Monday, 31 December 2018

31/12/18 - Heart of England Way Stage 21 - Alcester

Distance - 7.2 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Pub - Three Tuns, Alcester
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17Stage 18, Stage 19, Stage 20

One last walk in 2018, providing just enough time to get my monthly leg on the Heart of England Way.

This is an area that I know well. I've walked from here many times. I managed to knock off all of the pubs (except the Cross Keys) when I stayed over at the Travelodge, whilst on the Warwickshire Cakes and Ales trail back in March.

Today's trail starts from the town centre, so I have a reminder of what's available and a 7 mile ramble to ponder on which establishment will receive the post walk Mappiman dollar.

Even though I've walked the area, I am still finding new paths. Once through town and I head North along the River Arrow, passing through play areas and fields until I reach Coughton Court.

Weir on the Arrow
Weir over the Arrow and a Geocaching GZ
Coughton Court Church
Coughton Court Church - Closed for the rest of the year

Three long distance paths share the route home.  Of course, the Heart of England Way is why I'm here but we're also ticking off sections of the Arden Way and the Monarch's Way.    To be fair, with the Monarchs way being 625 miles in length, you probably can't walk for 7 miles anywhere in this country without stumbling upon it :-)

All the Ways
Three Ways today
Not much to write home about.  It's field edges all the way although there is plenty of evidence of a massive program of tree planting.   Rows upon rows of plastic green tubes with spindly tree tips poking from the top.   Looks like there's going to be a recreation of the Forest of Arden.

Back into town..... my mind is made up.

The Hollybush is a fine pub, nestling next to the church and the market hall but once again, it looks bereft of all life.   The Turks head was mental busy on my last visit - to make sure I had made the correct decision, I poked my head through the window.   Looked like a good but slightly pedestrian choice of Purity or Wye Valley.

The Three Tuns it is.

Three Tuns, Alcester
The Tree Tuns, Alcester
I was hugely impressed on my last visit with this plate.   On re-reading my notes, I said that I was surprised it wasn't in the 2018 Good Beer Guide but if there was any justice in the world, it would be in the 2019 version.

It's almost as though CAMRA are listening to me.    The posters are up proclaiming their new found status.

Out of the 8 hand pulls available, I made the correct choice with a Burton Bridge Brewery Porter.

A fine way to end the year.

Burton Bridge Porter at the Three Tuns
Another year's blogging, rambling, geocaching and pub ticking is over!

Sunday, 30 December 2018

30/12/18 - Tidenham Chase and Wintours Leap

Distance - 6.7
Geocaches - 5
Walk Inspiration - Jarrold Book 29, Walk 16

Since 2005, its been an tradition to walk off the Xmas excesses with a walk in the Wye Valley, near Tintern.   We're still finding new routes - even if this one doesn't include a pub visit.   Not to worry, blogfans, tomorrow's New Year's Eve.

We start off at Tidenham Chase - an outlier from the Forest of Dean that has a popular car park.  We try and pick a route across the common land - the paths bearing little resemblance with what is marked on the OS map.   Joy, the Guide Dog in training loved the heather and the pools.

Tidenham Common and a Puppy
Joyful dog ruins photo symmetry 
The Gloucester Way is picked up, heading south to Tidenham.  We have murky views over the Bristol Channel, a magnificent church and the majority of the geocaches of the day.   My favourite pointed out the stone in the church's outer wall, which local legend says marks a Witches grave.   A fine stop for lunch - shared with three other ramblers who were singularly unimpressed by me passing on this information.

Views over the Bristol Channel
The Bristol Channel
Tidenham Church
Tidenham Church
Witch Stone
Inscription has 1787 and W I T C H

A circuit of Dayhouse quarry - where we could hear the screams from the Zip Wire - and onto Offas Dyke Path at Wintours Leap.   Another legend - this time from the English Civil War.   There's simply no way that Sir John Wintour would have survived being chased off this cliff face by the Parliamentary forces.

Wintours Leap
Nervous enough getting this close to the edge
The route back is mainly on Offas Dyke Path - when its bad, you are sharing the road with idiots driving far too fast for the conditions - when it is good, its wooded and high above the River Wye. 

A high wooded path does not make for the greatest of photos, so here's Joy, posing delightfully.

Joy on Offa's Dyke
Joy on the Offas Dyke Path

Friday, 28 December 2018

28/12/18 - The Burton Dassett Hills

Distance - 9.85 Miles
Geocaches - 0
Walk Inspiration - Jarold Book 33 Shakespeare Country, Walk 28

It was at the Merrie Lion in Fenny Compton a couple of years back that I first learned of the Burton Dassett Hills.  The Landlord correctly identified us for the Ramblers that we were and said it provided the  best walking in the area.   It's been on the to-do list ever since.

Jarrold provided the inspiration and as this is walk 28 out of 28, I know its the longest one on offer out of this particular guide book.  Just shy of 10 miles but as it passes through four villages, there are plenty of refreshment opportunities.   Each village currently has a pub which is unexpected and cannot be guaranteed for ever.

The start of the walk is at the highest point.  Bassett Hill Country Park is a strange little place - initially devoid of any kind of life - no cars parked up, no people - but offering great views in all directions and I'm sure I could see Coventry cathedral in the far northern distance.

Burton Dassett Views
Views at the Start of the Walk - Looking over North End
Heading out in a clock wise direction, the first village hit is Fenny Compton.   A variety of buildings of various ages, with some solid looking thatched properties all from the same deep tan limestone blocks.  Too early for the pub but I do investigate its exterior, noticing the sun dial.


Merrie Lion, Fenny Compton
As a shadow, so is life.   Love Google.

Fenny Compton
Looking across Fenny Compton to the Burton Dassett Country Park in the distance
Some very forgettable agricultural land before arriving at Farnborough.  Plenty of civic pride along the narrow high street, with Farnborough Hall at far end of the village.   The pub is called "The Kitchen", which tells you far more about it than I need to.  The Hall is in the hands of the National Trust and can be visited, if you really like C18th Plasterwork.

Farnborough Pride
Prize Winning High Street
Farnborough Hall
Farnborough Hall

Lane walking all the way into Avon Bassett, where I am ready for a break.   The Yew Tree has recently been taken over by new tenants and I wish them all the best.   They welcomed me with plenty of walking chat and warned me that all four of the beers were going to look cloudy as "they had done something in the cellar".   I was offered samples before committing to Sheffield's Bradfield Brewery Farmers Pale Ale.

Yew Tree at Avon Dassett
Unsure if they are authentic stocks

Yew Tree at Avon Dassett
Was warned about the cloudiness
The final section provides the best walking of the day.  The Centenary Way (another on the to-do list) provides the way marking along the edge of the Burton Dassett hills and passing the C12th Norman All Saints Church.

Burton Dassett Church
All Saints
The walk could be finished on the return to the Country Park but the hamlet of North End has a collection of houses and a pub that seems to have had a chequered recent past.  Plenty of information on on its lack of love from Enterprise Inns and closures, reopenings and re-closures.

With just two other punters on a Friday lunch time at Xmas, I can't see it necessarily lasting.   Even with the nice touch of 80p mince pies on the bar.

Red Lion, North End
The Red Lion - North End

Monday, 24 December 2018

24/12/18 - Birmingham 3 Parks Walk

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration

A trip to the 2nd City to see if its still Claret and Blue.   Much hilarity on Facebook, where I have an equal split of Leeds and Villa friends....  "After his move from Brentford, Villa Manager Dean Smith has finally bought a house in Birmingham.  Its a 2 Up, 3 Down".   To which I get the reply, "He cannot move in yet 'cause the Roofe is on fire".

As a Baggie, I'm not sure why I am joining in the banter.   We remain 6 points behind table topping Leeds and needed a favour.

South Birmingham has three parks that can be joined together in a Inner City Ramble that is all on tarmac but not along many roads.   Lots of joggers, a smattering of people doing martial arts and a handful of dog walkers.  This is the City, so not standard dog walkers.   My favourite looked Morpheus from the Matrix trilogy....  Wide brimmed hat, ankle length black leather coat, poorly behaved husky.

A circuit of each park is completed.

Canon Hill - ponds, funfairs and a Tudor building relocated from Digbeth. 
Kings Heath - the smallest - home of the Horticulture Society
Highbury - The Wildest.   Didn't notice any swings.

Here are the photos;

Canon Hill Park
The Leaning Tree of Canon Hill Park
Canon Hill Park
Canon Hill Park

Kings Heath Park
Kings Heath Horticulture Society
Highgate Park
Highbury Wilderness 

10:30am and I am back at the car.   Too early for the pub but I'm not going to leave you with a Yuletide dry blog.

Less than two miles away and within 0.5 miles of each other are the two best bottle shops in the West Midlands - if not the Country.  I've read all about them in this Birmingham Mail article.

Feeling that I have not quite enough Belgian beer in the house, I head off to investigate.

Cotteridge Wines
Cotteridge Wines, 0.5 Miles from Stirchley Wines
Both are Aladdin's caves of beery delights- everything from a Sam Smith's Double Chocolate Stout to an unpronounceable Belgian Beauty that costs more than a decent bottle of red from Tescos.   To be fair, it's roughly the same strength.

It's going to be an interesting Xmas Day.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

23/12/18 - Walter de Cantelupe, Kempsey

Distance - 5.25
Geocaches - 8
Walk Inspiration - Village Walks in Worcestershire, Walk 14
Good Beer Guide Tick - 355

Kempsey lays claim to being the oldest village in Worcestershire.  It's named after a Saxon chieftain, Kemsys and there are links to every era of man, from the Iron Age, through the Celts, Romans, Normans and playing its part in the English Civil War.

For a small, yet expanding village,  it's surprisingly well served by pubs.   There are four pubs along the A38 and if you include Huntsman Inn on the other side of the M5, two 2019 CAMRA Good beer Guide Entries.

Of course, the Walter de Cantelupe Inn is one of these and marks the starts of toady's little ramble.  We'll come back to this but I will first answer the question as to who Walter was.   A C13th Bishop of Worcester.

Walter de Cantelupe Inn
Today's Post Walk Refreshement
I start by taking Squires Walk, heading west to the Church and the River Severn.   There's a ford there, with signs that are showing that you shouldn't attempt to cross when in flood.   I wait for 10 minutes to see if I can get some drama on my blog.  I'm hoping a Christmas delivery driver will be blindly following sat nav and ignoring the current 5ft levels.

It didn't happen, so you will need to use your imagination.

Fortunately, for ramblers, there is a little footbridge.

Ford at Kempsey Church
The red car refused the challenge.
Kempsey Church
Kempsey Church

The church provides access to the River Severn, which is threatening to spill over into Hams flood land.   There's mud and monster puddles to navigate but I'm sure it can get much worse.

River Severn
High water levels at the Hams
At Oak Farm, I head inland to pass an Elizabethan Manor House, the Nash.  Privately owned and available for wedding bookings.  Under the M5 and onto Kempsey Common, where you're free to walk where you want.   According to the guide book, I need to aim for the Farmers Arms at Napleton.  This closed in 2006 but I cannot tell whether this was because its at far end of a cul-de-sac with no passing trade or because it sold John Smiths.

Views over the Malverns from Kempsey Common
Views over to the Malverns from Kempsey Common
Lanes bring me back to Kempsey, with a footpath (temporarily?) blocked where David Wilson is building his new homes.  This village expansion should be good news, to ensure the remaining pubs don't meet the same fate as the Farmers Arms.

Onto the post walk refreshment.   I was already looking forward to my visit before I determined it's a multi award winning establishment.

Good Beer Guide and Good Cheese Guide
CAMRA Good Beer and British Cheese Board Recommended
Its a free house.  On today's visit there were three real ales available.   I'm in a position similar to that when my daughter asks me every year - "Who is your favourite child, dad?".   She's a 24 year old millennial.  As usual, I'll see what presents I get before answering.

The choice;

My local is a Wye Valley tied house, and I'm a big fan of their ales.

I once travelled overnight to Bishops Castle for the sole reason of visiting the Three Tuns brewery.  well, I say sole reason - in truth, there's two breweries and half a dozen pubs - which makes for a fine pub crawl. 

However, it had to be my favourite.

Heaven in the Walter de Cantelupe Inn
Timothy Taylor Landlord, in front of an open fire
As if things needed improvement, I hear Fairy Tale of New York for the first time this Xmas.   I am that happy that I update my facebook status with the above photo and the caption "Xmas has peaked".

You'd be surprised at how many people got upset by this innocent post.   Especially my in-laws, whom I am having Xmas Lunch with.

My explanation that "just because its peaked, it doesn't mean it can't get even better" has so far met with zero likes.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

22/12/18 - Leasowes Park and the Waggon and Horses, Halesowen

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Walk Inspiration - AA 50 Walks in Warwickshire and West Midlands
Good Beer Guide Tick - 354

This country never fails to surprise.   A West Midlands walk that's in the shadow of the M5, is completely rural and reveals the ruins of a C13th Century Abbey.

You simply wouldn't have expected this from the start - the centre of Halesowen, opposite a collection of light industrial units.

Leosowes Park provides access to a derelict canal for easy walking.

Disused Canal
Disused Canal
Leasowes Park
Overlooking Leasowes Park

This is part of the Monarch's Way and once over the ridiculously busy A456, I'm into the countryside.   I can't get too close to the abbey, now part of the farmhouse but its still impressive from a distance.   Fine views over the Clent add to the walk's quality.

St Mary's Abbey
Bits of St Mary's Abbey are still standing after Henry VIII destroyed it
Monarch's Way
The Monarch's Way
Clent Hills
Clent Views

A straightforward walk.  Now onto the pub.

The Waggon and Horses is part of the Black Country Ales Chain - so I know what to expect.  An electronic board offering unusual choices of ale from all over the country.  Not only is it in the Good Beer Guide, its also a Pub of the Year prize winner for the Stourbridge and Halesowen area.

It's a bit of a classic and long may these gems continue to exist.

Wagon and Horses, Halesowen
Two Gs on my Waggon
It feels like multiple houses knocked together, with the frontage showing multiple blocked off doors.  The real access is from this side street, called Islington, with the over door advertising proclaiming Ales.

Inside, it's perfect.  Three real fires to complement the 11 real ales.   A narrow bar with a violently sloping floor.   Some ancient pub paraphernalia, with my favourite being a tray emblazoned with the Red Triangle and the slogan "Bass for Men".  There's also a counter in centre of the bar showing that they have had 1113 different ales on this year.

Wagon and Horses, Halesowen
Its a work of art
A first Black Storm Brewery Porter... all the way from the North East to the West Midlands.

I'll be looking out for their beers again and will certainly be revisiting the Waggon and Horses.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

16/12/18 - White Nancy's All Round at the Vale Inn, Bollington

Distance - 11 Miles
Geocaches - 23
Walk Inspiration - Adventurous Pub Walks in the Peak District, Walk 8
Good Beer Guide Tick Number 353 - The Vale Inn, Bollington

This certainly was an adventurous pub walk.   My guide, written in 2004, suggests the Highwayman near Rainow as the pub of choice.   It's described as a Thwaites pub offering nice Chicken Burritos.  It's now a private dwelling.   The current supply situation of Mexican food with Lancastrian beer remains unknown.

Not to worry, I have a Good Beer Guide pub waiting for me in Bollington at the end of this superb walk across the edge of the Peak District.

It's a real cracker, offering variety, views and plenty of Geocaches - I reached my annual goal of 1000 finds, with the 23 found today.  The reason that I picked this particular route was to get to White Nancy, a ridge top memorial to either Waterloo or a man's deceased daughter, that can be seen from all directions in the local area.

Early stages are along the canal - when I can find it.   Bollington has a canal in the air, so even though I can see that I am close on the OS Map, I need a local's advice to climb through the "hole in the wall" to arrive at the aqueduct.

On top of the Aqueduct
First cache of the day on that Information Board to the Left

Canal side mill
Canalside Mills
The Canal is left at Bridge 30, to traverse agricultural land.  The destination is quite clear, the Saddle of Kerridge is a distinct ridge, which hosts White Nancy at its northernmost end.   The climb is gentle but the rewards are outstanding.   Views in all directions, including Jodrell bank, the Cheshire Plain and Manchester in the distance.

Views from Saddle of Kerridge
The Cheshire Plain
Manchester, from the Saddle
Manchester in the Distance

White Nancy
The Reward - Up close with White Nancy
Descend from the Ridge to pick up Oakenbank Lane, the very perimeter of the Peak District.  More fields lead to the dead pub, where refreshment could have been found pre-2010 when Whatpub says it closed.   According to them, a victim of its own Gastropub pretensions.

Oakenbank Lane - the Peak District Boundary
Easy Boundary Walking

The Highwayman
Not worth walking any closer to a dead pub - shown on the right
Load of photos of the Peak District at its finest, but I'm sure you get the idea.   I work my way to Pott Shrigley, where the congregation are turning up for a carol service and then drop down from on high.  The canal and a disused railway line return me to Bollington.

Pott Shrigley
Carol Singing adding a festive feel to the walk
Back to the Canal
Light fading on the canal.  Its midday in December
Middlewood Way
Middlewood Way - a disused Railway line - 11 miles from Macclesfield to Marple

Its not as if the walk needed any improvement but I am not going to argue with a Good Beer Guide Tick welcoming my return to civilisation.

And once again, the Bible provides great inspiration.   The pub is a small, single room building nestling in a row of terraced house.  You would be incorrect in thinking its not anything special.

Vale Inn, Bollington
The Inconspicuous Vale Inn
Without research, you wouldn't necessarily know is that its the tap room for the Bollington Brewing Company.

On offer are around half a dozen of their ales.  I took my time in selection but there could only be one choice when I saw the pale called White Nancy.    It added a certain completeness to the day.

Had to be a White Nancy
2nd White Nancy of the Day
The pubs a real cracker - a fitting end to an exceptional walk.   The beer was as good as it gets and everyone, except me, was enjoying a what sounded a superb menu.  I overheard orders for Black Pudding Pies and Mustard Mash, as I sat at the bar, eavesdropping.

If only I had more time.