Friday, 10 November 2017

Walk: Braunston to Daventry

Chris was off to Rugby today with her friend Ann for what I gathered was a spot of retail therapy. I was dropped off at Braunston and I intended to walk back to Daventry via  Wolfhampcote, Miry Bridge and Kentle Wood.
I set out heading south-west along the towpath of the Oxford Canal. The weather was behaving nicely and the walking was pleasant if not breathtakingly exciting. I turned back from time to time and watched the slender church spire of All Saints in Braunston shrinking in the distance.

At this point Braunston is still in clear view. 10 November, 2017
According to my Ordnance Survey map I would soon be approaching a bridge that once carried the Great Central Railway over the canal and I became mystified as no such bridge appeared. Eventually I found traces of the structure but the bridge itself had clearly been dismantled. Never mind, a series of other smaller but nonetheless attractive bridges allowed me to find my bearings on the map.
A number if simple but attractive bridges were passed on my walk.
Between Braunston and Wolfhampcote, 10 November, 2017
Eventually I crossed the canal to turn almost due east and approached the mediaeval village of Wolfhampcote. Apart from a few scattered dwellings and farm buildings the village no longer exists. These D.M.V's - deserted mediaeval villages - are scattered about the midlands and indeed I had just passed the D.M.V. of Braunstonbury. Of this settlement even less remains, a few hummocks in the fields being all that is visible. The Black Death was perhaps a factor in the depopulation, not necessarily by wiping out the villagers but encouraging them to drift away to seek a better life elsewhere in a country desperately short of farm workers.
The squat tower of St Peter's, Wolfhampcote.
10 November, 2017
Before long the Church of St Peter's, Wolfhampcote came into view. It is quite a fascinating building with so many points of interest that I do not propose to deal with it here but to give it a blog of its own. After spending twenty minutes or so at the church I pushed on.

What on earth could these pigs expect to find in this deep mud?
Courtesy obliged me to say hello to a group of Saddleback pigs wallowing in the mud at a nearby farm. I'd have stayed for a chat but I needed to press on.
Heavy loads of coal from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Yorkshire would
once have thundered over this bridge, heading for London.
  Near Wolfhampcote, 10 November, 2017

My route now took me under the old Great Central Railway. The track-bed is now in places a haven for wildlife, perhaps too choked with vegetation for delicate plants but surely a refuge for many creatures.

I was now walking virtually due south, travelling more or less parallel to the infant River Leam. To use the word 'river' is a tad overstating it, but that is how it is marked on the map, and it is quite important since here it forms the boundary between Northamptonshire to the east and Warwickshire to the west. Since leaving the canal I had in fact been in Warwickshire and would continue to be so for the next mile or two. 
The River Leam. Its waters will flow into the Avon and on to the
 River Severn. 10 November, 2017
This was an area which, a century ago, would have been rich in wildlife but there was little out of the ordinary to be seen. True, November is not a month associated with bounteous flowers but there should have been more than Fool's Parsley, Aethusa cynapium, to be seen among the stubble. Cases of poisoning are rare as the plant is nauseously smelly when crushed.
Fool's Parsley is a seriously toxic weed. In stubble near Wolfhampcote.
10 November, 2017
A flock of fieldfares took to the wing as I approached. I was surprised as I was still some distance away, but then, skimming the hedgerow where they had been foraging, came a sparrowhawk. Missing out on a kill it swerved away with its familiar flap, flap, glide flight.
I was now climbing out of the Leam valley and my legs were letting me know that I'd covered something like four miles; my brain told me that I had about two more to go. As the slope eased I recovered my stride and, via the western edge of Kentle Wood, I re-entered a built-up area and within an hour I had my feet up with a hot coffee before me. Bliss!


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