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

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

Route Map – Traced out on WalkJogRun Website

Distance : 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

I’ve split this walk into two blog-posts just to make the writing (and reading perhaps) a little more manageable. This post is post-2 of 2. So if you want to read post-1 first, please use this link :- GO TO BLOG POST 1 OF 2.

If you click on a photo’ [when I’ve added them] it should launch my set of imges on my photostream on Flickr

20141231-41_Braunston Marina - Arched Bridge

Bridge over entrance into Braunston Marina

The tow path had led to another attractively arching iron bridge spanning a side-arm of the canal heading into the large marina at Braunston. 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 gain a different perspective on the area, including the boat-works, just a short walk along the water’s edge.

20141231-25_Braunston Marina - Static Crane

Standing Crane Winding Wheel + Gear

Just outside the works buildings (near a car-park) I came across a standing crane, the upright steels and boom painted a shiny jet black and the winding gear a vivid bright red. This really stood out against the lovely blue sky. I took far too many pic’s here, (most of which I later dumped into my computer’s recycling bin upon close inspection).

20141231-45_Braunston Marina - Workshop Walkways + Ice

Braunston Marina Workshop Walkways

20141231-26_Braunston Marina - Narrow Boat Workshop

Braunston Marina – Boat Works

Moving on over a few narrow walkway bridges, I met a chap who was working in the boat-yard and I stopped for a chat, during which I asked if I had permission to go further into the marina area. He was very pleasant and accommodating, saying yes there was no objection to me continuing on, but he asked politely that I refrain from falling in the water, as it was a tad cold [typically English understatement] and he really didn’t want to fish me out. I really wasn’t planning on going for an impromptu swim, so I readily agreed to his request. During our conversation he mentioned just how many people take photo’s of the crane just left behind, which kind of took away some of my earlier feelings of discovery. Still I didn’t really believe I was the first one to have ever taken a shot or two of the structure. After some final felicitations, we both set off in separate directions.

20141231-32_Braunston Marina - Crane - Cogs

Braunston Marina – Crane Cogs + Gears

Heading further into the marina area, it didn’t really matter which way I looked, there always seemed to be an image to be captured, but none more so than another black and red crane, this one on wheels and track and sporting a handsome array of deeply toothed cogs and associated wheels, ratchets, pulleys and such like. Again, many pic’s were taken here, but more “keepers” for storage on my lap-top and eventual upload to my “photostream” on Flickr.

20141231-37_Braunston Marina - Crane - Boom and Hook

Braunston Marina – Crane Hook

More wonderings and meanderings, resulted in even more photo’s – The whole place just screamed (in a quiet understated English sort of way) please take my photo again and again …. And again!

20141231-28_Braunston Marina

Braunston Marina – Narrow Boats


20141231-42_Braunston Marina - Arched Bridge + Winding Gear

Braunston Marina – Winding Gear


20141231-44_Braunston Marina - Narrow Boats

Braunston Marina – Moored Narrow Boats


I was starting to feel a little chill now, so I headed into a shop (maybe a chandlers or similar) and asked if they sold teas or coffee – They didn’t. This was a shame because the boat-café on the canal by the marina entrance was not open today either, so when I had negotiated the slippery icy pathways back to the canal/iron bridge/marina entrance, I just continued on over the arching bridge and then back on the tow path once again, again with the canal on my left.

20141231-47_Braunston - Brick Bridge - Narrow Boat Joey - Grand Union Canal

Joey – Narrow Boat in Braunston

There still weren’t many boats moving around but I was in the right place at the right time as the boat “Joey” came towards me to pass under one of the brick bridges that straddle the canal. To repeat myself from a past blog-post (with no apologies) I like these old brick bridges, they’ve been around for so long they’ve sort of weathered their way into the landscape, taking on a natural patina of lichens and with mosses hanging on in the many hollows and cracks. The surface of the brickwork has certainly seen better times, and there are now some pretty major looking cracks appearing in places, but I like the unkempt look and today the reflections were just stunning in the icy water.

20141231-49_Braunston Marina - Narrow Boats

Braunston Marina – Moored Narrow Boats

20141231-51_Sheep + All Saints' Church - Braunston - Cathedral of the Canals

Sheep – All Saints’ Church – Braunston

I could’ve headed straight under the bridge arch, but there was a way up onto the bridge, where a foot-path crosses the canal here. After just a few yards along the path, it facilitated a view back over the marina. The elevated position gave an opportunity for some interesting pic’s looking back down the marina, using my long lens to try to foreshorten the perspective in an attempt to make the boats look all bunched up, hopefully in an arty kind of way. Rather than move far along the path, I headed back down to the towpath and continued in the same direction as earlier. The tow path separates the canal (on the left) and the marina (on the right), and a little further on is a narrow footbridge that must be negotiated. There is no alternative to be able to carry on, because it passes over another access point from the waterway into the moorings. This foot-bridge is accessed and exited via some rather steep steps; not too much of a problem for walkers, but decidedly awkward for people pushing push chairs and equally if not more awkward for cyclists.

20141231-53_Braunston - Moored Narrow Boat

Narrow Boat – Braunston

This little walk was beginning to take quite a long time, but I suppose it always was going to be that way, with a very slow pace, especially as it was such a stunningly beautiful day and it had been planned out as a photographic walk. I normally describe myself as a walker who takes photo’s, but today I was far more a photographer who was going on a bit of a walk. Anyway, trying to push my writings on a tad, the tow path led on to the bottom lock and its collection of nearby buildings. Along the way I passed 20141231-52_Tree Trunk Detail _ Barkmore moored boats, views across sheep fields to the church, shiny light playing on the ice, interesting textured bark on trees, smoke coming out of boat roofs and hanging about in the cold air, old pump house buildings, another boat-works, and more… All these things were interesting to see and at least worthy of a little note. Also worth noting, is a small shop adjacent to the bottom lock (I’ve bought ice cream here in the past, in warmer times) and I hoped they would sell hot drinks – I was disappointed again, they didn’t! Perhaps on my next frosty walk I’ll remember to make up a flask of hot drink

Although continuing a few hundred yards past the bottom lock, I now consciously chose not to continue up the canal, foregoing the chance of a visit to The Admiral Nelson pub next to another lock and further on the entrance to Braunston Tunnel. This Georgian engineering feat is now well over 200 years old and over a mile long. The tow path ends at the tunnel entrance, which is set into the hillside like a black mouth waiting to swallow up any boat heading eastwards or regurgitate anyone who’d travelled from the Welton end.

20141231-56_Braunston - Bottom Lock - Grand Union Canal

Bottom Lock Reflections

20141231-60_Braunston - Jetty Fields - Seat with a view

Jetty Fields Seating – Braunston

Today I felt I didn’t need to head that far up the canal. Instead I returned to and headed over the brick bridge at the bottom lock, to climb a gently rising track away from the canal side. After a hundred yards or so, upon reaching a minor road (it goes down to The Admiral Nelson pub) I turned left on a footpath and then soon after, right, heading gently up a small public area of grassland (Jetty Fields) with some individual large trees and seating. The tree branches hereabouts took my eye, being old and gnarly and full of nooks and crannies. I liked the contrast of this against the blue winter sky.

20141231-59_Braunston - No smoke without fire


I also liked the billowing shapes in a cloud of smoke from a fire created by a couple of workmen (thinning a hedge I think) just down-a-ways towards the canal. A warm outdoors job on a cold frosty morning. A short way up the slope the trees become closer together forming a small coppice where I stopped a while to watch several pairs of blue tits flitting about in the branches above me: a charming sight.

20141231-62_Braunston - Jetty Fields

Jetty Fields Path – Braunston

Continuing on, the path narrows between some properties, to emerge on the principle road through the village (named Welton Road and High Street). The aspect is quite open here with a number of grassy greens and verges with The Wheatsheaf pub directly opposite. I again resisted the temptations within, instead turning left along the road side to pass an eclectic mix of red brick, mellow stone and half-timbered houses/cottages both old and new. I knew there was a small café (Poppies) along the road, but was again disappointed, as it too was shut, so preventing the purchase of a cup of tea or coffee. Almost opposite is a small convenience store (a Londis I think) – again no hot drinks, but it did give the opportunity of picking up a couple of sandwiches and a cold drink.

20141231-66_Braunston - High Street - Cottages and Windmill

Braunston Cottages + Windmill

Soon after I passed by yet another pub (The Old Plough) before reaching the western end of the village, dominated by thee buildings:- The first an old windmill, now a home minus its sails. The second a typically English church with tall spire pointing skywards (or should that be heavenwards). And thirdly, Braunston Manor on the opposite side of the road from the church.

20141231-67_All Saints' Church - Braunston - Cathedral of the Canals

All Saints’ Church – Braunston – Cathedral of the Canals


20141231-70_Graveyard Cross_All Saints' Church - Braunston

All Saints’ Church – Braunston


20141231-71_War Memorial_All Saints' Church - Braunston

War Memorial – All Saints’ Church

I spent a few moments outside the church, often known as The Cathedral of The Canals, and yes you’ve guessed it, taking some more photo’s but with a little more time in contemplation at the war memorial in the corner of the graveyard; perfectly positioned to be seen from all angles in full view as it should be, in memory of our fallen forebears; local heroes of a time rapidly becoming history rather than current affairs.

From the church grounds, I re-joined the main road to pick up a footpath (directly opposite the junction with Church Road), to the side of Braunston Manor, the first or in my case today, the last building in the village. The path drops diagonally half-right to rejoin High Street, just where it meets the A45 main road. I now had a tiny bit more tarmac path to use, alongside the A45, over a canal bridge and then very soon afterwards turned left on a pathway (still quite slippery with frost) dropping down to the tow path.

20141231-73_Twin Arched Bridges - Braunston - Grand Union + Oxford Canal Junction

Twin Arched Bridges – Braunston Canal Junction

The walk was almost over, having now come full circle back to the canal. Once on the tow path I immediately turned left, under the bridge I’d just crossed over and I was now on ground previously walked on earlier in the day, only now the water was on my right. I then re-passed The Boat House pub (on the opposite bank), reached and crossed the double-span iron bridge at the canal Tee-junction and swung right past moored boats again to meet the other utilitarian bridge carrying the A45 over the cut.

20141231-74_Braunston - Oxford Canal - Bridge - Stagecoach Bus

Utilitarian Bridge – A45 over Canal – Braunston

Most of the ice had now melted, leaving only a few places where the canal was still frozen, on the whole it was now mostly free water – I suppose the ducks must have been much happier and far less bemused now. I was still taking photo’s, but not as frequently now and after rising up the side path (just before the bridge) to the A45, the last couple of images taken were back to the church again before arriving back at the lay-by and my little car which had sat patiently in the cold for my return. It was still parked all alone by the road-side, I wonder if it had had any fellow vehicles parked here during the day to keep it company whilst I was away.

Well, that’s about it for this walks diary ….  When I’d made the short drive home, a nice warming cup of coffee was high on the agenda, and I was really ready for it as I sat down in the friendly warmth of my home and family. What a simply super few hours.

I’ve attached (or will be attaching) a selection of photo’s from the day, but there are more to be seen on my flickr account if you want to see just images of Braunston (and nearby) please use this link, or go to my photostream for all photo’s I’ve posted.

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.

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.


20120219_Clifton-Upon-Dunsmore, Lilbourne Circular Walk 2nd Half_Lilbourne to Clifton via Rugby Radio Masts and Hillmorton Locks.

20120219_Clifton-Upon-Dunsmore, Lilbourne Circular Walk

2nd Half_Lilbourne to Clifton via Rugby Radio Masts and Hillmorton Locks.

When : 19th February 2012

Who : Just me

Where : Clifton-Upon-Dunsmore, Near Rugby, Warwickshire, England.

Start Point & End Point : SP 533,764

Full Walk Distance : Approx 8.8 miles (14 km)

20120219-62_Oxford Canal - Hillmorton Locks by gary.haddenFull Walk Significant heights : … See end of diary for details.

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

Full Walk Summary : A circular walk across pleasant Warwickshire Farmland, starting and finishing in Clifton-Upon-Dunsmore, taking in the small village of Lilbourne, two motte and bailey castles, an old disused railway station and passing straight through the middle of the famous Rugby Radio Masts and then, in complete contrast, joining the Oxford Canal at Hillmorton Locks including seeing a canal boat accident.

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

20120219_Clifton-upon-Dunsmore-Lilbourne Circular WalkThis is the continuation of the walk from my previous diary … Just to keep the prose and pictures on each diary reasonably compact ….. If you want to read the 1st half first, please use this link. If you’ve already found and read about the 1st half the walk, you’ll already know that I’d arrived at All Saint’s Church just outside Lilbourne and opposite it is a medieval motte and bailey castle, or at least the remains of the motte are still visible. Not far away is what would have been a ready supply of water – A small river :- The Avon.

20120219-40_Infant River Avon + Bridge - Near Lilbourne by gary.haddenArrh yes; The Avon, I walked down the road for a short distance to cross the river (just a stream really) via a brick bridge; I’d describe this bridge as being functional rather than overly attractive, although being brick built with arches, rather than concrete does create a degree of attractiveness, but the proportions just aren’t quite right somehow, at least to my eye. Crossing the bridge took me from Northamptonshire into Leicestershire, my third county of the day. From here I could have just returned to the church and continued on, but I was curious about a path that I could see on my map which passes under the M1 nearby and thence off towards Swinford, perhaps a possible walk destination in the future ? ….  20120219-41_Disused Railway + Station Near Lilbourne by gary.haddenso off I set along the minor road away from the church, passing over the line of an old railway at what looks like an old platform. I believe this was Lilbourne Station [maybe dating back to the Beeching cuts ?…. maybe someone can tell me?]. Near here I turned off the road down the side of a field through a ribbon of trees and down to where the path crosses underneath the M1. The M1 is raised up above the ground here for quite some distance, supported on relatively slender concrete pillars, you could almost think too slender for the amount of weight and roaring traffic they support, but there again, I guess the road engineers must have got their calculations right, as it doesn’t appear to have collapsed yet. The area under the mass of concrete is drab, cold, dry and really not at all attractive in any way, shape or form, even the Avon has no charm about it as it crosses under close by, so I turned back on myself, retracing my steps to the minor road and the old station.

20120219-43_Under the M1_Near Lilbourne by gary.hadden   20120219-44_M1_Near Lilbourne - Sainsbury's Truck by gary.hadden

Heading back towards Lilbourne gave a different view of the motte + bailey remains, and to get a closer look I chose to take a footpath running south, up the middle of a grassy field to the east of the mounds and west of the M1.

20120219-45_Infant River Avon + Lilbourne Motte + Bailey by gary.hadden

20120219-47_Motte + Bailey + Church - Lilbourne by gary.hadden

I particularly liked the way shadows and highlights enhanced the ridges of soil creep (slow natural erosion) on the slopes of the mounds. It was also quite interesting having the nearby traffic on the M1 rushing by. The path emerged into the outskirts of Lilbourne village, where I followed minor roads to drop back down to the church and thence be back onto my original course. At a road junction near the church, I picked up a footpath heading roughly south rising 20120219-48_Lilbourne Church + Houses by gary.haddengently, which gave a pleasant view back over the church and I soon found myself on a minor road leading up to the village green area of the village where I found the name of the road to be called “The Horsepool”, an odd name but that’s it name. A village green bench became another short stop for refreshments/a bite to eat.

Moving on, after a mini-explore of the village centre, I crossed the main road through the village (Rugby Road/The Green/Yelvertoft Road) and joined Hillmorton Lane heading downhill in a southerly direction. It seems every community has it’s challenges and difficulties, and it seems Lilbourne is no 20120219-51_Radio Mast Hillmorton Lane - Lilbourne by gary.haddendifferent; numerous posters dotted around the village pronounced their particular battle – A campaign against The Lilbourne Wind Farm. Some of the posters looked like they’d been up for some time, some were more pristine, so it would seem the protest had been quite protracted. I wonder if the result has now been announced all these months later ?

I now had a stretch of road walking to do, taking the Hillmorton Road around a sharp right-hand 90-degree bend to head westwards and then swinging round to a south-westerly direction. Although on tarmac, this was pleasant enough as it is a very minor thoroughfare and 20120219-53_Discarded Traffic Cone + Reflection by gary.haddenI don’t think I saw a vehicle of any sort. In the fields to the south were a smattering of tall slender radio masts forming an extended portion of the famous Rugby Radio Masts not very far away. I talked about farmers’ detritus at the start of the walk, well it seems not far behind is road rubbish littering the verges, an example of which was an old beaten up traffic cone lying half in and half out of a large puddle – You can’t pin that one on the rambling fraternity either !

20120219-54_Unit45 Truck/Lorry on A5 (Watling Street) by gary.hadden

Hillmorton Lane comes to an end as it meets the A5, which again had to be crossed carefully, to immediately pick up a track still heading roughly south west straight through the middle of the Rugby Radio Masts, bounded by barbed wire fences. I was surprised by the number of masts and different sizes, especially as there have been some high profile removals in recent years. It’s rumoured that the whole site is likely to become a huge housing development as the masts disappear completely. If true, this won’t be just another village, it’ll be almost like a new town. I guess that when that eventually happens the buzzard flying over-head will have to move to pastures new.

20120219-57_Barbed Wire Fence - Rugby Radio Mast Site by gary.hadden   20120219-60_Rugby Radio Masts by gary.hadden

20120219-56_Buzzard - Blue Sky by gary.hadden   20120219-59_Barbed Wire + Shredded Plastic Rubbish by gary.hadden

20120219-61_Shadow_Me Myself Yours Truly by gary.haddenAfter just over a mile on the almost dead level track, with a multitude of dirty puddles (some really quite large), I was quite happy to arrive at The Oxford Canal at Hillmorton Locks. Having never been here before, I decided to have a look around and walked up the minor road, passing a farm entrance and the church to reach a very tall tunnel under a main line railway. At the far end, the tunnel dramatically reduces in height before the road leads up into the estate of Hillmorton in the south east corner of Rugby. Having looked up the tunnel, I back-tracked to the canal and dropped down to the towpath and immediately found a bench for a refreshment stop, directly opposite Badseys CafeBistro across the cut.

20120219-63_Rotoballe Hay Bales by gary.hadden      20120219-64_Low Bridge Ahead by gary.hadden

I was enjoying my short break in the afternoon sunshine when a narrow boat (The Grebe) sailed down the canal heading north and the pilot had to stop the 20120219-66_Oxford Canal - Hillmorton Locks by gary.haddenboat whilst the nearby lock was vacated/opened up for it to pull into. Well, the person at the tiller made a right hash of stopping the long craft, ending up slewing across the canal and hitting a moored barge on the opposite bank. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a canal traffic accident before, and even though it happened at very slow speed the crunch was obviously significant enough to bring a couple out from the nearby buildings – I’m sure in my mind they were the owners of the innocent barge – They really didn’t look at-all impressed!, although I don’t think there was any significant damage.

20120219-68_Oxford Canal - Bridge 70 at Hillmorton Locks by gary.haddenAs much as I was enjoying my rest I had to move on, heading north on the tow path, passing interesting features along the way, including:- An attractive arched brick bridge over a side arm of the canal to a chandlers ; Various Moored multi-coloured canal boats ; A twin lock which only seems to have one half in use (which Grebe eventually negotiated) ; and a grassy picnic area with lock-gate “art-work”.

20120219-70_Narrow Boat at Hillmorton Locks by gary.hadden

20120219-71_Narrow Boat Reflection at Hillmorton Locks by gary.hadden

20120219-72_Canal Boat + Work Bench by gary.haddenThe photographer in me liked an old work-mate bench next to a barge/narrow boat being renovated; the two white non-matching mugs both empty and unwashed perched on the bench somehow suggested a prolonged period of inactivity to match the lack of noise emanating from within the boat – Perhaps a beer or two were being quaffed in the afore-mentioned bistro cafe?

20120219-73_Odd Narrow Boat by gary.haddenThe last boat moored along here was an odd looking craft, with a slightly unkempt but happy feel about it; maybe it just needs a lick of paint and a touch TLC. The best I can describe it, is, if it were stereotyped as a person it’d be a 1960s hippy; my thoughts are probably born out of the self-sufficiency of the solar panels perched atop the roof and bright multi-coloured sheets of Perspex over the windows …. it must make for an odd glow inside, especially with the sun shining through.

The tow path is sort of sandwiched between the railway and the canal with farmland stretching up the slope beyond, nice enough but fairly non-descript really, but a pair of swans nibbling on the emerging crop shoots added a certain charm – I think everyone probably likes swans.

20120219-74_Grazing Swans by gary.hadden

20120219-75_Oxford Canal - nr Hillmorton Locks by gary.hadden

At the next bridge (going over the canal), I had to leave the tow path and join the road. I then had several hundred yards of road walking (generally northwards) climbing steadily to pass Home Farm. The rise opened up a view I just wasn’t expecting across a valley, over a golf course and then up to Rugby Town with St. Andrew’s Church Tower and the Rugby Cement (CEMEX) tower and chimney punching up from the skyline.

20120219-76_Rugby Town from near Clifton by gary.haddenJust after Home Farm, I crossed over the road to pick up a footpath heading across the last few fields. It’s not often a walk finishes on an up-hill section but this one did before easing off in the last field where some Highland Cattle stood 20120219-78_Highland Cow by gary.haddennot caring a jot about my passing by. I think these beasts are brilliant looking, with their long twisty horns and shaggy hair covering their eyes. They may look fierce, but I’ve never had a problem walking past them and toady was no different despite gently having to encourage one from in front of the final stile of the day in the corner of the field.

A little bit of road walking and a couple of alleyways soon brought me back to the church and the car-park. I was very restrained and decided to forego a drink in 20120219-79_The Bull Inn - Clifton Upon Dunsmore by gary.haddenThe Bull Inn across the road, instead heading back to home on the other side of Rugby – Just a few minutes away really.

Well, that’s it, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings as much as I enjoyed the walk, and as much as I’ve enjoyed revisiting it over a year later writing it up and rediscovering my photo’s ….

Break-Down of Heights Climbed (over the full walk) :- Although nothing steep or difficult at-all, just gently undulating farmland.

  • 25m (80 feet) – From A5 near Clifton Lakes to the 1st Motte + Bailey Castle.
  • 15m (50 feet) – From Lilbourne Church to Centre of Lilbourne Village.
  • 30m (100 feet) – From Hillmorton Locks/Oxford Canal to Clifton Village.

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.

20130113_Braunston Winter Canal Side Photographic Walk

20130113_Braunston Winter Canal Side Photographic Walk

When : 13th January 2013

Who : Just me

Where : Braunston, Northamptonshire, between Rugby and Daventry

Start Point and End Point : Lay-by on the A45 London Road SP533,663

Distance : Approx 4 miles (6.5 km)

Significant heights : None – Gentle rise up side of flight of locks – otherwise mostly dead flat on good tow paths.

Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map No. 222 Rugby & Daventry

20130113-33_Canal Side pump House + Narrow Boat - Braunston by gary.haddenSummary : A walk specifically for me to take some wintertime photo’s down on the canals in Braunston …. Grand Union Canal and Oxford Canal …. but it’d be a perfectly nice walk to do without a camera, not to mention a couple of pubs by the canal side and at least one more up in the village.

Click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream.

Well, the morning had been quite fine (for a change), and the afternoon was forecast to OK too. So, I decided that it’d be a good opportunity to go play with my camera and I decided the canals at Braunston would be an excellent place to head for. My beginners photo’ course tutor from last year at Rugby’s Percival Guildhouse [ David Harding ] often goes there and posts some images on his flickr account, so, as I both know and like Braunston anyway I figured it’d be worth a couple of hours “me-time” down by the cut.

I grabbed tripod and fitted a polarizing filter to the front of my Pentax K200D camera, wrapped up warm (it wasn’t raining but it was very cold) and headed off through 20130113_Braunston Winter Canal Side Photographic WalkDunchurch and down the A45, passing signs for Grandborough, Onley (Prison), Barby and Willoughby en-route to Braunston. Not quite a mile past Willoughby there was a space in a lay-by just before reaching Braunston – This is just 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 it would suit my purposes just fine. 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.

20130113-01_Frozen Flood Waters Braunston by gary.haddenAnyway, enough of the pre-amble; I set off by the side of the road, towards Braunston, soon crossing the main road where a path drops down to the tow path. Before going down here however, I noticed a finger post corresponding with a footpath I’d never walked on before; so I dropped down the bank to a stile and crossed into the grassy field. Well, I say grassy field, it was really an extensively flooded field, and more than that, it was a frozen extensively flooded field.

20130113-02_Winter Sky - Braunston by gary.haddenThe low sun, wispy clouds and a tiny arc of an ice halo (looks like a mini-rainbow) were quite beautiful and the atmospheric effect gave me my first photo opportunity of the day. The footpath, well that still remains to be walked in the future, apart from it heading off in the wrong direction, it also headed off straight through the middle of the flood and I really didn’t fancy skating out into the mini-lake! …. so, I returned to the road and dropped down the afore-mentioned path down to the canal tow path where I turned right.

20130113-03_Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenImmediately, I liked the quality of light on the water and there were some super reflections, but I soon realised that the low sun and deep shadows would be a bit of a challenge for me, so I spent a few minutes playing with camera settings, determining in my mind to avoid using the auto settings on the dial as much as possible.

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 them but instead chose to take the right hand branch, going under the arch of the first bridge, before heading off to the south west on the well surfaced tow path. After a very short stretch I used a brick built bridge to cross to the other bank and then back down to the iron bridges and the canal tee-junction once again. Again turning 20130113-07_Church Spire Reflection - Braunston by gary.haddenright, I continued along the tow path; on the opposite bank here is a small area of light industrial units closely followed by The Boat House pub mentioned earlier. Soon after, I passed under the A45 as it crosses overhead via a utilitarian, but 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. 20130113-09_Brauston Marina off Grand Union Canal by gary.haddenThe major point of interest soon changes to the near bank however, as another arching iron bridge is reached spanning a side-arm of the canal heading into a large marina full of narrow boats and barges. The multitude of craft make a very colourful sight, all bar none painted in bright primary colours – Canal folk just don’t do pastels in their boat liveries, I don’t think there was a shabby looking boat in sight! Most of the boats moored on the canal side were equally pristine, and one in particular caught my eye with ropes sat on the rooftop coiled into perfect circles – most tend to just throw the ropes on top in a heap.

20130113-11_Brauston Marina off Grand Union Canal by gary.hadden

20130113-12_Coiled Rope - Narrow Boat - Braunston by gary.hadden

20130113-13_Narrow Boat - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenIt felt very cold down by the waterside, and there weren’t many boats moving around on the cut …. I was lucky enough to be in about the right place to take some pic’s as a bright yellow and green vessel came under one of the several brick bridges that straddle the canal. I like these old brick bridges, they’ve been around for so long, they’ve sort of weathered their way into the landscape, taking on a natural patina of lichens and with mosses hanging on in the hollows and cracks. The surface of the brickwork has certainly seen better times, but I like the unkempt look.

20130113-18_Moss _ Lichen - Canal Bridge Braunston by gary.hadden

20130113-19_Decaying Brickwork - Canal Bridge Braunston by gary.hadden

20130113-16_Silhouetted walkers - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenJust like the quietness of traffic on the canal, there were also considerably fewer people walking the canal tow path than I’ve seen before (in summer it can be rather crowded on the towpath), but there were are few hardy souls (just like me) who’d ventured out into the chilly afternoon. Half way alongside the marina is an old narrow footbridge that has to be negotiated (over another access from the canal into the mooring area). This bridge is accessed and exited via some rather steep steps; not too much of a problem for walkers, but decidedly awkward for 20130113-24_Narrow Boats - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenpeople pushing prams and equally awkward for cyclists which I witnessed first-hand as I waited patiently for a family to cross in the opposite direction. Still, it gave the opportunity to try to take some interesting pic’s of some more run down looking boats that were moored nearby. Once over the walkway, the way ahead was dead easy, and the boats moored (a holiday hire company predominantly) became much better maintained again, however there were lived-in boats hereabouts also, 20130113-25_Still Waters - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenevidenced by the smoke emanating from the small rooftop chimneys; the smoke instead of rising skywards seemed to be suppressed by the cold and hung around like a mini-fog around the boats. There was hardly a breath of a breeze, and this facilitated some super mirror like reflections, although finding a setting that worked well was a tad tricky in the falling afternoon light; in places it was becoming quite gloomy as the weak sun dropped towards the horizon. Still the sun did introduce a pinky-orangey glow to the sky, and warmed up the tones of the brickwork of the bridges, locks and canal side buildings.

20130113-27_Bridge Reflections - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.hadden

20130113-29_The Admiral Nelson - Pub in Braunston by gary.haddenContinuing on, I’d now passed the small complex of old pump house, bottom lock, bottom lock cottage (shop) and boat-works and then past a number of locks including one adjacent to The Admiral Nelson pub; a super place for an evening drink in warmer conditions. I was tempted to head on inside for a warming drink before turning back down the cut to the car, but instead chose to continue up the flight of locks, past the top lock and thence on into a cutting to reach and stop at the entrance to Braunston Tunnel. I’d never been this far up the tow path before, and even with a tripod I found it difficult to set my camera up to cope with the now quite dark conditions down in the cutting. The tow path ends at the tunnel entrance, which is set into the hillside like a black mouth waiting to swallow up any boat heading eastwards or regurgitate anyone who’d travelled from the Daventry/Welton end of the over 200 year old construction.

20130113-26_Late Winter Sun - Braunston by gary.hadden

There is a plaque that commemorates the Bicentenary of the opening of the tunnel (1873 m / 1.9 km / 6145  feet / 1.16 miles long) and the 9 mile stretch of what was then called The Grand Junction Canal between Braunston and Weedon on the 21st June 1796. I find it quite incredible how something approaching 217 years old is still being used – It’s a superb feat of longevity – I wonder how many modern pieces of civil engineering being built today will not only survive but continue to prosper in the year 2213 and beyond ?

The only way to continue would have been up the side of the cutting bank on a large path. On my map this leads to a track running above the tunnel; I assume, as there is no tow path through the tunnel, this would have been for the unhitched horses that used to pull the barges (before motorisation) and leading them to the other end whilst the boats were “legged” the long distance through the tunnel. Legging is where two people lie flat on their backs on a plank laid cross the boat and then “walking” the boat along by placing their feet on the tunnel’s ceiling/sides … Can you imagine how hard this would be, even with an empty boat, but when fully laden it must have been an incredibly hard task and claustrophobic at the same time. I’ve read that eventually after an unsuccessful attempt at a powered rope haulage system, a steam tug was introduced with costs varying depending on the weight of the load. The tunnel is so long that there are air shafts dropped down to it from the surface, with chimney shaped constructions above ground. I’ve also read that the Georgian engineers building the tunnel got it just a little wrong, where their tunneling from each end didn’t quite meet up perfectly, resulting in an S-bend in the middle.

20130113-34_Bottom Lock Cottage (shop)- Braunston by gary.haddenAnyway, that’s by the by, I didn’t walk up the side path, instead turning around to retrace my steps all the way back to the car. Although the same distance, this took considerably less time as the light was fading quite quickly now making my camera almost redundant, although I did get a few images where I spent a bit of time setting up and “playing” with settings.

20130113-36_Narrow Boat - Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.hadden

20130113-38_The Boat House Restaurant_ Canal Reflection Braunston by gary.haddenEventually I reached and passed The Boat House pub, crossed the twin iron bridges at the junction of the Grand Union and Oxford Canals and reached a modern concrete and steel bridge where the A45 passes overhead and near to where I’d parked my car.

20130113-39_Modern Bridge A45 over the Grand Union Canal - Braunston by gary.haddenI kind of liked the way the soft reflected light bounced off the steels, but it wasn’t easy for me to get a usable image in the last of the days light. 20130113-40_Frozen Flood Waters Braunston by gary.haddenI thought that was probably that, for my photo-taking, but upon reaching the road side, I decided to try and capture a last shot or two of the fading sunlight playing on the still frozen flooded field and then to try and get some “light-trail” pictures of the passing cars by using long “bulb” exposures. Looking at the exif data on my images between 1 and 2 seconds at F/5.6 seemed to work best.

20130113-43_Head Light Light Trails Braunston by gary.hadden    20130113-41_Tail Light Light Trails Braunston by gary.hadden

Well, that’s about it for this walks diary write up. By the time I got home, it really did feel that night had arrived and I settled down for the evening with my family in front of the TV.

I’ve attached a selection of photo’s from the day above, but there are more to be seen on my flickr account if you want to go see, just use this link.

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.

20110306_Shuckburgh _ Napton on the Hill Circular Walk

20110306_Shuckburgh _ Napton on the Hill Circular Walk

20110306-13_Me - Myself - Yours Truly by gary.haddenWhen : 6th March 2011

Who : Me and my 9 year old son Craig.

Where : Warwickshire (near Northamptonshire border), a couple of miles to the east of Southam.

Maps : Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 222, Rugby and Daventry.

Start + End Point : 491,628

Approx Distance : 7 miles, (11 km).

Heights :  2 ascents of about 100m and 60m (about 325 + 195 feet).

Parking : Dirt lay-by north of the church in Lower Shuckburgh, just by the canal bridge (near the sewage works).

20110306_Shuckburgh _ Napton on the Hill Circular Walk

Summary : A very pleasant and surprisingly hilly Warwickshire walk including Lower Shuckburgh, Shuckburgh Deer Park and Hills, Napton on the Hill and the Oxford and Grand Union Canals. 

20110306-01_Dilapidated Farm - Lower Shuckburgh by gary.haddenMy daughter (who plays cello) was off at an orchestra workshop for most of the day at The Temple Speech Rooms (part of Rugby School) and my wife had lots of reading to do for the following day’s university classes (heavy stuff; Post war Russian occupation in Hungary I think). So Craig and I decided to take advantage of some bright and dry although quite chilly weather … Craig wanted to do a particular seven miles long walk, having looked through a guide book that just happened to be out on our dining room table (More Country Walks in the Rugby Area, by Jim Watson) but I didn’t have a map of the route he’d settled on, so we picked out a six-miler around an area where I hadn’t been for donkey’s years. 

20110306-03_War Memorial - Lower Shuckburgh by gary.haddenSo, with sandwiches made, flasks filled and boots found we arrived at the start point in Lower Shuckburgh. I parked up on a small dirt lay-by just a few hundred yards north of the A425 main road, past the church, and just before a bridge over a canal. Once booted up, we set off, not on the canal towpath, but instead heading down the country road, to reach the very ornate church of St. John the Baptist. Common with other rural places, the church looks considerably larger than the small community would seem to warrant, perhaps a sign that many more people lived and worked here in the past. Craig took an interest in the memorial’s inscriptions here, commenting on how sad it was that the people had died in the war, and then in a completely different mood, pretended to be trapped in the stocks on the other side of the road. 

20110306-04_Stocks - Lower Shuckburgh by gary.hadden

We now had to cross the A425 main road (linking Southam and Daventry) which was dead easy ‘cause there was no traffic, but I could guess it could be quite tricky to cross when busy. Once over the road we nervously made our way into a field after reading the prominent Beware of the Bull warning sign. I wasn’t that nervous, as I’ve never actually been threatened by a bull whenever I’ve had to walk past them before. Generally they’ve only ever looked at me with a bored disdain, as if they’ve got better things to do, like eat another mouthful of grass, than 20110306-05_Lower Shuckburgh from Shuckburgh Hills by gary.haddenchase an ugly looking hiker. Craig on the other hand felt a little more wary and grabbed my hand as we headed diagonally across the field towards the top corner of a small group of brick built cottages. The afore mentioned bull was nowhere to be seen and we pressed on, rising up the centre of a broad ridge. This was the first major climb of the day. The climb isn’t in the same league as Lake District Fells or Peak District Dales, but for around here it’s pretty much as hilly as it gets and it certainly raised the heart rate a little. Some wide views opened up looking back from where we’d come. In fact at various times during the day we could make out the plume of smoke emitting from Rugby Cement’s chimney maybe some 10 miles away to the north.

20110306-06_Beacon Brazier - Shuckburgh Park by gary.haddenThe slope began to ease a little as we passed through a taller than usual fence and kissing gate, to reach a tall and rather wonky post with a beacon brazier perched on top. I guess the villagers must use this at events during the year? We were now in the parkland of Shuckburgh Hall and we continued uphill with woods encroaching on both sides with a couple of small ponds down to our right. As we climbed, some small patches of blue sky started to peek through the uniform grey cloud cover, raising our hopes for some sunny weather for the rest of the walk, the additional brightness bringing a very welcome feel of spring to the day. 

We soon started to crest what looked like the top of the rise, however, we had to swing to the right, aiming for another tall fence and gate, which meant we had a bit more uphill to do, although now not as steep as before. On the way, Craig found a pair of old branches protruding from a gnarled and distorted old tree and enjoyed bouncing up and down on the springy limbs and then pretending to be a jockey sat astride a very thin horse; the power of imagination is wonderful.

20110306-07_Shuckbugh Park by gary.hadden

Just up from here the route lead us to a stile; Under normal circumstances I’d have just crossed over and continued on the other side …. but not this time, because, right next to the official way-marking arrow was a bright orange “Footpath Diversion” sign pointing off towards Home farm at 90-degrees to our intended direction. Obviously this set alarm bells ringing; the only thing was; it didn’t say where the diversion was heading for, for how far and whether it’d 20110306-11_Diverted path or not - Shuckbugh Park by gary.haddeneventually take us to where we needed to be. I walked down the fence a short way, looking for the next diversion sign, but there was none to be seen, I walked back up to the stile trying to weigh up what to do? Which direction to go? After a little more umming and arrrring, I decided the diversion had no official signing to go with it, and so further decided to go with the two most certain things I knew :- The official way-mark sign and the green dashed line on my map! 

We crossed the stile and headed up the rise ahead, skirting the edge of Long Hill Wood to our right and some half-decent views off to our left. I was really quite wary though and gently encouraged Craig into fairly quick(ish) pace, as I guessed the diversion might have been down to pheasant or partridge shooting and I didn’t fancy being inadvertently shot at. We soon crested the rise and then, continuing on, dropped down to a shallow saddle before again rising over Lodge Hill and thence onto to Beacon Hill, all the time with the woods off on our right. 

My map doesn’t make any note of a series of banks and troughs encircling the hill top. I could almost believe them to be the remnants of ancient ridge and furrow farming methods (quite common around here), or the last vestiges of an iron age fort, but according to my guide book, the area is the site of a deserted medieval village. We didn’t head over to the very top, instead choosing to skirt around in a wide arc on top of one of the ridges and then dropped down a little towards the corner of the woods (now called Old Fox Covert) where we passed into a field sloping steeply down ahead of us. There were some super wide ranging views, initially Napton  being the focal point of our gaze on its own neighbouring hill, but the vista was much wider, being able to see way past Southam to the west and a big sweep to the north as far as Rugby.

20110306-12_Napton on the Hill from Shuckburgh Hills by gary.hadden  

Craig was ready for a rest, and as this was a bit of a sun-trap, this seemed an ideal place to break out some snacks and drinks. As it happened Craig managed two whole bananas – brill’ for energy levels – and we sat enjoying the views and just chatted …. It turned out that he had the chorus of a pop song annoyingly looping around in his head, so I suggested he sing out loud a different tune just to break the cycle, amazingly we both broke into Queens “We Will Rock You” at precisely the same time …. Great minds think alike hey? …. and the next 5 minutes were spent serenading the birds with our impromptu performance. I guess it was “a kind of magic” if you’ll excuse the pun! 

Anyway, the sun disappeared behind a large grey cloud and the temperature immediately dropped several degrees prompting us to pack up and move on. Our route was now downhill (skirting the southern extremities of the wood) and then into more open farmland to reach a minor road just to the right of Halls Barn Farm. Once on the road we needed to joggle first left along the road and then almost immediately right into the next field to follow the hedge on our right but only for a short distance before heading westwards across a number of fields passing through various hedges by means of gates and stiles as we went. It was easy walking and we soon emerged onto a minor road. 

20110306-16_Fish Ponds near Napton on the Hill by gary.haddenOn the other side of the road are a couple of fish ponds and there were quite a number of men sat around the fringes, poles poised to catch “the big one”. We skirted the northern tip of the northern most pool and definitely not singing Queen songs as we passed by the silent anglers (are they anglers when fishing in ponds rather than flowing streams?) to emerge onto another minor road. This we followed into the outskirts of Napton-on-the-Hill where Craig 20110306-17_Napton on the Hill - Thatched Cottage by gary.haddenheaded into a child’s playground to clamber about on the climbing frames, monkey bars and the like. Where he got the energy from I just don’t know as he’d already completed well over 3-miles and several hundred feet of ascent and descent – perhaps it was the banana effect! 


20110306-18_Napton on the Hill - Terraced Cottages by gary.haddenAfter ten minutes or so we moved on climbing steeply through the attractive streets of Napton, passing an eclectic mix of old and new houses, perched one above the other on the hill side and after a while reached the top of the hill at the ancient Church of St Lawrence,  parts of which date back to the 12th Century. 

20110306-22_Church of St Lawrence - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden  20110306-21_Church of St Lawrence - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden

20110306-23_Church of St Lawrence - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden    20110306-24_Church of St Lawrence - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden

As we left the churchyard onto a lane we stopped to chat with three fellow walkers (from Coleshill) who had just parked up here and were just starting their days walking; their route being more or less the same circle as ours, but starting and finishing here in Napton. As they headed off towards the windmill, we set off down the lane which soon started to descend quite quickly to join Vicarage Road and then continued downhill on Butt Hill all the way down to the A425 main road where we found our way into The Kings Head pub. There was a really good buzz in the bar with quite a sizeable crowd stood watching Liverpool beating Man Utd. I enjoyed a good pint of Hook Norton beer and Craig had a J2O. The landlady kindly allowed us to eat our packed lunch sandwiches as we sat chatting and I managed another swift half before we set off again.

20110306-25_The Kings Head Pub - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden

20110306-26_Narrow Boats - Napton Marina_Oxford Canal by gary.hadden

20110306-27_Narrow Boats - Napton Marina_Oxford Canal by gary.haddenAfter crossing the A425 main road we joined Tomlow Road (heading north) for a short stretch of Tarmac walking to reach the Oxford Canal where we dropped down onto the canal towpath right next to Napton Marina with lots of narrow boats moored on the opposite bank. The way ahead was now very easy, being absolutely flat going except for a very brief rise and fall over a bridge at a major junction of The Oxford and Grand Union Canals making a huge watery T-junction (Napton Junction on my map). Also, joining the cut here is another Marina (Wigrams Turn Marina) with many more narrow boats making another colourful scene. An artist was sat here sketching the bridge, obviously making the most of the settled weather and the picturesque surroundings.

20110306-32_Wigrams Turn Marina - Napton Junction by gary.hadden   20110306-34_Artist at Napton Junction by gary.hadden

20110306-35_Swan by gary.hadden   20110306-36_Swan by gary.hadden

20110306-37_Oxford-Grand Union Canal near Lower Shuckburgh by gary.hadden

20110306-38_Oxford-Grand Union Canal near Lower Shuckburgh by gary.haddenThe only thing to slow us down now, were the many ‘photo opportunities including narrow boats, ducks and swans and just the canal itself. In the distance every now and again we caught a glimpse of the three fellow walkers we’d met at the church in Napton. Knowing they were heading to near where we were parked, I challenged Craig to a mini game – would we catch them up before they turned off the towpath ?

This certainly kept the pace brisk and even though he’d covered nearly 6-miles Craig every now and then broke into a run far outstripping my pace and ensuring we did indeed catch up with the walkers up ahead, just as we all reached a slender footbridge where they were to leave the canal to head over to Lower Shuckburgh Church.  

20110306-39_Footbrdge over canal near Lower Shuckburgh by gary.haddenWe stood chatting for a few minutes, part of which was about the respective woes of Aston Villa and Coventry City football clubs (not a good season for either team) … in fact it wasn’t many days after this that the Sky Blues’ manager Aidy Boothroyd was sacked! Once we’d said our good-byes, we continued alongside the canal for just a couple more hundred yards before leaving the towpath to rise to a road bridge and our parked car. 

And that was that, a really good walk, lots of variation :- Hills and flat going; open countryside and alongside woods; a decent pint in a friendly pub; an interesting stretch of canal of about 2-miles and the pretty hill-village of Napton on the Hill. 

20110306-41_Silhouetted Windmill - Napton on the Hill by gary.hadden

There was one thing that we’d missed though and that was to see the windmill perched on the western fringe of Napton Hill. So within minutes of setting off in the car, we were parked in the lay-by near the church in Napton. From here we strolled along the lane past the church itself and then Church Leys Farm (with Highland Cows) to reach the windmill. This is on private property forming part of a posh looking home so you can’t get up really close, but you can get a reasonable view of it’s sails and then going a little further on, a superb view out over the low lying plain below. Then it was a wander back to the car again, and the drive back up to Rugby. The final task of the day was to head into the town centre, to park up on Badby Road right next to “The Close”, the historic Rugby School sports ground where William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran with it, inventing the modern game of Rugby Union in the process. 20110306-44_The Close - Rugby School Sports Ground by gary.haddenThere were a group of boys playing under the rugby posts at one end of the pitch, but, in what could perhaps be described as sacrilege they were playing soccer not rugger!!!! Why hadn’t we gone straight home … well that was because my daughter was finishing her orchestra workshop at The Temple Speech Rooms at 5 o’clock and we’d arrived with about a quarter of an hour to spare – Brill’ timing! And that, really was that for the days adventures and here endeth this diary write-up. 

20110306-45_Rugby School - Temple Speech Rooms - Badby Road by gary.haddenI hope you enjoyed my scribblings as much as I enjoyed reliving the day whilst tapping away at my computers’ key board and reviewing my photo’s. 

T.T.F.N. Gary. 

Next walk/post = 2011—————– to be decided.

20090823_Long Lawford – Newbold on Avon Circular Walk

20090823_Long Lawford – Newbold on Avon Circular Walk

When : 23rd August 2009

Who : Me and my son Craig

Where : Long Lawford, Newbold On Avon, Near Rugby, Warwickshire.

Map Used : 1:25,000 OS Explorer map 222, Rugby and Daventry.

Start Point : 476,766

1st End Point in Long Lawford : (2x pubs on main street) 472,759

2nd Start Point : (2x pubs) 472,759

2nd End Point : 47,73 (Cawston Grange)

Approx Distances : 3.75 + 1.88 miles (6 + 3 km)

Heights : nothing significant (bit of a rise on the 2nd stage of the walk of about 100 feet (30 metres)

Parking : On street parking in Long Lawford – Please park considerately as this is a residential area.

Public Transport : Long Lawford is serviced by a local bus route.

Summary : A pleasant mornings walk just to the west of Rugby, with plenty of variation, including : Long Lawford ; River Avon ; Newbold On Avon ; Oxford Canal ; Newbold Tunnel ; Cathiron ; Little Lawford ; River Avon (again) and back to Long Lawford … and then an extension of the walk, up a rise on the northern outskirts of Lawford Heath back home to Cawston Grange ; and all with relatively little road walking

Although the route fairly jumps out of the map as a very obvious circular, I also referenced a couple of books I have of local walks, both of which describe virtually the identical route as each other :

  • Evening Telegraph Country Walks by Brian Keates, bought way back in 1993 for £2.45 some 17 years ago now, so whether it’s still in print I’ve no idea, I doubt it somehow. … says 4 miles for the circuit.
  • Country walks in the Rugby Area, Jim Watson, This Way Books, first published 2003 but I purchased it in the last couple of years from Rugby Info’ centre so it may well still be in print today (Apr 2010 at the time of writing this post) … says 3.75 miles for the circuit.
  • Although 10 years apart and with different authors, both of these books follow almost identical layouts, style of prose, sketch maps, distances and illustrations (Brian’s book uses his photo’s ; Jim’s his drawings). It’s interesting to see real inflation in action here, the price of these almost identical publications has roughly doubled in about 15-years and there are 30 walks in Brian’s book (8p per walk) as opposed to 20 in Jim’s (24p per walk).

It promised to be a nice day and as the girls of the family were doing their own thing during the morning I thought it would be a good idea for me and my son Craig (he was not quite 8 y.o. at the time) to have a bit of Father and Son time together on a short walk close to where we live. Craig was “up for it” so I put up a small packed lunch and some drinks and we donned walking boots to be dropped off at the northern most corner of the Long Lawford housing estate on Ashman road/Prentice Close.

The girls drove off, leaving us to find our bearings … I soon worked out this meant heading down a narrow passageway between a couple of houses to immediately reach a pasture field with some horses grazing happily in the shadow of Rugby Cement works. The ugly grey works and chimney were to be visible for much of the walk, but not to it’s detriment really, just a point of interest worth noting. The walk across the field was interrupted briefly for Craig to say hello to a friendly pony who had wandered up to us and was quite happy to be stroked and tickled behind it’s ears. At the far side of the field we picked up a metal footbridge to cross the gentle river Avon. The bridge appears to be much longer than necessary, but this must be to allow for times of flood which is not uncommon further to the west towards Bretford so I guess could be the same here-abouts also.

Picking up an access track (access to Peninsular Farm) we crossed under a railway bridge (Rugby-Nuneaton line) where we briefly passed the time of day with a gentleman spraying weed-killer on the road margins. Looking back we were lucky enough to see a train zooming by, before we branched right on a narrow path. Tall grasses and thistles bounded us on both sides fairly dwarfing Craig who struggled to see over the tops, but he did like the thistle seed heads being blown about in the stiffish breeze. Soon after, the path opened up to follow a small avenue of trees leading the way through a field of cows to the church at Newbold On Avon (St Botolph’s according to both books mentioned above).

The route passes into the Church yard itself and the path passing the church leads out onto The Rugby Road (B4112). A brief turn right down the hill and a careful cross of the road (Main Street) took us into a side road to pass two pubs side by side; firstly The Boat, and immediately afterwards The Barley Mow. A few paces further on and we were on the tow path of The Oxford Canal.

A turn left took us very quickly to Newbold tunnel … A couple of notice boards gave some details about the tunnel and the canal hereabouts, from which I tried to impart some info’ to Craig, but all he really wanted was to get inside. I’d been clever enough to take a head torch and passed it to Craig who thought he looked really cool as he clicked through its various brightness options, settling on the red light as his preferred setting. Part of the info’ read about outside was about some special lighting installation dating back to 2005. Well some 4 years later and I think they’ve either turned the display off or all the bulbs have blown ‘cause I wasn’t aware of any special rings of different coloured lights down the tunnel. The best effect was from when Craig shone the head torch at the arched walls/roof.

There was a steady amount of traffic using the canal in both directions ; maybe the bright weather had enticed people out onto the water. We got a cheery hello from most people as they passed on their journey through the long tunnel.

I’d like to say with a degree of certainty how long the tunnel is … one sign informed that it is 189 metres long but another says 230 metres. (a quick conversion shows 189m = 620 ft and 230m = 755 ft) which is correct I can’t guess at, perhaps they’re both wrong, they definitely can’t both be right ! … can they ? There are even more distances published on various sites on the internet including 250m and ¼ mile, so who knows what is correct. One point of interest we noticed was the coating of lime obliterating some of the brickwork, and in places hanging in mini curtain and pendulous stalactites.

After the gloomy interior, it seemed particularly bright as we exited the north-west end of the tunnel where we continued on, on the tow path, to soon pass under the Rugby Road, before having to cross an attractively arched iron bridge over a side arm of the canal (this arm doesn’t go anywhere now, but used to be the main canal route before it was re-routed when the Newbold Tunnel was constructed to cut journey times). Continuing on the towpath a small boat works was passed (on the opposite bank) before reaching the next brick bridge over the cut. At this point we left the canal, climbing up to reach the farm track the bridge carries. This seemed a good place to stop for a bite to eat and we found a spot to sit for our refreshments, chatting about this and that as we refreshed ourselves. I had to bodily pick up Craig to allow him a view down to the waterway below.

Once watered and fed (tea cakes with apricot jam if I remember correctly) we followed the farm track (Cathiron Lane) westwards to reach a minor road very close to Tuckey’s bridge near Cathiron. However we didn’t head towards Cathiron, instead turning left on the minor road we headed south towards Little Lawford maybe some ¾ of a mile away. After a few hundred yards down this road we crossed another transport corridor for the second time; the 4-tracks of the Rugby to Nuneaton Railway line. The towers of Rugby Cement stood sentinel over the tracks a couple of miles away on the horizon, silhouetted against the bright sky. Immediately over the bridge the scenery returned to completely rural with sheep fields on one side and recently harvested wheat fields on the other. I always think the large round bales of straw left strewn about always look rather attractive in a random kind of way somehow.


The downhill stroll along the road was easy and we soon reached Little Lawford, one of the stone buildings here carries a date of 1604 …. over 400 years old – wow! Passing the ancient building, I took Craig down to see the ford where the track crosses The River Avon …. Much too deep to walk through, and I suspect too deep for most vehicles, maybe it’s OK for tractors and horses only? A battered depth gauge indicates how deep the river can get when in flood. After a chat with a lady walking her dog, our route was back a short way to head through the mill buildings complex to find a small footbridge over the mill race and then on to cross the Avon itself on a wider track/bridge. All in all Little Lawford is a charming hamlet in a pretty position, somehow with a timeless feel about it.

We stopped to take in more refreshments on the bridge above the meandering river (mini Swiss roll chocolate cakes – Yummy). I think this is a good tip for anyone walking with small children – frequent stops, places of interest, some word games (yes, including I-spy)  and tasty bribes, errrmm, I mean tasty snacks to keep them going works wonders. Anyway, heading away from the river on the gently rising track took us through more gentle Warwickshire countryside and we were soon back near our starting point back in Long Lawford.

Once in the village we headed for my Brother-in-law’s home on the off-chance that he and his family might be in. Rather than a cup of tea it didn’t take much persuading for us to head off to one of the pubs just a short walk away for a pint. I’m sure it was The Caldecott Arms we visited rather than The Lawford Arms right next door. My young nephew and niece came too and it was amazing to see how the energy levels in Craig raised themselves from flagging to a run as he played with his cousins in the pub back garden (well more of a yard really) … My sister in law joined us a little later and it would have been rude not to have another pint with her too …. well it would wouldn’t it ?!!!

After a while I decided it was time to move on … there were two options on offer :- Ring home to get the girls to come and get us or walk the extra distance back home and not trouble the girls at-all …. I gave the choices to Craig expecting him to favour the car ride, but I was wrong, he almost immediately said he wanted to carry on walking – brill’, I liked that. It seems a bottle of cola and a run around with his cousins had given him a new lease of life. So after our goodbyes, we headed off southwards to pick up Railway Street and then left into the wider road of Chapel Street/The Green, to cross over a different main line railway this time running between Rugby and Coventry. It’s odd how the view eastwards down the tracks looks for all the world that the lines go straight through the buildings of Rugby Cement.

The road led us down to the A428 Coventry Road at a cross roads. Our route took us straight over into Lawford Heath Lane. We had about 500 yards or so of road walking to navigate before turning left into a broad green lane bounded by hedges on both sides. Not long after we came across a load of corrugated panelling, I assume fly tipped by some uncaring so-and-so. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this here and I don’t like it! Once past the ugly obstruction, the track rose quite steadily through gentle countryside and in the warmth of the early afternoon Craig started to flag again, but I managed to cajole and inspire him onwards as the track narrowed to a path and the hedges closed in to be quite claustrophobic. All of a sudden the path opened up again to join a relatively manicured driveway and the slope eased as we continued on to soon arrive at a bend in Bilton Lane. 

Going straight ahead we had to cross a major road junction under construction, where the new Rugby Western Relief Road (not yet opened) crosses Bilton Lane. They seem to have been doing this for far too long now and the opening date seems to be slipping back constantly.

Immediately after crossing a bridge (over a disused railway line) and just opposite The Bear Pub our route turned right into Lawford lane passing a few houses before heading straight on onto a tree/hedge lined walkway leaving the road behind. This brought us into the new Cawston Grange housing estate where we headed off for home but not before picking some blackberries growing in the hedgerows etc.

All in all I reckon we’d covered the best part of about 6 miles, not bad for a 7-year old … I remember thinking how much I’d tired him out as we finished off down our street, but within minutes of being home he was out in the back garden bouncing up and down on our trampoline – amazing.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next few walks and the like = 20090827-31_A short holiday on the north Yorkshire coast at Boggle Hole near Robin Hoods Bay.

Some external sites I have found, obviously not by me, so I’ve no control over the info in them but they might be of interest.







20090315_Brinklow Walk Circular

20090315_Brinklow Walk Circular

When : 15th March 2009

Who : Me and Craig

Where : Brinklow, Warwickshire,  England

Maps : 1:25000 Explorer Map no.222, Rugby & Daventry

Start + End Point : 436,796

Approx Distance : 5¾ miles, 9.3 km (per guide book used)

Heights : No significant climbs, Maybe 280 ft (about 85m) uphill over whole walk

Parking : With consideration on Broad Street through Brinklow Village

Public Transport : Yes, believe bus services run to Brinklow from both Rugby and Coventry.

Summary : Brinklow Village ; Coventry Way ; Lovers’ Bridge ; Oxford Canal ; Centenary Way ; M6 ; Stretton Under Fosse ; Newbold Revel College ; Oxford Canal (again) ; Brinklow Motte + Bailey Castle ; Return to Brinklow Village.

I did this walk straight out of a book of local walks that I’d bought a while ago : COUNTRY WALKS IN THE RUGBY AREA, by Jim Watson, published by THISWAY Books. The only deviation I made to Jim’s route was right at the end; where we branched off Ell Street to explore Brinklow’s Motte and Bailey Castle rather than finishing off on the road. Route finding was no problem at-all, as I used both the route description from the book and my 1:25,000 map of the area. It was another lovely spring morning and upon asking my 7 year old, Craig, he was up for a walk with me … nice! … So we quickly got our walking stuff together and set off for the nearby village of Brinklow, sort of mid way between Rugby and Coventry. We found a nice safe parking spot by the side of the very wide and aptly named Broad Street, almost directly opposite The Raven Inn.

We started off wandering up to where a picturesque row of cottages are set back from the main road at The Crescent, overlooked by the Norman church tower raised slightly above us. A classic English village view. Little clumps of daffodils set the scene off perfectly, aided by the bright red traditional telephone box, which was in turn balanced nicely by the equally bright red front door of one of the half-timbered buildings. I particularly liked this building, as the timbers were left a natural wood colour rather than the glossy black paint more often seen. This seemed to fit in with the warm red brick of the building itself.

A family friend some years ago lived in one of the cottages on The Crescent, the small frontage belied the interior which was almost Tardis like, much bigger than imagined with various rooms stretching back away from the road, making the rooms more dark and cosy rather than light and airy.

We returned to and then past the car, and after a bit of map perusing, we turned into Barr lane (it’s not obvious in the guide book that this is indeed right, it just says take an alleyway off Main Street) and we dropped past the village recreation field and small playground, to enter a field, the path heading off diagonally in a westerly direction, Craig (as ever at the start of a walk) out in front at the run. I have no objections to this as it means I can get my legs moving at a nice pace. Turning right after passing through to the next field, Craig continued at the run, enjoying the ups and downs of the ridge and furrow pasture sloping down to the path, whilst I found interest in the dried seed heads in the hedge-row remaining from the winter. We were following paths which have been incorporated into the “A Coventry Way“; a circular route of 40 miles around Coventry and as such the route was way-marked excellently.



An aside :- Currently, Coventry is politically labelled as being in The West Midlands … an invented district if there ever was one … but in geographical and historical terms, it’s really the major city in Warwickshire. Because of this, much of the “A Coventry Way” is in Warwickshire, as it is here in Brinklow. Unfortunately (in my opinion for what it’s worth) in their county reforms some years ago, Westminster, in their wisdom, decided that as the city was more industrial than rural it ought to be lumped in with the likes of Birmingham, Dudley, Wolverhampton, etc. Now I’ve nothing against those places, but I don’t think Coventry has any real affinity with those places … apart from the A45 and M6, all the roads radiating out from the city head to places like Nuneaton and Bedworth in the north, Kenilworth, Warwick, Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford-Upon-Avon in the South and of course Rugby to the east. One day maybe, Coventry will be ceded back to its traditional roots and become Warwickshire once more … I hope so anyway.

Anyway, back to the walk, after a while of following hedgerows, the path meets a bridle track and then crosses the small and perfectly charming Lover’s Bridge, its two small arches spanning the small stream of Smite Brook. In the sun this was a lovely spot. On the map there’s a non-descript label of FB which has no romance about it at all. Turning the corner brought us onto Smeaton Lane.


Turning left onto this B-road for just 100 yards or so, we then turned right to rise gently up a minor road to Grimes Bridge, where it crosses The Oxford Canal. Instead of crossing immediately, we dropped down the steps to sit and take refreshments by the canal side. I’m sure Craig was grateful for the rest. The Coventry Way heads off here, to follow the tow path, but now refreshed we returned to the road, crossed the bridge and were now following “The Centenary Way” northwards, passing Colehurst Farm and then just after crossing the Rugby to Nuneaton Railway line, Coombe fields Farm. The bridle track was again excellently signed, as we climbed steadily alongside a hedge, at first on its right and later to its left. It became particularly wet in places here, and I resorted to carrying Craig (although he’s getting a bit heavy!) so as to keep his feet dry, as his boots aren’t fully waterproof.



We’d now reached quite an elevation, and we could just about make out the Ricoh Arena in the far distance, shining white in the sun. Craig loved this as I’ve introduced him to the trials and tribulations of being a Coventry City supporter … I feel almost guilty as there are probably more bad times than good when it comes to supporting “The City” as a football team … Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal they most definitely aren’t! Unfortunately they’re not even in the same class as Wigan or Stoke and the like … quite sad considering how long they’d been in the “top flight” of English football before finally succumbing to Championship level.

Pressing on we came out onto a farm track bridge spanning the M6 and we spent a little while watching the traffic zooming under us in both direction. Craig played the old game of waving to the vehicles as they approached … Some were boring with no reaction, many gave a smile and cheery wave back again and, most notably, several lorry drivers and a couple of coach drivers sounded their horns and/or flashed their lights as they passed underneath … Craig loved that!

Heading back to the southern end of the bridge, we picked up a footpath sloping down at the bottom of the M-way embankment, the roar of the passing traffic slowly lessening as we dropped lower and then branched right to climb up and over a ploughed field to reach a ram shackled barn.


The way then dropped again, now on a rough farm track to a small drainage stream where we stopped for more refreshments. This last section had been a little scratty in places, and a couple of abandoned concrete pipes didn’t really smarten the place up at-all, but Craig did enjoy climbing inside for a while … and then clambering up a pile of old tarmac rubble just opposite.  


The track now climbed to reach The Fosse Way (B4455) which we crossed straight over to then drop towards, and then into, Stretton Under Fosse, a pretty village including half timbered buildings.


A joggle left (along) and then right (over) the B4027 dropped us down a track to the outskirts of Newbold Revel, Prison Officer Training College. I didn’t feel I could take pictures of the facility, given the sensitive nature of security today … the last thing I needed was to be “lifted” under anti-terrorism laws. Having said that, the college is easily found on the interweb, and here’s a couple of links if you want to have a look-see.



As we skirted the college grounds, I liked the view over to the right, back towards Stretton, where a couple of lone trees framed the white washed buildings of Tower Cottages. We then soon emerged onto a drive-way right at the main entrance to the college. The path straight over and onwards looks obvious, with good way-marking,  but actually this is a little misleading, as our route turns half right to follow a small stream – Smite Brook – the same as we’d crossed earlier in the day at Lover’s Bridge. This benign little stream had obviously flooded during the winter evidenced by the dead vegetation hanging on some old iron railings along side the watercourse. Thankfully the path winding alongside the stream was now dry and perfectly OK to walk. After a while we followed the stream through a tunnel passing underneath the Rugby-Nuneaton Railway, another focal point on the walk to help keep Craig interested, especially as a Virgin train roared passed.

A short time afterwards we passed through another tunnel, under the Oxford Canal this time, at what are known as Brinklow Arches. We immediately turned completely back on ourselves to climb a set of steps up onto the canal towpath with views back over to the railway and the arch we’d come through a few minutes earlier. Another Virgin train sped past as we watched a barge sedately make its way on the cut. I guess a perfect example of why rail supplanted canals as means to move goods about the country way back when.

Turning right we followed the canal towpath, firstly over a lovely proportioned iron bridge, arching elegantly over a now disused canal branch that used to reach all the way to Brinklow.

After that we had to walk through a long and steep sided cutting to the next bridge in the distance.

The far bank of the cutting is quite unstable and landslides have slipped into the canal bringing trees down with it … I guess the canal here must be quite shallow and difficult to Navigate. Craig by now was flagging a tad and we played word games and were generally silly for a while, but the nicest for me was when we just held hands …. No words, just love.

We left the canal at the road bridge now reached, and walked along the road (westwards) enjoying the site of spring lambs in the fields, until we reached a junction … We took the right turn to steeply climb up Ell Street, a bit of a sting in the tail near the end of the walk and I had to encourage Craig as best I could. Upon reaching the top of the short climb, the expansive views north showed a good proportion of the walk we’d completed.

Another very short distance along the road brought us to an entrance into Brinklow’s Motte and Bailey Castle dating back to Norman times. Quite incredible really to think it’s still there and not been built on. The Motte; the Bailey and the moats are all still evident, and Craig (gaining a spurt of energy) ran to the top of the Motte (the mound) from where we got some brill’ views in all directions. You can see why it was built here, obviously defensible and immediately above the Roman Fosse Way running through the village … I guess in Norman Times the Roman Road would still have been the major roadway of the day.



After stopping Craig from running down the Motte, he’d have broken his neck I’m sure because the steepness, we crossed the double Bailey (the courtyards and ramparts/ditches) and outer ditch cum moat to drop down into the village again, almost directly opposite our car.

We headed off home to find the girls of the family … they’d been to Bedworth Civic Hall to support Bilton Silver (Rugby) Band in the Midland Area Brass Band Contest (They came 7th out of 11 in the 2nd section).

That’s about it really, a super local walk with lots of features along the route to keep both a young person (Craig) and an older person (me) interested all the way round.

A final word, I love the high hills and mountains of England and always get excited when a trip further afield is on the horizon (small pun intended, sorry), but this walk proves we should not overlook our local network of paths. Thanks to the likes of Jim’s book and similar publications (and The Ordnance Survey’s maps) there’s no reason not to discover the charms of country walks closer to home.

Cheers for now, Gary … I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk = 20090329_Brailes Walk