BRAUNSTON to EDGCOTE
The one with the haunted bunker, missing pole and a very special signpost!
DISTANCE: 18.5 miles
WEATHER: It started off dry but by lunchtime, the rain came and never stopped.
We started with the car shuffle. Three cars drove to Edgcote and then the wonderful Annette drove us back to Braunston where our day's hike began. We met three friends today which has been lovely. Diana with her two dogs just outside Staverton, we then chatted with Bev in Helidon and then hot coffee was provided by Sarah at the Red Lion pub in Helidon. Sarah then walked with us all the way to the end… and beyond as she also walked home! After an event day of hiking (in the pouring rain!), we eventually camped on a farm that breeds horses. I think the main highlight today was the spooky woods! (See below)
4.30am – Yey! I slept through the night, even though it took me a while to get to sleep as there was a 21st birthday party happening on a Narrowboats which was moored about 100ft from our tent! If I’m honest, the main reason for such a great nights sleep was due to the fact that I was toasty warm! Rebeccas daughter delivered hot water bottles to our tent last night (full of steaming hot water). I snuggled up with the bottle and stayed cosy warm all night. Bliss! (Thanks to Rob & Molly).
5.30am – Time to give Rebecca her alarm call as I return from using my new trowel (my aim was better today!) lol. TMI? Sorry.
Hot coffee, instant porridge and then I’m ready to start packing up. As my car is here, I decided that it makes sense to lighten my pack weight today. So I left my tent, sleeping bag and pillow in the car and only carried the essentials on my back.
7am – all packed up and ready to do the car shuffle! We meet Annette and then travel in convoy to Daventry to collect Debby. Debs hands over hot sausage and egg baps!
Debby called ahead and has arranged for us to stay at a farm on the outskirts of Edgcote near Chipping Warden. Panic sets in as the drive go on forever! Where are we going? We eventually turn off the A361 and I start to relax as it can’t be far now. Wrong! This country road is going on for miles! I’m panicking because I know we’ve got to walk this far today. Finally, we turn into a private estate. As we wait for the electric gates to open I arc my head trying to see where the Farmhouse is but it’s nowhere in sight. I’m moaning to Rebecca now who is nodding in the right places.
7.45am – We get to the farmhouse and the farmer comes out to greet us. He explains where we can camp tonight and I must admit, this place looks amazing. Debs did well. I just hope the walk isn’t as long as the drive!
8.30am – Annette drove us back to Braunston (thanks Annette) And we are off! Feet slipped easily into cold wet hiking boots. Annette has dried our waterproof socks (apparently her house was like a sauna last night). So we had dry feet for a little while.
9.37am – As we traipsed over open hills, smelling the fresh air and damp grass I saw a figure in the distance. As the dog walker approached I realised that it was Diana, one of my Nordic Walking buddies. Due to COVID, we are unable to hug each other but I really wanted to. Instead, I just jumped around a bit! We stopped and chatted for a while and watched as her little Jack Russel called Digger sat in a puddle just waiting for Di to continue her walk. We waved goodbye but with our spirits lifted we all had a little hop in our step as we clambered up the next hill.
9.54am – Wow! Don’t you just love it when people place a bench with a view? We sat at the top of a hill on a little green bench, looking like the three old men from that TV programme in Yorkshire (??) what’s it called? Rebecca decides to have a wee and just as she is about to do her business she hears golfers behind her….. so quickly retreats and finds a more secluded spot!
10.15am – We were plodding today and just taking our time. Debby is being careful as her blister is still painful. We reach Staverton and instantly spot the COVID snake that has been placed around the bench that circles the tree. We spot a bright blue stone that has the words “Adventure is out there”. We agree….. it certainly is! I hear a squeal of delight from Rebecca who spots a Jurassic Way sign. On one side it says “Stamford 66 miles!, and the other it says Banbury 22 miles”. Have we really walked 66 miles in just a few days? In reality, I know we’ve walked much more than that. I must add it all up and see at the end.
10.30am – Well, I’ve never seen a horse wearing red shoes before, now I have!
10.43 – We spot Catesby viaduct in the distance which is quite impressive. It’s nowhere near as big as the one we saw a few days ago but it’s still worthy of a photo.
11.06 – As we pass through more stunning wheat and barley fields we keep seeing these little holes in the ground that has been full of some kind of animal poo. I have no idea what time of animal does this, so I post a photo on Facebook to ask for help. Apparently, it was unanimous that said animal was a badger.
Mud, mud glorious mud! I feel like I’m walking on 1960’s platform shoes! The rain continues to fall. It’s very fine but very wet rain. (Although Debby argues that all rain is wet. She has a point!)
11:24 – We arrive at Catesby and can see the big Manor House in the distance. Then we come across our first obstacle of the day in the form of another massive bull! Why are there so many of these beasts on this route? My heart is in my knickers as Debs bravely climbs the stile and moves the bull on. “Hurry up” she calls! Rebecca and I look at each other. “Are you not going to close the gate and lock it out?” I yelled? “No, it will be fine” she replied, “just hurry up”. I don’t like this one little bit! My heart was pumping but the bull stayed where it was and we safely navigated the next field!
I’m in home territory now and start to recognise fields and paths. As we arrive at the clock tower b&b outside Hellidon I declare “this is one of my AG walks!”. I then get a text from one of my Adventure Geek Club members Sarah to say she is in Hellidon and will meet us at the pub. I eagerly text back “is the pub open? I need coffee”! no reply. We carry on walking. I then sent a text to another friend who lives in the village of Hellidon “guess where we are?”.
Sarah responds “according to the website the pub opens at 4pm” Ill drive to Charwelton grab you all some coffees see you back at the pub. I’ll be about 15 mins. Is that ok? What do you want?” We place our orders and send a virtual thank you.
11.38 – As we reach the village of Hellidon we see my friend Bev running out of her house in bare feet. Her smiley face was such a sight to see and enough to give us a boost until the pub.
12.19 – We meandered slowly through the village, stopping to complete the magic “pump” ritual that we somehow started at the beginning of the trail. A local turned up to tell us the tales of how a local lad saved a younger boy in the well and then perished. His body in in the graveyard. We looked closer at the plaque, expecting to see an age of the bit that died, but the pump was dedicated to Doreen. I’ve no idea who Doreen is?
The pub appeared as if by magic and we sat patiently outside waiting for Sarah and the coffees. Another lady joined us in the pub garden and started asking us questions about our hike. She explained that she was from London and had rented a cottage in Hellidon for a week. “I bet you’ve enjoyed the food here,” I said, pointing to the pub. “I don’t like eating out” she replied. That was the end of that conversation! The rain was coming down a bit heavier now so we all delved into our bags to grab raincoats etc. The tourist also starts digging into her bag but she pulls out a carrot 🥕! I secretly wonder what else she has in that bag? All our attention is then directed to a car that comes screeching down the road and grinds to a halt right in front of us. I smile as I recognise the lady who flings the door open, runs across the road, dumps three coffees on the table and a white paper bag. She then runs back to the car shouting “they are gluten-free brownies”. Sarah gets back in the car, parks on the other side of the road then come and joins us in the rain as we consume our much-needed piping hot coffee and gluten-free brownies!
Sarah was joining us for the walk. It would be approximately 10 miles until we reached Edgcote. The three musketeers were now accustomed to walking in wet boots and sopping socks. Sarah would be catching up soon but so far her Aldi waterproof socks were holding up nicely.
Oh no… we all need the loo!
1.38pm – The glow of the Fox and Hounds Pub in Charwelton was just too inviting. It was only a few miles from Hellidon, but a cold beer and the thought of being somewhere in the warm was appealing. Rebecca nips to the loo and suddenly the alarm went off! Apparently, only one person was allowed in the loo at any one time and we assumed Rebecca had broken the rules and set off the alarm system!
2.20pm – We are now experts in walking through kissing gates without packs but there was one gate where we simply couldn’t get through. We contemplated taking our packs off when Debs declares that it was easy to just climb over the gate and demonstrated how simple it would be. She stands on the first rung and then as she lifts her other leg to get up to the second rung the whole panel collapses taking Debby with it. It was one of those moments where you know it’s not right to laugh as your friend is in pain, but the reruns in my head were happening in slow motion and I was doing well to stifle my giggles.
4pm – As we walked through another sleepy village two donkeys came running over to greet us. One took a look at me and my brolly and went running off! They came back as I retreated and they then had a lovely conversation with Rebecca. She has a back with donkeys.
5.10pm – The day got freaky! Sarah and Debby both know this area well and we were about to enter “War Wood”. This is quite a spooky place as it is an old war barracks in the woods. There are derelict buildings everywhere. Sarah motions for us to take a look at one of the hidden bunkers. I tentatively took the steps into the bunker and was instantly transported back to wartime. In my head, I could hear the sound of the young soldiers chatting and clunking their tin mugs. I felt a chill run down my spine and the atmosphere started to feel very uncomfortable. A quick retreat of both steps and mindset was in order!
5.35pm – Sarah and I were in front of the pack and pulled away from Rebecca and Debby without realising. We had already walked over 16 miles and Debby was suffering from a bad blister so we just assumed that they were taking their time. Where were they? It’s now been about 10 mins and they should have taken this long. I was starting to get worried when two familiar pairs of legs came around the corner. Rebecca has lost her walking pole (which she needs for her tent!). She has a feeling that she left it in the bunker when she also got spooked by the strange atmosphere. I had a spare pole in my car so she can pitch her tent, then we can go back to the bunker by car and all being well we will have a happy ending.
6pm – We made it! Our longest day so far. 19 miles!
We pitched our tents, collected the walking pole which was indeed left in war wood and then found a pub!
Today was a long, very wet day, but it it meant that sleep came easy!