The Last Frosty Foray of 2016

Tuesday 27th December 2016

Banbury, Bodicote, Weeping Cross, Twyford Wharf, Oxford Canal, Green Lane
9.5km|6 miles 65m|210ft

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route map Up early, I decide to go for a walk. I've just setup my 2016 highlights page. My first walk in the journal this year was entitled the 'First Frosty Foray'. Now it seems the year has come full circle as I walk out into the frosty morning. Speeding down Oxford Road to get out of town before sunrise, the last thin crescent of the last moon cycle of the year is hanging above the trees.

I quickly reach 'Weeping Cross', where the Roman Salt Way passes through Bodicote. Now occupied by a large new traffic-light controlled junction for the new housing developments to the east of the main road, it was once marked by a far simpler Medieval wayfaring cross on the 'high' route south to Oxford and London.

Dawn cuts through the twilight at Manor Farm

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I take a left to follow the footpath that traces the route of the Roman Road. It's completely changed.

Since the houses were recently completed, the farm has joined the 'Countryside Stewardship' scheme. It provides public funding to landowners for things like, 'keeping the character of the countryside', 'preserving features important to the history of the rural landscape' and 'encouraging educational access'.

What they've done with that funding is create a one-mile long "Rambler's corral". Two four-foot high fences, made with streched wire mesh and topped with barbed wire. For me though the real problem is the two foot of small wire mesh they've put sat the bottom and sunk into the ground. Deer won't mind – they'll clear it in a single leap. But anything bigger than a field mouse will be stopped from moving across the landscape.

The new mile-long 'Rambler's corral'
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How can this be 'stewardship' if it represents such a barrier to wildlife? For example, on the M40 there is a wildlife pass. Any go-to animal which makes it through the pipe is now confronted with a big wire fence on the other side of the footpath – and has to make a long diversion in either direction to escape again.

I reach the high ground by Manor Farm in time to see the sun rising over Kings Sutton. Emerging from the 'corral' at the road, the rising sun is bathing the landscape is a rich red light – highlighting the remaining leaves of Autumn, and the keys hanging from the sycamores in the hedgerows. Arriving at the bridge at Twyford Wharf, there's a hard frost blanketing the bottom of the valley floor. A group of horses stand close in the cold, shrouded in the mist from their own breath.

I turn and take the canal path back into town. The surface of the water is absolutely still – reflecting the scene like a perfect silvered mirror. Passing the Banbury borough boundary, the new housing developments stand stark on the horizon. At the long straight into town, a large red sign advertises land for a 'canal basin, pub and restaurant development'. Every passing year it seems to take longer to walk out of the town.