There is an elephant walk in Leamington: an alleyway near WALKER Mill Bridge Weir, where in Victorian times elephants from travelling circuses were taken to disport themselves in the River Leam. Spring 2009 Yews were planted in churchyards in the Middle Ages in order Ramblers’ Association to produce wood for longbows – they were banned from the open countryside because their berries poisoned livestock. Warwickshire Area Newsletter Editor: John Garrett, Sulgrave Manor, near Moreton Pinkney, is the family home of George Washington, and still flies the American flag. 10 Conway Avenue, Tile Hill, Coventry, West Midlands, CV4 9HZ The royal train was once parked in a siding at Berkswell while the Queen nipped out for a Chinese takeaway. (The latter part Email: email@example.com of this may be apocryphal.) Registered Charity No. 1093577 Goodrest Farm, off Rouncil Lane near Kenilworth, is so called Area Web Site: www.warwickshireramblers.org.uk because the first Queen Elizabeth made an overnight stop there en route to Kenilworth Castle. Editor’s Word You can all, I’m sure, produce similar gems from your One of the overlooked benefits of the rambling experience is memory vaults, proving that walking not only stretches the its provision of a kind of educational extension course. How legs but nourishes the mind as well. How many other activities often have you picked up a piece of unexpected information in can boast the same? the course of a four-hour ambulation, interspersed with chit- chat and the occasional pearl of Wisden and other reference sources dropped by your erudite leader? What you learn may not always have a practical end; it may even be of doubtful veracity or utter triviality. Nevertheless, information gathered in this way often seems to reverberate around the mind’s echo chamber long after its original gate-crash. Here are a few examples of local facts imparted over the years by illustrious walk leaders, and which have remained with me ever since, while more ‘useful’ information has gone with the wind: A tunnel on the Oxford canal near Claydon, marked on the OS The Stars and Stripes in rural Northamptonshire: George map but not in evidence, did once exist, with rings embedded Washington’s family home in its walls for bargees to haul their narrowboats through; the ________________________ kiln where the bricks for it were made is still evident in adjacent undergrowth. Cotswold outdoor Indentations in the walls of the stone barn near the swings in In March of this year the Ramblers’ Association will embark Kenilworth’s Abbey Fields were made by musket balls when on a 5-year partnership with the outdoor retailer Cotswold the building was besieged during the English Civil War. Outdoor. It is hoped that this partnership will aid the Association’s recruitment campaign, through the publicity that An earlier Earl Spencer (Princess Diana’s brother) grazed the outlets will provide. 40,000 sheep on his Althorp estate. Cotswold Outdoor was voted best online retailer by RA Burton Dassett had a railway station until 1946, and was the members in the Walk Reader Awards. It has consequently junction for the Edge Hill Light Railway, on which wagons been listed as a ‘Ramblers’ Recommended retailer’. A were hauled by ropes on standard-gauge track for 3 miles to percentage of all sales will come to the RA, and members are the ironstone quarry at Edge Hill. encouraged to avail themselves of the discounts to which they will be entitled: 20% from March 2009 for three months, and Bradgate Manor, in Charnwood Forest, was the childhood 10% thereafter. home of Lady Jane Grey, the original nine-day wonder (the length of time she was queen before her imprisonment and execution). Fenny Compton has the smallest independent water system in England. Please note that the deadline for material submitted for the Summer 2009 issue of Walker is 30th April. A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread, The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head. Chesterton again—and at his drunken best! Not a rambler’s poet maybe, but for me the true champion of beer drinkers, English history and the English landscape. The magazines of all the other amenity organisations I belong to always publish a disclaimer to the effect that the views You might have noticed by now that I have a passion for expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily poetry. ‘Isn’t it a somewhat unusual interest for an engineer?’ those of the organisation. I have long thought that our Editor queried my Ramblers friend Roger (also a retired engineer). I might be wise to similarly cover himself and the RA against thought he was going to say an embarrassing interest; but I anything too outrageous that I might say in this column! As an don’t see that it has to be! The literary world is not completely Area Secretary I always felt (within bounds) that I had a lost on all engineers. To quote the great Scottish engineer John certain licence—but now that you have elected me as your Rennie (1761-1821), celebrating his native land in verse: Area Chairman, I suppose I will have to be a little more Barren are Caledonia’s Hills, circumspect. But, just in case, please take this as a disclaimer! Unfertile are her plains, Barelegged are her Brawny It was Rudyard Kipling who wrote: Nymphs, God gave all man all Earth to love, Bare arsed are her Swains. But since our hearts are small, Ordained for each one spot Oh, all right—but it’s better than McGonnagal! should prove Another Scottish poet came to mind a few months ago, as I Beloved over all. read James May’s column in the Daily Telegraph. For a motoring correspondent, James was being uncommonly nice For Kipling, his beloved spot was SUSSEX BY THE SEA—a about caravanning. Caravanners, he declared, are as innocuous county, like his poetry and stories, redolent in English history. as bird-watchers, morris dancers, ramblers and members of the In my recent capacity as an RA Area Secretary, I was Sealed Knot. Well, thank you for that James—or as that other frequently asked which bit of England was my own favourite? Scottish poet Robbie Burns put it: Fellow Area Secretaries seemed to want me to say O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us To see oursel’s as others Warwickshire; my friends expected to hear the Lake District— see us! but this is a question to which I cannot give a specific answer. __________________ There are very many parts of England that I love and they are LETTERS all unique. And that, for me, is their great attraction—their Dear Editor, sheer individuality, their personality. Every region in England has a subtle difference that sets it aside from its neighbours, Christine Wood asked why the 90% of members who don’t and long may it remain so. Nowhere in the whole world, I walk continue to pay their RA subscriptions. I am one of think, can you find so many varieties of landscape, so many those and I joined specifically to protect our paths. I do not delightful vernacular styles and so much of interest, all like walking in groups; I much prefer going off by myself into squeezed into such a small area, as you will in the British the hills and I also use the back cuts through our towns that are Isles. For me Chesterton hit it right on the nail in his poem being gated and closed. I used to be able to walk most of the THE ENGLISH GRAVES, when he evoked: way from one end of Quinton ward to the other on these back The hundred little lands within one routes. Some years ago one of these was closed with a fence little land that lie, and more recently several others have now been closed off. Where Severn seeks the sunset isles or Sussex scales the sky. ‘Recently’ of course brings a clash with Dennis A. Wills, who seems to think that in footpath terms it should only apply to Poetry ties in very nicely with a love of the countryside. Our the last couple of months, whereas I would have thought that own region is well served by my favourite trio of poets: in these circumstances it would mean the last ten years or so, Housman, Masefield and Drinkwater. And, for the pleasure of but not as far back as when Elizabeth II became Queen. He his verse, I can even forgive Hilaire Belloc’s slighting also seems think that we all have to be protected from carrying reference to us in his poem THE SOUTH COUNTRY: out our own ‘risk analysis’ and that all paths must always be When I am living in the Midlands ‘safe’. Maybe someone in a back room is soon going to That are sodden and unkind, require us all to carry a mobile phone and a GPS!! .....the great hills of the South Country David Harrison, Birmingham Come back into my mind. -------------- Dear Editor, Belloc’s ‘great hills’ were the South Downs (Kipling’s Sussex of course) and the South Downs seem to have had a certain Oh dear! Alleyways again. Martin Phelan has a point. resonance with poets. The one poem I know that specifically Vandalism occurs everywhere. I see no enthusiasm for gating refers to Birmingham also ties my native city in with the South roads off, so why alleyways? They are public footpaths. The Downs: best letter is from Steven Wallsgrove, of course. Please note that the deadline for material submitted for the Summer 2009 issue of Walker is 30th April. recruits came through the ‘public walks’ that were a regular There is a feasible route from Kenilworth town centre: across feature of its programme. The Get Walking Keep Walking the railway bridge and via a number of alleyways and odd bits campaign was another source of new ramblers. of suburban minor road, over the bypass to join a bridleway to Ashow, quite quickly. You need the map; it is not signposted As for the RA’s goal of safeguarding the integrity of the path but is a nice walk. None of the published walk guides to network, Michael remarked that most problems were now Kenilworth uses it. So are we partly to blame? We don’t use urban, not rural: hence the importance of fighting gating these alleyways enough. We park on the green borders and orders that were against the public interest (where alleyways they don’t fit well into circular walks? offered short cuts to shops, schools, doctors’ surgeries and so There are several routes out of Lichfield (the Heart of England forth). Footpath law covers urban rights of way just as much Way uses one) and a couple out of Droitwich, among others. as rural ones: without their availability, we would have had no They offer short cuts from the centre to the greenfield areas walking during the nine months of the foot-and-mouth crisis beyond. Yes, we should fight to retain them. eight years ago. Birmingham City Council, to its credit, has not taken advantage of recent legislation permitting local By the way, vis-à-vis Ms Wood’s letter, for twenty years I councils to gate urban footpaths. A recently launched lived in a house in Sheldon and my long garden fence campaign, Unlocking Neighbourhood Paths, aims to counter bordered an alleyway – a short cut to the pub and park. Yes, this tendency. the apples got scrumped and I spent a lot on fence boards (the culprits loved kicking in woven panels). But I was spared a Also to its credit, Birmingham City Council has recently next-door neighbour on that side. I bought the house knowing produced a definitive map. More than 100 paths, many of that the right of way ran right by it. Nobody gets an alleyway them submitted by local residents, have accordingly been by surprise; most are ancient thoroughfares. I would have claimed for inclusion on the map. resisted attempts to gate it. Michael noted that the Area membership stood at 3,680: this is I am one of the 90% who do not go on group walks. When I 3% down on last year, mirroring the national profile. The did, forty odd years ago, I never really knew where I had been. younger members’ groups were generating much income, You follow the guy ahead. Now that I am old it’s me and the since they were comprised mainly of single members. map, and I do know where I have been. I pay my RA subs to keep the paths open, and I offer the odd prayer to St Steven Wallsgrove, who tells me in the pages of Walker where that In parting, Michael paid tribute to the many colleagues who path has gone. Money well spent. had given unstinting support during his tenure, and paid tribute to those, such as Harry Green, Janet Satchwell, Tony Ray Billington, Birmingham Middleton and Kitty Greenham, who were no longer with us. ________________________ 2. In his farewell address to Michael, the departing Area AGM in Birmingham Chairman, Alan Cumming, remarked that Michael was one of the ‘wise men’ within the RA, reputed and listened to by The Annual General Meeting of the Warwickshire Area of the other senior officers. He thanked not only Michael, but also Ramblers’ Association was hosted by City of Birmingham his wife, Pat, ‘for lending him to us for so many years’. Group at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. Despite the Michael was presented with a Certificate of Achievement snowy weather, the meeting drew a record attendance of 193, signed by the RA Chairman. just seven short of the hall’s capacity. The final breakdown was: City of Birmingham 65, Sutton Coldfield 31, Solihull 22, 3. The Area Treasurer, Inese Wood, disclosed that the Area South Birmingham 16, WMWG 11, Stratford 10, Rugby 9, had reduced its reserves by more than £3,000, in line with Coventry 8, Mid-Warwickshire 4 and Castle Bromwich 2. Central Office policy. She noted that £2,500 had been contributed from Area funds towards the costs of the 1. The meeting marked Michael Bird’s swansong as Area unsuccessful court case against Coventry City Council’s Secretary after countless years of devoted service in that role alleygating endeavours. (he is to take on the new mantle of Area Chairman for the next three years). Michael thanked Professor John Penny and 4. The new Area Secretary, Ian Wilkinson, was elected in Birmingham Group for making the event ‘a huge success, absentia, being unavoidably otherwise engaged: he was away beyond expectation’, and he thanked Mary Gibbons of St on his honeymoon. Chad’s (also a member of Birmingham Group) for all her help. She was in at 8 am to make sure that the heating was on, and 5. The guest speaker, Keith Roberts, stood in at short notice was back on duty again at 4.30pm, as St Chad’s was hosting for Tom Franklin, the RA’s Chief Executive, whom family the 75th birthday celebrations of her rambling club, the reasons prevented from attending. Keith spoke on The Catholic Ramblers. Strategic Direction of Ramblers’ Campaigns, focusing on how to enlist more members in campaigning roles. The separate Michael went on to recapitulate the charitable aims of the RA, Rights of Way, Right to Roam and Countryside Protection emphasising its promotion of walking – ‘putting the boot into teams, he said, have been amalgamated into one team that the countryside’ – and noting that most of Birmingham’s new focuses on ‘developing quality environments for walking’. A Please note that the deadline for material submitted for the Summer 2009 issue of Walker is 30th April. second team will concentrate on walking programmes and through Glebe Farm at Sambourne (AL121: SP054618 to promotions, including the Get Walking Keep Walking Whitemoor Road at SP058617 and AL124: SP056619 to (GWKW) initiative outlined by last year’s guest speaker. Whitemoor Road at SP056616). Three of the creations replace these paths, namely AL221 from SP058619 south then east to The first team’s efforts will focus on coastal access, the Right Whitemoor Road at SP059618, AL220 from SP054619 south of Way improvement plans and a last push towards the to AL121 at SP054617, and AL219 from this point south-east South Downs National Park. It will also scrutinise the to Whitemoor Road at SP056615. development plans for Stansted Airport and prepare for a The other three are entirely new paths. AL216 goes from review of the CRoW Act. The second group aims to ensure SP047623 generally south to the parish boundary at SP048612 the continued effectiveness of GWKW and will prepare a Get then south-east to the bend in Whitemoor Road at path AL53 Walking Day for the end of May. (SP054606). AL217 goes from the above path at SP049612 north-east, then across the parish boundary at SP051614 and north to the next new path at SP051615. AL218 goes from Two new staff will be devoted to helping walk leaders: they Whitemoor Road at the bend at new path AL219 (SP056615) want to capture the ideas and experiences of seasoned walk generally west then along the north bank of the stream to leaders and pass them on to the upcoming generation. The RA AL121 at SP049615. has recently been deploying a Parliamentary Officer at Westminster, with some notable success. It is also developing SM19, Long Itchington (Explorer sheets 211 & 222): a practice of e-campaigning. It is hoped that all these this path, where it passed through the polo site at Stoneythorpe Hall Farm, has now been diverted, following a undertakings will make the RA’s campaigning more effective. public inquiry. The new route now goes generally east from SP395629, through the south edge of the wood (Thorpe Questions and remarks from the floor Rough) then south-east to rejoin path SM24 at SP404624. A member from Solihull pointed out that many walk leaders objected to a request from Central Office for their personal details, and thought that a list of ‘dos and don’ts’ might deter Claim that path! potential leaders from volunteering. A Sutton Coldfield Work on submitting claims for missing ancient paths (i.e. member compared the RA’s campaigning endeavours to King those which came into existence before 1949) in the City of Canute’s futile attempt to halt the incoming tide, since the Birmingham has now been completed. A total of 140 government’s plans to build three million new homes to applications for Modification Orders has been made, to be accommodate all those wishing to come and live in the UK added (it is hoped) to the one and only path now officially were likely to override all other considerations. recorded on their (previously non-existent) Definitive Map. A total of 108 similar applications was submitted to Coventry City Council, with that work being completed last year. That 6. After a warm and revivifying luncheon, members were leaves the built-up area of Solihull where, although they have offered a choice of three walks: Birmingham catacombs, a a Definitive Map, it was never legally completed and they Blue Badge walk around city-centre points of interest and a have (apparently) no supporting evidence for the urban paths canal walk to Edgbaston Reservoir. added to that map (i.e. those with a ‘U’ prefix). The documentary research into this area has also now been completed, with evidence for 26 paths which need to be recorded. Some of these are omissions from the map: they were shown on the earlier map but were missed off the 1995 one. In addition, applications for four paths will need to be submitted on the Kingshurst Estate, three of which are continuations of claims submitted to Birmingham. Steven Wallsgrove, Area Footpath Secretary ______________________ A Walker-Friendly Pub At this time of year it’s always a comfort to see the lights of a hostelry glimmering through the mist, an enticement to break or conclude your journey with a warming pint of the best. But Post-AGM walkers tackle Birmingham’s icy towpaths how often do we hesitate before broaching the threshold, lest ______________________ the management be hostile to walkers. Where is that path? The Tom o’the Wood hostelry, at Finwood End, Rowington, is The following significant path changes have taken place in the on a favourite walking route along the Grand Union canal to rural parts of our Area since the last report was prepared: Baddesley Clinton and Packwood House. The pub has a new AL121 & AL124 (extinguishments), AL216, AL217, AL218, landlord, James Brooks, who wishes to extend a welcome to AL219, AL220 & AL221 (creations), Sambourne and Alcester walkers, by providing a log fire, candles and warm meals. He (Explorer 220). has offered to fulfil your needs if you call him before you This significant change is a major improvement to the come (telephone 01564 782420). network, and was offered by the landowners as part of a major project for wildlife conservation. The closures are of the paths Please note that the deadline for material submitted for the Summer 2009 issue of Walker is 30th April.