Last Of Summer Days In Heart-Of-England Country

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…and in this case that ‘heart’ would be Warwickshire, homeland of master playwright, Will Shakespeare, the man who tantalizingly left scant evidence of his existence there. But then we weren’t pursuing him in his Stratford birth-and-death place along with many a late summer visitor. We were choosing the quieter option, staying on a farm in a cottage near Royal Leamington Spa, watching horses graze in lush paddocks and meandering down leafy footpaths to the River Leam.

For seven days last week we were blessed with full-on summer warmth. Lucky us.

It was new territory too. For us Shropshire dwellers (slightly north and west of Warwickshire), this particular county has always been one to drive through to somewhere else, usually to Devon or Cornwall. This being due to its having various motorways which incline one to dash through. This has clearly been a mistake. At the very least it is a county of two stunning castles – each in the magnificent, must-visit-settings of Warwick and Kenilworth. Then there are the elegant Georgian boulevards of Leamington Spa with its riverside parks. Then out in the surrounding countryside there are ancient pretty villages with well patronized pubs serving delicious food. One little village called Wappenbury even had the distinction of having grown up within the  bounds of an Iron Age hillfort. You could still spot the weathered ramparts from the path down to the Leam.

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Warwickshire is largely an agricultural county, mostly arable with ‘big-field’ cultivation and wooded peripheries, the surviving 18th century (and older) farmhouses displaying well kempt manorial looks.  By late September the harvest was pretty much done, the drilling of winter wheat underway. What remained, though, were fields and fields of pumpkins, they of the now customary Halloween variety. In fact there were so many acres of them – Sleepy Hollow on agristeroids – we decided the farmers must be growing them under contract to every  big supermarket chain across the land. Who knew?  But we pitied the poor pickers who we saw arriving on gathering duty: some of the pumpkins were HUGE, not easy to grapple with.

This next photo is one portion of a single field.

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As you can see, our English trees are yet to gain their autumn tints, but there were other signs in the astonishing hedgerow shows of hawthorn berries and crab apples. I also discovered a tree of wild plums, the fruit so sharp yet lusciously sweet. An ode to wild plums is definitely called for.

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But in case this all seems idyllic, there were also dark rumblings across the county: the incessant daylight thump-thump of heavy plant piling machines.  The controversial high speed 225 mph train line HS2 – London to ??? is carving up the land. And just in case, like me, when someone says ‘railway’ you picture only a narrow swath of track bed, then think again. There are all the access roads and service infrastructure to accommodate. The farm we stayed on had had a compulsory purchase order slapped on 100 of its acres. These are now fenced off.

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For now, only phase 1 London to Birmingham is approved and underway though already, according to Construction News July 2021 it is £1.2 billion over budget; a situation described as ‘cost pressures’.  Nor is this limited section of the projected line likely to open before 2029-2033 (or even 2041 according to whistle-blowing info revealed by one Tory MP). Meanwhile, the whole point of the exercise (apparently) which was to open up the north of England: Manchester west and Leeds east (see map at previous link) seems unlikely to be approved. On top of that, the opposition to the project on grounds of horrendous cost, deemed general pointlessness, and wholesale destruction of ancient woodland continues, as noted in the most recent Government report:

The key issues across the route continue to revolve around traffic and road
related matters, woodland, vegetation and wildlife issues and noise
disturbance. HS2 Independent Construction Commissioner: Eighteenth Report

One also wonders, with all the moves to make people work from home, that come completion in 10+ years’ time – we’ll have more of a ‘ghost train’ than a viable commuter service.

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Still, one shouldn’t let madcap schemes spoil things. Here are more sunlit Warwickshire vistas as summer slips into autumn.

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Lens-Artists: The Colours of Autumn

Life in Colour: gold

49 thoughts on “Last Of Summer Days In Heart-Of-England Country

    1. Agreed. Not sure why any of it was thought to be a good idea. One rather imagines it never will get to the next phase, and London to Birmingham is already well connected. Improve existent services by all means.

      1. Yes, this has always puzzled me, getting to Brum from London doesn’t take that long, and there is a quick link on the Virgin trains to Manchester from London too! (although those trains make me travel sick). What is missing is a quick link from Brum to Leeds / Sheffield. And I wouldn’t object to a faster link to London from Penzance!! But just improve the infrastructure – no need for all this messing about.

  1. No, one should not let such madcap schemes spoil things—and they did not, for this lush tale of your weeklong getaway! Sublime!

  2. From where I am – near Leeds – where journey time to London will not be reduced to any really significant degree by the HST project, it all seems to be madness. No matter, ancient woodlands are already ripped up (‘We’ll plant a few saplings’), irrecoverable meadows concreted over, communities blighted for a project which, if realised at all, will merely be some shadow of its former self. And who knows how many billions of pounds will have been squandered in the process?

  3. Hi Tish, I so enjoyed the walk of Warwickshire through your beautiful photos. The images of the early morning on farm is my favorite. How wonderful to see fall harvest.
    The HS construction project looks massive…

    1. Many thanks. Your winter sounds in need of some speeding up, I.J. We now have cool, wet autumn suddenly upon us. The weather deities simply flicked the summer-off switch on Sunday night.

  4. Lovely photos.
    Somewhat deflated reading all the other nonsense, but it sounds like you two had a nice break.

    One also wonders, with all the moves to make people work from home, that come completion in 10+ years’ time – we’ll have more of a ‘ghost train’ than a viable commuter service.

    We had similar issues with the Gautrain .High speed rail link from the airport to Jo’burg to Pretoria.

    Billions over budget and never runs at capacity, I’ve never used it,
    in 2003 cost estimate: 3.5 billion. By 2011 25.4 billion!
    Oops!

    1. It was a good break, thanks, Ark. The UK is now the land of bonkers. Overspend on HS2 is only one of several recent gov. contracts delivering very little of anything useful.

  5. The color of sunshine in Autumn is a wonder. That delicious amber glow! We have the light, but like you, the colors have not come, though I think they might — later than they used to. If it stops raining, soon we might yet see autumn.

    Your train route sounds like Boston’s Big Dig which went wildly over budget, took five times longer than it was supposed to– and we got one positive result from it — a straight run to the airport. Otherwise, the entire project was cosmetic. They took the endless traffic jam from above ground and put it in a tunnel underground. Same traffic. They didn’t even add an extra lane, so now you can be bumper to bumper in a tunnel instead of in real air. Don’t breathe until you see daylight!

    I love every single one of your pictures and I can’t decide which I like best. The couple walking the path with the sun above them, the horse relaxing, head over fence (“Anyone have an apple or a carrot?”), the panorama of pumpkins — and those fabulous plums! Your vacation world looks peaceful and perfect.

    I’m waiting to see ONE red leaf on my maple tree. That would be my signal that leaves are changing. Usually, we’d be in nearly full color by now with the best color in about a week, but it’s warmer. Without the cold snap at night, the trees don’t seem to know it’s time to change color. Last year we got great color at the end of October. Maybe it will be like that this year, too. I hope so.

    1. Autumn got switched on here at the weekend. It’s been raining all day, and the morning glories look very sorry for themselves, so it cheered me up too looking at Indian summer glow. Happy to hear you liked every shot. More to come.

  6. A county we haven’t really spent time in either, one day visit to Warwick Castle which was fun. Didn’t quite manage Kenilworth though it is still on my list. Oh, and a couple of hours in Stratford which we didn’t actually like very much. Still a week in the heart of the country is not a bad idea. And thanks for all the golden tones too.

  7. Some lovely photos and shadows in there, Tish. Like Jude I’ve been to Warwick but not Kenilworth, nor Leamington Spa so far as I remember. I will look forward to seeing these through your eyes.
    What has gone wrong with the UK? Nothing seems to make sense any more, but somebody must be making money out of this.

  8. Some beautiful autumnal, atmospheric photos Tish. I love the old horse dappled by the sunlight, but my favourite is that delapidated fence, so artistic. Oh dear that railway scheme sounds a complete disaster. As you mention the trend to working from home is well entrenched now so will it ever be needed in the future…🤔

  9. You certainly chose the right week for your Warwickshire stay, weather-wise! I love the light in your photos, it just speaks of autumn even if the leaves haven’t yet turned 🙂 I’m with you on HS2 – as someone who used to do the London-Birmingham run regularly for work, we don’t need marginally faster trains on that route at the cost of all this destruction and disruption 😡

    1. Hello Sarah. Yep. HS2 seems to be another example of digging a hole that the gov. can’t now get out of without losing face, hence the scale-down. Pathetic really, when ministers can’t admit they’ve made a mistake. Or that they’ve spent too much money to back off. They might earn a modicum of respect if they admitted as much.

  10. I recognize the switch off – it came very sudden here as well. Now it is raining, raining. Loved your old fence, and the horse – and the walkers by the tree – the light is so great. Or was, as it is raining over there too now? When it comes to the train business…that’s a hopeless case here as well. And the billions will fall over the high speed trains nobody wants. We need repairing of the old tracks instead.
    Seems you had a great time those days – to savour now.

  11. Some wonderfully idyllic landscapes Tish, and then WHAM, you hit us with the controversy over the rail line. I must agree with you that more people are working from home, and so many people just want the convenience of having their own cars. I guess everyone everywhere is facing similar issues. I know we here are fighting hard against a major development that includes roads, bridges and houses that will totally change the bucolic nature of our world. Sigh Progress???? I think not so much.

  12. The English countryside is so pretty.
    As for trains… The powers that rule us in France took away all the small trains. And the night trains. Not profitable. Now they’re putting them back. Honestly.

      1. It does, doesn’t it? I used to think aggressivity was humanity’s most dangerous “foible”. Now I understood. It’s stupidity. (Which will probably lead us to war again…) Mbaya sana.
        Kwaheri sassa Memsahib.

      2. Very nicely put in but a few words Tish. As Americans would say: you nailed it. Strange is the word. No restraints. No knowledge of history. no vision. Toddlers playing with nukes. Frightening.
        Stay safe. 🙏🏻

  13. Oh I was in such raptures until the “madcap scheme” (which sounds like a polite description). Beautiful photos, and despite the railus interruptus it still sounds as if you had a lovely time. That opening photo especially is beautiful.
    Alison

    1. Many thanks, Alison. It was a lovely spot to spend time. We’ve become a bit conditioned to think holidays only happen in more farflung locales. And of course they can be just as good not far from home.

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