Thursday 15 July 2010

A Quick One (or Two) .....

This weekend, like last, we were busy entertaining, so, as well as all the usual chores that needed doing everything had to be ship-shape in time for our friends’ arrival, with the kettle full and dinner preparations well underway. Even though I was all-to-easily distracted by the appearance of a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the garden, everything was ready in plenty of time and we were looking forward to enjoying a relaxing couple of days.

However, this did mean our scope for walking was slightly truncated so we had to adjust our plans accordingly. With only an hour or so to spare, one of the most rewarding objectives is Roundton Hill, a modest top with a big personality that punches well above its weight.

From the Nature Reserve car park the path zig-zagged steeply up the hill where far-reaching views can be found from its craggy summit. The recent lengthy spell of fine, warm weather was forecast to break after the weekend and cloud was already building in preparation, but even on such a day the 360º panorama included the Long Mynd, the Stiperstones, Corndon Hill, the Berwyns and the Kerry Ridgeway, with Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons visible in better conditions.

In a strengthening breeze and with the threat of rain in the air we descended the steep path on north side of the hill and joined the lane that led back round towards the Nature Reserve. Later that evening, we went into Bishop’s Castle and stumbled across the Real Ale Festival – an unexpected surprise to find an even wider selection of excellent beers than usual.

Next day, after a lazy morning, we walked a short route from Little Stretton to Carding Mill Valley and back. It was sunny again, and hot; the humidity only just held in check by the breeze. But it was good to be out and getting some fresh air, added to which we discovered one or two new paths that we might be able to incorporate into a longer circuit in future; a nice relaxing couple of days to see us through the week ahead.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Second Time Around

Sunday morning, and once again we were in need of a modest walk. So what better than another spin round the same walk as last week?

It is often commented upon how rewarding it can be to experience the same walk at different times of the year. But we only did this one seven days ago – could anything have changed in such a short space of time? It was gearing up to be another warm day with blue skies and fluffy clouds, but we were up and off early despite having been barbequing and carousing until the wee small hours. A noticeable breeze helped to quickly blow away any lingering cobwebs, and we were soon into our stride enjoying the early fresh conditions.

The most obvious change from last week was that there was much more growth everywhere. Fields of leguminous crops were now up to 5ft or more in places, and the wheat and barley were much more advanced. The few overgrown sections were tangled even thicker, with one stretch lined hip-high with nettles and brambles. Grass fields had been cropped for haymaking - another sign that summer had arrived and testament to the dry spell we have been experiencing.

In fact we have had little in the way of meaningful rain for several weeks now, and the ground is beginning to suffer. In one stretch, where the path through fields of wheat had been cleared by spraying, deep cracks in the earth an inch or more wide were clearly visible.

An unexpected benefit of the mown fields was the sighting of hares. Denied their usual cover we spied at least 2 in one place and 5 in another, right out in the open and clearly visible. For several minutes we watched from a distance what appeared to be a family group playing in the sunshine – special moments indeed.

So, in the space of one week, it seems as though we have swapped the tail-end of spring for the start of summer.

Rutland: Belton to Braunston – approx 9.00 miles

Saturday 1st July 2010

Rutland: Belton to Braunston – approx 9.00 miles


OS Explorer 234 Rutland Water, Stamford & Oakham

Starting Grid Ref:



Belton – Leighfield Way – Leigh Lodge – Prior’s Coppice – Wood Lane – Braunston in Rutland – Church – South Lodge Farm – Bridle Way – Bluestones Farm - Belton


Pubs: Belton and Braunston
Cafés & Kiosks: None
Shops: Belton
Transport: Belton and Braunston


A beautiful, bright morning, with blue sky and a little fluffy white cloud, becoming increasingly warm as the day developed.

We arrived in Belton-in-Rutland nice and promptly to take advantage of the cooler weather of the early morning. It was already quite warm with the prospect of temperatures up into the high 20º’s Celsius; in full sun it would be 30º plus, plenty warm enough for walking. So this easy circuit of around 9 miles would be ideal given that we had other obligations for later in the day.

We left Belton, passing the church and the war memorial, and heading north along the Leighfield Way, a short, marked route, linking Belton with Oakham some 7 miles distant. Branching right at the road fork we followed the lane signposted to Lambley Lodge. There are dozens of such lanes in Rutland, gradually petering out into the countryside. Soon lane would became track, track would cede to bridle way, and bridle way to path; a couple of fields later and the process is reversed as the next village reached.

The lane rose gently over the first mile or so. Soon tarmac became bridle way with softer going underfoot, steadily climbing until, cresting the brow of the first ridge, a wide vista opened up in front of us, a vale ringed by low hills. Rutland County Council adopted the Latin motto “Multum in parvo” – literally “Much in Little” – and this is certainly true of the landscape in these parts, a perfect example of rolling English countryside.

Between hedges high and thick with foliage, we dropped down along a cinder track to cross the infant River Chater by the impressive farmstead of Leigh Lodge. Although slow-moving, the river here teemed with fish - heron heaven I would imagine. After climbing diagonally northwest across a field we took a brief drink stop and carried on across the fields past Prior’s Coppice and down towards Braunston, a pretty village straddling the River Gwash dating back to at least mediaeval times and steeped in history and home to the Braunston Goddess – a curious carved stone effigy with similarities to the Sheela-na-gig or Divine Hag of Celtic religion that may have been to ward off evil.

A convenient bench by the church provided an excellent spot for a snack. Our route continued through the churchyard past the unusual church with its low, square tower and oddly-mounted clock. Several fields were crossed; some with ripening crops, some scruffy with grass and nettles, and we spotted several Peewit and a Green Woodpecker. After passing behind South Lodge Farm the path rose again to the ridge and we briefly joined a bridle way heading east, stopping for lunch by a gate offering a view back over the vale, with Braunston lying in the bottom.

While we were resting, a small band of horse-trekkers jogged by, reminding us that, once again, we had been largely untroubled by other people. This seems slightly odd as although the high proportion of tracks, lanes and bridle ways in these parts might not be to everyone’s taste, there is no doubting the charm of the scenery, so typical of Middle England and in many ways the rival of the Cotswolds.

We carried on in a generally southerly direction, soon joining the Leicestershire Round (a route devised to mark the centenary of the Leicestershire Footpath Association) and re-crossed the River Chater. A short pull past Launde Park Wood brought us to the top of the hill where we paused to catch our breath in the warm sunshine.

With Belton’s attractive houses hunkered round the small rise ahead of us, our path then dropped to meet the lane at Bluestones Farm, from where it was an easy stroll back into the village. All in all, it had proved a good walk – perhaps with a little too much on lane and track to be ideal, but with plenty in the way of views and interest to offset that – ideal for a good long morning or, split either side of a leisurely lunch in Braunston, an easy day.

Friday 2 July 2010

Proud Songsters

Came across this poem by Thomas Hardy

Proud Songsters

The thrushes sing as the sun is going,
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
In bushes
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.

These are brand-new birds of twelve-months’ growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
Nor thrushes,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.