Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Breedon Church Linear Walk

  • Walked: 25 December 2007
  • Distance: 4m
  • Terrain: A Decent climb, some fields, some road.
  • Summary: Starting from the Severn Trent Car Park by Dimminsdale, walk along the road (uphill). Turn left at the junction and then right towards Scotland Farm. The church is in view at this point; head straight for it. The footpaths that cross the fields and the golf course are well marked with yellow wayposts.
  • Time: 2hrs hours start to finish
  • Notable views: From Breedon Hill.

Christmas day was pretty dull weatherwise, but the sun did come out in the afternoon. At least, half of the sky was bright blue and sunny, the other half was a dirty grey, as if I were right underneath a weather front.

This is the first couple of miles of my 3-viewpoints walk. With limited time, it makes a good linear walk in its own right.

It was 3pm when I decided to set off, and the sun was already very low in the sky.

The evening light was very warm in colour, turning everything orange.

These two show that mysterious weather front, which didn't move at all during my walk.

I've photographed the church lots of times before, but always from the same side. Here's a different view. It shows the power station in the background, which was the source of the large cloud noted earlier.

Click the map below, and then each image icon in turn to see more of the photos from today's walk.

The route above was generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Geronimo (updated)

The title of this piece is 'Geronimo', after the native American who was driven out of his own environment, dressed up, paraded around and exhibited for the pleasure of 'civilised' people, which is pretty much what we do with fir trees every year.

Yes, I've just been out in the (quite literally) freezing cold, with a rucksack full of Christmas decs, into The National Forest and chosen a tree at random to decorate in situ. I didn't have a fairy for the top, but I am very proud of the fact that there's a fully-working string of fairy lights on there (but unfortunately nowhere to plug them in).

It was too dark and my camera too feeble to take a picture of the tree in context, amongst all its friends, so I'll try and get out there in the daylight before the baubles blow away or someone takes them. I've tried to pick one which I can see from my house, but I won't know until the morning!

Anyhow. "Why the bloody hell has someone done that" is what I want the dog-walkers and other visitors to The National Forest to think tomorrow. I hope some will smile too.

What I really want them to think next is "why do we chop these down, bring them indoors, trim them up and watch them slowly die before shredding them all?" and "Why do we write our name and someone else's in countless cards?" (more dead trees) and "why the guilt and spending on presents?" . It does make some sense to me to decorate our homes at the darkest, coldest and most dismal time of year, but I don't know how many people think about why they're doing it.

There are probably genuine answers to all of these questions (Dive will probably be able to tell us the origins of them all), all having bugger all to do with events 2000-odd years ago, and more to the point, answers which very few of us know or care about.

I guess there's some kind of comfort or enjoyment in a ritual, even when its origins have been lost in the past. Let's enjoy seeing our families; think a bit more about what we're doing and why; and most importantly, spend a bit less on the whole exercise. Please.


Almost a week later, this is the first chance that I've had to visit in daylight. Everything's pretty much as I left it! I thought that the first breath of wind would blow all of the baubles away, but at the moment the weather's very cold but very still.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Blackfordby Spire

  • Walked: 9 December 2006
  • Distance: 8m
  • Terrain: Some inclines
  • Summary: Starting at the Heart of The National Forest, Ashby de la Zouch, walk to Blackfordby, continue out to Woodville, then back in a loop to Blackfordby and a different Route back to Ashy.
  • Time: 2.5 hrs

Last wrote about this walk in November last year. Today the miserable day matched my mood.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Stanton to Willington

  • Walked: 25 November 2007
  • Distance: 12.5m
  • Terrain: mostly flat, mostly good paths, some road.
  • Summary: Starting from Stanton, walk alongside Swarkestone causeway, .
  • Time: 5.5 hours start to finish
  • Notable views: Askew Hill, just through Repton.

The night before, with the Met office promising sunshine, I'd been keen to make an early start. However, the best laid plans often go awry, or "Gang aft a-gley" as some Scotsman would have it. The best laid plans most aft gang a-gley when I wake up on a very grey morning and can't get out of bed.

So no sunshine, and I didn't make an early start. Stanton-by-Bridge is a great place to start walking, though. There's a footpath which runs alongside the causeway,and gives you this fantastic view of the monument. You can't see it properly as you drive over it. Footpath is a bit generous - public right of way is more accurate. Like lots of the legal rights of way around the Trent, this is flood plain and so can be boggy in the driest weather, and impassable when it's been wet. This path also simply ends in the middle of a field with no right of way out. That means a walk across a field, over a gate and along the private road (belonging to the sailing and angling club) to the bridge.

At this end of the causeway is the bridge over the Trent. The building facing us is the Crewe and Harpur, a wonderful pub with accommodation, which is friendly to bikers and walkers.

Continuing in a more or less straight line takes us across a couple of fields and a railway line, up to the Trent and Mersey Canal. I love canal towpaths because they're flat and passable, and most of the time look idyllic.

After a few very pleasant miles, the rural atmosphere gives way to the traffic noise from the A50, power lines and pylons, a railway line and Willington Power Station. At this point, we leave the canal and find the right of way which takes us back over the railway line and through Willington.

There aren't many places to cross the Trent and so I often use this road bridge. The views to the East and West are wonderful. In fact, note to self: the view over to the east, which is opposite to the way that this walk starts to head back, looks as if it might yield a very scenic walk.

Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of road to walk here. It does take you through historic Repton, though, with its famous market cross (now in the middle of a roundabout).

How amazed I was to see these fellows. I thought at first they might be peacocks in some kind of winter plumage, or albino, but they don't have pink eyes. I've since looked up 'white peacock' and discovered that it is a stunning variety of peacock in its own right.

Askew Hill is a little bit of a climb. (About 40m above the level of the river.) I was pleased to find the trig point, and also a wonderful view. Once again, not looking anything like as spectacular on the photo as in real life.

There's an unpleasant sewage works to walk past but Anchor Church to look forward to. I've photographed the caves several times before, so this is the view from just beyond. The caves known as Anchor Church are just hidden by those trees in the middle of the picture and Willington Power Station is now on the horizon. This is a great spot for lunch, if a little bit too frequented by dog walkers. If I hear "it's alright, he won't hurt you" one more time, I'll lose it. I'd just rather the brute didn't bound up and snuffle my sandwiches in the first place.

Ingleby and the edge of Robin Wood lead back to Stanton.

Click the map below, and then each image icon in turn to see more of the photos from today's walk.

The route and stats above were generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

3-Viewpoints Mark 2

  • Walked: 17 November 2007
  • Distance: 14m
  • Terrain: some inclines
  • Summary: Starting from the Severn Trent car park close to Dimminsdale, head for Breedon Church (first viewpoint). Via Melbourne through Robin Wood to Foremark Reservoir. Pause where the wicker Jack and Jill used to be and the abandoned car park at the South of Foremark Reservoir (second viewpoint). Back via Pistern Hill.
  • Time: 5.5 hours start to finish
  • Notable views: See above - plus the view back over South Derbyshire from the trig point just before Robin Wood.

I devised this walk a couple of years ago as a 'mystery walk' for friends. I've since walked it several times.

Today I tried a slightly different start and finish. I've never liked walking through Calke park because of the number of people. I started at the Severn Trent car park close to Dimminsdale Nature Reserve. That meant that I could finish via South Wood and the Ivanhoe Way. Much better.

The walk starts with a little bit of road, but the new start point means that there's less walking on the road. After about a mile you get your first view of Breedon Church. It looks a long way away at first, but it's surprising how quickly you arrive at the top of the hill. There's a golf course to cross before arriving in Breedon and the foot of the hill.

I've taken this picture lots of times before, but it really is a lovely church, and the view is good, although still a little hazy when I was there today. It's only 2.5 miles into the walk, but a lovely place to stop for coffee and cake.

After the church you have to walk across another golf course. I do feel out of place walking past the golfers, just as I suppose they would if they were walking across a ploughed field in their golf shoes with their golf club trolleys. There's a little bit of a climb before looking back to see this wonderful view. The church is in silhouette and the golf course I've just crossed is in the middle distance.

The town in the distance is Melbourne. I took this same picture last time I did this walk; there was a tractor ploughing the field ahead, and I had to walk around the edge. This time there is a path pressed diagonally across the middle, following the right of way.

This is Melbourne Hall, patriotically flying the St George cross.

After St Brides (some very old buildings) and Robin Wood, this track approaching Seven Spouts Farm was looking beautiful today.

There are some lovely views in this area. This is close to Hangman's Stone.

I've taken this picture several times before too. Lamont Wood (no doubt named after an ex-chancellor) is a favourite spot for lunch. The view over the Trent Valley is great today while the sun's out. This was around Midday, and the length of the shadows shows how low the sun is in the sky at this time of year. While I was eating, the sun decided to go in, and the temperature dropped. The rest of the day was grey, but this is well over half way now.

Another favourite viewpoint, looking over Foremark Reservoir from the southern point.

This is where my new part of the walk really starts. Instead of heading for Ticknall and Calke, I went south towards Daniel Hayes. There are some spectacular views from the top of Daniel Hayes, and so extending the walk a little bit could add another viewpoint! Today I just followed the track by the side of the hill. I'm baffled about why this part of the National Forest is called 'The Oaklands' when the trees are obviously conifers!

After Pistern Hill Farm, this is a track I'd not used before, and the view looks as if it could be very nice when the sun's out.

This is Dimminsdale Nature Reserve. This very scruffy bit of ground is where the most spectacular carpet of snowdrops appears in February.

This is the view from the southern point of Staunton Harold reservoir, close to the end of the walk.

Click the map below to see lots more photographs from today's walk (exported for web by the soon-to-be-released Meander v2).

The route and stats above were generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ingleby and 3 Churches

  • Walked: 10 November 2007
  • Distance: 7.5m
  • Terrain: fairly flat
  • Summary: Park at Stanton by Bridge, pass Robin Wood to Ingleby, past Anchor Church caves, on to Foremark and back via Hangman's Stone.
  • Time: 3 hours start to finish

This was one of those days where the forecast says one thing, but a check out of the window says something else. Promised by the BBC and Met Office that it woudn't rain today, it certainly did rain in the morning. The afternoon looked a little bit brighter, but only a little. Putting faith in Gore-Tex, we set off hoping for the best.

We start in Stanton-by-Bridge. It's worth starting this walk by taking a wander in the direction of the causeway. This beautiful arched stone construction carries the road over a flood plain. At the other end of the causeway is a stone bridge over the River Trent. Together these make a Scheduled Ancient Monument about 3/4 mile long. You can only see it properly on foot. When you're driving over, you can only see the tarmac and a short wall each side of you.

This is Stanton's church. It only has a small cross on the map because it doesn't really have a tower or spire.

We went wrong almost immediately - the footpath we picked up crosses fields, which were perfectly passable today, but the planned path is 100 yards over to our right and is more of a farm track. We carried on because they are parallel and come out in the same place.

We pass Robin Wood, this is a very pleasant track.

We arrive in Ingleby very close to the John Thompson pub, famous for brewing its own beer. Having walked along the road through the village, we take a path to our right and after a very short climb the Trent valley opens up below us. This is one of my favourite views in this area.

I've called this walk '3 churches', but this one is a little bit of a cheat. These caves are called Anchor Church. It's partly carved out by nature and partly by man. It's said to have been a place of worship for early Christians who were being persecuted and needed a secret place. This footpath was just a bit muddy today, but can be impassable when the Trent is high. Once before, when it was flooded, I did take my boots off and wade through.

These next two pictures show the inside and outside of St Saviour's church, Foremark. It's small but interesting. I was particularly interested in the stained glass at the top of the rood screen - the first time I remember seeing stained glass in one of these screens. Unfortunately it was difficult to appreciate it without very much light behind it.

This is a typical view of rolling South Derbyshire. It also shows the heavy grey sky. We're close to Hangman's Stone, which I usually pass on one of my more regular walks, but approaching it from a different direction today.

I thought that this was a beautiful autumnal view. A little bit shaky because although we had a mile or two to go yet, the light, which hasn't been brilliant all day, is now fading fast.

If the lettering on this sign was peelable, I'd have taken off those apostrophes! note to self: take some Tipp-Ex next time.

The route above was generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dimminsdale Sloe Walk

  • Walked: 21 October 2007
  • Distance: 7.3m
  • Terrain: 90m ascent over 3 miles and the same descent
  • Summary: Park at the Severn Trent car park at the south end of Staunton Harold reservoir, through Dimminsdale, through South Wood, along Ashby by-pass, back to start along Ivanhoe Way
  • Time: 2-3 hours start to finish

This is another regular walk. I walked this route just a week or two ago, and spotted an abundance of ripe sloes on the Ivanhoe Way. This time I added Dimminsdale nature reserve, adding a couple of miles to the route.

Before setting off, I harvested the sloes that have grown on my own hedge. This photograph is simply to record the number of sloes that my 10ft long by 18" high hedge has grown in this, its third year (and the first year that it's produced berries). I planted a blackthorn (relative of the more well-known hawthorn) for two reasons - it's very spiky and child-unfriendly (like me), and because I like sloe gin. People have been sceptical that it would produce sloes, so I'm especially proud!

Dimminsdale nature reserve is at map reference SK 376219. (To find the car park I used today, Take the B587 north from the A42 Ashby junction. Follow the road for 2km past Staunton Harold Hall, take the first left towards Calke and park in the picnic area car park, which is on the left just before reaching the reservoir. The entrance to Dimminsdale is on the roadside about 50m before bridge over the reservoir.)

We set off at about 9:30 in a thick mist. This is the 'view' over the reservoir.

It was chilly, but as the sun started to burn through, things looked very pretty. There's still a light touch of frost on the ground. This picture was taken just after leaving the nature reserve and just before reaching the craft centre's long driveway. You'll see from the map that there are two options here. We walked towards the craft centre car park and picked up the footpath from there. Later, on the way back, we followed the signs for the Ivanhoe Way which take you via the road back to this point.

As noted once before, you can follow the public right of way easily because of Leicestershire's bright yellow wayposts and some clanky industrial-style gates. This walk leaves the Ivanhoe way where two rights of way cross, and goes through South Wood. After leaving the wood, the route passes Pisternhill Farm. We follow the contour of the land, keeping the farm buildings to our right. The route has been uphill so far - climbing 90m over a few miles.

Just past the farm, the ground levels out and gives some wonderful views. The solitary 'cloud' is actually vapour from Ratcliffe power station. Just to the left in this picture, you can see the silhouette of Breedon church.

We arrive at the Ashby Bypass. We're on the public right of way just north of the road itself. Unlike the pavement beside the road, which goes down into the cuttings, this footpath stays up above the road. The trees that have been planted here are getting taller, and when mature will help to screen off the road. As I've noted before, the traffic noise is a small price to pay for the wonderful views here.

The path peels away from the road, and just past a horse dressage ring, we can take a left and pick up the Ivanhoe Way. I love this part of the IW - it's all downhill now, and it seems particularly green.

This is where I had previously spotted the sloes, and I wasn't the only one who had, because we weren't alone picking some this morning. Putting them straight into the Kilner jars meant that we knew when we had exactly the right number!

As you can see from the map, we picked a different path back to Dimminsdale and also picked a different path through the reserve. The sun was beautiful by now, and everything was looking lovely in its autumn foliage.

This is the view over the reservoir just before getting back to the car park. Compare this picture with the earlier one taken from the same spot!

The route above was generated using Meander.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.