Ramble Reports February 2024

Parr for the course and Spoonley fed.

Carl & Diane’s Ramble Lite – 3 February

This was originally a ramble led by Lesley and Michael back in May. Spoonley Villa is a place I have wanted to visit for a while now so a Ramble Lite was the perfect excuse.

Arriving at Back Lane car park in Winchcombe I was beginning to think I had missed a number of bookings as the place was swarming with walkers. There was at least another two groups walking that day. The fact that I knew some of these people didn’t help with the confusion. After gathering together those that were walking with us and welcoming new members Cathy and Karen, fourteen of us set off heading to Sudeley Castle, the home of Catherine Parr, the final wife of Henry XIII.

Following the Wardens Way we then ventured onto the Windrush Way. After passing a patch of woodland called No Man’s Patch I failed to pickup the correct path and got a little disorientated until I found the right direction to head in. I blame the person I was talking to at the time!! It also highlights part of the ethos of Ramble Lites, i.e. just to pick up a recent route and go with it without the usual planning that we all take great care to do.

After finding the right path we stopped off at Waterhatch Farm for a water break. It is hard to believe that 60 years ago a large farmhouse stood here and the place was largely clear of trees. It shows how quickly nature can return when given half a chance.

From here we then headed to Spoonley Villa where we had to wait for another group to move on before we could approach the mosaic floor. The mosaic is said to be a Victorian reproduction after the original was removed for preservation by Emma Dent, owner of Sudeley Castle in the late 1800s. However, there is some debate about whether or not it was restored to its original place. The controversy exists for a number of artifacts removed from Spoonley at that time.

We then followed various field paths back to Winchcombe where a number of us stopped at the White Hart for food and drinks.

The history of Waterhatch and Spoonley Villa is fascinating and there are a couple of good videos on YouTube. I recommend you look them up.

5.5 miles 8.85 km

Ed’s Note: Waterhatch Farm was a stunning location for a break with the ground carpeted in snowdrops bathed in glorious spring sunshine. Thanks Carl & Diane!

‘The best laid plans – – – – ‘

Alan & Pauline’s Midweek Ramble 14 February

After locating a couple of ‘wandering souls’ lost in transit, we set out from The Galton Arms in Himbleton in remarkably mild weather for the time of year.

We navigated our way around a couple of wet field paths before entering Trench Wood. There was much evidence of coppicing carried out by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust as we made our way up through the wood before following a winding path to bring us to an open field path with far-reaching views towards the Shropshire Hills.

At Dunhamstead Bridge we had a coffee break at picnic tables overlooking the canal, accompanied by the friendly resident robin. A series of field paths took us to Shernal Green where we joined the Wychavon Way to walk through the delightful village of Hadzor, given to Catherine of Aragon by Henry III as part of the divorce settlement. We soon reached the Droitwich Canal and four locks later, we arrived at The Eagle & Sun. Staff shortages meant late arriving drinks and meals, resulting in an extended lunch break, but exceptional quality and good value more than made up for the delay.

For various reasons several members left the group after lunch and thanks go to Matthew and Glyn for providing a ferrying service.

The remaining party followed the Worcester to Birmingham Canal to Shernal Green and joined quiet lanes and field paths through Saleway and Phepson back to Himbleton. A fine drizzle heralded our return to the cars and several ramblers took the opportunity for a post-walk drink at the cosy Galton Arms.

By the leaders making a sensible additional recce a few days before the walk resulting in cunning re-routing, we avoided two road closures, a towpath collapsed into the canal, a gateway tarn that would do justice to the Lake District, a rather challenging wet obstacle course to reach a stile and numerous flooded field paths. Apologies that the mud was yet again a feature of ERC’s winter walks!

Alan & Pauline

am 6 miles; pm 4 miles

What Hardy Souls We Are

Dennis & Wendy’s Short Ramble – 21 February 2024

Twenty five hardy souls met in The Bakers Arms car park, Broad Campden, with the rain lashing down. We then proceeded up a steep field towards Northwick Park with a strong wind full in our faces. At the top even the most hardened ramblers were puffing a bit. From here things got a little easier, the wind stopped and we were protected by the woods.

At the Northwick Park memorial, Wendy treated us to a brief history of how the site went from an American Field Hospital to a POW Hospital ending as a home for some 800 displaced Polish families. Today it is a business park. As the walk continued so the tracks got muddier and the puddles deeper. None of this a problem for this band of intrepid ramblers.

A short refreshment break in Paxford was greeted by the easing of the rain and as we commenced the homeward leg of our journey it stopped all together. Tracks through wooded glades by fast flowing streams was followed by a welcoming stretch of dry road, but not for long. We were soon back up to our ankles in mud and water and not helped by a friendly farmer who had blocked our route by ploughing up his field. Unperturbed we detoured around, crossing for the second time the main Hereford to Paddington railway line.

A call to The Bakers Arms announcing we were only half a hour away raised the spirits and we arrived muddy and tired but with a feeling of inner satisfaction, two minutes before our targeted time of 1.00pm.

This being our first walk as leaders we needed all the help we could get and a huge thank you goes to Geoff and Rachel who talked and walked us through every step of the way.

A huge thank you to all who attended given the difficult conditions.

Dennis & Wendy

5.8 miles

Mud, Mud Glorious Mud – but not quite as Flanders and Swann imagined

Diane and Alan’s Sunday Ramble – 25 February

In total, twelve of us, including one of our very newest members, Nikur, met in the village of Bledington located in the Evenlode Valley on the Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire border for the start of the ramble. The village name derives from the River Evenlode which was, in Saxon times, known as the River Blade. A tributary of the Thames, the river rises near Moreton in Marsh and flows 45 miles east to the Thames.

After weeks of heavy rain causing saturated ground, flooded watercourses, turning open fields into lakes and with the prospect of a very muddy walk this intrepid group set off through the village (on solid ground).

We followed the Oxfordshire Way, skirting Foscot, before turning off onto a track towards Foxholes Farm and then by easily passable footpaths across open fields towards Foxholes Nature Reserve. This woodland reserve slopes down to the River Evenlode, covers about 165 acres, has a Wildlife Walk and is managed by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. To avoid ‘wallowing’ on the bridle path we took a detour through the Reserve. Teeming with wildlife – flora and fauna – we heard the unforgettable tapping of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a welcome distraction, before eventually turning back onto the bridle path, having skirted some of the deeper mud. From here, we headed slightly uphill across fields towards the village of Idbury.

Many of the buildings in Idbury date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The Parish Church was built in the 12th century (Norman) but little survives from that time with the exception of the doorway and walls in the Nave and Chancel. From Idbury, and now on a quiet lane, we headed towards Nether Westcote and then Church Westcote where we stopped in the Village Hall for our packed lunch. Between the two villages we came across a toposcope from where there were far reaching views northwards across the Cotswolds.

After lunch, we headed towards the Gawcombe Estate, keeping to the lane until we turned onto the Oxfordshire Way at Gawcombe. We turned onto the Diamond Way at its junction with the Oxfordshire Way and headed towards the village of Icomb. As with the other villages that we walked through on this ramble, the main historic building in Icomb is the church, parts of which date back to the 13th century. From Icomb we walked across muddy farmland until we came back onto the main road leading back into Bledington.

Theme of the day: mud
Reflection of the day: a thoroughly enjoyable combination of walking, company and conversation and I’ll definitely do it again – after a long spell of dry weather!


10.2 miles