A Wander Through Warwickshire

Friday 20th May 2016

Bus to Shipston-on-Stour, Fell Mill, Idlicote Hill, Idlicote, Fulready, Pillerton Priors, Ettington
13.6km|8½ miles 230m|750ft

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route map This week I'd planned to 'go south', as I haven't been that way for some time. Circumstances require that I have to pick-up some files in Ettington (the joy of hard copy!). It seems rather a waste just to take a bus there and back so I consider another ramble through Warwickshire – taking in that old favourite of Banbury Rambling Club, Idlicote Hill.

Spring is failing, giving way to the Summer as it does so. The greens are deepening, and the bluebells fade and fall as the crown of the woodland densifies.

There are many ways to walk to Ettington, but given the conditions I thought revisiting Idlicote Hill – to partake of its panoramic views on this relatively clear day – would be the best option.

The 50A bus drops me off just over the Stour Bridge in Shipston. I wander back over the river and pause on the country-side. It's warming up. I shed another layer and pre-emptively drink half a container of water. Then off to Fell Mill.

Fell Mill is at the foot of Idlicote Hill. The footpath climbs over well-preserved ridge and furrow, which adds a deceptive amount of hill climbing. Along the way a sheep stands in front of me instead of running. When I point the camera at it, it begins to pose, turning this way and that. Do Hollywood starlets reincarnate as sheep?

I leave the lower pasture behind and head into the arable which covers the crown of the hill.

I love broad beans. It's the early Summer vegetable treat. I cross a large field of broad beans, and the smell from the flowering beans is scrumptiously overpowering. By the end of climb through the field, breathing hard with the irritating pollen, my head is swimming with the aroma, and spins for some time after.

The route across Idlicote Hill is a zig-zag of twisting and intersecting paths. As you climb this gives a shifting series of panoramas eastward, across the foot of the Vale of Feldon; and then westward, across the Stour valley and the ridges of the Avon valley beyond.

When I walked with the local rambling club in the early 80s, they always found ways to fit Idlicote Hill into the route. Though diminutive, much lower than the surrounding hills, and with only 60 metres prominence from the valley floor, at any time of year it was worth the effort.

Eastward panorama from Idlicote Hill

Use the scroll bar to pan across the panorama.

The interesting feature visible today is Tysoe Windmill, shining in the sunshine – which has sprouted some new ornamental sails as part of its recent restoration.

Westward panorama from Idlicote Hill

Use the scroll bar to pan across the panorama.

Over the top and down the other side, I pause in Idlicote, next to the village pond. A curious feature, to have a large pond at the top of the hill.

Then it's downhill, through the prairie of yellow oilseed, to Fulready ford – which was dry, there being only a few inches of water in Wagtail Brook. At this point the sky cleared and the sun came out, which gave rather a long, hot climb to the low ridge at Fulready and then the high ridge at Pillerton Priors.

A dry Summer ahead?

Last year the council made a new footpath along the main road from Pillerton Priors to Ettington, which I've been meaning to try out. It's rush hour, so not the most tranquil of routes, but it get me into Ettington without hassle. The principal barrier to walking around here is the Fosse Way, which is always a nightmare to walk along, and which this new path allows me to avoid.

Along the way the scene was brightened by some dumped garden waste which had evolved into a stand of bluebottles, which seemed to fluoresce in the verge.

I walk through Ettington to the Meeting House to pick-up the files. On the way I see a cat in the border of a garden, well camouflaged in the soil of the bed, perhaps waiting for dinner to fly along. It's not pleased that I see it, and glares unappreciatively. Then walking back up the road from the Meeting House someone has taken a strimmer to a bed of wild garlic – for the second time in a day it's olfactory heaven!

As I sit on a bench waiting for the bus the clouds begin to gather, and the swifts begin to scream low overhead as the insects return to earth ahead of the impending change in the weather. I get on the bus for the hour ride back into town, winding through the villages of Warwickshire before climbing the red-soil hill at Tysoe back 'home' – across the irondowns all the way back into the town.