|The Warwickshire Centenary Way|
Abbey Road ....
Today I was to enjoy the company of Lenscap (Dave) for this, the fourth instalment of the Warwickshire Centenary Way and I was treated to a series of text updates as to his whereabouts before he arrived …
I am just leaving the house
I am just about to go into Morrisons
I am just leaving Morrisons
… which allowed me to time leaving the house to a nicety (thank God though, that he didn’t feel the need for visiting any public conveniences on his way over – nobody needs that level of detail in a text.)
We set off for Stoneleigh using our respective Satnavs, and travelled via completely different routes to arrive at the village almost at the same time. Under low
Leaving Coombe Abbey Park
early on a Monday morning - a shadow of the place I had arrived at on the end of the last walk. No crowds, kids, dogs, ice-cream-vans, noise, or cars jockeying for the few remaining parking slots. I have to say I felt it was an improvement. We started the walk on the long drive leading away from the Coombe Abbey Hotel and I filmed one of many Naff Commentary clips where Lenscap Dave and DFO, the world’s worst double-act, talk nonsense (and do it very well).
Crime scene ....
We set off down along the arrow-straight ribbon of asphalt, heading out of Coombe Abbey Park, crossing over the B4027 , and onto a bridleway which continued the line taken by the Abbey drive, off into distant trees. Open fields to either side left us exposed to the elements, emphasising just how nippy the early morning breeze was, and how close we were to autumn. I expect to complete this walk sometime in November, by which time the golden leaves will have fallen, and winter will be in control with the trees stripped bare and a raw wind to hurry you along. We passed through young woodland of Birch and Rowan and discovered a ribbon of police incident tape, wound about several trees and sectioning off a patch of brambles and nettles. Having first ascertained that there was no grisly corpse hiding in the undergrowth, and also that Inspector Barnaby had long since left the scene, we investigated it a little more closely. There seemed to be nothing untoward, so Lenscap insisted that I get under the tape and have my picture taken, crouched down and examining a twig (new series coming to BBC soon – DCI Walford, The Rambling Sleuth).
Thatched Cottage at Brandon
We took a meandering course through the village, passing under a stone railway bridge (its scarred archway witness to the generations of truck drivers who had attempted to take a low bridge with a high load) and over a rickety wooden bridge across the fledgling River Avon. This footbridge acted as the boundary between Brandon and the neighbouring village of which had cows grazing the village green in front of a row of cottages, and a solid looking church ahead of us; an instantly likeable place.
No sense of direction but a good sense of smell ....
There have been occasions where I have vented my frustration about the vagaries of guide books and today's walk was to be no different. We followed the instructions carefully to find ourselves at the war memorial in the centre of the village. Lenscap spied a village shop and set off, muttering about chocolate bars, so I sat next to the stream that ran in a brick culvert along the high street and enjoyed a Naff Commentary moment. I read the next set of instructions while I waited and by the time Lenscap returned I was confident about the way forward, a confidence which soon evaporated as the guide book began issuing instructions that bore no relationship to our surroundings - a tell-tale sign that you are perhaps not where you ought to be. After much head scratching and GPS gazing we worked out that we should never have ended up on the high street at all but needed to take a small alleyway near a school which was mentioned by the guidebook almost as an afterthought – so we missed it. We located the school gates, where a mum was giving her husband\partner an earful via her mobile phone.
“No Kevin I ain’t walkin’ when you’ve got a bloody car! Do I LOOK like the sort of person that likes walking?”
Back on track we filed along an overgrown little path that ran alongside a schoolyard where the inmates were enjoying their lunchtime freedom. We were soon spotted, and became a welcome diversion –
“Hey – walky-people HELLOOO!”
The school bell rang out, which nipped their curiosity in the bud, and we passed out of earshot. We got off lightly; the school I attended would have thrown brick-bats at the unwary passer-by. After the school we found ourselves in a strip of greenery running behind rows of houses, with fields to our right. There were several options in terms of which path to take and once again the guide book, annoyingly, managed to become both verbose and obtuse all at the same time, which had us wandering around rough pastures needlessly for quite a while. The instructions should have just said ‘Stay on the main path until you reach a field’ but that
The trippy subway at Ryton
After the ‘diversions’ of Wolston were behind us we experienced some nice easy field walking, with clear paths, and obvious way-markers. Even this late into the year there were still fields full of hay-bales waiting patiently to be taken into storage and most of the fields we crossed were hay-stubble. Livestock, we agreed, was much less evident at this time of the year – no bad thing as far as I’m concerned. The fields ended and we followed a tiny fenced track, passing a sewage treatment works where a large vat of brown liquid was being agitated into an unspeakably pongy froth and a small tank announced itself as a flocculation chamber. We loved that word. We wondered what a flocculation might involve, and if it was legal.
[Ed – according to Wikipedia, flocculation, in the field of chemistry, is a process wherein colloids come out of suspension in the form of floc or flakes by the addition of a clarifying agent. Or to put it another way, stuff is added to raw sewage in order to tease out the heavy flakier bits from the fluid; more Bran Flakes, anyone?]
We walked on for a sensible distance from this activity (and thankfully upwind) for perhaps half a mile before taking lunch on a wooden footbridge. It was a rickety old affair that creaked with every movement and spanned a ditch choked with nettles through which brown water slowly trickled. I stared down into it and tried not to think about flocculation as I munched my pasty.
Bubba's place ....
After lunch we made our way across a grassy meadow that sloped upward for a short while – Lenscap muttering that this wasn’t mentioned in the instructions as we climbed – and then we continued on into the village of via a subway under the A45 which was decorated with silhouettes of children at play, painted in vivid primary colours. It certainly brightened the place and was a level up from the usual graffiti you get to read on subway walls.
There was little drama as we wound through the village and out the other side, no wrong turns or guide book esoterics, and we left the place via a fenced-in track that used to bisect the
Leaving Ryton behind we struck out across a series of paddocks, following hedgerows full of Rose Hips and Sloes, and then turned onto a long straight farm track that ran across several open fields, where the blustery weather could be fully enjoyed. Naff Commentary ensued, with Lenscap giving a long and well informed dialogue about how the rain had held off and how the wind was quite lively and which was entirely obscured by the microphone being buffeted by said lively wind. After the track came to an end we followed a lane into the oddly named village of
Historical Factoid –
The name Bubbenhall probably comes from from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Bubbas Hill’ as Bubba was a fairly common Saxon name back in the day.
It’s a nice, unassuming place with a pretty lane of old cottages leading to the sort of 14th century granite church so typical of the area. The Centenary Way took us through the churchyard, front drive to rear gate, and back out into pasture land which we plodded across for some while, seeing little other than the odd cow or even rarer Centenary Way marker. I knew there was some road walking coming up and sure enough we exited the final field through a kissing gate and onto the Stoneleigh Road. Ahead of us there was an old lodge or gate-house at a cross-roads, a solid carved stone affair with a large arched entrance. Inside the arch were two doors set at odd heights and placements. We guessed that the doors within the arch were later additions and were built asymmetrically to allow both pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages access to whatever lay beyond. As we drew closer, a man suddenly (and startlingly) appeared on the lead roof of the building and began ripping out undergrowth from the guttering with great passion and determination. The road walking continued, taking a left turn and then a right turn towards Stareton, passing a large and exclusive looking golf club and business park.
Lenscap became perturbed.
“Mark we’re on a road.”
“You’re not wrong there mate.”
“The last time we were on a road you said we were nearly at the end of the walk, and then it went on for ages and ages.”
“Yeah but we were lost at the time.”
“And we’re not lost now?”
“No – not at all. But then to be honest neither are we ‘nearly at the end of the walk’.”
A watery end ....
The landscaped grounds of the business park, with its spreading Cedar trees and wizened old oaks passed by and I discovered the hitherto unknown fact that Lenscap loves trees as much as I do. Having known him for most of my life this was a genuine surprise - I just didn’t have him down as a tree-hugger type of person. I will try and get a picture of him hugging a tree into these journals one day.
After the business park we came across a tiny cottage set back from the road which seemed almost too small for human habitation. It looked like something from a Grimms fairy tale, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a gnome-like face peering back at me from a window. Alarmed yes, but not surprised. As we walked on, Lenscap’s earlier comments started to play on me - the road did indeed go on for quite a long way and just when I started contemplating the horrible thought that we may have taken a wrong turn after all I saw the two landmarks that the guide book had told us to look out for.
“There we are – look,” I said with some relief. “Park View Farm and the post-box-in-a-wall.”
Leaving the road we entered a small belt of woodland, crossing a wooden footbridge to emerge on a wide swathe of grassland just as the rain which had been threatening all day started to fall. Within no time it turned into a fairly heavy squall with the wind whipping across the open space to buffet us sideways.
The river Sowe at Stoneleigh
The walk officially ended at a footbridge across the river Sowe, with the church at Stoneleigh village just a short walk across a paddock. The river was slow and meandering at this place and was fringed with huge weeping willows that softened the banks and cast a cool green shadow on the water. It was an ideal place to end the walk and Lenscap’s smartphone celebrated by rebooting itself for no good reason, putting at risk the tracking he had been recording since the start of the day.
After we had revived his phone, admired the willows, captured them on film, and contemplated scrumping apples from a tree in a garden opposite, we crossed to the church and then through its grounds to Church Lane where, more by luck than judgement, we had parked our cars a stone’s throw from the end of the walk.
Coombe Abbey was just as quiet on our return as it had been earlier and after Lenscap drove away I sat by the car sipping a sports drink and feeling strangely abandoned. The Abbey Grounds were deserted and even the distant hotel was devoid of activity. I spent a while contemplating the next phase of the walk – from Stoneleigh to Leamington Spa, a distance of some 12.5 miles, and one which I would be doing on my return from a welcome break in Dorset.
But that, as they say, is another story.
See Route on ......