Monday, 28 December 2009

Local snippets

While Andy is working over most of Christmas, my walks are confined to how far my legs will take me. But I never tire of my routes - if one has any interest at all in nature, a simple ramble down a footpath will provide endless diversion. Are the catkins out yet? Is there any new growth? What birds are dotting through the hedge and what was squeaking from that clump of grasses?

It's another icy morning - the winter wheat is frosted as I look across to the Stow road.

Coming up to the farm, where smoke busily bustles from the chimney.

I cross over to the big field where last week it looked like this. Today there were no deer stranded in the middle, but they were taking cover in a nearby copse - the most I got to see of them today were bobbing white tails disappearing to cover.

Although the sun is pleasant, frost is still settled in sheltered areas. A little stream trickles sluggishly by my side.

In need of a really good wander, I carry on across towards the back of the woods, following the hedgerow in a long, lazy u-shape.

Unable to resist a nice line of trees -

Looking across towards a neighbouring village which overlooks us from higher up the hill.

There is a thin cloud of smoke hanging over the rooftops, as people keep their woodburners and fires going through the cold snap.

We are due for more.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Four miles of snow

On my own in this freezing weather, as poor Andy is having to sleep over at work - impossible to get the motorbike out of the ungritted village, or even to the end of our lane without dropping it. What I needed was an afternoon's walking. Starting up at the allotments again, but turning the other way. This is a new route to me; the last time I tried this was a few years back and it wasn't even signed. Needless to say I got a little lost and inadvertently trespassed, so I haven't bothered with it since.

Familiar terrain becomes a fresh landscape when you can see a different aspect to it. Normally I would be walking along the road, between those houses.

At least the snow made it obvious where I was supposed to go - the paths are littered with spoor, some of them dog, but also dainty bird prints and bunny hops - the four feet kept so close together as Brer Rabbit landed, that it resembles a large paw print.

Such a clean, clear day and the stillness that intense cold brings.

I headed up towards the woods, to begin the turning of the circle.

The sun began to set, breaking through a copse of looming conifers.

Now I had to venture down what is normally a mired track. I was hoping the mud would have frozen solid - it had, though I had to pick my way carefully. There were some ominous cracks and squelches as I hopped from clod to snow capped clod.

Further on, the hedge trimmers were out - farming takes no holiday.
I turned just in time to catch sight of -

- dithering deer. With a trimmer roaring away either side of them and myself at the top of the field, they hopped about, trying to decide which way to flee, before skipping away to the only unoccupied area.

As the sun disappeared, my way home was followed by a pale sickle moon, and I was surprised to find I had been out for three hours, although my walk was only just over four miles. A splendid way of whiling away a solitary winter's afternoon.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Short cold stroll Dec 18

While the South and East of the UK has been suffering (or enjoying, depending on your point of view) heavy snowfall, the Cotswolds has had a mere sprinkling, though it is bitingly cold. This morning the sun was up and, feeling thankful for my heavy army coat, I had an hour's potter round the village fields - starting at the allotments, where the winter veg are preserved in natural, earthy storage.

Going along the bottom of the field - although we have little snow, the earth is frozen and muddy quagmires can be walked over - the puddles creaking in protest.

Winter has stripped the hedgerows, and peepholes reveal normally unseen areas. Trip-trap, trip-trap, across the little troll bridge, the freezing wind sandpapering my cheeks.

More beautiful than any designer wallpaper, a line of trees stark against the cold blue.

Making a u-turn and looking across to my start point, the allotments just visible at the side of the village.

The straight path home, my lungs full of clean, icy air, glad to have been out in the open, if only for an hour.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Winter walk Dec 13

A brisk but sunny December day and only a few hours of daylight left. We were off to explore a new walk in a favourite area nearby. It starts here, with a helpful footpath pointer, past sweeping fields and sparse headed trees -
- to scrubby estate woodland and down to a rough crossroads, breaking into a stretch of our usual walk. This is not just any old muddy track though: this is the still used remnant of a straight Roman road,
Akeman Street. It goes on ahead through here...

...and up to fields, where it stretches along for about half a mile.
To the left of us, down in the valley, we saw that our old walk - which takes us through softly rolling grassland - was flooded. In summer, we meander alongside the river, which has now breached its banks and spilled over into the pasture.

Reaching the end of this pathway, and looking into the heart of the vale. Under the little stone bridge, the water is flowing strong and deep - four feet, Andy thought, though it is so clean and clear it is difficult to judge.

In a few minutes, this gently rippling silver ribbon will reach the water logged valley we had been viewing earlier.

On the level, looking across from the bridge.

A spectacular beech clump overlooked us as we continued along a lazily winding stone road, our cold nostrils catching the scent of fresh flood water.

Here we said goodbye to Akeman Street; it is not part of this modern path, but cuts through in ruthless, military fashion, across fields, on its way to the Roman town of Cirencester, once the second most important town of the Empire, after London. Here the old road is just visible as a disappearing indentation going up the grassy slope and into the the trees.

A little gateway intersecting the wall indicates that this time trodden route is still used today.

We crossed over to a pastoral hummock of grazing sheep, to begin rounding off our journey.

At this point we found that 'someone' had blocked the footpath - twice - which we intend to report to the relevant authorities. Crossing through silage munching cattle, we had to duck over (Andy) and under (me) barbed wire, where there should clearly have not only been footpath signs, but at the very least, unencumbered access from field to field.

Dark clouds beat across the skies, but only a few drops scattered over us. The showers raced over to descend on
Burford, a few miles over the way.

The sinking sun threw long shadows and the fading golden light illuminated the brights of winter bare woods and lichen. We were following a snaking trail, progressing towards a distant beech grove, seen on the horizon.

It had appeared to be a warm purpley brown from half a mile away, but as we drew nearer and the sun caught the tips of the last scraps of foliage, it glowed a warm copppery orange.

Now we were on the last leg of our walk, past farmlands and free range pigs, who were happily rootling around in chilly mud. In the blue distance, the neighbouring county of
Wiltshire and another ancient route, the Ridgeway were just visible and somewhere (although unseen) the Uffington White Horse. It is good to be able to place yourself within a landscape - one day we may be over there, looking across to over here.

The best walks are full circles, and after nearly three hours of tramping we were very glad to see the back of our trusty bike waiting patiently for us. And the remembrance of coffee cake waiting at home.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Chedworth Dec 5

Finally we are almost well again, and able to venture out for a little amble round one of the quaintest villages we know. Chedworth is a tumbling fairytale village - albeit with a profusion of tangled telegraph wires and poles which lurch drunkenly over the winding lanes.
Meandering through clusters of delightful cottages -
- and passing a stout old church -
here it is, looking back, nestling solidly above its flock.
The walk itself is nothing extraordinary - but then, we are spoilt and have many other pretties in our menagerie of rambles. There is a long climb up and out of the village -
and at the winter scenery is desolate.
Even the woods are a bit scrubby and dull, though we did find a tiny troll village. No-one at home today.
Our route led us on for about 2 miles, past Chedworth Roman villa and to the outskirts of Yanworth, one of our favourite scenic walks. If one was up to it - which we weren't, being out of condition - one could extend the route to encompass it, adding an extra 3 miles to a four mile circuit. But I was huffing and puffing after an hour, and glad to get to the last lap - where Andy and his mother waited.
Across winter greens towards a bleakly overcast sky.
And back to comfy Chedworth, via a side route. Fires are already smoking.
Down into the valley and back up through tiny streets, dolls house cottages and neat country gardens.
The church seen distantly from another road.
And past a gushing natural spring
Back to our start point, just as the rain started and home to tea and cake. Our neglected walking legs felt rather wobbly, but it was so good to be out, even in the melancholy winter.
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