Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A walk on the mild side…

Just a quick email to say how useful I've found the blog, particularly as a prospective Tysoean (or Tysoenese, I defer to your experience in such matters). I’m moving your way, you see, and was wondering if you had any tips on where to wander first, what to look out for etc? Local intelligence and any advice much appreciated. No obligation, of course, but my wife and particularly poorly behaved collie want to put the right foot first, if you see what I mean.
Kind regards and keep up the good work,

Dear Tom –

Many thanks for your wonderful email – which I’m pretty sure is the first piece of ‘fanmail’ that I’ve received, in a year of writing (mostly) about the place I live; the place I love. You’re obviously possessed with excellent taste – both in writers and in villages – so feel free to give yourself a pat on the back; and why not treat yourself to a pint, the next time you find yourself in one of our local pubs!

Seriously, though, I’m glad the blog is both useful, and being read by people who don’t already live here (“Tysoeans”, I think – although that makes us sound vaguely mythical or mystical; inhabitants of an almost 21st-century Shangri-La: which, of course, isn’t too far from the truth…). I’m also pleased that it hasn’t dented your attraction to the place.

You may have to go elsewhere for “local intelligence”, though… – but, as to “advice” on where to wander: well, you’ll be spoilt for choice! When we moved here, we ordered an OS Select map from Ordnance Survey, centred on our new home: and we immediately discovered that there are footpaths galore spiralling out from the village, connecting us like a beautifully-designed walker’s web to our neighbouring villages, and beyond. Alternatively, you could grab yourself a copy of the local OS Landranger Map (151: Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick & Banbury) – which will give you a wider range of places to explore.

So, where to go first? Well, although it currently lacks both its sails and its stocks, the windmill – on the appropriately-named Windmill Hill, between Upper Tysoe and Compton Wynyates – is an obvious landmark; and it’s up a hill (d’oh): so good exercise for all three of you! At 181 metres above sea-level, it is also a great place to survey your new domain – with wonderful views particularly north (overlooking the three Tysoes) and west (towards Shipston-on-Stour and Chipping Campden) – or, on a warm day, to have a leisurely picnic. (What do you mean: you left the wine chilling in the fridge?!)

Should you wish, instead of returning to the village, you can then wander over the far side of the hill – with your rucksacks lightened and tummies filled – down past the stunning Compton Wynyates house (sadly no longer open to the public), and across the fields – on the flat – to Whatcote or Oxhill: both of which have the requisite pub – the friendly Royal Oak and my favourite (especially for fine food), The Peacock, respectively.

If you take the path to Whatcote, you will eventually join the Centenary Way (which leaves Upper Tysoe via Tysoe Manor, one of the village’s many listed buildings). This path is well worth exploring in both directions: and, if you don’t mind the odd gradient, clambering up by Old Lodge Farm is the best way to get to our nearest National Trust property, Upton House – which has wonderful gardens, a great restaurant, and one of the best interiors of any stately home I know (especially if, like me, you’re a fan of interesting art and comfortable chairs!) – or even further along the Edge Hill ridge (famously overlooking the first pitched battle of the English Civil War).

Depending how new you are to the wider area, it contains a plethora of local National Trust properties (although not many will welcome a “particularly poorly behaved collie” I’m afraid – otherwise I would have raved about Charlecote Park: which is home to a herd of fallow deer and a flock of Jacob sheep); and Stratford-upon-Avon itself is good for gentle strolls down by the River Avon, or up into the Welcombe Hills. (Have a look at my online Warwickshire photo gallery, if you need further inspiration; or take a peek at my list of Local links.)

But you don’t always have to leave the village (Mrs Bard particularly enjoys exploring the area around the Epwell Road): as there are byways through, and connecting, all parts of it – and all pretty much on the flat – so, when I’m feeling less energetic (which is pretty much my default mode, at the moment), I’m happy just to toddle along the back lanes to the church and back; or, following the footpath beyond the church and primary school, stretch my legs as far as Lower Tysoe. As I’ve said before, “the three hamlets – from Tysoe Manor to Lane End Farm – are less than two miles from end-to-end (and that’s using the roads; not cutting corners with our frequent footpaths, or as the numerous crows fly…)”: so it’s no great strain, and there is much to be enjoyed (including a wide selection of wildlife) – whichever direction you head in!

Hopefully, this will have given you a few ideas, for once you’ve settled in (or just can’t be bothered unpacking the twentieth box of the morning…). Welcome to Tysoe! I hope the place brings you many happy times and memories.

The wheel of heaven turns above us endlessly
This is all the heaven we got, right here where we are in our Shangri-La.
– Mark Knopfler: Our Shangri-La

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