Normally with the Walking Group, I, Diane, go alone to reconnoitre the route for the group so that they can enjoy their morning without any dramas. However, during lockdown with only a group of six permitted, I do these walks with ‘guinea pigs’ so that I can accommodate more of the walking group members. This was our first of two walks starting at Battlesbridge – both unfortunately entirely unsuitable for walking again. Mo, one of my ‘guinea pigs’, has given her report and I have joined in with my pennyworth. She explains that:
“six brave walkers met at Battlebridge Antique Centre – brave as it was very hot, hot, hot! We all met up with Diane our very patient, happy guide. Why patient? Most of you haven’t met us; those that have will know what I am talking about: getting lost springs to mind. Hats on, sunscreen on, water in our rucksacks and off we go”
We were fortunate to find that the road we were to follow at the start of our walk, was closed to traffic; we had it all to ourselves and could chat away happily. Mo continues:
“for the first half-hour or so, a certain person (who shall be nameless) gave us a history lesson, then a geography lesson, and even talked about his jam setting so hard it was like bricks. We suggested he join the W.I. bless him, have you rectified your jam dilemma Tim (whoops) sorry. Anyway, back to the serious business, our walk. On our right we saw a beautiful big house with a pond in the front garden with geese swimming in it (great guard dogs, maybe). We waited for a tractor 🚜 to pass on our side of the road as he had to stop for oncoming traffic: not a car but a horse and rider. This prompted a conversation regarding nursery rhymes and we were all trying to recite “Ride a Cock Horse 🐴”, we got there in the end. We are a strange but happy band of six”.
Later we were able to find out the story behind the nursery rhyme. Apparently, it relates to Queen Elizabeth 1 who travelled to Banbury to see a huge stone cross on a hilltop. To help the carriages climb the hill a white cock horse (large stallion) was made available to help. The Queen’s carriage suffered a broken wheel and she decided to ride up to the top on the cockhorse.
“Diane guided us across the road to a farm, with map at the ready clearly showing a footpath, she started to look for it, couldn’t find it, and asked the lady farmer where we should go. Whilst she was having a conversation with her, we were looking at all the old buildings, in particular a beautiful derelict barn with wonderful old beams and wood.
Diane still had her map at the ready, and following the directions from the farmer 👨🌾 we walked, and walked, and walked. Poor Diane and her helpers couldn’t find any footpath signs or any sign of a footpath. Everywhere we looked were ditches and what appeared to be footpaths, overgrown and not trodden. We carried on walking around the fields of combined crops, hay/wheat/corn, in scorching heat just not getting anywhere. We decided to stop under a welcome 🙏 tree 🌳 for shade and had some water and snacks, “don’t eat and drink it all, we may be here all night”, my imagination running riot. After our scrumptious feast we carried on when suddenly there was a shout “get off my land or I will shoot “, a farmer with the biggest gun and huge dog 🐕 standing his ground – sorry watched too many films – it went like this, a chap called out “excuse me, but you are on private land”, Diane explains we are lost and can’t find the footpaths anywhere. He suggests we go back the way we came “No”, with no provisions left where’s Bear Grylls when you need him? Our prayers are answered, not Bear Grylls but a tractor 🚜”.
Out of politeness rather than ignorance,
“Diane asked the friendly driver the way to go home – a song here? He described the way out for us, back through the farm and to the tarmac road; we all fell to our knees and kissed it ahhhhhhh burnt lips 👄 now, only joking, we are saved “yahoo”. On our walk back to our cars we had a real “Yahoo!” from some young men driving past, of course, we waved.
Quite an uneventful walk back except Joy was attacked by a Lavatera bush, she used her stick to push a branch out of the way and it grabbed her – scary stuff.😲.
We made it back to our cars six very hot melting bodies. Our adventure didn’t stop there, two of us found the sign to exit the Antique Centre only to end up on a campsite – WHY US? We turned around and found our way out. Another of our walkers took the wrong turning out of a roundabout never to be heard of since. I think she’s still going round.
Thank you, Diane, for getting us out in one piece looking forward to our next walk”.
Maureen Rae (with additions from Diane)
The next walk, same group (minus one), same starting point, threw up different challenges.