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Banburyshire Rambles Journal:

To See the Sunrise, First Walk in the Dark

Can't sleep. It's 6am. It's frosty outside. Only one thing to do: Go for a walk

Banburyshire Rambles Journal: ‘To See the Sunrise First Walk in the Dark – Route map’, 28th November 2021
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– mapping courtesy of OpenStreetmap

I pound through the town centre and head east towards Nethercote and Overthorpe, to catch the frosty sunrise across Warkworth and Astrop.

Route: Banbury, Bowling Green, Overthorpe, Warworth, Overthorpe Crossroads, Overthorpe Hall, Nethercote, Banbury.

Metrics: Distance, 10.3km/6⅓ miles; ascension, 125m/410ft; duration, 3 hours.


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Slides from the walk:

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All images in this blog post were created by Paul Mobbs, copyright as of blog date, and are made available under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 4.0 International license. See the general copyright information page for details about reuse. For those who are interested, the original digital files for these, and thousands of other similar images are available to purchase under a non-exclusive license agreement. For more details please get in touch.

The sharp-eyed reader will have noticed that this post pre-dates the last post...

Originally I’d intended to load the newly-designed walks blog with these images, but by the time I’d finished the associated video I’d run out of eye-power. However, given most of the preparatory work had been done, it was a shame to waste them.

Title frame from ‘To See the Sunrise First Walk in the Dark’ video.
Ramblinactivist’s video: 2021/27: ‘To See the Sunrise First Walk in the Dark’, 29th November 2021

As the sharped-eyed reader may also have noticed, the new blog format has been polished a little since the last version was posted (thanks for the feedback folks!). Loading these older images from my walk at the end of November provides an opportunity to test the new changes.

And so, to the walk...

Those who have watched my YouTube channel will be used to the strange ‘branding’ caption I always use for the first ten seconds of my videos. I’ve been using that same caption on my videos since 1990. But what that sunrise image shows (see below) is this same walk! – snapped at the beginning of the 1980s on the site of what is now St. Leonard’s School.

From the early 1970s I lived near the end of The Causeway. Age 7 or 8 I started to wander off into the countryside to forage and watch wildlife; so I've been doing this walk for well-over 40 years!

Title frame from ‘Paul Mobbs Multimedia Productions’.
The waning crescent moon, venus, and the dawn, over Overthorpe in the early 1980s – which is used as the caption at the beginning of all the videos on my YouTube Channel.

These days, though, living in the middle of the town, I have quite an extra distance to do to reach the countryside; not helped by the fact that the boundary of the countryside has moved half-a-mile further away from when I first lived here.

When I first did this walk you felt you were making progress when you reached The Bowling Green Inn. These days it’s just a relief because you know, with the M40 now behind you, the noise levels will begin to subside as you enter into the countryside of ‘The Danelaw’ – which is what I like to call Northamptonshire.

From when it first ran down the River Cherwell until it was moved here in the 1889, the boundaries of the 9th Century Danish Reginere of Northampton was where the Northamptonshire border first originated (which, of course, was dissolved in 2020 after it went bankrupt, becoming today just a ‘ceremonial county’). Before that, this valley had been the border between the two local Britonnic Iron Age tribes, The Dobunni and the The Corieltauvi (as the Romans called them).

As you climb the hill, the depression in the field on the left shows the holloway of an ancient road which used to head into Nethercote. This is most likely the remains of the Roman road which ran from Kings Sutton, to Warkworth, and then down the hill to here. Passing Nethercote it probably crossed the valley around where the reservoir sits today, climbing the hill the other side into Hanwell (where its route is still visible in the fields), Warmington, and then off through Kineton.

I’m a little late, but I manage to get to the edge of Overthorpe just as the sun passes the horizon. I stand and watch, making a time-lapse video of the scene.

The farmhouse and church of Warkworth frame the dazzling light in hard silhouette. This is an ancient location. There had been a castle or fortified manor house here that was demolished in 1595. The subsequent grand house built on its foundation lasted until 1806, when it was demolished, perhaps after a fire. Today only the church (much renovated in Victorian times) and scattered farmhouses remain.

I head around the edge of Overthorpe and up to the crossroads. Where the sunlight has yet to penetrate the frost still fringes the grass and leaves on the ground. Likewise, the puddles by the road at the top of the hill are glazed with a crust of ice. In the still sub-zero windchill, I take a moment to take in the view across the Irondowns, then plod on towards Overthorpe Hall.

Panorama over Nethercote and the advancing warehousing complex

Use the slider to move the panorama from side to side

By the time I’ve circumnavigated the top of the hill and reached the main A422 at the bottom, the sun has moved higher into the sky, illuminating the hamlet of the Nethercote just below me in bright Autumnal colours (see panorama above).

Right now this ancient settlement – probably contemporaneous to that Roman road which ran through here, sited where it crossed the route of the prehistoric Banbury Lane – faces being wept off the map by the expansion of the M40 distribution complex. Problem is, once the hard boundary of the motorway itself is breached, development is likely to run all the way to the Northamptonshire border, and quite likely beyond up the side of the hill.

For more on that see the local campaign group’s website – and I urge everyone to sign the on-line petition.

Rather than plod along the now busy main road and cross the motorway junction I loop back into town through Nethercote. The frost has mostly melted away now. It’s strange to be here because, in my mind’s eye, I remember what this place was like 40 years ago; less overgrown than now, with its damp fields full of aromatic horse mushrooms at this time of the year. Coming back to Overthorpe Road there's a sign at the entrance to Nethercote which says, "Unsuitable for HGVs". Let’s hope it remains that way!

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