The Border Country

Looking Along The Ridgeway

“What’s that?” asks Walking Companion. We are staring at some thin, green, wispy seedlings struggling through the unseasonably dry clay of a large field just beyond the by pass. To get to this point we have exited The Exercise Yard through the Roman Way portal. crossed couple of paddocks, a stream and scuttled across the by pass like a couple of pheasants.

The obvious expectation is that I should know something of agriculture and identify these thin but determined seedlings. I give up. “Dunno”. I reply unhelpfully. We proceed into the next field and turn left keeping to a field margin of thick, lush grass. Happily chatting about our Easter activities we swing left passing a field reservoir and crossing the A422.

The path, still thick with strikingly green grass, now begins a gentle climb towards The Ridgeway. We pass a ruined field barn and a beautifully restored timbered house that reminds me of the fairy tale home of the eponymous Ginger Bread Man. Steeper now, we pause to “look at the view” a couple of times before pressing on to emerge on The Ridgeway opposite Weethley.

Looking Down from the Ridgeway

We stroll through Weethley. Not a soul around and where the buildings ceased we struck off westward over the fields. It is noticeably cooler here, the wind whips past almost as quickly as the clouds scudding across the sky. I recall this is a tricky point in the walk. The route is indistinct as it crosses a couple of fields newly tilled and not yet reclaimed by walkers’ feet. I spy a white marker low against the trees almost half a mile distant. “That’s our aiming point, I think”. Having crossed two fields and a stream we enter Weethley Wood.

The wood, atop The Ridgeway, is narrow in depth but follows the county boundary pretty much North / South for a couple of miles. An access track follows this alignment. At the point where we meet it, in the centre of the wood, we are astride the county line. Border Country.

I remember standing astride The Continental Divide in Colorado. The notional line whereby all springs rising to the east flow into the Atlantic and to the west, the Pacific. The county line in Weethley Woods lacks its counterpart’s drama but is, nevertheless, a lovely place with views westward towards The Malverns and eastwards over Alcester and the rolling Warwickshire countryside. We turn north and follow the path deeper into the wood. Primroses and Violets are scattered over the woodland floor, and a bluish blush bears the promise of Bluebells to follow. Felling has been carried out recently and several stacks of stripped trunks have been left awaiting collection. It was in just such a stack of pine that we perched for lunch.

An early Bluebell in Weethley Woods
An early Bluebell

Now when I say lunch.. This was not a “Famous Five” repast of lashings of ham and lemonade, more a Thermos of coffee and a couple of miniature bottles of red (1 Rioja 1 Merlot) but very pleasant none the less. Conversation continued under the tree canopy until, reluctantly perhaps, I hoisted my now lighter load and we continued on our way. Pubs re-open next week and lunches will become more organised but I will miss our little al fresco liquid lunches. After rather less than a mile we leave the wood, cross a small field and a road before plunging downhill towards a farm and a rather rickety stile held together with faded orange baling twine.

We have re-crossed the A422 now and are walking in a field margin with woodland to our left. The field rises to our right so although we know the road is there we can neither see or hear it. Walking Companion is a great lover of geographic context. She always needs to know where we are in terms of our surroundings. I wave my hand airily towards key places “Alcester is that way..” etc. “Anyway you will know exactly where you are in a minute..”. And lo. We have arrived at Newmans Plantation and my favourite hare-watching chair with its view over Coldcomfort Farm and the woodland beyond. She agrees, “We have been here before.” We don’t pause this time but enjoy the view as we continue, completing our walk by crossing the by pass and entering The Exercise Yard via The Roman way portal.

This is indeed a lovely walk, slightly shorter than I remembered but then I didn’t get lost this time. And perhaps a couple of weeks too early for the best of the spring flowers. Perhaps I can persuade a companion to join me on this walk again soon. Distance walked 7.5 miles. Use OS Explorer Map 205. Stratford-upon-Avon & Evesham.

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