Wednesday, 24th June 2015
Way back in October 2013 (was it really that long ago???) my very good friend Suzy B and I went for a walk in Cardinham Woods. It was to be a short walk followed by a civilised lunch at the Woods Cafe. We set off undaunted by the rain, with no map, no directions, no water and just a flapjack for sustenance (which I fed to a horse before I realised I might need it later!).
Within an hour we were hopelessly lost, no longer in the woods, on moorland somewhere, trying to get Suzy B’s iPhone to tell us which way to go. Eventually we decided to head for a church tower we could see in the far distance, convinced this was Cardinham – which luckily it was – and sure that once we got to the village, the way home would be clear. We eventually crawled back to the Woods Cafe just before closing time, exhausted and bedraggled. The lovely lady gave us her last two bowls of potato and leek soup and we flumped down to eat, convinced we would never be able to get up again. Its a walk I will never forget.
For our Wednesday Walk this week Mr RR and I found a walk called Cardinham Woods and Village and decided to give it a try. As we walked along, various landmarks, paths and stiles looked familiar and I began to get flashbacks to that famous day! Having completed this lovely walk today, I now realise that if Suzy B and I had turned left instead of right at one crucial moment……..we could have skipped back to the cafe for lunch within an hour.
But just think….If we had – turned left instead of right – we wouldn’t have all those lovely funny memories of an epic walk – and I wouldn’t have that lovely funny photo of my good friend Suzy B, slumped on the bench outside of Cardinham Church looking for all the world as if she never wanted to walk another step!
This one’s for you Suzy B!
Cardinham Woods circular via Cardinham Village (6.5 miles)
We are late setting off today and have to make a stop along the way, so by the time we arrive at Cardinham Woods it’s almost lunchtime…..well, certainly elevenses time. So, we start with a mug of tea and a scone in the garden of the charming Woods Cafe.
Full of tea and scones, we set off along the valley, following the river and the Lady Vale Walk. The pathway is lined with foxgloves and red campion, ferns and common valerian. And all along the way this pretty, upright plant with narrow leaves spiralling up the stem, was just coming into flower:
The Rosebay Willowherb, with its tall spikes of pink flowers, colonises cleared woodland thriving on disturbed ground and forming thick clumps excluding all other plants apart from the foxglove. During the second world war the Rosebay Willowherb was one of the first plants to brighten up bomb sites and it still quickly colonises waste or bare ground across the country.
Our route takes us alongside the river – known as Cardinham Water – and we’re hoping to see some birdlife here, a few dippers maybe or perhaps even a kingfisher. But we see very few birds at all and none on the river.
Soon we turn left downhill and cross the stream and then continue to follow the path through the woods. At first we’re walking beneath tall, closely grown conifers, but as we proceed the woodland becomes deciduous and so less dark and forbidding. The paths are stony and sometimes muddy but not difficult to tread and we easily follow them to the stile that takes us into a field full of tall grasses and red and white clover.
Across the field and out of the gate onto the road for just a little way, stopping to admire this little fellow, with his white fluffy bottom!
I think this is the Cuckoo Bee – a type of bumblebee gone bad! These bees don’t build their own nests – the female cuckoo bee wakes up later from hibernation than other bumblebees and invades their nest, kills or evicts the queen and lays her own eggs to be looked after by the workers – they have no workers of their own.
Turning right through a gate we enter the prettiest meadow with a path through the middle to Cardinham Church at the top of the hill.
There are plenty of butterflies but I only manage to catch one on camera:
This is the Meadow Brown, one of the most widespread grassland butterflies, which luckily for me, and unlike its relatives, sometimes reveals its upperwings when it lands. Its larva feed on grasses so this meadow is an ideal habitat for it.
Entering the churchyard we pass the very bench that Suzy B claimed as her own that fateful day. I determine to have my picture taken sitting on it later, but alas, when we come out of the church a couple of walkers have taken possession and are consuming their picnic on it – I don’t have the nerve to say – hey…..that’s my bench!
St Meubred lived in Cardinham – Cardynham as it was then – in the 5th Centruy and was murdered by beheading in Rome, his body being buried here in this churchyard apparently. The church is interesting, although not particularly pretty. It does have some fascinating 15th century carved pews though:
Out of the church and onto the road we head downhill past the war memorial and the Cardinham Village Sports Club searching for a bridleway on our left. When we find it, we spend a few minutes debating whether to take it, as it crosses the garden of a pretty cottage. We decide that the alternative – to follow the road for quite a long way – is too boring and so we plunge in, hurrying across the garden and into…..a complete wilderness! As instructed we cross a streamlet which runs downhill to our right; we are then in the middle of a complete tangle of brambles and stinging nettles and branches and shrubs with no visible pathway in sight. We blunder around for a while unable to see the way out and eventually determine to return to the road.
But on the way back across the streamlet, a glance to the left along the river bed, shows a gate seemingly crossing the stream with a blue marker on it. This then is the way. Down through the stream (luckily just a trickle today) and beyond the gate lies our path.
Our directions state that this is clearly a very old ‘road’ leading across the valley and indeed you can see that this was once a track, probably walked by many, hundreds of years ago, with steep sides and intertwining branches covering the way through.
Mr RR called to mind a book he’d read – Holloway – and told me about the long lost paths of yesteryear, now hidden away but waiting to be rediscovered. Later I have a look at this pretty little book and start to read Robert Macfarlane’s descriptions of ‘holloways’.
“Holloway – the hollow way. A sunken path, a deep & shady lane. A route that centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll & rain-run have harrowed into the land. A track worn down by the traffic of ages & the fretting of water, and in places reduced sixteen or eighteen feet beneath the level of the fields.”
“The oldest holloways date back to the Iron Age. None is younger than 300 years old. Most holloways begin as ways to markets, to the sea, or to sites of pilgrimage, lanes worn down by the packhorses of a hundred generations.”
Emerging from our very own holloway, we head uphill through a marshy meadow and across a farmyard. We turn onto a road and follow the directions back to the woods via the forestry track pausing to listen to the birds but catching sight of few, except for this chaffinch:
It’s spotting with rain as we head down over the valley sides and along the river back to the carpark. Time for tea. Of course, Mr RR insists on feeding the birds his lemon and poppyseed cake crumbs. This little guy was grateful at least:
Me – I sat with my tea, and contemplated the walk, the woods and the holloway, and wondered if Suzy B would like to come and see……
Total miles walked this year – 436.
Associated artwork for Ricketyrambler by Mr RR: