Spring turns back into Winter

Friday 4th March 2016

Bus to Radway, Jacob's Ladder, Ratley, Bush Hill, Warmington Hill, Shotteswell, Hanwell, Hardwick and bus back into Banbury
13.7km|8½ miles 280m|900ft

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route map My first decent walk out for a few weeks. Rather than leaving the route to the random chance of the first bus departure, I decide to catch the 269 bus to Edgehill – but in the end I go to the next stop, Radway, for the extra 275ft climb up the escarpment.

Traversing the escarpment to the north of Banbury gives wonderful, 'big sky' views across the Ironstone hills in all directions. Riding out of Banbury on the bus the visibility was excellent, with a deep blue clear sky highlighting the surrounding hills.

The walk up Edgehill from Radway is an undulating climb, the result of historic landslips in the clay of the escarpment. From just below the tree-line of the escarpment it's possible to get a view of forty to sixty miles – to the Lickey, Great Witley and Clee Hills. Further down, past Spring Hill, you can see more to the south west – from Illmington Down and Bredon Hill to The Malverns and across the northern end of The Cotswolds.

Today though there was no stunning view to the northwest.

The dark, tree-covered silhouette of the Lickey Hills was barely visible against an even darker band of cloud. Abberly Hill was lost in the cloud, meaning it was about forty miles away. Though the sky here is a deep blue with white fluffy clouds now, that band of weather is going to catch up with me in an hour or two

I climb Jacob's ladder (with the Springsteen version haunting my head) and cross the ridge into Ratley. There I take a left in the village to the top of Lockhill. From here, on the conveniently placed park bench, you get a view across the upper stretch of the Sor valley – where the brook cuts deeply through the Ironstone slab into the soft clay below to form a steep-sided flat-bottomed valley.

Even though it's a cold day, the bright Spring sunshine keeps me warm while I have a leisurely early lunch.

Walking back down into the village I take the left on the 'old road' route to Hornton, but decide to take a left on the other side of the valley and head to Warmington instead. This route, across Bush Hill, gives views all around the Upper Sor valley, and the rolling hills to the south.

NE to W panorama between Warmington and Shotteswell

Use the scroll bar to pan across the panorama.

Climbing the slope on the green lane into Warmington, enjoying the blue sky and sunshine, small round white balls begin to occasionally bounce from my head... it's spitting snow.

The first proper snow shower doesn't catch up with me for about half an hour, over which time the sky has slowly turned from bright and blue to a slab of dark grey – except for a bright band around the southeast horizon.

As I pass through Shotteswell the shower stops, so I pause for a drink and to take in the view northwest to Mollington, Farnborough, and the hills rising up to Charwelton Tower. Then I had a stunning walk, with animated cloudscapes rolling along the ridgeline, down the 'old' green lane along the rim of the valley into Hanwell (the major route to Banbury before the 'modern' turnpike road was built 200 years ago).

There the snow came again, thick and heavy right the way to the edge of the town, cutting visibility to less than half a mile. No more pictures – this snow was wetter and heavier than the soft neat balls which had fallen before.

After such a stirring few hours, filled with visions of wide-open spaces, it seemed rather disheartening to have to walk through the suburbs of the town. After pondering my options I caught the B8 bus back into the centre, and more humdrum views. Climbing the hill to home, my legs told me that it had been far too long since my last walk.