Ramble Reports March 2024

A Muddy Day in Warwickshire

Lesley and Trevor’s Midweek Ramble – 13 March

We gathered on a grey but dry morning in the car park of Lower Brailes Village Hall. Once we completed housekeeping, Trevor gave a brief history of both Upper and Lower Brailes, and we set off downhill into the village, where we pointed to several buildings made of the local stone. Rising from a bridge over the Sutton Brook, we took the footpath next to the George Inn, a 16th century coaching inn. 

Following this narrow muddy path, we crossed a track, then over two very green, grassy fields to an unsatisfactory “ladder gate” stile. An increasing gradient over a very wet uncultivated field to an even more hazardous stile led more steeply due south to a path leading to a ridge. From here, views back to the Brailes, westward across the valley and in the opposite direction, provided vivid examples of the Warwickshire countryside.  Gently downhill on a farm track past Oathill Hovel and Feldon golf course led to the northeastern end of Sutton under Brailes, a desirable, elegant village boasting 17 Grade II listed buildings. However, the church much changed over time is described, somewhat sniffily, to be of little architectural merit. A coffee break was enjoyed on the village green.

Refreshed, a path close to the church and a private house, through the owner’s paddock and a kissing gate took a route northwest across another wet, muddy uncultivated field to a metalled farm track. Uphill on a grassy path alongside prominent ‘ridge and furrow’ land, increasingly steep, through a five bar gate, we took a welcome breather at a footpath junction. Here the short walk option could be taken, but all walkers are made of tougher stuff and opted for the full 11 miles.

Turning west, the elevated path afforded perfect views of Shipton on Stour and after a third of a mile and three gates, the grassy Cherington Hill dropped to a lane where we turned right, due north. The lane leads to a very large mansion, North Farm, currently under extensive renovations, around which a re-directed stone footpath across a planted field which comes to a farm track. This estate is wholly organic and is clearly being heavily funded, evidenced by immaculate fencing, many new trees and re-establishment of mixed hedgerows in patterns that follow ancient maps. Helpfully, a long line of giant hay rolls provided both elevated seats and tables for a relaxed lunch.

We followed the track which led to a livery stable, across two very wet paddocks to rejoin the farm track eastwards uphill. At the top a grass track to deer-proof fencing gates which led to a narrow path steeply uphill through Ashen Coppice, with beautiful primroses in the understory. Out to another planted field, the path is delineated by immaculate fencing, already planted for hedging. At the far side the footpath drops through a wood, out to a narrow private road and across the Shipton road.

Here we again found really wet grass, a very muddy field and through a kissing gate to the foot of Castle Hill. After a steady climb to the top, Lesley explained that the original landscape feature was enlarged to produce a defensive position in the form of a motte and bailey, and provided a brief but thoroughly informative talk on this place. One of our number, whom shall remain anonymous, decided to take a short cut down a vertiginous bank: they started cautiously, realised too late that there was no turning back, gathered pace and hurtled down to a spread-eagled heap, jettisoning a vacuum flask in midair! Luckily for them, there was only one witness and no lasting damage.

Back down the hill, across that very muddy field and across a road, a footpath led to a fast-running stream along which we walked to a bridge adjacent to ‘The 99 Steps’ established here certainly since medieval times, to link Upper and Lower Brailes. Crossing Sutton Brook again, a path to an alley which exits opposite The George Inn, completing a circle back to Brailes. We then visited St. George, the ‘Cathedral of the Feldons’ (land cleared of trees), a noted church worthy of a longer visit. From here we retraced our steps to the Village Hall, considerately open for access to toilets.

Carl offered a very generous thank you to the walk leaders for a thoroughly enjoyable journey, commenting that this neck of the woods deserved further investigation for future walks.

am 4.8 miles; pm 4.9 miles

Worcester Circular

Hazel and Paul’s Ramble Lite – 16 March

We set off from the car park of Bluebell Farm, towards Whittington. Slowly, the route took us away from the traffic noise, through the village and past the church, and then down into Battenhall, with good views of the New College for the Blind above us, and the Malverns below. We passed the dilapidated Lower Battenhall Farm, had a few drops of rain, and then a dry coffee stop in Battenhall Park.

After passing the leaders’ fruit growing allotment, we made our way past Perry Wood over to Gorse Hill and Elbury Mount Local Nature Reserve, the highest point of the City of Worcester, with good views again. The return route took us over Leopard Hill, past the hospital to Nunnery Wood and lunch at Bluebell Farm. We welcomed George and Heidrun, and a busy meal was then enjoyed before setting off home.

Hazel & Paul

7.8 miles with everyone choosing to do the extra loop to the top of Elbury Mount.


Marian’s Short Ramble – 20 March

23 ERC members gathered in the shelter of the 17th century Market Hall in Chipping Campden. We set off along the High Street following the Heart of England Way/Monarch’s Way to Cider Mill Lane and after passing Chipping Campden School we were soon out into open countryside.

Just before reaching Mickleton Hills Farm with a bright display of daffodils we passed by Mickleton/Campden railway tunnel. Today a peaceful area but this tunnel took five years to complete and the GWR chief engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, had problems with sub contractors and navvies resulting in a “riot “ during June/July 1851. Fortunately the tunnel and track were completed and it is now the GWR line between Hereford and London with Evesham being one of its stations.

Some road and track walking brought us to a ridge and furrow field (quite wet in the furrow) with lambs of various colours gambolling around . Walking alongside the edge of the NT Hidcote Manor Garden at Hidcote Bartrim we then turned towards Hidcote Boyce where we had a coffee stop. From Hidcote Boyce some road walking before we encountered the first stile of the day to climb over. Joining the Diamond Way footpath we walked through pasture land and climbed over several stiles until we walked through three muddy fields and came to Mickleton Hills Farm again.

Arriving back in Chipping Campden, we passed St James’ Church, the row of Almshouses and Court Barn museum and walking down Church Street we were soon back in Chipping Campden High Street.

Although our boots were very muddy the rain that had been forecast fortunately did not appear and during the walk we were able to appreciate clear views of the Cotswold countryside.

6.5 miles

* Monarch’s Way – 625 miles following the escape route taken by Charles II after his defeat at the battle of Worcester 1651
** Heart of England Way – 100 miles between Bourton-on-the-Water and Cannock Chase (which some ERC members completed)
***Diamond Way 66 miles circular walk from Moreton-in-Marsh

Tranquility Base

Carl and Alan’s Sunday Ramble – 24 March

I have to admit, I had my concerns about this ramble. The persistent rain over the past few weeks had turned many parts of the route into a quagmire and some sections were particularly bad. A recce the day before proved to be much better and it was a pleasant surprise when 19 ramblers gathered at the start point in dry weather which even promised sunshine.

We started off from the Fish & Anchor and headed up the road towards The Hills. I warned everybody that I would set a bit of a pace for this section purely to get the road section out of the way. After this the ramble was at a much more leisurely pace. The bridleway from The Hills going towards Cleeve Prior was muddy in places but cleared up further on.

We then passed through the Cleeve Prior Heritage Trust orchard and passed the Field Barn where we would have our AGM later in the day. We then walked along Upper Furlong and Quarry Meadow before passing through a mysterious looking gate to have a coffee stop at a newly opened secluded spot which displays a number of quotes from poets on display boards.

Feeling stressed, want to chill out? I recommend you come and spend half an hour here and just bask in the tranquillity of the place.

We then followed Hoden Lane for a while and headed across various field paths and lanes, passing the Tithe Barn in Middle Littleton before emerging onto the top of Windmill Hill. Here Glyn recreated a photo that was taken on our first Walking Festival in 2019.

Lunch was taken at the Fish & Anchor after which we headed into Offenham, passing the Maypole (no takers to show us how to dance around it but take a visit on May Day).

We then walked up Bennetts Hill towards South Littleton where Geoff Thould told us about the Anglo-Saxon Littleton Hoard that was discovered on Bennetts Hill. After this we approached Windmill Hill from the opposite direction and finished back at the Fish & Anchor. After changing boots everybody headed to the Field Barn, Cleeve Prior for the AGM.

I would just like to mention Bob Foster and Roger Hallam at this point. Thank you both for travelling some distance to support the ramble and the AGM.


am 6.2 miles / 9.9 km; pm 3.9 miles / 6.3 km