20091031_Wolston – Ryton – Stretton Circular Walk

20091031_Wolston – Ryton – Stretton Circular Walk

When : 31st October 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Wolston, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Stretton-on-Dunsmore and Dunsmore Heath.

Start + End Point : 41,75 Wolston Village

Parking : Residential side-street where I parked as tidily and considerately as possible.

Public Transport : Wolston is on a bus route.

Approx Distance : 9 miles, (15 km)

Significant Heights : Gentle rolling countryside with some rises but generally no more than about 10 metres upwards at any one time and never very steep. The longest single rise however is about 30 metres (approx100 feet) spread over a bit less than a mile (from A45 near Ryton up Knightlow Hill approaching Stretton).

Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 222, Rugby & Daventry and 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map no. 221, Coventry & Warwick.

Summary : Wolston village, Coventry Way, River Avon, Ryton-on-Dunsmore village, Stretton-on-Dunsmore village, Dunsmore Heath and back to Wolston.

 As I’d walked a section of the “A Coventry Way” from Ryton to Kenilworth earlier in the year (see my earlier posting), I decided to do just a little bit more of the 40-mile round, a short section between Wolston and Ryton and then make a loop back via a different route. Happily the “A Coventry Way Circular Walks“ book, I’d bought a short while before had an ideal solution with a route taking in Stretton-on-Dunsmore and then up and across Dunsmore Heath. This saved me the job of sorting a route out myself but as it happens it’s a fairly obvious circular given there aren’t a huge number of rights of way in the area anyway.

After parking up in Wolston, I headed off to Main Street and the Memorial Cross next to the brook that runs through the village (see my previous 2x recent posts for more about Wolston), from there I quickly found the path I needed – a narrow alleyway alongside the school grounds which brought me out into an area of garages associated with the nearby Manor Estate. This path is used by at least three named ways the “A Coventry Way”, “Shakespeare’s Avon Way” and “Centenary Way”. Instead of the hard surfaces past the garages/estate, you can walk through a narrow strip of woodland instead.

However, just to get a reasonable pace going to start with, I stayed out of the trees and soon reached a line of metal railings (the boundary to The Community and Leisure Centre) and on turning right the path skirted around the outside of the railings, still with the line of woods on my right. A little explore in the woods afforded some gentle views down over fields to the Avon and St. Margaret’s Church. In early spring, clumps of snowdrops and crocus’ emerge from the leaf litter in the trees – really pretty, but obviously no sign could be seen of these with autumn heading into winter.

After a short distance, the wood was left behind; an obvious path stretched out across the field ahead, this made route finding extremely easy aided by a set of circular way-mark disks advertising the previously mentioned “ways” and another one just for good measure saying “public footpath” … Having all four seems just a bit O.T.T. but leaves it in no doubt which way to go!

Carrying on, the path reached and passed alongside a small sewage works which, as is the way with these things, was a bit grotty and I certainly didn’t feel inclined to hang around too long (certainly not a good place for a picnic!) and I pressed on to rejoin more ploughed fields to meet the Avon at one of it’s meanders.  The countryside on the opposite bank was in marked contrast, consisting of the manicured greens, fairways and stands of trees of Brandon Wood Golf Course. Somehow, although being large areas of green space, golf courses seem a little sterile within the “real” countryside where they reside. They almost seem to be plonked down on top of the landscape rather being an integral part of it. This isn’t a criticism, more an observation and I’d certainly prefer this to prairie fields of crops with all hedges ripped up and the like. I wonder how many small dimpled balls are settled in the mud at the bottom of the river? or how many clubs discarded in a fit of anger at a bad shot ?

The route followed around the banks of the Avon for a short while, before cutting across fields, crossing a couple of drainage ditches on footbridges along the way.  The path wasn’t completely obvious here so a bit of map reading was called for, but it didn’t take long to suss out where to go. After crossing one of the ditches, the ground rose up ahead, the route heading roughly southwest whilst the river swung away more northwards towards Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. The vertical height of the rise ahead was only about 10 metres or so (30 odd feet) but this was enough to make the next decision a little awkward. My compass pointed along the side of a very rough looking hedge, but which side to take ? ….

I choose the left hand side hoping there’d be a way out at the other end and that I wouldn’t have to back-track to this point again.

I needn’t have worried as the hedge turned out to be very badly maintained and large gaps soon appeared, eventually becoming just a wide and very rough “central reservation” running through the large ploughed field. Once again, I was amazed at the different attitude different farmers seem to have. The earlier fields were easy to navigate and cross with paths on the ground; here though, the field was ploughed right up to the headland which was impossible to walk on, forcing me to walk on the newly sprouted crop, the loose tilled soil sinking beneath my feet made progress quite hard work as there was no purchase to push off against. I wasn’t at-all sad when I found the exit from the field to descend a small flight of steps to a tarmac path by the side of the A45 dual carriageway.

It was here that a rather weather-beaten planning application was pinned up; Aggregate Industries UK Ltd. seeking to extract sand and gravel from the site nearby.  This would affect public rights of ways R144, R144c/d/e + f. Representations to the County Council had to be in by 28-Feb-2008 which was some 20 months earlier. [It’s now nearly another year on at time of writing this post and looking at the planning authority’s website it says the application was withdrawn in May 2008]. 

Now, I could have just tried to cross the A45, turn left and continue the walk towards Stretton; but this would have left a very short distance up into Ryton on the Coventry Way not completed. So I turned right rising up towards St. Leonard’s Church which has a super position at the top of the small hill. The A45 splits Ryton-on-Dunsmore in two here and there is a very utilitarian subway to take pedestrians under to the larger part of the village at a small row of shops, including a butchers and post office. I visited the P.O. for some cash and then the butchers for a pasty as a snack – The advantage of walking on a Saturday – and then walked up to outside The Blacksmith Arms (where my previous section of the Coventry way walk started).

It was then I realised I’d no longer got my new sunglasses with me. I quickly revisited the shops; neither place had them! … So I then started back-tracking eyes down to the ground scanning the floor! What a pain!!!! I knew I’d had them with me down by the Avon and now I didn’t – Bother! (or slightly ruder words to that effect). I re-navigated the subway, down the side of the A45 and back up the flight of steps into the ploughed field – where, after reaching the top of the rise, there they were, settled in a shallow furrow by the side of the verge. Relieved but still annoyed at myself I turned around to re-walk the ploughed field for the third time! … I was extra-pleased to re-meet the A45 once again.

I didn’t walk back up into Ryton Village again, instead I found a safe place to cross the dual carriageway – it was reasonably quiet on the road anyway but a speed camera (50mph) and traffic island at least slows the traffic down here. I then crossed the A445 near the large island to head more or less eastwards still alongside the A45 (heading towards Rugby) and after about a couple of hundred yards (at a track to manor farm) I took a path heading up Knightlow Hill, following the line of a hedge for quite some distance on grassy pastures; much nicer walking than the earlier ploughed fields. As my elevation increased some good views back over Coventry and the surrounding countryside opened up before reaching and crossing over Freeboard Lane on the outskirts of Stretton-on-Dunsmore.

Rather than take the path straight on (as suggested in the Coventry Way Circular Walks book), I decided to take the other option here, heading half-right to meet and cross Plott Lane and then walk past some allotments named “The Plot” on my map. Judging by the number and size of his crop, one of the gardeners had had a lot of success growing plastic bottles on canes alongside the path.

At a junction of paths, I took the left turn to follow alongside a sizeable hedge (on my left). On the other side was what looked like a dressage horse training arena and across one side of the arena a row of very large mirrors had been erected attached to a large wooden framework. The mirror wall consisted of several not fully aligned panels which split up and distorted the reflections of the nearby farmhouse and outbuildings. It was really quite disorientating looking into the mirrors. I can imagine it’s caught out quite a few birds as well – I wonder how many have knocked themselves senseless flying into the wall.

The path then led past some farm silos to join Fineacre Lane and I then took the dog leg in the road up towards All Saint’s Church. The lane changes it’s name to Church Hill here and I followed it past the church and down into Stretton Village itself, taking a right hand turn just past the Village Hall to reach and enter The Shoulder of Mutton Inn for a well earned pint of beer. I don’t really know why, but I prefer the Shoulder of Mutton to the villages’ other pub “The Oak and Black Dog” but you’ll need to make your own mind up about the “best one” for you – a good excuse for visiting both hostelries.

Once refreshed, I headed through the pleasant village centre with its stream and small greens, the weak sunshine of the day highlighting the autumn colours all around as I passed the village general store and “The Oak” to head out of the village on Brookside. This reaches the Fosse way (B4453) as a Tee-junction and the route crosses straight over the road to the car park of the recreation ground. A track runs up the left side of the rec’ at the rear of back-gardens to reach farm fields again. After easily navigating these I reached Rugby Lane, turned right for several hundred yards of road walking and then left into a broad and inviting bridle track heading more or less westwards. It was here that I met the only other person, (other than in shops/villages) that I saw all day and we passed the time of day briefly before heading off in opposite directions.

  

The bridle track lost its double line of hedges to open up onto a farm track heading up the final rise onto Dunsmore Heath at Limekiln Farm, where I turned left onto another farm-track heading northwards. Dunsmore Heath is a misnomer as there isn’t any moorland that the name heath conjures up; the area is almost exclusively farmland.  However there are occasional pools dotted throughout the landscape, little havens for wildlife.

The track led me to again reach the wide A45 dual carriageway which again had to be crossed. There are no speed cameras here and the 60 mph limit is regularly exceeded – excessively so by quite a lot of drivers – Please be extra vigilant and careful when crossing, which has to be done to get back to Wolston.

 

The route north of the A45 reverted to footpath status rather than bridleway and this led past a couple of attractive tall trees and their long shadows to what should have been two sizeable ponds (at The Holdings) in a stand of trees; but they were almost empty; looking like they’d just been dredged and re-landscaped – The muddy hollows just waiting to fill up with water again.

 

    

I guess the area will be really pretty when this process is complete but it more than sufficed as a bit of a refreshment stop before heading out across cow pastures to almost reach the buildings of Manor Farm. Luckily the cows were mainly in adjoining fields, but unluckily their slurry flowing away from the farm made navigating past one corner of the path decidedly awkward – Yuk!

It was now getting quite gloomy as time pressed on making me “get my head down” and pick up the pace to reach Coalpit Lane. A short section of road walking ensued until branching off diagonally left near Hill top Cottage. A few fields later (some ploughed unfortunately) brought me back to The Fosse way which was crossed as carefully as the A45 earlier. The path then climbed Lammas hill before descending into Wolston.

It was on this final section that I had a mini run-in with a dog owner who’s large dog was extremely aggressive to me (stopping short of actually biting me) but made me feel decidedly vulnerable. The owner’s attempts to call the dog back to him several hundred yards away went unheeded for what seemed ages. Eventually the dog was leashed allowing me to finish my walk in peace – Just a shame a good walk was nearly spoilt. I think my heart beat harder at this point than at any other time during the day, as I think my fight or flight adrenaline rush kicked in. I’m afraid I gave the dog-owner a bit of verbal. Why is it that dog owners seem to think everyone likes and gets on with dogs, especially theirs! – The truth is somewhat less than that. Dogs not on leads can be and at times are VERY intimidating! … oh and while I’m on the subject and in rant mode, why do some dog owners pick up their dogs mess in a plastic bag, carefully tie the open end and then instead of taking it home to dispose of, prompty throw it into the branches of trees and hedges and the like ? It’s disgusting! Why, why, why! I just don’t understand it.

Rant over, and walk just about over as well, just the short distance along village roads (Including Dyer’s Lane, School Street and Main Street) in the late afternoon gloom to re-find my car and drive home.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walks diary = 20090911_High Street Circular Walk (from Brothers Water)

Next post = Midland Hill Walkers Photo links

20091004_stretton-on-Dunsmore – Princethorpe Circular Walk

20091004_Stretton-On-Dunsmore  – Princethorpe Circular Walk

When : 4th October 2009

Who : Just Me

Where : Stretton-On Dunsmore and Princethorpe, Warwickshire, England.

Maps : OS Explorer Maps: 222 Rugby & Daventry & 221 Coventry + Warwick.

Start + End Point : 407,726

Approx Distance : 5 miles, 8 km

Heights : Very gentle, virtually no relief really but a rise of about 130 ft (40m) from just south of The Woodhouse Hotel to Burnthurst Farm over about 5/8 mile (1km)

Parking : On street parking in centre of Stretton-On-Dunsmore.

Summary : A late afternoon autumnal walk through Warwickshire countryside starting and finishing in Stretton-On-Dunsmore and including the village of Princethorpe.

It was a reasonably nice afternoon and I had a couple of spare hours, so, on the spur of the moment I headed the short distance down the A45 to the village of Stretton-On-Dunsmore for a short walk … it would have to be short as the evenings were drawing in quickly now and I wasn’t setting off till mid afternoon and the sun was already quite low in the sky. I parked as tidily and as considerately as possible (on School Lane) and headed down to the village centre.

Stretton is just off The Fosse Way and doesn’t have a major through route at all, which has meant it has kept a traditional shape and feel with its small greens, mature trees, village store, 2-pubs (“Oak and Black Dog” and “Shoulder of Mutton”), an eclectic mix of houses and cottages, a church a little way up Church Hill and a small culverted stream (Stretton Brook) running prettily through the centre of the village. The community uses the brook for plastic duck races during fetes and the like as a method of fund raising; all in all a very nice English village.

Anyway, from the village green, I followed the brook towards and then past The Shoulder of Mutton; the right-of-way taking the pub driveway, past the pub entrance and then down the right hand side of the car park to reach a stile. A small plaque on the stile greeted me with the words “Coffin Walk Rebuilt & Reinstated by 1st Stretton on Dunsmore Scouts 1994” … unfortunately (at least to date) I’ve not come across anything about the history of this path, but I’d guess it’s maybe an old burial procession route from Princethorpe to All Saints Church in Stretton ? [Anyone out there know?].

The path effectively leaves the village at the boundary of the pub car park, so, still basically following the stream, I headed away (generally southwards) into gentle countryside, following field boundaries and including a small immature spinney, the leaves turning into lovely autumn colours. The low sun was quite harsh in my eyes at times, silhouetting the local trees, hedgerows and broken cloud against the watery brightness behind. It really had a feel of winter coming on, brrrr.

Once through the spinney into more fields the distinctive tower of Princethorpe College appeared in the distance, a direction marker for the next destination on route – Princethorpe Village. It didn’t take long before I emerged onto a quiet road (Sheep Dip Lane) in Princethorpe which I followed down to the A423 (Oxford Road). Princethorpe is the opposite of Stretton, in that several roads zoom into, through and out-of the village, basically in six directions (to A423 to Coventry + Southam, B4453 to Leamington + Rugby, and The B4455 Fosse Way to Morton-In-Marsh + past Stretton on its way to Leicester), all of which serve to divide the settlement up and I think it lacks a little cohesion overall because of this. Having said that I think the pub (The Three Horseshoes) at least gives a focus to the groups of cottages/houses and it’s by no means an unpleasant place to be.

I crossed the main A423 road to follow the footpath down the side of the B4453 towards Leamington (or Royal Leamington Spa to give its full name). A stream runs alongside the road, culverted in a very similar way to the brook in Stretton, but I don’t think it has the same charm here in Princethorpe, just because of the proximity of the through road. A small amount of tarmac/roadside walking was required now, but not for long really and after a few hundred yards, a footpath branched left into fields again.

This was the start of probably the most boring stretch of the walk, following the line of a hedge for something like 1-Km with large open stubbly harvested fields to my right. The only major point of interest was the dominance of Princethorpe College’s tower. Towards the end of the 3rd field I had to try to pick up a path at 90-degrees to head off to the right – right across the stubble, as, unsurprisingly the route wasn’t on the ground. So, I headed off to follow the rough edge of the field by the side of a stream. The short stiff and very dusty stubble made walking quite difficult and I wasn’t sorry when I picked up where the path headed northwards crossing the stream in the process. The next field was crossed diagonally heading up towards The Woodhouse Hotel and Restaurant and upon reaching the hotel’s boundary; the path crossed into the grounds, but only briefly as the corner was cut off to pass into the next field.

The path across this next, grassy, field steepened quite markedly compared to everything gone before (but not too bad at-all really), and I even found myself a little out of breath as I pushed on, stepping out quite quickly up the rise and I soon reached the B4453 for a second time. This marked the beginning of some more road walking, starting with a right turn along the B4453 (Rugby Road) for a very short distance before turning left into a minor road (Burnthurst Lane) where I passed the time of day with a small gaggle of walkers who’d parked their cars at the side of the road here.

I don’t normally like road walking, but Burnthurst lane didn’t seem too bad as it rose with woods to both sides. Shortly after passing Nunswood Farm I left the road to take a footpath diagonally across a grassy field only to re-emerge onto Burnthurst Lane to resume the road walking. Again, it didn’t seem too bad for road walking, passing some nice looking buildings and Burnthurst Farm but I was quite glad to leave the tarmac behind, picking up a path where the road took a dogs-leg to the left. I was pleased it’d been dry, because the field had been ploughed and planted almost right up to the field edge. I anticipate it would have been quite awkward to negotiate here once the crops had grown. However, I soon reached and crossed straight over the A423 for the second time in the day and into another field, also ploughed right up to its edge.

The day felt like it was moving into early evening as the sun dropped towards the horizon forming long shadows across the fields. I was at the highest point of the walk here and this was marked by a rather dilapidated trig’ point sat in the corner of the field. It wouldn’t be much use these days, being surrounded by mature hedges and woods restricting the view in all directions. Soon after passing the trig’ point I entered a strip of woodland (Bull and Butcher Wood) and the change of scenery made a pleasant change; I particularly liked the glow the late afternoon sun made as it shone into the trees. After only a couple of minutes, the path emerged into another ploughed field, but this time a wide swath had been left for the drop down to Fineacre lane. I find it quite remarkable how one farmer can be so brilliantly considerate (and legal) whilst others seem intent on making footpaths as difficult as possible to negotiate and all within a couple of hundred yards or so of each other!

The drop down across the field was therefore extremely easy and the views were quite pleasant too, especially across towards Stretton, with All Saints Church nestled in amongst trees. An odd quirky looking building also came into view, looking like a mini castle, but I think it’s no more than a water supply or treatment works.  Upon reaching Fineacre Lane I turned right for a final bit of road walking back into Stretton as the sun slowly descended below the horizon. As the road enters Stretton, Fineacre lane its name changes to Church Hill as All Saints is reached. It was getting quite gloomy as I dropped down Church Lane and into the village to reacquaint myself with my car and the short drive home.

All in all, it’d been a pleasant country walk – A good way to spend an afternoon.

I hope you enjoyed my scribblings ….

Next walk = 20091011_A Walk through Cawston Woods