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Probus Away Walk, May 2023

On Tuesday 23 May four of the Probus walkers set off from Leicester for the annual three-day Away Walk, this year to the Cotswolds. Charles Stewart chauffeured Mike Stephens, Patrick Holligan and Richard Ward.

Since the inception of these walks some fifteen years ago it has been the tradition, on the journey out, to stop for breakfast at a suitable location. This year the chosen venue was at the Cocked Hat near Binley. It was an admirable choice. For the sum of £10 we had the choice of cereals, fruit, toast, coffee or tea plus a full English and/or other variations. A great start to the day.

After a pleasant and leisurely drive, we arrived at our destination, the Kings Head in Bledington at about 11.30 am. Having checked in our first task was to sample the offerings from the bar. The unanimous choice was four pints of ‘Hookey’ brewed, not far away, at the Hook Norton Brewery.

 We then donned our walking boots and set off on the first of our planned three circular walks. This was a 4-mile walk taking in the Foxholes Nature Reserve. We walked through the village, passing University Farm, and into a field walking alongside a small stream, a tributary of the River Evenlode. We passed a water treatment works adjacent to the stream and were perturbed to see a greyish tinge to the stream water. Eventually we reached the picturesque Barrington Mill, now a private house. We walked along the road for a short distance before joining the Oxfordshire Way.  Leaving the Oxfordshire Way we entered some woodland, meeting some rather portly but friendly dog walkers. We then continued along the waymarked ‘Wildlife Walk’ which contained a mixture of trees and great swathes of bluebells. A cuckoo could also be heard. Leaving the wood, we walked down a field edge to the road to then join a footpath on the edge of the village of Bould. We crossed several fields including one of oil seed rape which let us on the edge of Foscote. Remaining on the footpath and crossing the Westcote Brook we reached Bledington’s St. Leonards Church cemetery where we had a short rest before viewing the church. Leaving the church, we walked back to the village green and the Kings Head.

We then took possession of our rooms and returned to the adjacent and attractive courtyard to relax in the afternoon sunshine with more ‘Hookey’ close at hand. That evening we had a very enjoyable and tasty dinner accompanied by some very pleasant and palatable wine.

Wednesday dawned with bright sunshine and just a slight breeze. After a good breakfast we began our second walk. This was a circular 6.5-mile walk, from the pub, over more undulating countryside. The initial stage of the walk took us back through the cemetery, through a number of kissing gates to the Westcote Brook The walk took us along side the brook and through a field to join a hedged uphill bridleway, gradual at first and then more steeply. At one point we left the bridleway and enter a meadow full of buttercups. Rounding a corner, we were amazed to see ahead of us an attractive girl sitting by herself, surrounded by grasses and buttercups - it was a surreal moment!  We politely walked by to the top of the field and re-joined the hedged bridleway before reaching the very attractive village of Nether Westcote. We were disappointed to find that the village pub was closed for two days!  Walking through the village we met a green-trousered lady who asked us if we had seen a property call the Rowan she was trying to locate. We had a short conversation promising to keep a lookout for said property. We did find said property some distance way, as we left the village. We decided not to walk back but met a young coupe heading to the village and asked them to relay the information should they see a lady wearing green trousers. Shortly afterwards on the outskirts of Church Westcote we stopped by a topograph and admired the splendid panoramic view. The walk continued over open fields and through woodland arriving on the outskirts of Icomb. A diversion took us into this quiet and very attractive village where we had a short rest before returning to our route. This took as though a series of kissing gates, fields and footpaths to meet the B4450 and back into Bledington and the pub. Earlier we had passed by an enormous house with stables and outbuildings, all relatively new and set in the open countryside with well-manicured horse paddocks, one containing mares with their foals. No one at the pub knew who owned the property and it could not be found on any map. A mystery to be solved!  Further libations were then enjoyed in the sunny courtyard. The evening provided another enjoyable dinner, somewhat less liquid than the previous evening, and we all retired before 10.00pm.

After breakfast and checking out on Thursday morning we enjoyed our final walk- the Evenlode circular a comfortable 2.5 miles. Leaving Bledington we crossed through kissing gates and fields full of buttercups and across a disused railway line. Crossing more fields, we entered a hedged bridleway which we eventually left though a Willow Arch and back in to a meadow. We were close to a great Western Railway line and saw two trains pass by. At this point we were by the edge of the river and the ground in places was quite boggy.  We recrossed the old railway line over a bridge into a field and back into the village.

We completed our visit to the Kings Head by enjoying a final lunch sitting in the sun in the courtyard. Later that afternoon we arrived back in Leicester having spent three very enjoyable days in the Cotswolds countryside.

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