7 December 2008: Ryton Ramble and Repast
On a perfect winter's day (although maybe not for the ice-skating ducks) we returned to Ryton for a pipe-opener round the Lakes (Tony resplendant in a fetching Balfour-Beatty high-vis number having forgotten his coat) and then an excellent Christmas lunch at Garden Organic. So ended an enjoyable and eventful WSW year. Here's to more of the same in 09.
23 November 2008: Ryton Ramble
On a cold morning of heavy rain that would have put lesser mortals off, we nevertheless ventured forth and were rewarded with an agreeable day. Terry's planned walk from Wolston was postponed because the ground would probably have been too wet even for Solveig. Instead we pottered around the gift shop at Garden Organic in Ryton, Terry filling her basket with enough toy animals to enable grandson Oscar to start his own zoo. Stoutly resisting the temptation to indulge in the cafe before we'd earned it, we went up the road and had a pleasant toddle round Ryton Lakes with its well-made paths and bolshy wildfowl. Then back to the cafe . . . Our general smugness was enhanced by the fact that we escaped the worst of the showers, which culminated in an outrageous hailstorm just as we got back to the campus.
9 November 2008: Dorsington Dabble
Tony and Gill led us from Bidford on Avon along that mighty river, apparently in the footsteps of some obscure Elizabethan scribbler who was from round these parts. The Warwickshire Amazon (the river, not a well-built lady from Stratford) was in full spate, sweeping tree branches and other debris along at an amazing rate. It required a detour at one stage around an overflowed bank, and although we later moved away from the river, the worst watery obstacle was yet to come: it was a raging torrent of a stream going right across the footpath near the village of Dorsington, but a friendly local was on hand to bridge the chasm with a couple of planks. Top work, that man! His helpfulness was in contrast to the notices in the area forbidding access to certain paths to all but 'registered' locals. We didn't think we'd pass the DNA test, so we stayed out. What would the Bard have made of that?
26 October 2008: [alliteration or pun under construction]
The ancient annual sloe-gathering ritual led by Jeff and starting in Owston to the east of Leicester and taking in Launde Abbey and Knossington. As is customary when we visit these parts (see 8 June), there was drama, this time in the form of a minor road accident involving some locals near our starting-point. Jeff the Good Citizen having sorted this out, we went in search of the fabled fruit of the blackthorn, with Solveig bearing the sacred Red Bucket. At first no joy, but then we discovered a bonanza, unfortunately near a deceased fox which was busily being recycled by multitudinous maggots. No doubt it will feature (in tasteful form) in the name and label of this year's gin (Finished Fox? Rotting Reynard? Vermiculated Vixen? No, stop it!).
12 October 2008: Chilterns Chill-out
Marion writes: eight of us drove down to the Chilterns along a foggy M40. However, on arrival to the starting point near junction 6, the weather cleared to reveal sunny skies. (Must have known we were coming). We set off south along the old Ridgeway, and after half an hour started to climb the Chilterns up to the hamlet of Christmas Common, at which point there was a lengthy discussion between Solveig and Kevin as to the definition of ‘hamlet’ and ‘village’. We took a slight detour to go and sit on Watlington Hill, with a spectacular view over the Oxfordshire Vale….an excellent place for lunch. We continued over the Chilterns through the birch tree woodlands and undulating footpaths of varying terrain. The 8 mile circular walk was very pleasant especially on a warm mid October day.
28 September 2008: Blackberry Binge
The weather being considerably better than in July, Tony and Gill led us on the postponed Ashleworth walk, taking in the mighty Severn and pleasant Gloucestershire countryside. Lunch was at the Haw Bridge Inn, near the site of the infamous Torso Mystery (not fit to be described on a family website). For Gill and Solveig it was basically a series of blackberry-gathering sessions occasionally interrupted by a bit of walking. The amount of fruit Solveig was able to cram into her receptacle seemed to defy the laws of physics, which is a bit ironic, given where she works.
14 September 2008: Campus Caper
Today our carbon footprint was very dainty as we started straight from the physics block and explored the University's extensive farmland, the Berkswell Greenway and Crackley Wood. Postgraduate Jo made her first appearance (regular readers - if any there be - can guess which department she's from).
31 August 2008
Marion led a walk taking in Hidcote and Ilmington. The Webmeister did not go on this one but he is sure it was spiffing.
17 August 2008
A trip to the wonderful Malvern Hills which made us resolve to make this an annual fixture. Some easy climbing rewarded by sweeping views in all directions, with 'Nimrod' from the Enigma Variations playing inside your head. The Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean and the Welsh hills were all in sight. In the afternoon there was the pleasant contrast of some woodland walking and a visit to St Anne's Well tea room where the vastness of the cake slices would make a strong man weep. And as if all this was not enough, Terry revived the Quote of the Day slot with the intriguing "I was badly exposed in the Pyrenees".
3 August 2008
Our annual visit to the Staffordshire Outback of Cannock Chase. This splendid lowland heathland is a rare landscape in the Midlands and is also apparently a Bilberry Hotspot, judging by the number of people gathering the crop, one with an industrial sized scoop. We visited much the same area as last year, but coming here is always a pleasure, particularly if you do so at different times of year.
20 July 2008
The Webmeister has fallen down on the job as he is writing this report nearly a fortnight after the event and cannot now recall all the details. It was another pleasant leg of the Cotswold Diamond Way led by Kay, who alas will shortly be leaving us for the Far East (Norwich). Carrying on from where we left off on 27 April, we showed our disdain for convention by contriving to do the walk in the opposite direction to that shown in Kay's guide book. But one tradition we did uphold was the after-walk visit to the Batsford Aboretum tea shop, whose selection of cakes was as varied as ever.
6 July 2008
It was Washoutworth rather than Ashleworth as this undistinguished summer finally caught up with the WSW. Having trundled disconsolately from a chocker farm cafe on the Fosse Way to a closed pub claiming that it was serving food, we retreated home. An unfortunate start for Lindsey, yet another of Solveig's colleagues. At least a gallingly bright afternoon did not follow.
22 June 2008
For the last walk in our half-year programme, Terry led us round her local stamping ground of Hearsall Common and Coundon Wedge. To those of us unfamiliar with the green delights of our nearest city, this was a real eye-opener. One moment we were amidst traffic and shops, the next we would go down little secret snickets into sweeping grassland and atmospheric woods with hardly a hint of the urban setting. So let's hear it for the much-maligned Cov, undiscovered jewell of the West Midlands! After the walk we repaired to Terry's striking Chapelfields residence for a blustery but very tasty and varied barbecue. Thanks to everyone who contributed beverages and comestibles. Then the WSW Politbureau adjourned to one of the many well-appointed chambers in Castle Lovell to draw up the walk programme for the second half of 2008, which is respectfully laid before the public here.
8 June 2008
On another fine day (but hay feverish for some), Jeff made a welcome return as walk leader by taking us on a Leicestershire country seat crawl taking in Quenby, Lowesby and Baggrave Halls. Solveig introduced yet another new member (if we had a subscription she would get a discount) in the form of her mother, Ruth. As well as the pleasant farm and parkland, a notable feature of the walk was a lunch of epic proportions. The first samples of Jeff's Rutland Red Bucket 2007 vintage sloe gin (see walk description of 28 October 2007) were passed round the group with due reverence, together with a seemingly endless stream of home-made and other delicacies. Having somehow managed to get up and continue the walk, we later encountered a horse stuck in a ditch in the village of South Croxton. Rousing the local populace was a lengthy process, but it was eventually done and we later learned that the horse (an unbelievable 37 years old apparently) had been extracted and was recovering from the drama. So we are now the Warwick Staff Walkers and Equine Rescue Service.
11 May 2008
On definitely the hottest walk day of the year so far (leading to an Outbreak of Shorts), Gill and Tony led us up the Wrekin, then down it and then round it. The ascent followed the route nearly everybody takes; the descent down the Other Side was much more precipitate and is undertaken only be hardened explorers like us. It was a year almost to the day since the first edition of this walk (see below) and although the bluebell swathes were not quite as amazing as in 2007 they were still impressive. The views were initially hazy but became clearer as a welcome afternoon breeze cleaned up the air. For this walk the usual Sight and Quote categories have to make way for:
- Wierd Coincidence of the Day (and probably the year): meeting the same two local dog-walking chaps (as recalled by Memory Woman Gill) as we had met a year previously, on almost the same part of the hill. They remembered us too, and have probably resolved to take a different route on the 2nd Sunday in May 2009.
27 April 2008
Another installment of our (five year?) mission to boldly go round the entire route of the Cotswold Diamond Way. Yet more fine weather (although it sprinkled on our after-walk tea and cake at Batsford Aboretum), and yet another new recruit: Ulrika of the Physics Posse. Glad to see that these website ramblings are not putting people off. This report is being written some time after the event and will be extended if walk leader Kay jogs the reporter's memory.
- Memorable sight: the expanse of countryside spread out before us as we lunched in a well-chosen field with a convenient grassy ridge. A leading contender for the Best Lunchtime View Award for April.
- Quote of the Day: "Moo-OOO-ooo!" (Solveig communes with some startled heifers).
13 April 2008
Today we had a big infusion of new blood in the form of Andrea, Lieke, Ruth and Andy. Welcome all. With these extra forces, we extended the WSW empire into the territory around Ticknall in south Derbyshire. Armed only with a fairly old 1:50,000 map, stand-in leader Martin cobbled together a pretty decent walk (though he says it himself). We started at the National Trust property of Calke Abbey, with its grand mansion and extensive parkland, then moved on to a splendid view of Staunton Harold reservoir and lunch in a secluded sylvan glade with comfy tussocks and a water feature. Then it was open farmland, watch tower-guarded National Forest plantations and yet more sweeping views over the East Midlands, including the pleasing forms of the Ratcliffe on Soar power station cooling towers (seriously!). The walk may have been a tad longer than our average (the straight drive through the Calke Abbey estate had mysteriously tripled in length between our arrival and our return) so the refreshments in the NT cafe were even better-earned than usual. And the weather was impeccable again. Will we have to pay for this?
- Memorable sight: a friendly grey horse, enticed by Lieke's carrots, enrolling himself as our first equine member.
- Quote of the Day:"You can't say how cool your own wierdness is" (enigmatic wisdom from Lieke).
30 March 2008
We sprang forward with Marion into British Summer Time by re-visiting the favourite stamping ground of Edge Hill. We started at Radway and took in Arlescote, Warmington and Ratley. The apres-walk activity was the now customary tea (and retail therapy for some) at the National Herb Centre. Just when it seemed during recent walks that the views could not get more extensive nor the villages more quaint, they did so today. The weather was spot-on too, with none of the forecast afternoon showers. There were even the first hints this year of sun-kissed bonce for the more delicately complexioned. Note to self: bring cap out of hibernation.
- Memorable sight: an 18th-century inn at Edge Hill shaped like a castle in memory of the Civil War battle. The first-ever theme pub?
- Quote of the Day: "Why did you sit on my sandwich? I was wondering why I had only eaten one" (Kay confronts Gill after an Unfortunate Lunchtime Incident at Warmington).
9 March 2008
Terry took us on a foray into the Mystic East with a walk starting at the distinctive Northants village/townlet of Braunston. First we passed the hummocky remains of the medieval villages of Braunstonbury and Wolfhampcote and the latter's slightly forlorn but still substantial church. Then we moved into the Daventry High Veldt and encountered the infant River Leam and some navigational challenges before hitting the Jurassic Way (insert your own joke about fossils and dinosaurs here). This led us to the Grand Union Canal and a pleasant lunch stop outside the Admiral Nelson inn. The afternoon leg was a there-and-back trip along the Way from Braunston to Ashby St Ledgers, with its lashings of thatch and its Cotswoldy manor house where the Gunpowder Plot was hatched.
- Memorable sight: the remarkable architectural variety, both in age and styles, of the long main street of Braunston.
- Quote of the Day: "That farm has moved" (Martin's entirely reasonable explanation of the discrepancy between his map and reality).
24 February 2008
Marion led six of us on a jaunt through deepest Warwickshire starting at Butlers Marston and taking in the splendid Compton Verney estate, which was landscaped by Capability Brown (who else?), and the ultra-quaint village of Combrook. This provided the obligatory thatched cottage and sweet little church photo opportunities, especially for our antipodean visitor Dave (to whom welcome). Although the day was slightly overcast, we again found that our region can provide big views without a lot of climbing.
- Memorable sights: 1. the huge lake at Compton Verney; old Capability must have been on something when he designed it. 2. possibly the largest field in Warwickshire; its boundaries were literally out of sight.
- Quote of the Day:"I'm Dave and I've only got nine toes" (digitally challenged Kiwi debutant makes an immediate impact).
10 February 2008
On a really cracking early spring day, Solveig made a solid debut as a walk leader by taking us on another leg of the Diamond Way starting and finishing in the attractive and extensive village of Blockley. A walk of views and pleasant farmland and woods, with the snowdrops out in force. At the end we explored some of the nooks and crannies of Blockley that we had not visited at the start, including its little burbling waterways. Even in this 'urban' section, Solveig's navigation was unerring, but she will surely have further chances to uphold the proud WSW tradition of getting lost. A splendid day was rounded off with excellent tea and cake in Moreton in Marsh.
- Memorable sight: a mysterious mutant kissing gate twice the size of a normal one. Was this the entrance to a Cotswold Brobdingnag or had we temporarily become hobbits?
- Quote of the Day: "Are any of you called Richard Griffiths?" (puzzling question, especially for the female members of our group, put by a passing mountain biker. Apparently the said Mr Griffiths had left his National Insurance card by a stile).
27 January 2008
On the first really fine Sunday for a while, five of us set off along the Grand Union Canal out of Warwick and past the famous Hatton flight of locks. It was then up past the Waterman pub and along farm tracks giving views of the old Central Hospital (now a housing 'complex') to a lunch-stop near the well-named Prospect Farm. Whilst re-fuelling we could gaze on one of the more extensive Warwickshire views, with the commanding tower of Warwick church taking centre stage. Then it was down to a slightly less attractive industrial estate and back along the canal. The absence of stiles and negligible mud allowed us to cover the 7-ish miles at a cracking pace.
- Memorable sight: the pristine wing feathers of a pair of young adult mute swans on the canal, giving a new dimension to the word 'white'. Their necks, which they were dunking in the water in search of lunch, were not quite up to the same standard.
- Quote of the Day: "I've got big feet but I still lose my balance" (Gill in conversation with Kay - you had to be there).
13 January 2008
Four of us completed another leg of the Diamond Way from Broad Campden, Chipping's little brother, to Blockley and back. It featured the usual Cotswold ahhh!chitecture and some fine extensive views, despite the dull weather. This part of the Way had a remarkably low mud quotient given the now customary monsoon conditions during the previous few days. We were just congratulating ourselves on the absence of ploughed fields to cross when, inevitably, we were confronted with one towards the end of the walk. Fortunately it was easily by-passable. Thanks to WSW debutant Kevin (Solveig's colleague) for undertaking the driving duties.
- Memorable Sight:Chipping Campden high street, the finest in England in this writer's opinion.
- Quote of the Day:"I can't make out what that white stuff is" (Solveig of tropical Sweden perplexed by some remnants of Cotswold snow).