From: Meriden to Whiteacre Heath
Distance: 10m / 16km
Cumulated distance: 422m / 679km
Percentage completed: 41.06
I decided to ditch the Heart of England Way today in favour of B roads and the Centenary Way, largely because the HEW meanders around a lot and was keen to get a wiggle on. Judging by the contours I thought it would be a reasonably flat walk and not too long either. Great not to be too distracted as my good friend Mandy was joining me for the day and we had a wedding to discuss!
On the walk we were passed by copious numbers of MAMILs cycling past us on the roads. MAMILs? Middle-aged men in lycra! Some of whom probably should know better .. but then who am I to point the finger. We paid tribute to their First World War predecessors at the monument in the middle of town.
There were reminders of the archery heritage on the outskirts of the village. There was an extensive archery club and there were tell-tale arrows on the gates to one of the houses.
We were both saying how sad it was that so much of the countryside along the hedgerow is blighted by litter. There was a particularly badly-affected field on our left. As I was taking a photo to illustrate the point, we noticed that in the background there were ruins .. and on closer inspection of the map found they were ruins of a priory.
A well-informed local, who lived next door to the old blacksmith’s cottage in the village, told us all about the priory. Sir William de Clinton created a large chantry or college in 1330. And then in 1336 he turned it into a priory for Augustine canons. The priory was built to accommodate an elected prior and a dozen canons. The grand and stately buildings were not finished until 1342 .. not at all bad considering just how big the plot was.
The priory is now on the land belonging to local farmers. They were kind enough to let us take a closer look.
The priory was disbanded a couple of hundred years after it was built. And some time after that it was sabotaged to provide the stone for a new church, which still stands close by .. squat and rather uninteresting, but made of beautiful stone.
Our route led us to Castle Lane and happily there was still an existing castle half way along the road. Maxstoke Castle is a privately owned moated castle and has remarkably survived largely intact .. something unusual for a medieval castle. It escaped unblemished because it remained in Parliamentarian hands during the Civil War. It was built in 1345 by Sir William de Clinton, 1st Earl of Huntingdon and has a massive gatehouse and octagonal towers at each of the four corners. Sadly, the castle is only opened up to Joe Public once a year in June, when the Lord of the Manor personally takes tours. The castle has a couple of fabulous artefacts .. a 15th century chair which was used as the makeshift coronation chair for Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 .. and a table around which the Gunpowder Plot was cunningly planned in 1605. We walked on by .. it not being June.
At Shustoke Reservoir we left the B roads behind and joined the Centenary Way. The reservoir was built in the later part of the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution, to cater for the rapidly increasing population. The Warwickshire Centenary Way is way marked with a picture of rather jolly bear and his ragged staff. In fact this is the emblem used to represent Warwickshire, much as the white rose represents Yorkshire and the red rose Lancashire. Each county in England has its own coat of arms and while the council allows wide usage of them, there are rigid restrictions on their interpretation. For example, should I wish to use a picture of the bear and staff here, I would need to draw the bear ‘muzzled and chained to distinguish it from the crest of the earls of Warwick, where the bear is muzzled but not chained.’ Only in England!
Crossing the fields there were exciting signs of spring. Great for spring wedding next week!
Black Dog Tails
The Pups in Prison Program began in 2002 as a way for Assistance Dogs Australia to train more dogs, while aiming to reduce re-offending behaviour by giving detainees skills to assist with rehabilitation. Brilliant.