Coombe Abbey

When I lived in Wales I was convinced that (maybe with the exception of Scotland) I was fortunate enough to hang my hat in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. I loved every bit of the countryside around Aberystwyth and over the years I’ve continually felt a yearning to return.

However over the last year I’ve come to realise that although the character of Warwickshire (where I currently live) is very different (there are no sandy beaches or craggy mountains for instance) what I have now is also pretty enviable in a different way. As I’ve said before – there are huge parts I’ve just never explored – and had absolutely no idea that they were there.

Thankfully I have a friend with a fetish for maps who is just as keen on exploration as me. Today wasn’t a particularly intrepid walk in terms of exercise (it was flipping hot so neither of us fancied a mountain climb) but it was to a location completely new to me.

She had suggested we walk to Coombe Abbey and country park (link).

Our relaxing 5.5 mile round trip started at Binley woods under the shade of its beautiful little bridleway.

It was about a mile from where we parked to the Abbey grounds – and approaching it from a distance (as opposed to parking in the grounds) was absolutely the right way to go. As you get closer and closer the long tree lined avenue draws the eye in and you can’t seem to look anywhere else but the beautifully framed building in the distance (which is now a Hotel.)

The original Abbey dates back to 1150 when it was founded by Cistercian monks, and it eventually became the most powerful monastery in Warwickshire. It’s primary revenue stream (producing fine wool for buyers all around England) changed the economics of the region and helped to make Coventry an important centre for trade in the middle ages.

In 1603 the seven year old daughter of King James I came to be educated (and live) at the abbey. Two years later Guy Fawkes’ plan to blow up the houses of parliament with gunpowder included a plot (once the seat of government was gone and the King was dead) to kidnap her and install the young girl on the throne as a puppet monarch whilst he and his co-conspiritors worked to return the Catholic faith to Britain.

It’s chequered and often violent history (there have apparently been several successful and failed assassinations on the premises) may explain the moat and boat portcullis either side of the bridge on the path leading up to the (absolutely lovely) hotel.

(or it may just be for decoration – I have no idea!)

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We decided after a little look around the gardens to explore the nearby woodland and headed off in search of shade. The sun (at around 10am) was becoming pretty hot – and before heading in we both stopped to have a quick drink and re-apply our sunscreen.

The grounds and woodland are both incredibly well managed – and it was really nice for a change to visit a formal and ordered garden. Everywhere we looked there were little flashes of colour from both wild and planted flowers.

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Love was also clearly in the air for Ladybirds. They were in abundance by the water and regardless of me peering in on their moments of bliss they didn’t seem to mind and just got on with business…

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I can scarcely imagine better planning of a walk. Today – as the sun beat down above us in a largely cloudless sky we were shielded from the worst of its effects by a continually shady canopy and beautiful dappled light – which from time to time opened up to bathe the forest floor in sunshine.

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We were planning to take the longer of the two walks around the country park (around the outside of the lake and back to the front of the estate – but it seems that this part of the park (at least currently) is not accessible.

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Despite the locked gate there was a really nice little birdwatching hide nearby that was completely empty (we definitely came on the right day) and afforded some really nice views of the nesting Herons.

There was a huge potential variety of birdlife to see – and I think I really need to come back with some binoculars.

Sadly my camera phone isn’t really capable of doing any of the views from within justice.

I uploaded a video to YouTube to give you an idea of the amount of Herons – but what’s really hard to see is the tree that I’m focusing on is FULL of them.

The audio gives an idea though of the variety of birdlife all around…

This is one of those times that makes me REALLY want to get a better camera!

Almost as soon as we’d started it seemed like we (following the medium access route on the above map) were back at the abbey grounds – where patiently waiting for us in the lilly pond were possibly my favourite things in the world.

Swanlings!

Once I’d adored them for a while it was a perfect time to stop for a coffee (my poor bald head was baking) and thankfully there was a nearby visitor centre (also mostly deserted) where we could sit and relax for 20 minutes.

After this (with occasional little fluffy clouds now populating the sky) we headed back out of the grounds, along the bridleway towards Binley Woods and back to the car.

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After another quick coffee at my friend’s house and a hug we parted ways. I needed to get back home and make the most of my time. The day was barely half way done and I still had my garden to think about.

I’ve still got a long way to go – but this week has been a big one with regards to exercise. I’ve spent at least four hours a day working on it and bit by bit I’m slowly making progress.

When my friend and I started on Sunday it (rather shamefully) looked like this.

Since then (whilst trimming and mowing) I’ve pulled what seems to be miles of ivy out of the lawn, chopped up all of the branches I’d previously left on the patio, cut down three large bushes, and uncovered the path.

I’ve taken around 30 large bags of garden waste to the tip and this evening (after filling a few more sacks with ivy and bushes) it looks like this.

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While I’ve been uncovering the real shape of the garden It’s also been lovely finding all the little bugs, creepy crawlies and other resident wildlife lurking in the undergrowth. Wherever possible I’ve tried to leave them alone and make sure they have a chance to carry on living where I found them – such as this little guy who was quietly hiding under a plant pot.

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After taking a photo I quietly put the pot right back where it was and moved right along.

As of this evening I’ve almost finished the right hand side of the garden – although I discovered the hard way (whilst wearing rather thin gloves) that the last bush with the little orange/red blossoms (I have no idea what it’s called) is covered in super sharp evil little thorns.

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Frikkin OUCH!

I’m going to cut it right back to a stump and see if it survives. I rather like the look of the flowers – but in its current state it’s so out of control I can’t see a way of salvaging it without being brutal.

Soooo – on the plus side this week I’ve been exercising my self to bits.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve climbed over an assault course every morning. This means that I’m working parts of my body (mostly the backs of my legs and my arms) that don’t normally get a lot of focus.

On the negative side all the constant aching also means my muscles will probably be holding onto water (especially given the heat) and that doesn’t sound like a great recipe for the scales on Saturday…

I’ve had a good week with meals – but I did last week too and somehow managed to put half a pound on.

(insert unhappy face)

One can only hope for a good result internet!

In the meantime I’m going to carry on with my pruning. Laters!

Davey


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