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					                                                                   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: joh_gar@yahoo.co.uk                         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.

				
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