Riversides

12/19 February 2017- Conham and Bitton

Me, PG, Mother-of-Two, Slide, Two and the H’s; Achilles (or Donut), Lady Legs, Noodle and the babyimg_0958-1

Two lovely February walks, the first along the Avon at Conham to view the herons (again) . Nesting and flapping, followed by lunch at the Lock and Weir. Still very wintry, landscape bit bleak and muddy, but a few trees budding. Extremely good walking by all members, hardly any complaining…

Then a new stroll from the Avon Valley Railway at Bitton, along to the river at Wilsbridge Mill and back. Highlight of the walk undoubtedly the extraordinary number of frogs froggling away in the nature ponds at the mill. Heartening sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive fun

21 January 2017 Boiling Wells

Me, PG, KF1

The annual Wassail at Boiling Wells. Tiny slice of tradition, frost and gamechanger cider. Precious.

img_0757Also reminds me we managed a few lovely- not quite walks- more like short strolls and nice times over the festive season, which have gone unrecorded. Inaugural company Christmas lunch in Ludlow in December, with a cold, crisp stroll around Mortimer forest and a rapid run around the castle and town as it went dark. Must go back, so many beautiful buildings and brilliant blue plaques…

On Boxing Day, enjoyed the duck race in Kenilworth, although could hardly see the ducks for all the people… and then a great trip to Suffolk for New Year. Tudor barn, costumes, silly dancing, 24 hour pork and another beautiful town (Lavenham) to stroll around: if only it wasn’t so far away.

img_0891And two lovely Sunday outings to open the year as well… an interesting east-west stroll around Bristol harbour with Slide and family (8 Jan), from the Barleymow along for lunch at the Cottage. Good singing to get us through the last stretch home, and Annabel taught PG essential dabbing. Then a damp and chalky walk around the stones at Avebury (15 Jan) with KF1, Magic Dave and the Faringdon archaeologists followed by lunch in the Red Lion. Atmospheric.

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Ridge and Furrow

14 February 2016- Severn Estuary

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One and Magic Dave

photo 1First proper walk of 2016, we headed up to the Severn Estuary on an archaeological mission. Parked the mighty micra at the White Hart in Littleton-upon-Severn and walked north to Oldbury-on-Severn.

It was extraordinarily wet underfoot, hard on the out-of-practice legs, but glorious sunshine, proper cold winter weather. We climbed up to St Arilda’s Church, perched on top of a dramatic (not-Iron-Age-Hillfort) hill, with commanding views up and down the estuary, including the old Severn crossing and the decommissioned Oldbury power station*.

photo 3We were too muddy for the perfect carpet in the church so settled for a quick look through the door, and cake on the churchyard bench whilst we pondered the fate of poor St Arilda, beheaded by a rejected suitor. Then it was on to Oldbury proper, to search out the Toot Hill, an Iron Age hillfort, our archaeological goal. After some milling around the very lovely village (must return in summer to visit The Anchor), we found ourselves in the middle of it, having not noticed that we’d climbed up the earthwork bank earlier (oops).

 

Then we looped out to the estuary, past an impressive lock that guards the Oldbury pill, and walked back along the coastal defences. Saw an unusual bird of prey (?marsh harrier), and enjoyed the low sunshine over the estuary, the boats balanced in the sticky mud. We traversed many, many soggy fields of ridge and furrow, dodging from ridge to ridge and considering how different this landscape must have been in the middle ages.

We stumbled into the White Hart on our tired legs for much-enjoyed drinks, snacks and sofa time before heading home. Overall, marvellous to get out for some green and cold sunshine, there just hasn’t been enough (?any) of it this horrible wet, warm winter. And hoping the furrow of no blogging is over.

*One day, Magic Dave hopes to visit…

One Year On

Sunday 4th January 2015- Norton St Philip

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Madam Citron, Mr P and the DJ

IMG_1980Pretty much an exact year since I started this blog, and a return to the geographical beginning (First Foot). We headed out for a 4.5 miler around Norton St Philip, taken from Nigel Vile’s book.

A misty, moisty, damp kind of day; fortunately the walk didn’t rely on great views, as we wouldn’t have been able to see them!

 

IMG_1984Rather it was pleasant country lanes and big hedges and climbs up and down muddy fields. We met some interesting-looking chickens, many a dog trailing an owner, and generally felt the New Year well walked in.

Retired to the George at Norton St Philip for Sunday lunch, which continues to be a very special place.

 

Have enjoyed a year of writing a blog, it amuses no one but myself, but it does amuse me. Walking in places you enjoy with people you enjoy is one of life’s great pleasures, I enjoy capturing the memories. Think I should invest in a camera, possibly, and take more photos of buildings, definitely. Interesting historic buildings really make a walk for me, and yet I realise I hardly ever take photos of them!

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For King and Parliament

Tuesday 30th December 2014- Winford- Dundry, Somerset

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave and Burge

Inspired by the previous day’s walk (The Hoarfrost), we rambled again, loosely deciding on the Dundry area, and me settling on Winford as a starting point. Some degree of vehicle-based milling, resulting in unanticipated tour of the nether regions of Hartcliffe/ Withywood. Accompanied by intense verbal milling, centering on a complex loop of actor/ film confusion. It turns out that Toby Jones is not Jason Watkins, only one of them is in the Hunger Games, and that neither (possibly inexplicably) has yet played Batman.

No guidebook to follow, but Winford is blessed with many footpaths, so we parked the trusty steed by the church and headed out of the village eastwards, under the aqueduct, to join the Monarch’s Way. This, we discovered, is a long distance path from Worcester to Shoreham following Charles II’s escape route after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. It took him six weeks to cover the 600-odd miles apparently.

IMG_1931The Monarch’s Way headed due north, up a very long and fairly tough climb towards Dundry. We sweated in the sunshine. PG lost faith in my mapreading abilities early on and took over half way up (when did I stop being the navigator? Not sure I like it). The slog itself was through fairly featureless pasture fields, but the view back south was worth it from the top, an extensive sweep across the Chew Valley, the reservoir and way down into Somerset.

IMG_1935After a quick chocolate and nut break, we carried on across the top to Castle Farm. Right on the edge of the Dundry ridge, we then enjoyed amazing views north and west (farm name no accident we guess)- we could see the Clifton Suspension Bridge, right round past Long Ashton, then way over to both Severn bridges and over the Barrow reservoirs.

We then turned eastwards along a lane, past lots of horse paddocks and small-holdings. At this point, Burge was pleased to recognise that we were on the route of a previously-completed Geoff walk- talk of yesterday’s new guidebook had not been going down well. PG electrocuted at this juncture by fence inappropriately blocking footpath, eek.

The route followed the contour for some way, then we began cutting downhill. We crossed an extremely large field with two solitary freeranging pigs- not something you see often- and thoughts turned to food, so we stopped below Elton Farm for brief snacks.

After some debate about whether we could manage to complete our intended route before dark, we decided to soldier on rather than shortcut*. Down through rolling fields, many with horses, and over many, many stiles and fences, electric or otherwise. Felt like hard work.

IMG_1942Then we were into Bitham’s Wood and onto the valley bottom along lanes and footpaths. Very interesting history of gunpowder mills strung out along the stream here at Littleton and Powdermill Farm. This valley was a major manufacturing centre during the Civil War and key historic buildings survive. Then it was past the mossy-looking Kentshare Farm and back into the outskirts of Winford, accompanied by the slightly confusing but not unappealing odour of the Chinese cafe on the main road.

Final duck under the aqueduct (built, we learned, in 1851 and the earliest surviving example of engineering of its type, still supplying Bristol with water today), past the imposing Court Farm (built 1593) and we were back at the Church. Quick hop into the centre of the village to visit the Prince of Waterloo for a relaxing drink. Truly magnificent pub cat- enormous, friendly and totally in control of the establishment.

Overall, a good 5 miler. Some hard slog, but worth it for the inspiring views in multiple directions. Alarmingly fascinating to be under the flightpath of Bristol airport and see planes so close overhead. Didn’t enjoy the local obsession with over-fencing- the landscape felt slightly too tidy for me, and our hips are too old for an obstacle course- but otherwise very satisfactory. Must find out more about the very interesting gunpowder mills and the slightly Napoleonic overtones in Winford!

IMG_1945* Not allowing KFO to finish her apple. Burge is a hard taskmaster, as previously observed (Banjo!)

The Hoarfrost

Monday 29th December 2014- Hillesley, Gloucestershire

Me, Paddy Garcia, Kate Force One, Magic Dave, Madame Citron and Mr P

IMG_1910All very determined to have a ‘proper’ walk before the festive season closed, so we set out in good time, with lunches packed and a new guide book. Yes it’s true. The shades of Geoffwalks Past were stirred. Nigel Vile’s Pub Walks near Bristol and Bath set out on its maiden voyage, a Cotswold 6.5 miler.

We parked the cars in Hillesley and began the steep climb south towards Splatt’s Barn. The weather was spectacular- icy cold, heavy frost but not a cloud in the sky and glorious midwinter sunshine. Met a friendly dogwalker, who related the story of a careless¬† highwayman who went ‘arse over tit’ in the vicinity and lost his ill-gotten gains. A well-placed hole might yield treasure somewhere in the vicinity he reckoned…

IMG_1900As we approached the top, the landscape, and Mr P’s imagination, became dominated by the tower, which we discovered is a 100 foot memorial to General Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset, a commander at Waterloo. After some dithering about whether to divert to observe the tower close up, we stuck to Nigel’s route, cutting west to enjoy amazing views off the ridge down across the Severn Estuary. We could just see the tops of the old Severn Bridge in the distance, and could also see along the scarp to the ‘Edge’ at Wotton, where we walked in the summer (PG36 intense green).

At this point, our usual issues with ballistics (‘Caution: shooting today, keep to the footpaths’) and dangerous beasts (‘Caution: bull in field’) arose. The first was no surprise, as we’d heard the guns and were seeing large numbers of pheasants flopping and squawking around as they do. The second didn’t materialise, fortunately.

IMG_1909We headed down towards the valley, then followed an unmetalled lane, admiring the scarps and lynchets sculpted by the frost, and the crunchy, icy mud. We stopped for Christmas chocolate in Hawkesbury. There’s something very special about this tiny hamlet with its beautiful church and ancient cottages, I’m always glad to visit.

From Hawkesbury, we looped around Hawkesbury Upton (at which point it became evident that the route was never going to approach the tower, much to Mr P’s chagrin) and then down across a steep valley, still heavily frosted on the dark slope. By now it was lunchtime, so we paused on the sunny side for a magnificent feast of ham, tortilla, turkey sandwiches, french snacks and cakes, crisps, fruit, and even more ham, with coffee and hot chocolate.

IMG_1914Fully replenished, we headed off. Lost the route very slightly- not enough to detract from our liking for Nigel’s directions- but soon found ourselves back on a wide ride, as instructed. Through an extremely beautiful enclosed valley with crystal clear stream, lovely in the afternoon sunshine. Then onto the ‘valley of death’, where we glimpsed a fast-moving beasty (lynx or tiger we thought most likely, less possibly fox). PG and KFO investigated a very dead badger in a hedge, whilst the rest of us considered the unlikely sight of a dead crow buried tail-up in a molehill. An aerial attack gone dreadfully wrong? We can only guess.

Much house envy in the very charming hamlet of Lower Kilcott, and more interesting wildlife- horses, birds, a selection of amusing dogs, including a strange snorting labrador and an ancient hound, as well as some tiny quicksilver trout in the stream (PG very excited).

IMG_1920By now the sun was heading below the horizon and the air was turning icy again. The route took us along a curving lane with high hedges covered in heavy frost. Utterly beautiful, like walking in a giant piece of confectionery. Towards the end, we encountered a misty, frosty field of shaggy highland cattle, steaming in the cold and slurping in a pond.

Then we were back at Hillesley and into the Fleece Inn, a friendly community-run pub, for a well-deserved post-walk pint. I’m not sure there are really enough words to convey the absolute beauty of this walk. Lovely countryside, as only the Cotswolds can provide, but it was really the icy frostiness, the low sun and the quality of the air that made it so special.

We also enjoyed Nigel’s directions, ably piloted by Madame Citron, and the crazy wildlife we saw along the way. The day out further enhanced by Madame Citron and Mr P’s hitchhiker on the way home (this blog cannot do her justice so she remains undescribed), and a lengthy pub crawl/ board game session back in Bristol by some of the party. Marvellous.

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