It’s amazing what you find when you least expect it.
I stared in surprise and mild disbelief at the boat in front of me. It was hidden by brambles and bushes and I’d initially missed it completely. I’d been looking elsewhere and then my eyes had been drawn to the unexpectedly circular shape of the tiny portholes peeping through the thorns and ivy.
I wasn’t sure why or how it ended up sitting there – in the middle of a bush but there it was.
My day started in a completely different place and I’d really not expected to find looking at a seagoing vessel in the middle of Warwickshire.
I’d originally decided to visit Chesterton Windmill – purely because I’d driven past it after a walk some weeks ago and had been meaning to find out more about it. It’s pretty darned old it turns out – and from what I’d read online has been a feature of the Warwickshire countryside since 1632, and overlooked the ancient Roman settlement of Great Chesterton – which had originally been established between 140 and 160AD!
It was surely worth a look.
When I arrived there it was really peaceful.
Initially at least there wasn’t a soul around and I sat looking at the lovely surrounding view from the top of the hill. As one might expect by a windmill it was nice and breezy. The architecture was superb and it was amazing how solid the structure still looked after all this time. They sure don’t build things they way they used to!
Then to my right I noticed an inquisitive visitor – a small white wire haired terrier sniffing the air and looking at me.
‘Lucky!‘ Shouted an elderly lady nearby. ‘She’s probably after your sandwiches.’ she suggested.
I looked at Lucky and stroked her rough head and back. The poor dog had no way of knowing that bread was pure evil and that I hadn’t eaten any for over a year. She wasn’t living up to her name if acquiring a sandwich was her objective.
‘She probably is!’ I replied – not getting into the pros or cons of fattening lunches. ‘Nice windmill isn’t it!’ I said – walking over to the lady and her husband – who was moving slowly behind whilst leaning heavily on a black metal walking stick.
Lucky put her front paws on his right thigh and looked expectantly at his face. He reached into his pocket to get her a treat.
‘There’s usually an open day in early September’ he said to me feeding a small biscuit to the dog. Lucky moved away, wagging and chewing her snack.
‘…you can go up inside and they start the windmill if it’s not too breezy. It’s completely refurbished – all the original parts!’
We started chatting.
They came here a lot – and it turned out that Lucky was a rescue dog. They loved the windmill and local walks – and we started discussing local churches and stained glass. The old man pointed into the distance and said ‘that one over there was in the Doomsday book. It’s really well kept. You should have a look.’
I peered at where he was indicating and could just about see the top of a church above the tree line. ‘Are there any nice walks nearby?’ I asked.
‘Sure!’ The man said.
‘You can walk in a big loop nearby – it’s about a mile and a half.’ I nodded, still looking at the square tower of the church in the distance. It didn’t seem that far away.
We walked back to our cars chatting for a while as he slowly made his way across the uneven field with his stick. He’d fallen recently and hurt his leg his wife said. He was usually a lot faster she joked – winking at him with a smile.
The ground was proving quite challenging for my brief companion though today, and Lucky threatened to unbalance him several times as she whined for another treat. He eventually gave in to canine pester power and fed her another.
She scuttled off happily chewing again to sniff the grass by the gate and I stroked her while the old lady put her back on the lead. I thanked them warmly for the chat, said my goodbyes and headed off toward Chesterton church, parking about half a mile away.
When I arrived I was met with a really well kept church that was not only filled with some lovely stained glass – but sat in a supremely well maintained churchyard and demonstrated some impressive masonry carving – both inside and out.
After looking around for a while and making a small donation I headed off to find the walk.
I’d already met a couple of people along the way stopping each time for a short chat – and they all continued to point me in the same general direction, so I ambled along thinking I couldn’t go too far wrong with such large local landmarks in near view.
Until I met Beaker near the church.
What I know now is that he was a muppet, and was just as new to the area as me. He told me NOT TO TAKE the marked route I was going to directly opposite the church over a field, so – thinking he knew best – I carried on along the country lane.
The path I’d had chosen for me was absolutely lovely though – and wound through what appeared to be private woodland (and a road lined by oddly leaning trees) with some small nearby lakes absolutely teeming with birds – particularly herons.
However this ended up terminating abruptly at a private residence (Kingston Farm) with a public bridleway sign nearby. Thankfully I had (through the kindness of a proud cartophile friend) access to Ordnance Survey Maps online. I opened the app and looked carefully at the field that the sign pointed to.
No path listed.
Yet in front of me there was a sign and a clearly marked bridleway pointing through the fields. I double checked the map.
I know NOW (having investigated further this evening) that there are multiple different kinds of maps in the Ordnance Survey app – and I was looking at COMPLETELY the wrong one. The one I’ve scribbled on below is the right one – along with my route.
If I’d been looking at this one I’d have seen a nice little dotted green ‘public footpath‘ line just below the church – which is where Mr Muppet told me not to go…
I looked into the distance. It didn’t seem so bad. What was the worst that could happen? If it was truly awful I’d just turn back. I opened the gate and headed into the field.
After around 30 minutes of tramping through uneven fields (whilst chasing butterflies!) and realising that several trees had fallen on the path or grown over the fences and gates I finally found my way out onto a road.
I was standing near an M40 motorway bridge about a mile away fron Warwick services.
I checked the map again. I was quite a long way away from a mile and half of circular walk. There was a route back to the church over the bridge and through Lighthorne Heath along the B4100 but it was quite a trek. I’d already done around three miles and this looked like it was slightly longer. Plus it was now starting to rain.
I zipped up my fleece and started walking briskly on.
Then something caught my eye. An old derelict Land Rover – and then another – just rotting away in a clearing. As there were no signs suggesting this was private property (although it probably was) I decided to have a quick peek (touching absolutely nothing) and take some pictures to play with my camera.
Randomly it was here I found myself standing next to a large boat.
It was propped up on wooden supports, partially gutted and slowly being reclaimed by nature.
I’m not entirely sure why but this made the whole day worthwhile. It was so unique and unexpected – and strangely beautiful that I couldn’t help but look all around it.
My mind was instantly full of thoughts about why it was there and who stencilled the hand and cannabis leaf onto the cabin. What was its history? How had it come to be here, slowly dying alongside the cars?
I left with many images in my mind about who the owner might have been and what had happened to stop them renovating the vessel. I continued the (long) walk back to the church via a stupidly busy 50 mph B4100 with no paths either side.
(I know now there was a bridleway that would have avoided this – and I dearly wish I’d taken it. This felt dangerous!)
Thankfully this soon turned into fields of relaxing sheep and horses, and TONS of cyclists (I found out this evening that this is the Official Warwickshire Feldon Cycleway!)
So – because of my complete ineptitude with a map I’d somehow managed to turn an apparently short and simple circular walk into a seven mile hike over farmland and twice crossed the M40 – but it had been a really nice day. I genuinely loved unexpectedly getting lost in deserted countryside and having (almost) no idea where I was going.
The day has been full of friendly (if occasionally stupid) people, cute dogs, herons, robins, sparrows, blackbirds, (what looked like) a kestrel hovering by a field on the B4100, sheep and horses.
It’s made me feel connected with the world in a week where I’ve honestly felt a little apart from it.
One thing’s for sure. I’m going to have to go back and find the proper walk. I want to do it again and next time it needs additional twalking!