"A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" - William Henry Davies
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Blog of Finished Apperley Walk: Having decided to scrap Indiana Jones’ walk through the Temple of Doom, I took an alternative route out of Apperley to find not only a very passable footpath but splendid views that had not been on offer on my previous attempt.
I did however then end up with a left gate or right gate choice. I picked the right gate initially to find the devilish-stile-leading-to-a-field-full-of-cows option. In the distance as if taunting me I could see the church which was where I was aiming for, but for those darn heifers. So I decided to opt for the left gate and a fine choice it was. Obviously, it is completely up to you whether you “take the money” or “open the box”; it truly depends on your appetite for running the gauntlet through the cow-infested meadow. The lane I took was moss-covered, telling me not many vehicles passed this way so I was happy to keep my dog off lead. The lane meanders through the lovely Abbots Court Farm, offering with it the full-on farm fragrance à la Fulsome Fertilizer. I inhaled deeply and smiled. Anywhere else and I would have reached for a nose peg. On the left were some lovely potted flowers for sale, going for £3 a piece with a note asking for money to be deposited through the post box. Love this.
As mentioned in the details of the walk, you will arrive at Odda’s Chapel.
PREAMBLE: This walk, like several others thus far, has proven to be problematic and has required several attempts before the final route has been put to paper. This is due to a number of reasons: clear pathway signs pointing across fields which, when you get to the other end have disappeared and you reach a chained and barbed wire gate; clearly marked footpath signs that point into an overgrown, impassable tangle of hedge, nettles and brambles; and COWS!!!
The first path we hit out of Apperley had clearly just been visited by the local Indiana Jones equipped with machete. There were thorny branches and general debris strewn all along the path; but at least the path was passable. However, Indiana clearly got distracted at t’other end, because our map showed another footpath off to the right and, although we could just about see the gate under a mountain of greenery, there was no way we could even consider trying to go through without Mr Jones’ machete to hand. Back to the drawing board.
Further along the same route and in order to progress in the intended direction, we needed to negotiate a stile over a wall which was surrounded by cows. Having only recently experienced the day from hell trying to set another walk, I had vowed to ensure that no fields incorporated within my walks would contain our bovine friends, in numbers anyway.
The day from hell had been another walk I was plotting where pathway signs disappeared leaving me in fields with nowhere to go. After the third such occasion and winding up in a field with some ominous looking creatures lumbering my way, rather than backtrack I decided to wing it, hoping to hit upon another pathway. I climbed a gate into a wood where I clearly should not have been, and after stumbling around roots of trees, pushing my way through branches and sliding down leafy banks on my butt, I wound up back at the gate I had just climbed. I resigned myself to retracing my steps, but as I climbed the gate I spied Daisy and her pals who had got a lick on and were now running from the top of the slope they had been inhabiting straight toward me, as a result of which, in my panic, I slipped and fell from the gate. I resolved not to follow my natural instinct which was to leg it, worried that the already trotting ensemble might consider it a game, slip into another gear and pursue me, trampling me underfoot, a fate which had befallen some poor rambler a few years previously according to a news report which I now could not erase from my panicking brain. Instead I stood fast and ended up with my back against the gate, surrounded by a sea of eerily impassive faces. I flapped at them shouting Shoo. Why were they not moving? Surely this is the universally understood language for get lost. Some more frantic flapping accompanied by some slightly more blue versions of Shoo created a gap which I bravely strode through with my best “you don ‘t frighten me” face on. Muttering all the way back to the gate with the mendacious yellow walkway arrow, I decided to reset my pedometer app which I had installed on my mobile phone. Hand to back pocket. Frantically patting back pocket. Colour draining from face. I decide it must have fallen out when I fell over at the gate and I looked back down the field realising I am going to have to confront my nemesis once more. I am not sure but I believe I saw the cows smirking as they saw me approaching. I on the other hand was close to tears. The long and the short was that my phone was nowhere to be seen and must have been lost whilst I stumbled around in the woods, the cows enjoyed bullying me one more time, and I gave up on the walk. Lessons learned: avoid cows, DO NOT wing it, avoid cows, get a wristband pedometer, AVOID COWS.
And so here we are, back in Apperley and the stile and, no hesitation, I was heading back to the drawing board once more.
Now for a bit of history. This is one of the most complete surviving Saxon churches in England and was built in 1056 by Earl Odda, a relation of Edward the Confessor. It was incorporated into a farmhouse in the 17th century, with a kitchen in the nave and a bedroom in the chancel, and rediscovered in 1865. Nearby is the equally famous Saxon church, St Mary's Priory Church which contains many Saxon features including sculptures. Odda's Chapel is an Ancient Monument which is free to enter and is certainly worth breaking up your walk to take a step back in time.
Next the walk takes you for a stroll alongside the River Severn. There is a small muddy bay as you greet the river where our dog Monty jumped down to have a splash and a drink. There were swans with cygnets here and long-tailed tits piping in the trees. We waved at a young family who were floating by on a small boat, watched a longboat slowly chug by and then continued on our walk. The first time we attempted the walk, it was a very hot day and as we passed through one of the many gates, my husband spotted the Yew Tree Inn on the other side of the river. At this point he added to our walk notes “you’ll wish you had a boat!”. “Never mind” said I, assuring him that there was a charming pub about 1 km further down the path. Unfortunately, when we reached it it was closed, only opening between 6.30pm and 11.00 pm! I redeemed myself slightly when we stumbled across an ice cream van as we re-entered the streets of Apperley. A tall, cold glass of beer or a ’99 – you decide how far out of the dog house I had managed to scramble.
Back to the walk. The Severn Way, for this is the path that accompanies the river, takes you through some quite thick shrubbery, with Vetch and Birdsfoot breaking up the thistles and nettles and attracting a large number of butterflies. We saw several small and large whites, meadow browns in abundance, a red amiral and the lovely tortoiseshell which I managed to capture on film
Ere long you will arrive at a tranquil pond on your left where private fishing is possible. I stopped for a while at the end of the pond where there is an opening to see if I might spot some waterfowl, but apart from the tell-tale ripples in the pond betraying the whereabouts of the inhabitants of its waters, I was disappointed. However, I was thrilled later on, after a number of failed attempts to find passable routes, to wind up back at this same spot and to espy a heron just as he was lifting himself into the air to make his majestic exit from the scene. Fingers crossed you will catch a glimpse.
It is at this point that a visit to the Coalhouse Inn is possible, although unless you have timed your walk to coincide with the afore-mentioned opening hours, a visit is somewhat pointless. For this reason, and following failed attempts to follow footpath signs that led away from the Inn, I amended the walk by taking a path that circumnavigates it. I am not a fan of walking on tarmac, both because it tends to mean Monty has to go back on his lead, and because I like to feel as much removed from the outward signs of urban development as possible.
And so the final leg of the walk can be completed by following lanes, which, although not busy, do result in the odd passing vehicle. I however, chose to follow a footpath sign that takes you through fields and ultimately passes through someone’s garden. I assume at some point the owners of this property bought land to extend their garden which then encompassed this footpath. The sign is clearly marked at both ends of the path crossing the garden with gates allowing access at either end. I still felt a little uncomfortable however. So, entirely up to you which route you choose, but either way you wind up back in the village of Apperley and your car. PS Look out for the ice cream van!
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