Here in the Cotswolds we are spoilt for country walks. There are rambles we have tried and scorned, which are really perfectly pleasant - just not quite up to the golden standard we have come to expect from our patch of the world. Once in a while we find one which pings all the right bells. We will return, we say. And we do. This week we made a new discovery, only a quarter of an hour ride from home - and we had it mostly to ourselves. (Except for a couple of other walkers coming the other way, one of whom was wearing all the correct trekking gear for a winter hike in the Northern Fells, complete with walking sticks. He did seem to be taking the gentle, grassy footpaths a little too seriously).
The meandering Windrush was in full spate and almost bursting its banks; water was already lapping over the shallow banks and roaring through the floodgates. But it looked peaceful enough from a distance.
Negotiating soggy, marshy fields and climbing up to higer, dry land, heading to the most gorgeous farm in splendid isolation and a vivid, but strangely attractive green barn...
...ahead of us, the original farmhouse and outbuildings, the old stonework in excellent condition, though it appeared to be boarded up.
Through the farm track and past yet more silent, deserted stone treasures. In a crumbling porch, ferns sprouted opposite a dark, guano spattered nest entrance, the sad decay benefiting the resident Barn Owl.
A well cushioned tree enjoying spacious views across the estate -
- and back onto farmland, observing that the field ahead was incongruously orange for this part of the county; such rich ochres are normally to be found over on the Banbury side of Oxfordshire. The stonework of cottages also gradually metamorphasises from blonde to brunette, our country dwellings having been built from the very landscape in which they nestle. (Remember this field, it will reappear in a few seconds).
By now we were heading for the beautiful Sherbourne Estate, startling a distant herd of deer, who soon settled back to grazing when they realised we were safely on the far side of the field.
It was a fresh, spring-like day, and although wildlife was still hesitant in emerging, the birds were busying about, filling the air with happy carols. This manmade estate has been allowed to revert to its original state of flooding through managed drains and ditches. Wonderful for flora and fauna. But a little - muddy - in places. I took the opportunity, while stuck in a boggy patch, to shoot a little verbal tutorial on the history of the flood fields. This is really for my lovely blog- friend Lisa Oceandreamer, who was brave enough to put herself on the interweb, and who has requested a voice sample. (Apologies for my mongrel accent, picked up from everywhere).
And apologies for the sniffs - fresh air does that to me. Time to be heading heading home, via the other side, noticing - (are you paying attention at the back?) the orange field...
...the flood plain (right at the back, just visible on the righthand side) where we had our interesting little lecture...
...and the farm, modestly snuggled into the earth but given away by its sturdy green barn. (Nearly there, only a little further).
Time for one last draught of serentity...
We are somewhat sore with Winter unfitness. But the sap is rising and there will be out and aboutings in and around our lovely Cotswolds. I will spare you the lecture next time.