just fine, and actually today it was completely free of other cars.

If this hadn’t been available, there’s road side parking in the village itself (take a sharp left turn just past The Boat House pub/restaurant) or there is a large car-park at The Boat House itself, which I know people use whilst going off for a walk, but I don’t like doing this unless I intend to use the pub as a patron, it just doesn’t seem right otherwise.

20141231-01_All Saints' Church - Braunston - Cathedral of the Canals

All Saints’ Church, Braunston

20141231-02_Braunston - Ridge and Furrow Strip Farming

Ridge and Furrow Strip Farming – Braunston

Enough of the pre-amble, I’ve been rambling on somewhat, so on to my walk itself. After donning my boots, I set off on the rough grassy verge by the side of the road, although you may find this surprising, away from Braunston and the canal. This wasn’t by accident or bad map reading, no, on the drive down the A45, there was a superb view of Braunston’s church spire silhouetted against the pale blue sky and in front, the land was striped with shadows formed by some ancient ridge and furrow field structures. In order to try and capture this image, I had to head back up the road to find a place where I could see over/through the large hedgerow alongside the road. Despite walking several hundred yards and being well over 6-foot tall, I still needed my long zoom to get anything like an acceptable shot.

Turning around through 180-degrees and once back past the car I reached where the road crosses a canal; near here the church was more hidden from view but the ridge and furrow field was far more evident and the views up the canal were very pleasant with a couple of boats moored in the icy waters.

20141231-03_Braunston_Frosted Barn

Frosted Barn – Braunston

20141231-05_Braunston - Moored Narrow Boats Oxford Canal

Moored Narrow Boats, Oxford Canal, Braunston

From here I crossed the main road, to where a path drops down to the tow path, where initially I turned left, under the quite ugly steel and concrete road bridge and continued up the tow path for several hundred yards. I had to adjust my camera settings to suit the different quality of light by the cut, as I was in quite deep shadow now. Anyway after taking a few shots here, I about-turned, walked back under the utilitarian road bridge and continued on the tow path (water on my left/hedgerow on my right).

It had been a very cold night (and it was still a very cold morning), so much so that the canal was completely frozen over, the narrow boats moored along the banks being iced in and the local ducks appearing very bemused. One pair were walking, (well slipping) about in the center of the canal, I suppose looking for some clear water to swim in.

20141231-07_Braunston - Mallard Ducks - Skating on Ice

Bemused Ducks Skating on Ice

20141231-08_Twin Arched Bridges_Braunston_Grand Union+Oxford Canal

Approaching the Twin Ironwork Bridges, Junction of Grand Union and Oxford Canals, Braunston

20141231-10_Braunston - Life Bouy - Seen Better Days

Seen Better Days – Please do not fall in here !!!

A little further on, as the canal takes a sweeping left bend, there are a couple of attractive arched black and white iron-work bridges; the perfect twins forming a double span over a Tee-junction of canals. I could have just crossed straight over the pair, but instead chose to take the right hand canal branch, going under the arch of the first bridge, before heading off in a south westerly direction on the well surfaced tow path. I particularly liked the way the low sun picked up and highlighted attractive patterns in the ice and whilst I was composing a couple of photo’s here, a couple walking over the bridges stopped to pass the time of day with me and then moved off towards where I’d come from a few moments earlier.

20141231-11_Braunston - Look-out cat - Window frame

Look Out Cat, Braunston

After a very short stretch along the towpath, I used a brick built bridge to cross to the other bank and then back (north-eastwards) towards the iron bridges and the canal tee-junction once again, passing a brick-built cottage en-route. An emergency buoyancy aid caught my eye hung on a wall here, but I don’t know how much I’d trust it, as it looked well past its best. A cat was sat in a widow frame here also, obviously enjoying the warmth of indoors watching the world go by, rather than braving the chill outside.

20141231-12_Ice Breaker_Arched Bridge_Braunston_Grand Union+Oxford Canal

Hector – Breaking the Ice – Hard to turn the corner.

As I reached where the canal splits left and right, a strange loud cracking scraping noise suddenly struck up. It was very odd and I just couldn’t place what it could be. It didn’t even seem to be coming from a particular direction, the sound seeming to fill the cold air all around.



20141231-13_Ice Breaker_Arched Bridge_Braunston_Grand Union+Oxford Canal

Hector – Didn’t manage the bend Hit the bank with a glacing bump !

It soon became apparent though, as the couple who’d I spoken with earlier had unmoored their small narrow boat and as they moved off they were breaking the sheet ice on the water’s surface. In fact, as the boat tried to negotiate the bend the ice resisted the crafts desired path forcing it over into the bank with quite a bump.



20141231-14_Ice Breaker_Braunston - Grand Union Canal

Hector – Moving on. Alls well now 🙂

The blow turned the bows as the boat glanced off the bankside and allowed the chap on the teller to move off in the right direction.

I guess his journey to where-ever he was heading wasn’t going to be an easy one, especially when passing other boats on the cut.



20141231-15_Ice Breaker_Arched Bridge_Braunston_Grand Union+Oxford Canal

Ironwork railings – One of the Twin Arched Bridges

I then turned my attention to trying to create some arty shots of the double span of bridges. At the very least, I tried to find some different angles/view points compared to previous visits as I’ve taken pic’s here on numerous occasions in the past. I’m sure they must be one of the most photographed features around Braunston – I defy anyone with a camera to just walk by without taking at least one photo’ despite how many times they may have been here before … These bridges really are very photogenic.

20141231-18_Ice Breaker_Arched Bridge_Braunston_Grand Union+Oxford Canal

Twin Arched Bridges – Very Photogenic. Junction of Grand Union and Oxford Canals


20141231-19_Relections in Ice - Braunston

Icy Reflections

Moving on, I took the tow path away from the bridges (water on my left again). On the opposite bank here is a small area of light industrial units closely followed by The Boat House pub mentioned earlier. The pub is a tad modern and twee to be truly photogenic, but I did like the distorted reflection of a far more pristine looking buoyancy ring in the ice-covered water.

20141231-21_All Saints' Church - Braunston - Cathedral of the Canals

All Saints’ Church – Braunston

Soon after, I passed under the A45 road again as it crosses overhead via another utilitarian and not very attractive modern bridge.

The dominant view here is across the canal to the opposite bank with fields and hedges rising up to the church spire and some impressive looking houses which kind of draw the eye away from the canal and moored boats.

However, I did like the smoke emanating from a few of the boats’ stubby little chimneys, obviously some kind of coal/wood burner inside keeping the residents warm and cosy.


20141231-20_Braunston - Moored Narrow Boats Grand Union Canal

Approaching the old Toll House

The tow path then led me past the old toll house, where the major point of interest soon changes back to the canal on the near bank, as another arching iron bridge is reached, spanning a side-arm of the canal heading into a large marina with a plethora of craft moored in a multitude of lines. As I’ve written before, the craft here always make a very colourful sight, all bar none painted in bright primary colours – Canal folk just don’t seem to do pastels in their boat liveries. As always, I don’t think there was a shabby looking boat in sight!

Normally, I would walk straight on here, over the bridge to continue on the tow path. But, today, I chose to head up into the marina itself to try and gain a different perspective on the area including the boat-works just a short walk along the water’s edge.

I think here would be a good point to switch to the second blog-post as this seems a kind of natural break in the time-line of the day. To continue reading please use this link : GO TO BLOG POST-2 OF 2.


20121201_A Frosty Short Walk – Cawston Rugby

20121201_A Frosty Short Walk – Cawston Rugby

When : 1st December 2012

Who : Me and my son Craig

Where : Cawston, Rugby, Warwickshire

Map : 1:25,000 OS. Outdoor Leisure Map No.222, Rugby & Daventry

Approx Start and End Point : SP470,735

Distance : Approx 2.7 miles (4.3 km)

Significant heights : None to speak of.

Summary : A short walk from our front door through local farmland and woods around Cawston to the south-west of Rugby.

20121201-01_Rustic Fence_Cawston Rugby by gary.haddenWell, you could have knocked me over with a feather, as this little morning jaunt around Cawston was prompted by my eleven year old son who ASKED to go for a walk as he wanted to take some photo’s of the frosty conditions we’d woken up to. Now if you’ve read any of my other diaries you’ll know my passions in life include country walking and taking photo’s whilst out on my country walks … so, you’ll also realise I’d have readily said yes, Okey Dokey, let’s wrap up warm and get our boots on. A few minutes later (well half an hour maybe), we were walking through the streets to find the perimeter path around the Cawston Grange estate where we live (for convenience I’ve used the end of Trussell Way for measuring distances and on the “walk jog run” map I’ve traced the route on). I was armed with my Pentax K200D DSLR and Craig had our little digital compact Kodak C195.

Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. You’ll see that some of the pic’s are kind of doubled up – This is because Craig and I took pictures of the same subjects but from different perspectives and different angles (height, age and camera differences make for different image).

20121201-03_Rustic Fence_Cawston Rugby by gary.haddenThere isn’t too much to say about the perimeter path other than it rapidly took us out onto the B4642 (the old A4071) where we crossed straight away to reach an old rustic wooden fence bounding a ploughed field. I like this fence, I know it’s only of simple construction, but it’s rather unkempt with broken slats, bits semi-rotten and tangled with weeds. The sun had risen enough to have started melting the frost on the ground and foliage, including the trees above us which periodically would drip a fine mist of water droplets over us – refreshing? Ermm, no, not really, just wet and cold! We stayed here for a few moments taking some pic’s of the fence, dew drops, frost, leaves on the ground, etc.

20121201-04_Tangled - Rustic Fence_Cawston Rugby by gary.hadden   20121201-05_Tangled - Dew Drops_By Craig by gary.hadden

20121201-02_Rustic Fence_Cawston Rugby by gary.hadden   20121201-08_Frosty Leaf - Soft Focus_By Craig by gary.hadden

20121201-07_Patch of Light on Leaves by gary.hadden

20121201-11_Frosty Bridle Path_Cawston Rugby_By Craig by gary.haddenWe then moved on, crossing back over the main road, and then heading away from Rugby, passing the end of Cawston Lane, and opposite this, the start of a bridle path heading off between two properties. Although inviting, we ignored this path to carry on, on the roadside path passing in front of a series of houses (some quite posh!) making up the old part of Cawston as opposed to the new Cawston Grange Estate where we live. We were fortunate to get a short burst of a rainbow arching above the roofs – Another photo opportunity.

20121201-09_Rainbow over Cawston Rugby by gary.hadden

20121201-10__Rainbow over Cawston Rugby_By Craig by gary.hadden

Further along the road a small rose bush was still in flower despite having lost most of its leaves to the early winter weather; the few pink blooms hanging on to life with a frosting like a sprinkling of sugar on the petals enhancing the prettiness rather than detracting from arguably one of the most attractive of flowers.

20121201-12_Frosty Rose_Cawston Rugby by gary.hadden

20121201-13__Frosty Rose_Cawston Rugby_By Craig by gary.hadden

We now had to re-cross the B4642 main road to pick up a footpath heading off behind Brickyard Spinney (by crossing a stile beside a large metal gate). Weather-wise it had now started to cloud-in somewhat, shrouding the low sun which was desperately trying to resist, but only 20121201-14_Watery Winter Sun_By Craig by gary.haddensucceeded in creating a watery wintry grey. After maybe a hundred yards (if that) down the side of Brickyard Spinney, we had to cross a ploughed field. However, luckily for us, the farmer had only reached half way across the field, so giving us a harder surface to walk on, albeit over the stiff short stubble of the cleared crop. The route was now diagonally down across the field heading towards the right hand end of a line of trees in the distance (a telegraph pole in the middle of the field gives a rough direction marker).

20121201-15_Cawston or Potfords Dam Pool_By Craig by gary.haddenAt the bottom of the slope, and secluded behind the trees, is a small pool of water. It’s a purely subjective thing, but I think it’s hardly big enough to be called a lake but I’d say too large to be called a pond, so pool will have to do. In effect it’s a small reservoir, formed behind a low arching earth bank. There used to be pretty much free access around one side of the pool which locals used for years for dog walking etc., but recently some signs have gone up saying it has been closed as part of a “wildlife conservation area”, along with a chunk of Cawston Woods. Although there’s not a public right of way here, personally I think stopping people walking around the edge of the pool is unnecessary and maybe 20121201-16_Cawston or Potfords Dam Pool by gary.haddena little spiteful; there were never hoards of people that went here to “disturb” the few ducks and coots that come here; so I think there’s possibly a different ulterior motive behind the decision – but it is private property, so I guess there’s nothing that can be done about it.

Anyway, enough of countryside politics, at least for now, we took a couple of pic’s each in the light rain that had now started to fall and I talked to Craig about how to “frame” a photo by using tree branches and the like. It was good having a little father and son time – I appreciate it now and I hope in later life it will give good memories for Craig. The outflow from the pool is little more than a drainage ditch, but after all the wet weather we’d had during 2012 it had a fair amount of water in it … eventually it flows past/through Lawford Heath to join The Avon at Long Lawford a few miles to the north.

20121201-17_Drainage Ditch_Potfords Dam-Cawston by gary.hadden   20121201-18_Drainage Ditch_Potfords Dam-Cawston_By Craig by gary.hadden

Heading back to the official path brought us to a direction indicator post, showing the right-of-way heading straight out into the crop field. Now back to politics – This path has NEVER been on the ground since I moved here over ten 20121201_A Frosty Short Walk - Cawston Rugbyyears ago now. Instead, there’s a wide verge left around the left hand side of the field, and effectively we were forced to walk off the official path, rising up the side of a hedge roughly heading south towards the left of an isolated property. Near to this property, we met a farm track, even though not an official right of way, this has also been used for years by local dog walkers and I chose to turn left along here rather than continue south to reach Northampton Lane (which IS an official path) marked by a line of trees in the distance.

We were now walking on the hard surface of the farm track in an easterly direction and almost dead flat with fields on both sides. The rain had now stopped and although slowly thawing, the puddles on the track were still frozen with patterns in the ice, kind of reminiscent of contour lines on a map – quite attractive really – but not easy to get a half decent photo of. Craig has just this moment told me how much he liked the ice patterns, but once he’d taken a few pic’s it didn’t stop him stamping in the middle of some of them, enjoying the crunching, cracking sounds of boots on breaking ice!

20121201-19_Frozen Puddle Patterns by gary.hadden      20121201-20_Frozen Puddle Patterns_By Craig by gary.hadden

After a good while the track takes a sharp bend to the left, heading towards Cawston Woods. It was a nice feeling to get back onto an official right of way here; I always feel more comfortable knowing that I’m allowed to be on the path. The track soon headed into the woods dissecting the trees with Cawston Spinney on our left and Fox Covert on our right. We had a choice of continuing along the farm track to rise up to Cawston Farm and the B4642, or the choice we actually took, turning right onto a narrow dirt path heading into Fox Covert. It’s surprising how much warmer it felt in the trees even without their canopy of leaves, but it still felt rather damp. A fallen tree slowly rotting in the undergrowth and in the wet conditions had become the perfect host for loads of small bracket fungi – another photo opportunity.

20121201-21_Fungi_Cawston Woods_Rugby by gary.hadden       20121201-22_Fungi_Cawston Woods_Rugby by gary.hadden

Continuing through the woods we chatted, to emerge onto Cawston Lane at a small dirt lay-by by the side of the road (parking for a handful of cars) where we turned left along the narrow road and keeping well into the side as it can be quite busy with cars which often move far too fast for the size of road.

It didn’t take long to be back at the B4642 and the rustic fence again, and then a final cross over the main road to reach the perimeter path we’d originally set off on. The 20121201-24_Red Cornus Plants_Cawston Grange Perimeter Path by gary.haddendrizzle had stopped, and the grey cloud had lifted, thinned and broken up a little and the soft brightness helped highlight and lift the colour in the red cornus plants lining the path; a lovely way to end our walk.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings and our photo’s; I found it interesting comparing Craig’s efforts with mine; different cameras, and a different take on the world, which would be expected given our height differences …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of our pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

T.T.F.N. Gary.