Saturday, 23 May 2015

A walk through Warwickshire villages

Maggy cat still unhappy when our attention is on a jigsaw!

Three counties in three days! From Solihull in the county of West Midlands (it used to be in Warwickshire until boundary changes in the 1970’s created the West Midlands), our home village of Alvechurch in Worcestershire on Thursday and a three church (and three village) walk through Warwickshire on Friday.

Afternoon tea and cake with Pauline in Alvechurch
We returned to our home village of Alvechurch (population in 2011 census: 6564) on Thursday, not to look at our houses, in fact we didn’t even pass them, but to visit Pauline, Jackie’s mum, who also lives in the village, and to undertake a day of much needed gardening.

She has an ‘unconventional’ garden: areas of gravel, stones, shells and plants that might be considered weeds by some, an interesting stone path winding round bushes and overhanging trees, to a hidden top section of plants, trees  and a small fenced patio area with a table and chairs. It’s grown and now needs taming, so we tackled it with loppers, shears and forks and made progress, oops, was that a plant I just put that bag of gravel on? Looked like a weed to me, but what do I know!

Our three churches walk from Meriden
No ‘before and after’ photos though, we were just too busy working and creating stuff and the result was good. It was pleasantly followed by tea and cakes sitting outside in the sun at the new posh cafĂ© in the village square (I say ‘new’, it’s been open 9 months now apparently, but it wasn’t there when we left in July last year), an amble back in the warm afternoon sunshine, some baking, Jackie cooking a fabulous but cholesterol on a plate tartiflet and then home to a disgruntled Maggy cat who had been left on her own all day!

Walking boots on and ready for our walk
Friday was no better for her as we were out again for the day, this time for a walk with Brian’s sister Denise and husband Paul. The weather was still warm, not so sunny but still pleasant and we decided on a ‘three church’ 7 mile walk in the central England county of Warwickshire. The three churches are St Laurence in Meriden, St Andrews, in Eastern Green and the fabulous St. John the Baptist in Berkswell.

Arriving at St Laurence church, Meriden
The start was from outside the Queens Head pub in Meriden, a town that is generally regarded as being in the very centre of England and has a sandstone monument on the village green with a plaque referring to this traditional understanding. It was home to the Triumph motorcycle factory from 1941, after the Luftwaffe bombed the original factory in Coventry, about 6 miles away, until it closed in 1983. The old factory is now a housing estate with road names referring to old triumph motorcycles.

Inside St Laurence church
Just a short walk away is the partly Norman church of St Laurence , with sections built in the 12th century and other sections built up to the 15th century. It is only open on Sundays, but as we arrived there a warden was just opening it up and we were able to go inside and take a look. It apparently was built on the site of an earlier Saxon church built by Lady Godiva, of Coventry fame, who at that time owned the land.

The cows strode towards us, but one look from Jackie stopped it dead!
Onwards across fields, ably navigated by Paul, past woods and through fields of cows, who strode towards us and intimidated us, probably following the recent report of former SMC member Richard Lloyd who has been trampled by a herd of cows while out walking his dog nearby, eventually arriving at the Victorian St Andrews church in Eastern Green on the outskirts of Coventry. Lunch stop here in the graveyard, watching some dark grey clouds hover overhead, but thankfully not releasing any rain and then on to the fabulous St John the Baptist church in Berkswell.

Arriving at St Andrews, Eastern Green
On the way to Berkswell, walking round the edge of a field of Rapeseed, Jackie bent down and came up with a four leaf clover. People not from the UK will probably not know the significance of this, the clover is a perennial short-lived plant (or weed!), very common in the UK, but most commonly having three leaves and only occasionally four leaves. 

Inside St Andrews
Denise and Jackie with their four leaf clovers
To find one is considered to be very lucky, so that’s the time to go and buy a lottery ticket! This caused us all to start looking at the wild grasses  at our feet that contained large amounts of clover growing in amongst and, in a short while eagle-eyed Jackie picked another one, closely followed by Denise, how amazing is that! The problem is that once picked they wilt very quickly, but we have photographic evidence! Not to be outdone I carried on looking and found one myself – however, I didn’t pick mine, just took a photo. ‘This is why four leaf clovers are rare’ I said, ‘because people always pick them, making them even rarer, but not me’ he said polishing his halo!

And here's mine, still growing in the ground!
The stocks at Berkswell
Bit of a posh place Berkswell, nice village green with a set of stocks in the middle with five holes in it! Why five holes? Apparently it is claimed they were specially built for a one-legged ex-soldier and his two drinking companions. Anyway the church is a gem, another Norman church, but with parts, notably parts of the crypt and some steps outside, from a much earlier period, maybe 725AD. A porch at the entrance to the church is Tudor and was built in the 16th century, when the church was already 400 years old. It looks oddly out of place, but as it’s been there for five hundred years and is much older than many other buildings it can’t really be described as modern!

The well at Berkswell
The fabulous St John the Baptist church with tudor porch extension
Denise and Paul used to know the rector of the church and remembered them to be quite well-to-do and the whole town exudes this feeling, well-kept old buildings and well-tended gardens and lawns, a very pleasant place to visit. We probably brought the tone down by sitting outside the church drinking coffee from a flask, but do we care?

Inside St John the Baptist church. Jackie is crouching down having found one of the carved wooden mice on the font
Down in the crypt
Inside the church is equally as spectacular and beautifully kept. Jackie followed a guide to try to find the nine carved mice in the woodwork, she found six, while D&P ambled round. Brian found the entrance to the crypt, which was open to the public so we went down and found a fabulous, very old with sections even older but again very well preserved, room. A great visit and well worth the visit. Just outside the grounds of the church is the old well that, it is believed, gave its name to the town, Berkswell (don’t know who Berk was!).

In the crypt. We got the ghost to take this one!
We were back in time for an afternoon pint of real ale at the Bulls Head in Meriden, then back to D&P’s for dinner, walking in to the fabulous smell of her casserole cooking in the oven, followed by Paulines apple and blackberry crumble and custard that we didn’t eat the day before and a nice bottle of red wine.

It’s a tough old life! Park Run today for Brian, 24 min 31 sec for 5km – how good is that!

Jackie, Brian and Denise looking cool outside the church. What do you think of that Tudor porch on the Norman church? What was the planning department of the 16th century thinking of!

A pond near Meriden

Arriving back at St Laurence in Meriden. Yes its 4:00pm - beer 'o' clock!

7.5 mile walk, I think we deserved it!

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