|The Centenary Way (Warks) in pictures|
Day 1 - A very wet start to the walk at Kingsbury Water Park.
Day 1 - We were possibly the only two people wandering about the park's lakes on this rainy day, even the park rangers were conspicuous by their absence.
Day 1 - After leaving the lakes behind us we trudged across fields over squashy, water-logged ground. These chaps had the right idea.
Day 1 - There was to be no let-up to the rain that morning, we reached Shustoke Reservoir wet through to the skin.
Day 1 - After Shustoke and Furnace End came more fields, we reluctantly modelled our waterproof gear.
Day 1 - However, by the time we had reached the village of Birchley Heath a small miracle was occurring in the skies overhead.
Day 1 - By the time we had started to cross Oldbury picnic meadows the day had changed completely and we enjoyed blue sky and bright sunshine throughout the late afternoon.
Day 1 - Unfortunately we became directionally challenged at this point and we embarked on a long and needless detour before regaining the route on Oldbury Lane.
Day 1 - The first day of the walk ended at Hartshill Hayes country park.
Day 2 - Hartshill Hayes country park covers 137 acres of woodland and open hilltop and has magnificent views across the Anker Valley. It was a great place to start day two.
Day 2 - There was a feeling that summer was slowly fading as I crossed fields which were ploughed and ready for Autumn.
Day 2 - I enjoyed some typical views of Warwickshire's gentle countryside after leaving the mining village of Ansley Common.
Day 2 - It was a beautiful morning and both myself and the wheat ripening in the fields enjoyed the late summer sunshine.
Day 2 - I passed through Galley Common, ascending a turf-covered hill that used to be a refuse tip, and looked back along the way I had come.
Day 2 - It was lunchtime by the time I had reached Stockingford, and I spent a quiet and solitary 30 minute break in a farmers field on the fringes of the village.
Day 2 - After lunch I passed by the oddly named Bermuda village, with its strangely isolated community of terraced cottages and its aggressively pollarded lime trees.
Day 2 - As sections of this walk are semi-urban there are some places that are less than picturesque, but nonetheless offer their own unique character to the passer-by.
Day 2 - The close of this section treats you to a few miles of tow path walking alongside the peace and quiet of the Coventry canal, with its wild embankments and its chugging narrow boats.
Day 2 - The old engine house at Hawkesbury Junction acted as the end point for this section of the Warwickshire Centenary Way. The actual engine (originally from the Welsh coalfields) is no longer within (it's now in a museum in Devon) but it's housing remains, with its tall chimney now dormant.
Day 3 - The day dawned bright and fair as I left Hawkesbury Junction at the start of Day 3.
Day 3 - I started off along the Oxford Canal, 78 miles long, commissioned in 1769, and on this morning full of narrow boats tormenting me with the waft of frying bacon.
Day 3 - There were a few miles of canal-side walking to take me through the morning, dappled shade overhead, the occasional rush of passing express trains on the nearby railway, boats with eccentric owners, and the briefest of visits to a village called Ansty.
Day 3 - I left the canal near Mobbs Wood farm, crossing over it via a lofty steel bridge which spanned both the canal and a busy mainline railway.
Day 3 - Beyond Mobbs Wood farm I saw the skyline of Coventry city nearby, reminding me of how close I was to urban sprawl despite my bucolic surroundings.
Day 3 - I rejoined the canal a few miles further on, deciding to break for lunch by its calm brown waters.
Day 3 - I wound my way across fields and along farm tracks until finally I entered the grounds of Coombe Abbey, founded as a monastery in the 12th century, and now a hotel and country park.
Day 3 - Coombe Abbey was lively with people on this bright sunny day and I concluded the walk before the rather grand façade of the hotel.
Day 4 - We exited Coombe Abbey at the start of Day 4 via its arrow-straight front drive.
Day 4 - The first village of the day was Brandon, which featured some quaint old thatched cottages.
Day 4 - Brandon was swiftly followed by Wolston, with its cows grazing on the village green and a tiny stream channelled right alongside its high street.
Day 4 - After leaving Brandon there were a long series of fields and meadows and a return to the peace and quiet of a rural landscape.
Day 4 - The approach to the next village, Ryton, took us under a subway which was alive with vibrant artwork.
Day 4 - After lunch we crossed a flat section of land where the wind came in sideways and buffeted us with great enthusiasm.
Day 4 - We reached Bubbenhall, glad to escape the lively breeze, and enjoyed its whitewashed cottages and its ancient Norman church.
Day 4 - Leaving Bubbenhall behind we were taken down a series of gently descending meadows of tussocky grass and watchful cattle.
Day 4 - Our day ended on the banks of the river Sowe near Stoneleigh with a soft twilight gathering beneath the branches of its willows.
Day 5 - I left Stoneleigh from the grounds of the old Church of the Virgin Mary, just a short walk from the river Sowe.
Day 5 - Kenilworth was one of the larger towns I would pass through on the Centenary Way and I approached it via its churchyard ...
Day 5 - ... passing by what little remained of its former abbey.
Day 5 - Of course, it's the nine centuries old Kenilworth Castle that really draws the crowds. I walked around its perimeter walls but sadly didn't have time to linger today.
Day 5 - Here's a curiosity, these squat brick structures were grouped together in a meadow beyond Kenilworth. I was puzzled as to their purpose but some investigation on the internet has indicated that they are all that remains of a WW2 artillery station, meant to catch the Luftwaffe before they arrived over Birmingham and Coventry.
Day 5 - There were a few wrong turns along the way but finally I arrived in the town of Warwick, the shire's capital, and a place of great historic significance in English history. This is St. Marys Church, rebuilt in the eighteenth century after a fire destroyed the previous incarnation.
Day 5 - No visit to Warwick can be completed without at least a glimpse of its castle, almost fully intact (unlike the one at Kenilworth) and steeped in history both noble and bloody.
Day 5 - I sat in St. Nicholas park before leaving Warwick behind, admiring the red and golden shades of the trees and realising that autumn was almost upon me. I had planned to complete the Centenary Way much sooner.
Day 5 - Leamington Spa is Warwick's near neighbour and I followed the banks of the river Leam all the way to Victoria park, with its bandstand and Georgian pump rooms, built to contain the spa water upon which this town found its fame and prosperity.
Day 6 - I left Leamington Spa by walking through Jephson Gardens, an elegant park full of monuments commemorating the great and the good of the town.
Day 6 - The river Leam made a brief and final appearance on the edge of the town.
Day 6 - Most of today's waterside rambling took place along the tow path of the Grand Union canal - a quiet, sleepy few miles which I took great delight in.
Day 6 - Shortly after leaving the canal behind I began to experience some steeper gradients, rare on this walk before now. One such climb took me up to the village of Ufton, with its fine old pub (The White Hart) and a church where, had I arrived a week earlier on an open-day, I would have been allowed to climb its tower for some extensive views. It was an ideal place to sit and have lunch.
Day 6 - The village of Harbury came next, as the afternoon drew on and a series of long muddy fields lay in store.
Day 6 - After the fields came some lane walking, with the crest of the Burton Dassett hills in front of me, hills which I would soon be climbing.
Day 6 - The day ended after a climb of a few hundred meters to the top of the Burton Dassett hills and their squat signalling tower. I got my breath back as I stood and admired the lovely views all round.
Day 7 - It was a sharp autumnal morning at the start of section seven, and a bank of fog rolled across the distant hills.
Day 7 - Ascending from the summit of the hills brought us to Arlscot, a hamlet without the benefit of a pub or even a village shop, but offering a number of fine old houses.
Day 7 - We crossed the narrow valley that lay between the Burton Dassett hills and the long ridge of Edgehill, climbing the latter to walk through pleasant broadleaved woodland.
Day 7 - Lunch was taken at the Castle Inn, built in 1742 by Sanderson Miller on the centenary of the civil war battle of Edgehill, its tower designed to mimic Guy’s Tower at nearby Warwick Castle. It is also supposed to be one of the most haunted pubs in the UK. The sandwiches were terrific.
Day 7 - Following the crest of Edgehill we eventually broke free of the woodland and emerged on Sunrising Hill which offered yet more high-level panoramic views of the land beneath us.
Day 7 - Eventually the high ground was left behind and we descended into the village of Tysoe, noticing as we did how much the character of the villages hereabouts differed from those further north, being built of the classic Cotswold limestone.
Day 7 - It had been a long walk and the days were getting shorter. It was almost full dark by the time we reached the final village of Whatcote.
Day 8 - The Royal Oak at Whatcote; the starting point for the last day of the Centenary Way. Winter had now arrived, bringing an icy coating to the ground and a lively nip in the air.
Day 8 - Before leaving the village we paused to admire the 12th century St. Peter’s church, with its aged gravestones bitten by frost.
Day 8 - We started to climb immediately after leaving Whatcote behind, taking us onto a plateau of high ground which meant that we had decent views for much of the day.
Day 8 - The temperature stayed low until well into the afternoon, so the first few fields we crossed were starkly beautiful under their winter deep-freeze.
Day 8 - We took another unplanned detour that cost us an hour's walking but we got back on track at the village of Blackwell, where we decided to stop for lunch.
Day 8 - After a particularly muddy climb over a ploughed and hilly field we reached Ilmington, with its secluded little church.
Day 8 - With little more in the way of adventure, but a lot more in the way of muddy field walking, we approached the final village of Upper St. Quinton, with its oversized village green and its diverse array of cottages, and looked for the bench that signified the end of the walk.
Day 8 - We found the bench, a little care worn and etched with age (but then, aren't we all?) and sat upon it to have a final cup of tea on the trail of the Warwickshire centenary Way.