Beacon Hill and the Grand Union Canal (part two)

 

A walk of two halves.  Unable to shed any light on the identity of Cyril Collins over a splendid chick pea and aubergine curry at The Kings Head and a pint of something to do with a goose, we pressed on with the final and easier part of the walk.  Crossing back over the busy A425 once more past a cottage with the unusual name of “no admittance” we headed along Tomlow Lane towards the Oxford Canal.   For some reason Alex wanted to turn right along the towpath but we needed to turn left if we wanted to get back to the car.

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Toby at the edge of the Oxford Canal

The Oxford Canal was one of the first canals to be constructed in England to carry goods and coal from the industrialised Midlands to Oxford and thence via the Thames to London.

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Wigrams Turn Marina

The towpath in places was in need of repair.  We crossed over the bridge at Napton Junction and joined the Grand Union continuing along the towpath and crossing beneath the A425 twice more before coming back to Lower Shuckburgh.

 

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The Grand Union
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Lower Shuckburgh  – St John the Baptist church
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Are we nearly there yet?

 

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Good night all

 

 

 

Beacon Hill & the Grand Union Canal (part one)

At last we saw some sunshine.  The past few weeks seem to have been dull, dreary and wet and not the sort of weather to inspire you to go out or go far.  But today was a glorious winter day, perfect for getting your boots muddy, and we certainly did that trudging through boggy fields and nearly losing a boot in the liquid mud by one of the gates.

This is a walk I’ve wanted to do for ages – the recommended route in Pocket Pub Walks in Warwickshire suggests starting and ending at The Kings Head, Napton.  We decided to start halfway along the walk and parked close to the canal in the nearby village of Shuckburgh and do the tough bit first – the climbing of Beacon Hill, which left us with a gentle lop-sided stroll along the canal embankment on the way back.

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Shuckburgh Church and War Memorial

 

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I wonder if these are still put to use?

Carefully crossing the busy A425 we found the signpost that led across the field towards the farmhouse.  To begin with it didn’t look promising

 

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is this just to deter people?

The field was empty and we crossed, heading towards the farmhouse, through a kissing gate and looked out for the waymark signs continuing upwards in more or less the same direction.

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Looking back down towards the village

 

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How Do
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Spooky Tree

Continuing upwards with a lake and wood to our right we turned right through a gate and headed towards the Trig point at the top of Beacon Hill, stopping to enjoy the views as we went.

 

 

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Slightly misled by the guide book, we headed diagonally right across this field, talking merrily away, taking in the views and realising with our goal in sight we hadn’t bothered to check the route so found ourselves in the wrong corner of the right field.  Squelching back across the boggy field we headed up to the right corner to a find a pair of stiles across a stream.  Toby had to be lifted across, not something he enjoys.  Luckily there were only two stiles along the route.  Taking more care we made our way across a number of increasingly wet fields heading in the general direction of Napton.  Alex read out the next steps of the guidebook  –

Press on in the same direction towards Napton navigating from stile to stile (some of which are rather awkward as they lack steps at the time of writing…

Toby’s face fell at prospect of negotiating more stiles.  But luckily they had all been replaced by gates, much to everyone’s relief.

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towards Napton

 

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looking back

 

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Tek care now

 

I suspect the fields we crossed to get to the lane have names like “soggy bottom”, “squelchy meadows”, “boggy pastures”, “Passchendaele”.  We left the last field and turned right up the surprisingly busy country lane.  At the top of the lane we carried on right down the hill to The Kings Head 

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Who was Cyril Collins?

last walk of the decade…

                                                       … before the batteries fade.

 

A grey and dismal day that reminded me of the more depressing passages in Lord of the Rings that tell of the two Hobbits as they approach ever closer to Mordor. We may have passed the winter solstice but I am in desperate need of some sunshine.

So one more walk.

One more dare.

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Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

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Unleashed, Toby will always turn right outside the gate.  This is because he prefers the shorter walk to the Village Green,  if we turn left, then he has a longer walk round the sports field and through the woods.  So Toby chooses the easiest option, the quickest route that will take him back to his bed.  This afternoon we didn’t stop at the Green but carried on westward through the village to what has become my favourite viewpoint in the village.  On the way I took some snaps of some of the Christmas decorations in the village.

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I managed to discourage Toby from watering these

 

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Have you got the Moose’s head up?

 

By the time we returned to the village dusk had fallen and my poor camera struggled against the light.

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And as I turned into the house I caught a glimpse of the new(ish) moon between the trees behind my neighbour’s roof

 

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Only passing through

Northamptonshire is a county you pass through to get somewhere else, and this has been the case since the Romans came and built Watling Street found that the easiest route was to pass through Northamptonshire on the way to Chester. They came.  They saw.  They passed right through.  Do not stop.  Do not collect £200.  And it has been the same ever since.   You see it’s all to do with the geology, apparently.   The canal and railway builders searching for the best route from London to the industrialised cities found the easiest way was through the Watford Gap.  Daventry may have been a resting place where you changed horses but it was never a final destination.  Even when the railways came they avoided Northampton altogether – the town’s station was at Roade, some 6 miles south of the town.  Even now Northampton town is on a loop line, a diversion.  The faster trains north and south, skirt the town altogether.

This month’s walk took us near to the place where canals, railway lines and motorways converge – The Watford Gap.

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looking towards the Watford Gap

Our walk started in Welton, a village a couple of miles out of Daventry but which is being encroached upon by the nearby town – new housing estates are being built right up to the parish bounds.  Driving off the main road into the village we climbed upwards past the parish church of St Martin and parked by the road side just past The White Horse – which was planned to be our final destination.   Heading upwards and out of the village, ignoring a bridleway finger post on our right which, while that route would have taken us directly to the canal we would have missed out on the views across to Daventry and Borough Hill, so, following our guidebook, we continued along the road, turning left towards Watford.

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We continued along the road until we came to a crossroads, crossing the main road our roadside walk continued until the road bore sharp right and we saw the signpost pointing our way across the side of a muddy field.  Although this was a minor road it was still quite busy with local traffic.

 

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Crossing a bridge over the Leicester branch of the Grand Union canal at Welton Hythe Marina, we walked along the towpath parallel to the A5, though the road itself was hidden from view, and I can’t say that we were aware of its presence.  Toby had to be put back on his harness as he had decided he wanted to slide along the muddy embankment. We crossed back and forth over two more bridges to get on the main Grand Union Canal – the left turn would have taken us to the locks at Watford – we turned right towards the eerie mouth of Braunston tunnel.  Counting the bridges as we walked under them for our guidebook said we should leave the canal at bridge 8, the third bridge, and return along the road to Welton village.  When we came to the third bridge it was clearly marked No 6.  Fearful that we would have to retrace our steps we rechecked the map and decided the book was wrong – either that or someone had renumbered the bridges since 2000 when the book was published.  A quick recce revealed ahead of us was the eerie mouth of Braunston Tunnel and above the road we needed to get us safely home – or at least safely to The White Horse.

 

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Looking across towards the M1 and London-Birmingham Railway line

 

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The White Horse was not serving food that day so it was just a swift but very enjoyable pint of Goats Milk for Alex and Bishop’s Farewell for me, and a treat for Toby.

A quick inspection of the 13th century church of St Martin’s and once back in Daventry an even longer inspection of the menu at The Evergreen Café in Sheaf Street (dogs welcome).

 

 

 

 

 

All paths lead to…. Flecknoe

Several sign posts in the village point towards a nearby village, Flecknoe.  In all my 60 plus years I have never visited the village despite the fact that it is only approximately two and a half miles away across the valley.  Today was not the best day to try this walk as the forecast was for rain and it did not disappoint.  A friend from my school days, Alex came over for the day to join me and Toby on a walk from Staverton to Flecknoe.  We had seen the signposts pointing towards Flecknoe on a previous walk round the village and it looked like it might be worth giving it a go.  I had done a short recce with my sister a fortnight or so ago when the weather spoke more of summer than winter.  We had to cross several ploughed fields and the soil is mostly clay.  On the way we crossed an old disused railway line.

 

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The start of the walk through a filed occupied by a solitary alpaca.

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This was the first stile.  Toby had to be carried over.

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taken on an earlier occasion

 

The goal is the village on the next ridge.

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The path is well signposted – which was good because we hadn’t bothered to bring a map.

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St Marks, Flecknoe

The village church – the cracks you can see in the wall are a consequence of the heavy clay soil – a couple of dry summers and the cracks begin to form, but now the rain has come the walls have shifted and the cracks resealed.  The original parish church was at the now deserted village of Wolfhampcote – this simple building was built in the 19th century and was a consequence of the new-fangled railway – the station was a mile away from the village, literally in the middle of nowhere, and the line was eventually closed in 1963.

Flecknoe station  

The yew tree in the church yard was bearing fruit.

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There was an old school nearby but I don’t think the building has been used as a school in my lifetime.

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The Old Olive Bush garden

The picture above is from the garden of the village pub.  There has been a pub in the village since the 17th century, although the original building was lost in a fire.  The Old Olive Bush has an impressive menu, serves a variety of beers – we sampled Mad Goose –  a light golden Warwickshire ale.  Dogs are welcome and Toby met the resident dog, Max plus a couple of visiting Jack Russells.

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A happy hour later and it was time to return back to Staverton and by now the expected rain had arrived, not too heavy but enough to soak into the clay that we knew would cling to our boots as we trudge back across the fields.

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Toby, struggling to keep up

 

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Not much further

Finally, after a few more stiles, we arrived home and Toby crashed out in his bed.

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