Shakespeare Stroll. The Final Reckoning

Shakespeare Stroll. Gentle reminder. Could any of you lovely people who made promises of donations via the legacy paper methods (luddites) please now make your payments please. I am keen to round things up as soon as possible. Indeed there is still time to donate via our Just Giving page if you wish. Thank you all so much for your help and support.

The Shakespeare Hospice

Shakespeare Stroll – Final Planning

So, the day of our walk draws near. Some of the walking team met last night to finalise the route; try on our tee shirts (in some cases quite tight) and check out the marketing material provided for us by The Shakespeare Hospice.

We did note how many people stop and stare when a real paper map is unfolded on such occasions. Many were the suggestions as to what could be done with it but just to clarify, I do have the OS map on my phone; I do have a compass and I know how to use it so we should be fine on the day.

Just to remind everyone. We will be walking 2 ten mile routes around South Warwickshire and we are doing so to raise funds for The Shakespeare Hospice who do incredible work in the community helping those affected by life-limiting illness both patients and their families. I know I am one of many who have good reason to be grateful for their support.

So, here is where you can help. Follow this link, Just Giving and make a contribution, as big or as small as you like. We have already passed £300. You will be helping a really excellent organisation dedicated to helping people who are really struggling.

Shakespeare Stroll – The Marketing Begins

Shakespeare Hospice Marketing Materials

The marketing support has arrived from The Shakespeare Hospice ahead of our walks this weekend. We are meeting tomorrow for our briefing at The Turks Head in Alcester so last fitness issues can be assuaged and the routes explained.

We have been completely knocked out by the support everyone is showing towards the event. The coffers are filling nicely. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need more. Absolutely the reverse. So if you would like to support us please help us fill our box or go to our Just Giving Page https://www. we would be delighted and grateful to you in equal measure.

I understand the BBC has allocated us some dry weather over the weekend, something looking a little iffy up to now. So it looks to be full steam ahead.

Shakespeare Stroll – Training Report 1

My habitual walking friends have both chosen this key stage of the the training programme to disappear on holiday so today I took the opportunity to steal a march on them by getting in an early session and revisiting a favourite walking area.

My route took me through the Cold Comfort portal and out into Warwickshire farmland towards Coldcomfort Wood. Emerging, I cross a newly harvested field, the golden straw awaiting the baling machine. Autumn seems to have arrived a little early this year. There is a chill in the air. Flowers I have been enjoying over the last few months have been replaced by berries; Golden Wheat and dusky blue Linseed replaced the final throes of harvest and ploughing. Was it really only last week I was swimming with the grandkids at Studland Bay? And without a wet suit as well?

My thoughts take me to a point where I leave The Monarchs Way and follow the perimeter of a baled and stubbled field down a gentle bank. A pair of Buzzards are mewing to watch other from an island spinner in the middle of the field. The path leaves the field over a narrow footbridge over Spittle Brook – and here I made a discovery. Some kind person has installed a seat under the shade of an Oak Tree. No dedication or memorial, just a well placed seat on which I sat listening to a Robin while munching an apple.

From this point I am following The Millennium Way towards Coughton. Leaving the field I stroll down Coughton Lane, hedge to one side, Maize to the other. The walk was about a mile down to the village, emerging opposite Coughton Court.

So, now I am crossing a broad field, diagonally, towards a yellow footpath marker in the far corner. A small group of Ayrshire heifers eye me with some interest as I go. Since departing The Millennium Way at Coughton Court I have walked through dark forest of maize; lunched most amicably at The Kings Court Hotel and crossed a mini airfield complete with Microlite. Now I return to the main road, briefly, before joining the footpath beside the river. Over the old railway line and into the nature reserve. The river here is quiet today and is known for its Kingfishers so I keep a look out for the telltale iridescent flash of azure or orange. But no luck today.

Kings Court Hotel

Finally I leave the nature park and walk up the hill to the church to complete my walk. Just short of 7.5 miles in good time, so I’m pleased with that. I’m planning my next training session for Saturday so if you see me, give me a wave. But more importantly please go to our Just Giving page and make a contribution. However small it all helps The Shakespeare Hospice.

The Shakespeare Stroll

A group of friends and myself are organising a big charity stroll over the weekend 11 – 12th September. The plan being to raise as much money as we can for The Shakespeare Hospice in Stratford on Avon. The hospice is a vital organisation offering vital support to patients with life limiting illness and their families during the worst of times. The hospice relies on charitable funds for its income and has, like many others, been suffering badly during the pandemic

So a group of walking friends and myself have got together to walk a couple of long routes around South Warwickshire to raise as much money as we can over that weekend. And this is where you come in. We have launched a Just Giving page and we would be very pleased if you could make a contribution, however small, to help us help the hospice. We would be very grateful. Also, please feel free to pass the link on to anyone else you think might support us.

We will be posting updates on my Facebook page, search for Martin Parry; @carrotcakebites or here. So tune in and we will let you know how we are getting on. But don’t forget. Just Giving page

On and On On The Onny Trail

The Way To Go on the Onny Trail

The Onny Trail winds through a shallow valley following the course of the River Onny; the road between Craven Arms and Bishops Castle and the remains of a railway line. The three, intertwined sinuously, cross and recross each other through the south Shropshire hills towards Bishops Castle.

Rising in the Shropshire Hills near the Welsh border, The River Onny flows some 25 miles through Craven Arms and Onibury to its confluence with The River Time near Ludlow. I join near Wistanstow, a charming Shropshire community of which more later.

I have no idea who presented the business case to build a railway between Craven Arms and Bishops Castle but he must have been an excellent salesman. The pitch was to build a line between the two towns preparatory to extending the line to Montgomery. In the event money was raised and construction began, following the course of the River Onny To Lydham and then round to Bishops Castle. Opened in 1866 during a period of national railway fever, the line was a financial failure from the outset. Indeed its first, court enforced closure came in 1877 only saved when £700 was raised from the sale and leaseback of one of the locomotives. The line struggled on, finally closing in 1935 when the mighty GWR refused the opportunity to buy the line.

The Bishops Castle Railway in happier times

As I join the Onny Trail close to Wistanstow, the remains of an embankment can be seen. Later on, at the remains of a farm bridge the walk actually follows the old track bed for half a mile through a wood until the line crosses the river and the trail continues straight ahead, rising up across a large field.

The path plunges into the gloom of woodland, crossing a stream and steeply up the other side bursting into the sunshine. I turn right, downhill, towards the road, river and trackbed. A small herd of cattle watch me go by until I exit the field into a lane and then across the river and trackbed at Horderley where the old station building remains.

Horderley Station

Crossing the road, the path now climbs steeply. A metalled lane winds steeply up through the the forested hillside, for no apparent reason except to demonstrate the stunning views at the top. Walkers will recognise the instruction that says, “Head for a point mid way along the hedge opposite.” Such was the instruction here. No defined path, the hedge opposite invisible behind the incredible summer meadow grasses and flowers before me. Although a beautiful sunny day today it had rained relentlessly in the night so by the time I had finally found the field exit I was soaked from the hips down.

A Shropshire Meadow

Next, another plunge down through woodland, a stream crossing and up this time into a series of wheat fields as the path continues to rise with more views towards Craven Arms until, after a final plunge into woodland and up across a wheat field the path becomes a lane and the trajectory, blissfully down. Now about 1.5 miles from my destination, Wistanstow I begin to enjoy the warmth of the day; clothing begins to dry; I can see Wistanstow church tower. Little do I know that the worst is yet to come!

I am standing at the edge of a huge field of waist deep, impenetrable, wheat. No sign of a path and an instruction that warns me that the exit stile is low down in the far hedge and “might be hard to find”. I left the lane in plunged down through a huge patch of head-high and soaking nettles. Having run that gauntlet I have crossed two small tributaries of the River Onny and climbed a slippery slope to get to this point. The church is still before me, tantalisingly just beyond the impenetrable barrier before me. I track left. No good. I track right. Even worse. Eventually I shove my way through the soaking crop to a track formed by tractor tyres. They head roughly in the right direction. I am now soaked to the waist and covered in seeds, spiders, webs and muck.

The Impermeable barrier

When I reached the other side my troubles continued. I couldn’t find the exit. I hunted low and lower, scrabbling through brambles and nettles until, finally, almost invisible under a bush I found a plank. A plank that, after investigation, crossed a ditch and out into another field and thence, blissfully, into a lane.

Finally I was face to face with the church. A pretty village church in which a beautiful pre-Covid celebration was under way. A wedding: how great it was to see it. A stunning bride in white and her well scrubbed up new husband were just emerging into a blizzard of confetti. What a lovely day for it too. And there stood I, Worzel Gummidge after a long night shift in a wet field.

The Wedding

The Plough hove into view and I hurried inside struggling to pull my sodden mask from my sodden trousers. The barmaid eyed me suspiciously. “What the hell have you been up to?” she asked. “Never mind all that. Give a pint of Shropshire Lad”.

The Plough at Wistanstow. Home of Shropshire Lad – And Lass

Red Hill and the Mud- CakedTrainers

“You should be OK.” We will find out later how wrong I was, answering a perfectly reasonable question in the way. Walking Companion asked the question that inspired my answer, in a text the day before our walk. The question being. “Do you think I will get away with trainers?” We will come to the outcome later.

Our completion deadline was 2.00pm. So I had planned a shortish walk of about 6 miles commencing with coffee at a cafe on Alcester High St. This walk is a bit of a departure for us because it is strictly, an Alcester walk, it does not start by the church. A short drive to a lay-by on the A46 took us to our start point, a gap in the hedge just beyond.

The Church of St Mary and All Saints, Haselor, Wilmcote

Basically the route took us across the fields to Haselor. Then, passing the church, through Wilmcote and then following The Arden Way across more fields to through Withycombe Wood and then follow the top of the escarpment and crossing the A46 by The Stag at Red Hill. The path then wound its way through summer meadow, crossing a lane and finally finishing on Croft Lane with a walk back to our start point.

The walk began somewhat inauspiciously by the need to plunge through a field of ripening wheat where no path had been left in the sowing process and a lack of ramblers to maintain the pathway. We waded laboriously until reaching the far side. The second field was easier. A generous track beside a maize crop. But our problems were not over. The path through a farmyard was blocked by metal fencing presumably placed to restrain livestock. Again we were equal to the problem, carefully re-tying the fencing afterwards.

A beautiful grassed tunnel of trees and shrubs led us to Upton where we turned right down a narrow lane flanked by timbered, rose covered cottages redolent of a Hardy novel. The lane opened out onto fields and sheep eyed us with little interest as we walked up the gentle rise to find the exit gate.

The church stands atop a low hill offering gorgeous views. Admiring the countryside we follow the path down to Wilmcote and follow the lane to a point where we join the Arden Way towards Aston Cantlow. Through a field gate and an easy walk through some large fields to the point where The Arden’s Way enters the wood and turns left. We turn right and follow a narrow bridleway as it climbs through the wood towards the top of the escarpment.

And this is where the footwear error became apparent. The path, bridleway, was narrow, squeezed between thick undergrowth and a barbed wire fence. Previous equine traffic had created a slippery, muddy slurry of porridge-like consistency which clung to our footwear and made progress increasingly difficult. My sure-footed companion slipped, narrowly avoiding a muddy fall. Worse, the undergrowth stopped us finding an alternative route. Onward we struggled until finally mounting the crest into a field.

Back in sunshine we scraped the worst of the mud off our footwear. (Oops, nice trainers!) Further along the ridge the path ducked back into the wood, dryer here, though. We began to hear the traffic as we descended, finding a couple of logs on which we cracked open a couple of miniatures. Today’s theme was Rose´. After a pleasant if slightly uncomfortable break perched on the log we pressed on down through the wood until we emerged, blinking in the sunlight at the A46 close to The Stag Hotel.

Crossing the road was, too say the least, hazardous but with care we prevailed to begin our return journey on the south side of the road. A narrow sun-dappled lane gave into a succession of summer meadows.

A final rickety stile; down the lane and across the A46 to our destination. This was a lovely walk along rarely used paths; rolling Warwickshire hills and rare summer meadows. So lovely, I think I was forgiven the mud-caked trainers.

Walking guidance can be found under the Walks menu on this site. Enjoy!

The Hermits Cave Racks Up 1,000 Visitors

My old boots

WordPress have just messaged me to say that my blog has just welcomed its one thousandth visitor. That is incredible. Only a few months ago I had no idea how to develop a website of any sort, (Indeed, some would say I still don’t) and now it seems to be building a bit of a following.

The original idea was quite selfish, really. My bereavement counsellor, a very wise lady, suggested I write down my thoughts and feelings as I slowly recovered from the death of my wife. But it wasn’t until the first Covid lockdown that I discovered walking for exercise and as an aid to recovery.

And so The Hermit’s Cave was born. I am the hermit looking down on my Exercise Yard. That small area around which I was able to walk without offending the pandemic regulations. Slowly the Exercise Yard grew as I explored both myself and my local area, the Exercise Yard.

Escape routes were discovered. They became the portals out into the local countryside. My Walking Companion and the Silver Haired Walking friend joined me and together we have begun to build a library of walks in the locality; places of interest and some excellent watering holes.

But I guess the high-point was the March Marathon. Meeting the challenge of a 26 mile walk during March during which we raised in excess of £600 for The Myton Hospice which was an excellent effort from all concerned.

So, what of the future. Well basically more walks both locally and elsewhere in the UK I hope – as soon as travel gets easier. Also I have undertaken to do another marathon. This time, to walk the Arden’s Way. A twenty six mile circular route. This is planned for September and I will be telling you more very soon. Also, hopefully, to build the number of visitors following this site. So, here’s to the next thousand and thanks very much to everyone who has read, contributed, supported and donated. I’m very grateful.

In Which I Say Farewell to a Friend

Carol Ann Mellor

I sat down today to write about my latest walk, a circular route around Coughton, beginning and ending at the Throckmorton Arms. I had it all planned; I had taken the photographs. I know exactly what I was going to say. But it will have to wait. Why? Because today I attended the funeral of an old school friend. I hadn’t seen Carol from the day when we collected our exam results so why was I driving down the M1 to say farewell?

Well, we had been a school together where, it is true that Carol’s talents had been more sporting than academic. She had been Girls Sports Captain and left school for Bracknell College to take up a secretarial course. At school we shared a couple of passions. School plays and Subbuteo. Indeed, Carol was a regular attendee at the Parry household Subbuteo league evenings, much encouraged by my mother, whose view was that if we were all in my room playing Subbuteo at least the participants’ mothers would know where their offsprings were – even if mum had to produce supper for the lot of us.

School had an active drama production team and few terms ended without a production of some sort. Ali Baba; Pinocchio; The Wizard of Oz all spring to mind. I loved it. Carol shone and later went on to a Sam Kidd-like career rising to an on screen appearance briefly opposite Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”. She even lived close to Pinewood and Elsetree so she cold make the early starts.

The cast of Ali Baba circa 1964

Clutching our exam certificates our paths separated. She to Bracknell College and I to Macclesfield. We lost touch. Carol began a career in HR. An unlikely link with modelling but nevertheless she built a successful career as a photographic mode, signing with an agency in London. It is through this she met her husband, Paul, a professional photographer. Together they built both their business activities successfully.

Then, it seems, fate began to take a hand. Illness and episodes of depression began to affect Carol’s life. She and Paul parted although remained lifelong friends and she began to divide her time between Spain and the UK. Eventually a battle with Cancer was added to her other struggles. A battle she was destined, sadly, to lose.

And yet, as I remembered her yesterday, I could only remember a fun loving, attractive and gregarious girl who never quite got the hang of Subbuteo.

The Cricket Commute

I am standing, beer in hand, just beyond the boundary rope at Alcester and Ragley Park Cricket Club in the grounds of Ragley Hall. Two of my grandchildren have been enrolled in the ECB AllStars programme and they, dressed in their sky blue shirts and wielding their orange bats, are having a great time taking their first steps in the game of Cricket.

My family are around me: one son in law playing with his younger daughter; the other, beer in hand, chatting to a friend. My daughter is sitting watching her eldest daughter and her cousin. I tilt my beer bottle to the boys in the time honoured fashion. “Another?” I saunter off towards the tiny, wooden pavilion to order my round.

It’s a warm Spring evening. Surprising really. A huge low pressure system to the west of Ireland is sending huge showers across the country with rain, hail even thunder. But tonight is quiet, warm and sunlit as the shadows lengthen across the pitch. This is one of those evenings my wife would have loved. Surrounded by family; watching grandkids play; a couple of drinks; the opportunity to organise a picnic. I wonder if she is watching?

She might even have enjoyed the evening walk to the ground. Certainly there cannot be many more pleasant commutes. Not far: just lightly more than a mile from front door to park gates. Follow a short footpath then down the flood bank into the water meadow beyond. Then follow the river bank until reaching a field gate and leaving The Exercise Yard under the new bridge that carries the bypass.

Alcester Bayou Country
Alcester Bayou Country

Emerging into daylight again I go up the bank and into a field full of sheep. recently pollarded willow trees follow a somewhat swollen stream. Normally ford-able with only the slight risk of a wet foot, this time I take the footbridge and continue diagonally across the field exiting at the cattle grid next to the tiny, wooden village hall. After which it is but a few yards to the imposing gates of Ragley Hall and the cricket ground beyond. And after the cricket I shall have the opportunity to re-trace my steps.

Arrow Church and Sheep

The evening was a huge success for everyone. A chance for families to let off steam after the strict confines of pandemic. So, with a beautiful venue; a couple of beers and the sounds of kids playing made it a beautiful evening.