Monday, 22 November 2021

Batsford Arboretum

After the thrills and spills of a day at the races a more sedate day is planned. 

Close to Moreton in Marsh (I always thought it was Moreton In the Marsh, but apparently not so).  we have Batsford Arboretum. It is owned and run by the Batsford Foundation, a registered charity and open most days of the year.  The arboretum sits on the Cotswold scarp and contains around 2,900 trees, with a large collection of Japanese maples, magnolias and pines. It maintains the national collection of Prunus (Japanese Flowering Cherry).



We follow the main path initially past the Victorian water feature. The stream runs down for a distance of 600metres from high on the escarpment.

It is close to the 'hermit's cave. The cave and watercourse were created in 1896 for Algernon Freeman Mitford. (1st Earl of Redesdale)Being a 'Folly' lover I am looking forward to seeing the cave.

The sun is trying to come out but it is very hazy with low cloud cover. The glimpses that we do get enhance the natural colours of the trees. We are visiting at a good time of the year even though it is late Autumn . Sill plenty of leaves and colour to be seen. 

Autumn brings with it a riot of leaf colour ranging from deep butter yellow through to orange reds and crimsons as well as an abundance of berries.  It’s a natural fireworks spectacular throughout the autumn months.

I think that this particular blog entry is going to be more photos than words compared to others!




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful church of St Mary’s, a Grade II listed Anglo-Norman style building.  There has been a church in Batsford village since the medieval times, the present building is the third to be built on the site.

Looming through the trees is Batsford House, now privately owned. It was built between 1889 and 1892 in the Cotswold Elizabethan style.

We continue up hill past 'The Swamp' towards the 'Ice House'. 



Batsford is well worth a visit for as well as a handsome collection of Redwood trees there is a fine variety of other trees. The Autumn colour information board (pictured left) explains exactly why and how leaves change colour. 

 It is all to do with a process called 'Photosynthesis', feel free to go and research more about that at your leisure. I've got a 'hermit's cave to find' ! 



On the way not only do I discover a Japanese Garden but also a 'Buddha' as well. There really is something to see around every corner it seems. It's pretty easy walking , a few gradients but nothing too strenuous. 

At last the 'hermit's cave' just what I was looking for. Hermit's caves were very popular in British gardens during the Georgian period, particularly on estates of wealthy land owners.

Some landowners even employed a local person to act the role of a hermit. 

They would live on site and be fed and cared for. The origins of this unusual custom date back to the Roman Empire. 

 



 
       

It can be a tiring Old business this tree watching, I'm quite happy to take advantage of this nice bench. Not for long though, next stop is a view point!

Sadly with the mist and cloud it isn't the best of views today. I can just about make out the valley behind the trees. Talking of trees, they are very important for the environment, which is a huge topic at the moment. 

  • They produce oxygen
  • Remove carbon dioxide from the air
  • Reduce the risk of flooding
  • Provide medicines and cures
  • Produce food
  • Prevent soil erosion




 

 

   

 
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Nice to end this write up with some of the fantastic colours. It would be lovely to return in the early Spring with the Hellebores still flowering, Daffodils and Mahonia in bloom. The Magnolias  and the Cherries would be out too. 

As we return to the main entrance we pass a feeding point for the birds. In the few minutes we watch we see a Nuthatch, Coal Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker, as well as Blue Tits, Great Tits and a Robin.

It has been a really enjoyable visit and a great way to spend a few hours for very little money.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

The Shakespeare's Avon Way - Weston Under Wetherley and Offchurch (9)

 

It is what what you can only really describe a s a drab sort of morning. Cloudy and overcast but at least it was dry. We are starting off from the Church at Weston Under Wetherley, there is a photo of the church on my previous Blog write up. 

We are walking in an anti-clockwise direction towards the ancient woodlands of South Cubbington. It soon became clear that it was not going to be a straightforward path....

The planed 'High Speed 2' (HS2) Railway network first phase between London and Birmingham is literally cutting its way through. We met one local dog walker who was totally devastated that this glorious ancient woodland is literally being ripped open in the name of progress. The scenes are horrific and back in 2020 protesters set up a protest campsite for several months until evicted by Bailiffs in October 2020.  Judging by the amount of signs warning of 'trespass' finding a route wasn't going to be easy.

We continued through what remained of the woods until we met double strength metal fencing preventing any further walking. That wasn't all we were met with as Security quickly arrived, we had obviously been picked up by surveillance cameras. 

A diversion route around the site has been created, unfortunately it is not open as yet. We had to make our way through the woods back to the road (B4453) to Cubbington. Even walking down the road we were under the constant watch of Security from their vehicles. I expect we will see more extent of the devastation as we progress on this circular walk. 


 

We pick up the footpath from the road and are back on track an in Cubbington. Until the mid-1820s the population of Cubbington was larger than that of Leamington, which now dwarfs Cubbington.

The Church of St Mary is decked out with flowing Poppies ahead of Remembrance Day tomorrow. Interestingly Jane Austen's brother James was vicar of St Mary's between 1792 and 1820, but never visited Cubbington as he lived in Hampshire where he was vicar of a place called Steventon. Because of the distance between Hampshire and Warwickshire, he employed a curate to perform the vicar's duties at Cubbington. 

We head off in the direction of Leamington Spa through some wide open spaces. That feeling of being watched is still there though... A large ugly tower block from the 1960's seems to be ever present wherever we roam.    

     

 The first footbridge of the day! Albeit a slightly broken one. On the hillside in the distance two horses stand resplendent. We take a path that leads us to Newbold Comyn Country Park. This extensive park, over 120 hectares (300 acres), was laid out in the 1970’s. There looks like there was also a golf course there at one time too. 











We have now arrived in Offchurch on the River Leam as we brush past the edge of Leamington Spa. The next leg will take us into the heart of LS. 

The origin of the name is from 'Offa's church' suggesting a connection to Offa King of Mercia from 757 to 796.

A stone coffin is on display in the current church (St Gregory's), but there is no direct evidence that this dates from Saxon times. 

A local legend says that if you go to the top of the church and jump off, King Offa will rise from the ground and catch you. Funnily enough I didn't put that theory to the test.


  
There is something quite poetic about seeing cows in the water. Conjures up images of yesteryear, some like Constable's Haywain perhaps? The River Leam is actually pronounced 'Lem'. It rises at Hellidon Hill in Northamptonshire, flows through Warwickshire, including Leamington Spa. It then flows into the River Avon near to Warwick and onwards into the River Severn.



It looked as though this poor Cow had come unstuck in search of richer pickings. I cleared a few brambles to ensure safe passage. I don't think the Cow was too bothered actually. 

It's a peaceful scene but we have to move on in the direction of the small village of Hunningham. 

The scale of damage done by HS2 becomes even more apparent from this view. In the distance you can see Cubbington Woods with the huge gap gouged out in It's centre. The damage is actually quite shocking.

Even as I type this there is still confusion as to the future of HS2.Reports say the £40bn section set to cut through parts of South and West Yorkshire to link the Midlands and Leeds have been scrapped. As usual it's down to money with the project already way over budget. Lets hope these beautiful woods haven't been stripped in vain.


On a happier note there is a lovely old Oak tree standing proud in full Autumnal colour. A couple of friendly sheep approach for a closer look. The sabotage all around is going to spoil the walk. These walks are all about getting out in the countryside and appreciating the beauty of nature. It is always there , you just have to loo a bit harder sometimes. 

The small church of St Margaret's Hunningham is worth the small detour. It is actually unlocked too which is rare in these times.   

We are on the last leg now as we pass the Red Lion Pub. The sun even puts in a hazy appearance through some gaps in the cloud.

It has certainly been a disturbing walk but interesting as always.

In total including the detours 10.5 miles covered!



Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Pitsford Reservoir - Nature Reserve Walk (Autumn)

I was hoping to get some lovely Autumn sunshine today and take some photos of the seasonal colour. Unfortunately though It is a grey and overcast day. On the positive side at least it is dry!

The nature reserve at Pitsford is a haven for wildlife but you do need a permit to visit. As a fully paid up member of The Wildlife Trust this is not a problem. Compared to the other side of the causeway this is free from cyclists,joggers, dogs and mostly other people!

The site covers nearly 450 acres and is made up of woodland, grassland, scrub, ponds, wetland and open water. It is around a seven mile walk around the three distinct bays.   











Pitsford Reservoir was built in the 1950's to supply Northampton with water. It is the Northern half that I will be walking today. The whole reservoir was designated a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1970 due to the large amount of wintering wildfowl and birds at the site.

I'm starting from the Fishing Lodge just off the Brixworth Road. Walking in a clockwise direction across the causeway. 

There are already a number of Great Egrets close to the edge, a couple of Great Crested Grebes and numerous Lapwings.  


The field to my left is full of Canadian and Pink Footed Geese, with more and more arriving regularly. The first of the eight bird hides (Maytrees) is very close to the feeding station. This part is called 'The Meadows'. 

Water birds literally flock to the reserve and include, Coots, Tufted Duck. In the Winter up to 10,000 can be seen across the reservoir and can include , Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall and Smew. Little and Great Egrets are also common especially in the Winter. 

 

Scaldwell Bay has a number of exposed tree trunks. A Wood Sandpiper has been seen here but I'm struggling to see it today. I did however see a number of Red Crested Pochard. 
 

There are a few Herons patiently waiting for as fish. The Cormorants are not as patient as they dive frantically searching for a bite.



After the storms of last weekend a lot of leaves have come down. Despite the dull weather there are still some lovely orange and gold leaves to be seen. 

The woodland area is extremely important and thinning of the conifers allows more light. This allows for grasses and other plants to grow too. Species such as Oak and Ash are naturally regenerating and it is a very mixed woodland. Some of the Oaks are estimated to be over 200 years old. 

I continue around Walgrave Bay and into and area called 'Christie's Copse. 


 


   

I walk some of the perimeter route for a bit of variety. Surprisingly very few Fungi  around, did spot a few around the base of trees though.

There was a lot of Badger activity, latrines and digging for roots and worms all the way down towards 'Holcot Bay'.  

The scrub areas attract winter flocks of thrushes to their berry crop and over 40 species of bird are known to breed here in spring and summer, varying in size from Heron to the tiny Goldcrest.

Dense areas of thorny species such as Hawthorn and Blackthorn provide safe nesting places. 

The more sparse scrub can attract Warblers who prefer bushes in a more open position.



There are a number of ponds on the route which offer a different habitat to the open water.

Dragonfly larvae, Frog Spawn and young Newts usually have a better chance of survival in the smaller bodies of water where fish are absent. 

Sitting down to enjoy a sandwich and there is a rustle in the bushes. An adult Muntjac Deer wanders by oblivious to my presence. It stays a while until another couple of walkers come past and then It's off into the undergrowth. 








The wind has really got up as I arrive at the stretch between the 'lagoons' and 'Holcot Bay'. Away from the water it is much more sheltered. 

I make the turn for the last part of the walk . There is more evidence of the recent storm damage. I have noticed a lot of areas where tree stumps and other branches have been left to encourage wildlife to use it as a home. 

It has been a smashing walk at just over 7.5 miles. I will look to do a further write-up and photos for the other seasons. As well as doing other walks around here. It is just nice and calming with so few people and no dogs to frighten off the wildlife. 

It was sad to see a poor old Rabbit though who was clearly struggling. I was able to get close enough to touch it which is a bad sign in itself. Myxomatosis the cause almost certainly judging by the swelling of the eyelids. 






Batsford Arboretum

After the thrills and spills of a day at the races a more sedate day is planned.  Close to Moreton in Marsh (I always thought it was Moreto...