Friday, 26 November 2010

Thame The James Fig Pub The Pheonix Trail

Thame – The James Figg pub – The Phoenix Trail
(This walk can take you 7 miles in both directions should you wish)
I guess I had better admit right from the start that The Phoenix Trail will not be included in my top ten walks. It follows the route of a disused railway line, that once connected Oxford to the market town of Thame and Princes Risborough. You reach it by travelling from Nelson Street, Thame, which leads to Windmill Road and the trail, or going to Thame Park Road, Thame.
The railway line through Thame remained open until 1991, and then was converted into a cycle and pedestrian route which means that it is straight – straight – straight, with only a few gentle curves, and you have to return the way you came.
 To be really honest it is not the most scenic route either, as the first half a mile from Thame passes factories and industrial estates, but once the countryside emerges from behind the hedgerow things improve slightly.

One of the many seats along the way


The one fascinating thing about this seven mile route is the collection of 30 sculptures built by furniture students from Thame’s Rycotewood College, that are placed along the way – many of which are weird and wacky seats, designed to reflect the trail’s railway heritage and provide walkers with a place to rest.

We met a cat along the way

We walked just 2 ½ half miles along the path and then returned the way we had come. It was a chilly day, yet we encountered more people and cyclists on this route than any other we have ever walked. We even discovered a tabby cat sitting on the route, just by the footpath leading to Kingsey on the left hand side, watching those who walked past. This cat puzzled Pythius somewhat, particularly when it hissed as we passed. The cats he lives with never hiss.

Pythius inspects the sculpture

The pub we chose was the James Figg, which stands in the centre of Thame, opposite the Market Square, which must rate as one of the most dog-friendly pubs in the country. Pythius was asked if he would like a bowl of water (which was delivered immediately) and was even offered a dried pig’s ear to keep him munching while Uncle John and I ordered our lunch.

The James Figg is a proper pub, which is why I like it so much and as it’s a free house there’s always a great assortment of local real ales, and a warm welcome to all that enter. Uncle john and I chose Purity Brewery's Mad Goose, a bright coppery brew that comes with a lingering dry finish. A perfect lunchtime drink actually.
The food is great too, because although the menu is basic, each dish is cooked to order and garnished with care. I have eaten there often and never been disappointed.  
Uncle John & Pythius at the pub

Pythius has his say

The James Figg
Helen is right, this was not a walk that will be remembered with joy. To be honest it was dull, dull, dull, mainly because as we entered the Trail, Helen noticed there was a sign requesting that dogs should be kept on their leads! So – I had to do five miles on the lead! Not good. The cat did amuse me somewhat - how strange to see a moggy just sitting there on the side of the trail. and how strange that he should hiss at me as I rather like cats. It  obviously didn't know that.
The pub with its warm log fire and free pig's ears for visiting dogs was great.. I was treated like a real customer and there was loads of room for  me to place my paws under the table. But the walk? No not the best. I just hate being on a lead all the time as Helen knows only too well.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Old Sodbury circular walk - The Dog Inn - Distance 2 1/2 miles along the Cotswold Way

Pythius waiting to leave the car

Old Sodbury circular walk – The Dog Inn – Cotswold Way
Two and a half miles

Our drive to Old Sodbury, where we began our two and a half circular walk to Little Sodbury and back  along the Cotswold Way, was far longer than usual. This caused Pythius to become slightly agitated by the time we stopped the car. A half an hour's drive to our destination suits him well – any more than that causes him to fret. When we did let him out of the car however, having crossed the road opposite The Dog Inn, towards a farm yard that leads to the Cotswold Way, he soon cheered up. He could smell the countryside and sense the wonders of beautiful scenery that surrounded him.

Old Sodbury is situated in South Gloucestershire, 13 miles from Tetbury on the A432.
This circular walk is easy, for although the actual walk winds through woods, an orchard, meadows and fields, it is so well signed posted, that it is impossible to get lost. You will find waysigns  pointing out the Cotswold  Way posted at every twist and turn along the way.

The 11th century church

The Cotswold Way

Our first stop was the  13th century medieval church, St John the Baptist, which sits on the top of a hill, and when viewed from the foot of the  hill looks as if it is growing out of the very earth surrounding it. A seat strategically placed beside the church wall provides walkers with a chance to stop and relax for a moment as they absorb the view over the village and to the hills beyond.
After walking through the churchyard and crossing the road that leads to the village school and a short enclosed path you reach a grassy area, then an uphill woodland path which eventually leads to the double ramparts of a fascinating bronze age to Iron Age hill fort.

Pythius explores the Hill Fort

Signs all the way

Pass through the fort, enjoying the sensation of walking over a historical spot and you will encounter more woodland and eventually an orchard, that leads to a minor road. The waysigns will direct you to the right and after about 300 yards, point you to the left and a series of fields all linked by metal kissing gates that twist back to the hill on which the church stands. There were signs throughout the walk requesting walkers to keep their dogs on a lead. We obeyed (mostly) but admit that when we found ourselves in a field free of livestock, we let the little fellow run free.

The Dog Inn

The 16th century Dog Inn lived up to its name, for not only is it dog-friendly, but a real ale named Dog Best was available too.

Even the beer is named after the dog!

This pub looks quite austere when viewed from the road, but once you enter the main bar, with its beams trimmed with hops and illuminated with sparkling lights, you know you are in for a treat.
The food is amazing, and far cheaper than we expected. Indeed at the time of writing, Uncle John and I both enjoyed a delicious main course that cost just £4.99 each.
It’s a family owned pub, which may account for the friendly service and the buzzy atmosphere. Certainly an establishment we will visit again whenever we are in the area.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Asthall - The Maytime Inn - The River Windrush

Asthall – The Maytime Inn– Windrush River Walk
(7 miles if you walk the whole way to Minster Lovell and back)

There was a real chill in the wind today, dark clouds warned us that rain was in the air and a very dangerous stile caused us to change direction – but otherwise it was a great day.
We began our walk from Asthall, (one mile east of Burford) which dates back to Roman days, stopping for lunch in the Maytime Inn that stands in the centre of this attractive little Cotswold hamlet.

The Maytime Inn

I like the fact that this delightful pub is named after May and Tim who bought the building in 1975 and restored it whilst retaining as many of its original features as possible. They have run it as a successful and popular pub ever since. It has the ambiance of a chic restaurant and the appearance of a country cottage.
We  love it because dogs are welcome here and can even sit in the dinning area. We also love it because the home-cooked food is so good, and surprisingly well priced – a two course lunch at the moment costing just £10.99 - which given the excellent standard of cooking is amazing. I would recommend this dog-friendly pub to anyone seeking refreshments whilst exploring this delightful little hamlet with their canine.

Delicious Mushroom omelette as main course

Prawn starter

We had intended to walk towards nearby Swinbrook along a Roman Way Perhaps we would have done so had we not faced a veryt stile which was not dog friendly. We encountered it  the other side of the old bridge that spans the River Windrush to the left of the pub.

The muddy steps the other side

 The metal bar  fixed above this stone stile suggested real danger if Pythius didn’t raise his legs high enough when jumping over, so we climbed down steps that led us to the footpath to the right and took us along the River Windrush. This well walked footpath would have taken us to Minster Lovell had we been prepared to walk 3 ½ miles there and back.
The River Windrush
We weren’t – it was far too cold. So we just ambled along this glorious little river that meanders through the countryside for about a mile or so, returning to Asthal feeling exhilarated and refreshed. This is kingfisher country, wild geese use this river too.

Pythius has his say:

The dangerous stile

What a pub! Gosh what a welcome I was given and what a lovely warm carpet I was allowed to curl up on while the girls enjoyed their luxury lunch.
May and Tim the proprietors are great people and really do know how to make a fellow feel comfortable.
As to the walk – well I agree with the girls – that first stile was dangerous. Actually the entrance to the river path the other side was not much better,as there are steep steps that just had to be navigated if I was to get a river walk.  Because it was a wet day, they were both muddy and slippery. But I managed of course, I always do because I am a Border collie.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Great Barrington - the Fox Inn - Donnington Way

Great Barrington – The Fox – The Donnington Way - A walk that can be as long as you want it to be.

The Fox
I love this pub as it has retained its character, besides, there's no question about it being dog friendly – it's so dog friendly that village dogs such as Fingal a lonely brown spaniel, actually knocks the front door with his paws to ask if he can come in.

Auntie Liz and I were sitting at the table near the fire, with Pythius happily settled on the floor besides us when we first heard the knock.
"Oh that will be Fingal," the bar man said as he strode out from behind the bar to open the main door.
Pythius and fingal
In walked Fingal, who after looking around and greeting all the customers by the bar, trotted over to our table, said hello to Pythius and curled up besides him and went to sleep.
Pythius was miffed. He is used to having the space under the table to himself, but soon realised that there was nothing much he could do about the situation. So after giving Fingal a penetrating stare, moved as far from this new acquaintance as possible and  then pretended to go to sleep.
When we prepared to leave Fingal decided he would like to come with us, but this was one step too many as far as Pythius was  concerned, so we left rapidly before the little chap had a chance to follow us.

The walk was fantastic as glorious autumn colours dominate the landscape at the moment  - the kaleidoscope of colours that danced before us as we walked were absolutely breathtaking.
We followed a minor road towards the charming little village of Evenlode after leaving the pub, taking the Donnington Way after about half a mile which eventually leads  to the village of Naunton ten miles away. This Way took us across undulating pastures, past flocks of grazing sheep and a few horses as we walked the Windrush Valley.
After ambling along for a couple of miles, we turned and made our way home again, turning it into a four-mile walk, which was fine for us.

Pythius has his say:I am not going to comment about that pesky dog that joined me under the table, the less said about him the better.
My comments concern those big slabs of stone that call themselves stiles in this part of the Cotswolds. They got higher and higher as the walk progressed, such that I did hesitate when we got to the last one.

This caused the girls some concern – they were not sure what to do – should they attempt to lift me over? And what’s more "could they lift me over?"
Pythius and the Style

Suddenly, coming out of nowhere, arrived the friendly farmer.
He asked what the matter was and the girls told him.
Walking purposefully towards the stile, he looked over and spotted me.
"Oh, that’s only an old collie, I can lift him over for you."
Gosh I was furious – me ONLY AN OLD COLLIE! How could he say such a thing? I just had to prove I was more than that, so taking a very deep breath, and remembering everything I had learned in my agility classes, I ran and leapt, landing safely the other side, having cleared that massive stone with several inches to spare.
The farmer took off his cap and scratched his head. "That’s some old collie you have got there," he said with a certain amount of admiration.
Must admit I wasn’t sure I could leap that stile – but I did because no one calls me an OLD collie and gets away with it!

Firstly I am a Border collie and secondly I do not consider myself old.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pythius meets the Lord Mayor of Oxford

Pythius meets the Lord Mayor of Oxford

Pythius was invited to Radio Cherwell’s studio today which is the radio station manned volunteers, that relays programmes to hospitals throughout the city of Oxford.
He was there to meet the Lord Mayor, Councillor John Goddard, who was taking part in the Monday morning News Programme.

Pythius wants to describe the event.
Gosh the Lord Mayor looked very grand. He arrived wearing a gold chain and his best suit. I am not sure he is a dog-person, but he finally warmed to me when he discovered Helen and I have a regular slot on Radio Cherwell. It is called Paws for Patients, and is broadcast to people in Oxford hospitals twice a week. Our task when recording this programme with the station's chairman Neil Stockton, is to try and encourage people in hospital to venture forth into the fresh air and enjoy the countrysiide when they return home. 

Pythius is the fluffy one at the bottom of the picture

Friday, 22 October 2010

Bodicote - The Plough - Salt Way -

Bodicote – The Plough – Salt Way - Three mile circular walk

Salt Ways are ancient paths that were used to transport salt from one place to another. The one we explored this week runs from the sleepy little north Oxfordshire village of Bodicote to Broughton two and three quarters of a mile away. Bodicote is just two miles south of Banbury and stands just off the A423.
We walked just a third of this Way, before turning left into a bridleway, which enabled us to enjoy a circular walk that goes right round Bodicote. It is one of many walks published on the Cherwell District Council’s

Sign to the Salt Way
Had we continued along the Salt Way we would have finally arrived at the nearby village of Broughton, having passed along a nature trail. Instead we followed the arrows indicating we were on the Bodicote Circular Walk and travelled just three miles to return to the pub we first started from.
The Plough, with its white washed exterior, bar and separate dinning room is typical of many pubs that were popular in the 1970’s – indeed it was rather like taking a trip back through time as its décor, highly patterned carpet and pub-grub menu seemed untouched by modern trends. In truth we found it a rather sad little pub, much in need of some tender loving care.

The Plough - Bodicote

It’s a Wadsworth pub, serving Henry’s original 6X and Malt and Hops. The menu is basic, battered onion rings garnish many of the dishes and chips are served with almost everything. The food however, was nicely cooked, and the portions are generous. I had grilled pork slices and Auntie Liz tucked into a steak pudding served with extra gravy.The beer was well kept and served with a smile.

Paws under the table

 Pythius was not offered water, but he didn't seem to mind, he just kept his paws under the table,until it was time to begin the walk, which at one point actually included a small lake, so he was happy, though there was an anxious moment when he dropped his ball in the water, and Auntie Liz had to rescue it.
Almost a lost ball

There was also a high stile, surrounded with wire right at the end of the walk, which was not dog-friendly. Fortunately we were not the first to encounter this hazard.  Previous walkers had pulled up the wire, such that a medium sized dog like Pythius could scramble through. The alternative would have been to have hauled him over the stile, which after a three mile walk is not the easiest solution.

Pythius has his say:

Amazing - the girls didn’t get lost on this walk, due no doubt to the fact that Helen was clutching that map the Cherwell District Council provided. The trouble with maps, however is that they do not always show where the hazards are. By hazards this time I mean large bovine beasts grazing on the path the girls wished to walk.

Pythius spotted the cows first.

Why they had to place me on my lead the moment they spotted them I honestly don’t know, I would have behaved myself once I had trotted up to the cows and introduced myself. But Auntie Liz had fixed my lead before I had time to protest. Then, holding their breath Helen and Auntie Liz began to tiptoe towards the beasts, keeping as close to the fence as possible.

 Poor girls, they looked so scarred, despite bravely placing one foot in front of the other. I could almost hear their hearts beating! We got through of course, I knew we would. This is a popular walk; so livestock are quite used to people walking through their field. Why didn’t Helen and Auntie Liz realise that?
And yes, there was a moment when we thought that my ball would float into the middle of the lake, but Auntie Liz fixed that, and it was Helen who found a way through the wire surrounding the last stile.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Snowshill, Snowshill Arms - Cotswold and Donnington Way - Walk 2 Miles

Snowshill - Snowshill Arms 

Snowshill Arms

There is something quite magical about the Cotswolds, which draws me back again and again. At times it's the silence that attracts me, but mostly it is the undulating landscape from which weather- worn, honey coloured buildings emerge gracefully from the soil as if they have been nurtured alongside the vegetation for centuries - which of course most have.

Whenever walking the Cotswolds I experience a strange and very satisfying sense of peace surrounding me. It is as if this is where I was meant to be, and where I belong. It's a place where one can think and put the world to rights without fear of interruption.

The landscape seems to stretch on forever

I believe Pythius experiences this too, as his face always registers joy when the mobile dog kennel heads for Burford and beyond.
Our trip to Snowshill with Auntie Liz this week rates as one of the most stunning and invigorating walks ever, even though it was only about 2 miles long.
 Snowshill is found on the northern Cotswold edge, and just a few miles from Broadway, approached by driving the A44 or B4623,  We began our walk after enjoying a delicious lunch at the Snowshill Arms, where we returned after the walk for a cold refreshing drink before driving home.

St Barnabas Church

This hospitable establishment stands almost opposite the church and is a great place to start the walk which took a large loop past Oat Hill, through a small woods, then onto a green landscape decorated with ancient trees that appear to be stretching for all they are worth to touch the sky. The path then took us on past Littleworth Wood, managed by the National Trust, and a short stretch of the Cotswold Way and the Donnington Way,before turning back towards Snowshill.


Pythius is impatient to walk on
The views along the way were simply breathtaking, despite it being a misty October afternoon, as the mist that shrouded the landscape added a strange beauty the lens of a camera can never capture. And the rose hips, sloes, elderberries and blackberries weaving their way through the hedgerows acted as a constant reminder that winter is almost here

Pythius has his say:.

When the girls are happy, then I am happy, and they were certainly happy as they walked through this glorious countryside, past the woods and on back to the place where our walk began. There was no river on this walk, but I didn't mind too much as the feeling of space and wildness that this walk offered  captured my attention throughout the walk.

 I rather liked the scent of Mr Fox too, and admit rolling in grass he'd marked a couple of times - I guess that didn't please the girls, but it certainly pleased me.  I just wish that the nice man who stroked me when we arrived at the pub hadn't pulled such a face when he realised I'd transferred some Mr Fox's odour onto his hands.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Withington - The Mill Inn & the White Way

Withington – The Mill Inn & The White Way - 5 Miles or more
Although Pythius and I have visited more than 500 pubs over the years, I can count on the fingers of one hand just how many times I have walked into a pub and found myself saying "Wow!" and repeating this joyful exclamation several times more as I walked from room to room. Auntie Liz and Pythius seemed pretty impressed too as we lifted the ancient latch on The Mill Inn, at Withington, which is close to Chedworth, Gloucestershire and its famous Roman villa.
The Mill - a pub that has to be seen to be believed
The Mill Inn, is simply amazing. No it is more than that - it is quite remarkable. I felt I was walking into a living museum where time had stopped still for more than 400 years. It even comes complete with a ghost who wanders from room to room as she feels inclined and who ocassionally throws lumps of coal into the fireplace.

Inside the Mill

Dogs are welcome in every room, of which there are many. All are furnished with an assortment of comfortale old chairs and  rustic tables, and decorated with an assortment of artefacts of great age, many of which are stained from years of woods moke from the fires.
The floors are mostly flagstone, though some are made up of aged wood planks. A deer’s head hangs above the bar and the aroma of wood smoke fills the air.

It’s almost impossible to describe the joys of visiting the Mill Inn, all I can say, is go there for yourselves, I doubt you will regret the experience.
The beer on tap is brewed by Smiths and is very reasonably priced, and the food, which is typical pub-grub  fare, rates as some of the cheapest I have ever ordered.

The staff are exceptional and went to great lengths to explain that the footpath behind the pub, marked on my map was no longer open to walkers and that we should begin our walk at the telephone box opposite the pub - which we did.

Woods and more woods

This path led us through unspoiled countryside, under spectaculalrVictorian railway bridges and even though someone’s garden, past a model crocodile and a few other things besides.

It also took us besides the River Coln, where Pythius was able to splash about to his heart’s content as pheasants ran in droves across the nearby fields and through the woods we passed.Some even darted out in front of us as, then rushed away in panic, as we walked a path through the woods.
The crocodile

Our walk turned out to be more than 5 miles long and calumniated in a long trek along the White Way, a minor ancient road that runs through Whitington. Although we were exhausted by the time we reached the Mill Inn again, both Auntie Liz and I were spiritually uplifted, having walked through the most beautiful landscape we have ever 
A moment of relaxation for Auntie Liz and Pythius
encountered. And just for the record, at one point, when we asked a passing walker if we were close to the White Way, he said yes, then offered us a lift in his car which was parked nearby as he felt it was too far for us to walk - but we decined, explaining that we had to complete the walk ourselves otherwise we would feel we had taken the easy optiion, as our quest is to walk all the ways in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. He laughed and after pointing out a short cut though the woods, wished us well.
Trees and more trees

The White Way

Pythius has his say:
"The girls loved the pub and so did I, I could feel its history seeping through my paws as we walked from room to room, and the staff were so kind to me – no dog could have asked for more.

As to the walk, well there were moments when I had to be put on the lead, particularly when we walked the White Way which is a tarmac road, but there were loads of moments when I was free to roam,splash in the river and just do dog type things.

As the walk was longer than the ones we usually take, I was as exhausted as the girls by the time we reached the pub’s car park where my mobile dog kennel was waiting faithfully for us to return.
I am indeed a lucky and a very happy dog".

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Barnsley - The Village Pub - Akeman Street

Barnsley- The Village Pub - Akeman Street
A beautiful Cotswold Village that lays close to Bibury and Cirencester
Walk aprox 2 1/2 miles

The Village Pub
 Finding a dog-friendly pub that stands close to a
"Way" is getting more and more difficult, but I won’t be beaten. I have six more walks to find to complete Paws Along the Way, and am confident that they are out there somewhere..
Today’s walk gets in by the skin of its teeth, as we managed to incorporate a ¼ mile of Akeman Street, the Roman Road, that runs from Cirencester to London.
It proved a walk full of interest actually as we began by taking lunch at The Village Pub, Barnsley, which put many of the pubs we have visited over the years in the shade.

Crispy Duck Salad

Not only was Pythius allowed to choose the table he wished to sleep under while Auntie Liz and I enjoyed a scrumptious crispy duck salad, the staff were friendly, the décor stylish but comfortable and the food absolutely delicious.
Auntie Liz and I left feeling we had visited the pub of our dreams and promised each other we would visit again – often!

Cotswold cottages

The circular walk covered about 2 ½ miles and took us past beautiful Cotswold cottages, down quiet country roads, lush green lanes that ran besides unspoiled woods, and on into large meadows filled with wild flowers that we didn’t expect to see blooming at this time of the year. Sweet chestnuts trees too!

Highland cattle we met on the way.

Stile that Pythius couldn't climb
 Our walk, was not without its problems however - stiles not designed for dogs almost forced us to turn round and find other routes! These would have proved particularly dificult, had  Pythius not been so compliant and accepted our help.  Bless him, after sniffing round the first difficult stile and recognising that there was no other way, he permitted Auntie Liz to lift him up towards me, and then allowed me to pull him over the stile's high wooden boards. He has been known to leap a difficult stile, but these were far too  high.
Posh Horses
 That done we all felt very pleased with ourselves – but this mood was short-lived whenl we realised we'd entered a field filled with some very posh horses, who on seeing us enter their territory, immediately galloped over to greet us.
This would have been fine if we hadn’t had Pythius with us and if I was not scarred of horses, but I am.

Some trotted besides us as we headed for the next stile, praying that it would be dog-friendly, and the rest followed, nuzzling into my rucksack as they did so.
I did try not to panic – honestly – but admit my heart was beating like mad. Auntie Liz on the other hand was stoic, having fastened Pythius on his lead she marched purposefully towards the stile and ushered him through. (Yes – it was dog friendly!)

Barnsely House
 Having left the field things got better, as the lane we were travelling passed t Barnsley House, with its glorious 11 acre garden developed in the 1950’s by the legendary gardener Rosemary Verey. Gosh the garden is impressive. As we approached the main gate we bumped into Richard the head gardener who after admiring Pythius, stopped and chatted about his four dogs who are lucky enough to roam this beautiful part of the Cotswolds on a daily basis.
He suggested that we call in one day when the gardens are open to the public and take a proper look at all that this glorious garden has to offer. Obviously we promised to do so.

So in the end– apart from a couple of hazards - it proved a lovely day.

Danger Bull
  Pythius  has his say:
The girls don't panic very often - it is not their style, but they were in a real panic when they saw those posh horses galloping towards us. It didn't take me long to realise this was not a time for stacking on an act or doing one of my whirligig barking acts, which I am inclined to do if we meet a horse. These horses were far too big, far too well bred and far too close for that. Auntie Liz was leading me forward on a tight lead, and although she didn't speak, I could tell  that this was one of those moments when I had to follow in her footsteps, which is exactly what I did - so did Helen.
As to those stiles which were not  designed for dogs - I guess they were made that way to stop dogs like me walking over the horse's field, even though we were travelling on an official foot path marked with a yellow arrow.
By the way (just to make you laugh) had it not been for the horse incident, perhaps I would have told them about the other yellow sign we passed in the last field. It was a twisted plastic notice which said "Danger Bull". Perhaps you will agree with me if I say that some things are best unsaid!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Grim's Ditch - Nuffield & The Crown Pub.

Grim’s Ditch – Nuffield & The Crown Pub
This is a walk that can be as long or as short as you want it to be, we turned back after about two and a half miles, but could have gone on for miles.

We knew rain was forecast – but we walked anyway.

Our destination was a section of Grim’s Ditch, that large linear earthwork built during the Iron Age and named after the Nordic God Grim. This remarkable ditch runs for five miles from Mongowell to Nuffield, South Oxfordshire.

Uncle John, Pythius and I joined it just outside the small village of Nuffield.
Had the skies not suggested rain was imminent, perhaps we would have taken the footpath that crosses the golf course to the path that leads to Grim’s Ditch, and begun our walk close to the Crown Pub that stands besides the golf course on the A4130.

Lord Nuffield's Grave
 Instead we turned off the A4130 and drove into the village, taking the first right hand turn and parking the car besides Holy Trinity Church, where Lord Nuffield, who created the Morris car in 1913, is buried in a modest grave.This cut off about a quarter of a mile of the walk, which would have taken us over close-mown lawns and past several frustrated gulf enthusiasts who do not like dogs walking over their patch.

After leaving the churchyard, having paid due homage to this great man who died in 1963, we followed the path next to the church which is clearly marked along the left hand side. The track led us through a large field that in turn took us to the ancient ditch. 

Pythius & the black sheep

The Crown pub

We then walked for approximately two and a half miles before deciding the promised rain may be about to arrive. As the skies darkened we turned back and made for the car and then The Crown, where Uncle John and I enjoyed a delightful lunch, while an exhausted Pythius slept under the table, dreaming of Mr Badger, Mr Fox and some rather attractive black sheep who he spotted in a field adjoining our path. 

Taps at the Church

Pythius enjoys water enroute
 The quirky thing that really amused us during this walk were the water taps – yes water taps. Outside the church there were two taps, one marked drinking water and one marked water, then half way along the walk we encountered a white farm gate where another sign for water was painted on the post. Underneath this tap was a log that had been slightly hollowed out to catch water. Pythius was particularly grateful for this tap on our return as there are no rivers on this walk and despite it being a damp day – no puddles either.

Pythius leads the way
 Walking the ditch was an amazing experience. Each step we took suggested we were walking on ancient foundations, and the tangled roots of trees suggested this was another bosky wood in which goblins, trolls and other strange creatures lived. We were also aware of the power of nature, the great age of the trees and a strange magical feel that embraced this route, such that at times we were convinced we were being watched by unseen eyes. That said, it was a great walk, we returned to the pub feeling we had made contact with our ancestors and the very essence of the earth and all it stands for.

Pythius has his say:
Well - if I was allowed to give scores for walks this would get 9 out of 10. Only the river was missing.
The  water tap fixed to the gate with its little wooden trough, carved out a tree trunk, in which the water  settled was a dog's delight as I was just beginning to get thirsty. Never have I seen such a drinking hole before, and the water was crisp, cold and satisfying. Had I needed more when we got back to the church, I could have drunk there too!

The walk seemed to go on forever

As to the ditch - well what can I say?  It was amazing, all those wonderful smells, the falling leaves that 

created a soft  carpet on which I could walk, the black sheep in the field that trotted over to speak to me, and the slippery slopes which I ran up and down all the way  to the end and back.  Well actually, that is a bit of an exaggeration, we didn't actually go to the very end - but we did go a very long way before  Uncle John and Helen decided to turn round.

By the time we returned to the pub I was exhausted - gosh what a lucky dog I am.