• Start: Long Itchington
  • End: Long Itchington
  • Country: England
  • County: Warwickshire
  • Type: Country
  • Nearest pub:
  • Ordnance Survey:
  • Difficulty: Medium
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Richard Shurey takes the heat out of July with a shorter walk for warmer days

I recall a song of a few years back (when the words of songs made some sense!) about 'those lazy hazy days of summer. Robert Louis Stevenson did write poetry besides those wonderful tales. One of his verses wrote about the sun of high summer 'Great is the sun and wide he goes, Through empty heaven without repose; And in the blue and glowing days, More thick than rain he showers his rays'.

Well, that is the idyllic picture but we all know that in our fickle climate rain is never too far distant. If the weather at this time of the year is perfect perhaps that is not really conducive to a lengthy hike. However, this route is only of a modest three miles and is alongside water for the first mile or so which I think always gives a cooling feeling.

The waterway is what was once a great commercial artery from the Midlands to London. The 140 miles came from amalgamations of existing canals in 1929 to form the Grand Union Canal.

The route was always a busy one and the newly-formed company enterprisingly (with some government support) improved the network and obtained a large number of vessels. In the 1930s they widened the canal and rebuilt many locks. However, with the improved roads and rail links after the Second World War the Grand Union became less remunerative and now the waterway is only a wonderful place for pleasure cruising.

Our walk is centred on the little village of Long Itchington, west of Leamington. It has nothing to do with itching - even in high summer! The place takes its name from the little River Itchen, a tributary of the Avon. Its fame is as the birthplace place of one of Britain's early statesman, St Wulfstan. He did not resist the Norman invaders who came when he was in his mid-fifties and he was rewarded by becoming Bishop of Worcester.

The village has a wonderful 14th century church that overlooks the river. It has a stump of a spire, the top part of which was blown down by a storm during a service in 1762.

Another fine building of note, near the village pond, is the timber-framed Tudor House of about 1600. We believe that Queen Elizabeth came here with the grand-daughter of Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. She feasted in a great tent 'which for number and shift of large and goodely rooms might be comparable with a beautiful pallas'.

We can admire the many attractive cottages, trees, village green and houses but it is time to be on our way. From the rural square near the church go along the no through road of Thorn Way. Within a few steps the lane bends sharp left. (Note the old garden pump). Take a signed path on the right. Many paths are here but take the direction aiming to the distant chimney of a cement works.

Go through a kissing gate and over a brick footbridge and continue to the far left corner of the meadow passing over a farm way to the towing path of the Grand Union Canal. Turn left under the road bridge. There is an inn here but we still have a few miles before our 'reward'! We walk beside a series of locks of the Stockton Flight to a bridge where a main road crosses the waterway. Here leave the canal. (Another inn).

Besides the A426 there is a lane which is our way. At a crossroads turn left - signed to Long Itchington. After about a mile and by allotments, the lane goes sharp left. Continue on the lane for a further fifty yards. Our route is along a signed footpath through a kissing gate on the right.

In the arable field walk by the right-hand edge. Kissing gates now show our way to a metal gate to a vehicle way to a road. Cross to Long Itchington.

There is a country saying which tells us that 'Summer's lease hath all too short a date' so do not miss any fine day to walk these steps. But take care and also remember that July has St Swithin's Day on the 15th! 'St Swithin's Day if it do rain; For forty days it will remain' so we are told

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