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 d├ęcor, 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".