Monday, 24 July 2017

Three Hills

My dad wouldn't have approved - not that I ever saw him use a compass - but he was methodical to a fault, and less accustomed to assuming than I am. I'm sure he'd have bothered to check his angles where the path turns off the Great Addington to Cranford road, and so would have avoided the less than chuffed half hour I spent tramping the fields trying to find the proper way to Woodford. I still laugh at the joke of Pooh and Piglet's misapprehensions in respect of the increasing number of Woozles-or-is-it Wizzles as they plod round a wood in the snow (check it out if you don't know the story or need cheering up) but I think A.A.Milne learnt his stuff about Ashdown Forest the hard way. Walking round and round the rough pasture fields I try to remind myself that getting lost is half the fun. Possibly, but not when there are miles to go before you sleep.

I'm looking for the 'Three Hills' and eventually there they are, as plain as three Bronze Age tumuli can be, a short line of nettle covered bumps beside a cow field on the highest point of the rise overlooking the Nene. These round barrows aren't particularly rare in national terms, but they're unusual for Northamptonshire. They must commemorate the great and good Northamptonians of four thousand years ago, and since all three barrows touch each other, the individuals buried there must have been closely related. I think they also tell us something about the countryside of the time, which may have been at least as open as it is today, although presumably the Nene valley was a much wider expanse of marsh and water than it is now. The intention must have been that these monuments should be seen from a distance. I find it rather moving to walk down from this ancient site and then along the river bank into lovely Woodford to the church of St. Mary's, the 'Cathedral of the Nene' with its graceful ordered churchyard looking out over the curve of the water.

There is much that delights me here. The church is beautifully and generously proportioned, even if its claim to be the biggest in the Nene valley seems to miss the point. The organ sounds jolly loud as I sit and tootle - I shouldn't think you'd ever know if the congregation was singing the hymns. There's a church ghost, written up in the local paper during the thirties and attested by a previous incumbent. One of his successors as priest had a glamorous, even raffish film-star name: Luis de Casabianca. He served the parish for more than twenty years, and was evidently much loved: his wife's artwork still adorns the church. In the graveyard can be found a headstone inscribed to 'Kitty the black girl' who died in 1865. Now there's a story begging for some fictional amplification!  Best of all, nineteenth century workmen found a mummified human heart amongst old stonework, which Fr. Casabianca's research later suggested belonged to a Roger de Kirketon. He died in Norfolk during the 13th century, but home is where the heart is. In the visitors' book it records that Doreen and Roy dropped by last week. They were married in St. Mary's in 1951. Woodford is a fit destination for pilgrimage, a place where memories hang palpably in the air.

                                                    Ringstead. Too often the case...

I keep close to the river rather than walk up into the village, picking up the Nene Way until the line of the old railway to Thrapston sweeps across the river in front of me. I follow its long since de-metalled trackpath up to the A14, where I have to zigzag back to the Nene to cross under the rolling thunder of the traffic. Like Crianlarich in Perthshire, Thrapston used to have two railway stations (the idea of one railway passing underneath another in a rural setting is attractively reminiscent of the layouts of childhood trainsets!) The line from Northampton to Peterborough was opened in 1845. The Northampton Herald recorded that 'The new line, comprising only a single line of rails...has been completed in fifteen months at a cost of about £10,000 per mile, considerably under the estimates.' Compare and contrast with HS2...though £10,000 must have been a fortune in those days. Not a billion pounds' worth of fortune though.

I emerge opposite 'The Woolpack' pub on the Islip side of the Nine Arches Bridge and adjourn to the bar for a drink, served to me by Rachel who asks politely what I'm doing (as per usual I look scruffier than the rest of the clientele). I said I'd give you a namecheck, Rachel, so if you're reading, here it is. Thank you! The last time we stopped at The Woolpack some years ago, it wasn't a rewarding experience, so it's good to find it smartened up. Having crossed the Rubicon of the A14 I'm now in terra incognita. Here be dragons. So how do you say 'Islip'? I default to 'Eye-slip'. But it could be 'Is-slip' or 'Illip' or knowing the cantankerous ways of Northamptonshire folk even 'Ilp'. I walk up to St. Nicholas' church, which still has a rood screen in place, so I assume the style of worship here may be high-ish, although no smell of incense lingers on the air. The church has American connections through the Washington family, and in the corner is a letter of greeting from the Episcopal church in Islip, Suffolk County, New York State. Close by is a list of Rectors, and I see that there was once an incumbent by the name of Thomas Oliver Cromwell East. Poor chap! His parents were setting the bar rather high. Or low, depending on your point of view. At any rate they were covering a range of possibilities in churchmanship. Not a bloke to be trifled with perhaps.

I remember this section of the Nene Way well from a previous walk. From the back of a(nother) pub I stroll down across the stepping stones of a large lawned back garden past a handsome duck pond, swallows dipping and diving around me. After a series of gates I reach Islip Mill where a barn is offered for sale with permission to convert. The barn's a long stone's throw from the river. At first it looks a good proposition, 2.6 acres of land thrown in for good measure. But then a thought occurs. A local is walking his dog. I ask him if the fields flood. 'Oh yes,' he says, 'It's often one big lake around here in winter'. So perhaps not quite such a good proposition then. I'd hoped to cross the footbridge and enter Thrapston through the back door, but gosh darn, the bridge is being renovated and without breaking the British ( no, the World) long jump record, there's no way forward. Mumbling incoherently, I retrace my steps back as far as The Woolpack and then turn across the Nine Arches Bridge into the town. Time was, the main road came right through Thrapston, along with the aforesaid two railway lines, and there was a motor racing circuit just up the road towards Kettering. With all these gone, Thrapston stretches out handsomely, but doesn't quite live up to its promise anymore. Despite its Chancery Lane and its Bullring, it's no Olney. Am I seeking meaningless gentrification? I hope not. I just think it's surprising that given the wealth locked up in the property of surrounding villages, there's been little apparent enterprise in terms of precisely targeted artisan or boutique shops. A real butchers? A great bakery? Maybe they're there and I missed them. Maybe they've been tried and failed. To put it another way, Thrapston seems like a place of ripe opportunity. Oh, and the large and centrally placed St. James' church is shut, although a sale of work is being set up in the hall opposite. I'm in rather a hurry or I'd have gone in and snooped.

Returning southwards, the old Nene Way meanders across the fields to Denford. The wind has dropped ('Draughty place, en'it?' a gentleman had remarked to me as I left Great Addington this morning). The sun is dappling the fields of barley, most of them gold...thank you Sting. A herd of cows has chosen to sit on the path exactly where I want to cross the Nene, and I have to improvise an alternative route. As I do so, a snowy white egret rises calmly in front of me and takes to the sky, describing a great circle away from Denford in search of a quieter fishing pitch at Summer Leys. I eat a sandwich beside some fussily decorated graves in the churchyard of the locked Holy Trinity church which according to has some fascinating acoustic jars in the chancel. I don't even know what an acoustic jar is. Give me a sec and I'll look it up so you don't have to...

Well I never! These turn out to be ceramic vessels set into the walls of churches, more often in France than in England, which are claimed to improve the sound of the singing, a theory being that rather than make the congregation sound louder, they absorb certain frequencies in a flattering way. Another time I'll have to purloin a key and test it out.

There's something very pleasing about the riverside situation of Denford, the way the houses and gardens topple over into the river, the rise of the village up on one bank while the flood plain remains open on the other. I climb the hill and press on to sprawling, untidy Ringstead along a narrow cut in the wheat field past the allotments. The sign beside them says they're in the keeping of the Ringstead charity. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary church is open, and the aesthetic inside seems to me a little untidy too, which may just mean that's it used a lot (it's the last week of the school term). Should I expect every church to present as an oasis of calm? Not really. Some churches inherit furniture and fittings in a more haphazard way than others. Subsequent affection for particular items on the part of some individuals may mean that a comfortable but unbeautiful compromise has to be reached. A rigorously organised building with a single aesthetic direction may radiate peace to the casual visitor, but could perhaps indicate the iron, domineering hand of one person, clergy or lay, at some past moment. Stan comes in to use the bathroom by the servery. He's been working with a mate on wall-building in the churchyard. Is he a mason by trade, I ask? He denies it. He's a brickie who lives locally, but the company for whom he works has been commissioned to reclaim some of the stone from old outbuildings. The job isn't easy or satisfying: the stone is of poor quality.

In all of the above I'm tempted to find metaphors for the Church's human constitution. In this week's Times I read an obit for Dr. Wesley Carr, one time Dean of Westminster. He clearly wasn't always an easy person to deal with, and for some very good reasons: he was diagnosed with Parkinson's very shortly after taking office in London. There was a very public spat with a well-connected Director of Music, one of those fallings-out so common in the Church, and particularly between clergy and musicians - a matter of great regret to me. Why do we find it so hard to live together? One answer might be that it all matters so much to us. Another is the raw material with which we deal. I've been reading the beginning of St. Paul's letter to the Romans this week, and am reminded how hard it is to understand, literary at one moment, apparently logically shaky at another, the writer's emotion bubbling through and sometimes overwhelming his argument. Describing the frailty of the our creaturely condition his anger explodes alliteratively: asunetous, asunthetous, astorgous,aneleemonas...senseless, untrustworthy, inhuman, unmerciful. I don't think we'd have got on, me and Paul. Yet this is a key New Testament source on which all Christians draw. How will we ever agree? How can we ever be absolutely tidy?

I walk up the long stretch of Station Road, crossing the unseen Roman villa whose site is precisely at the point where the lane hangs a right towards the Addingtons. Looking up to the low ridge, I struggle to make out the Three Hills, the ancient work of people as temporally remote from Jesus and Paul as we are - but at the other end of time's arrow. The landscape around us, physical and mental, is often more puzzling than not.

I Spy: 21 km. 6.5 hrs. 22degrees C. Very breezy at first. 4 stiles (two points) 15 gates (one point) 11 bridges (three points) 5 churches: 3 open (five points) 2 barbed wire fences to be limbo danced (five points for anyone seeing me...) 1 egret (Twenty points and a gold star)

Ospreys have been turning up locally, presumably migrating? I never knew that: always associated them with Scotland. As yet I would struggle to identify one. If I ever did : fifty points!!!

Father God
Please grant me understanding,
Help my unbelief,
Give me love in my heart,
And bless those with whom I live
In like fashion.

Oh, and another thing Father,
(Can I pray for this?)
Those people up on the hill
Under the mounds
And those they lived among
None of whom knew Jesus...
(Thinking about them
I feel a frisson of what?
My own frailty and mortality?)
I commend them to you,
Suspecting they were just like us
Searching for the Truth.
May we all be found
In Your everlasting Kingdom
As you wrap up the Universe
In the final time.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

(It happened) In Monterey

I park up in Old's Mill Lane, and stroll round to pick up the south-westerly path which leads through sheep fields from Grange Farm over a collection of well-kept stiles down to the stream which feeds into Pitsford Reservoir. On the far side I avoid a herd of cows and calves and negotiate with a farm dog that I'm not worth the trouble of his teeth in my knee. Then, after a turn off the track into a dip, it's a short distance to Scaldwell's village green.

Wikipedia isn't very kind to Scaldwell (written by a disgruntled resident/ex-resident?) It is, it says, a tiny village without shops or a pub, and its population is mostly ageing. Well, there are three hundred people living here, which makes it more than tiny in my book, and the ageing thing is probably subject to revision. This is just the kind of place where aspirational thirty-somethings would like to live. Me too, if I could afford it. True, it has no pub, and the button on the village website marked 'Events' has nothing happening in July, dear boy. But there's a Scaldwell Club open on a few evenings a week, so locals can buy a drink without getting in their car and travelling to the fleshpots of Brixworth.

SS Peter & Paul's church is shut, but I eat a sandwich on the bench next to the allotments, and ponder what might be entailed in the 'Bread Service' which has been held every year since the significant one of 1666. There was a lot of ironstone in the fields to the west of Scaldwell, and for fifty years until the early nineteen sixties it was extracted on an industrial scale. One of the saddle-tank locomotives used on the little railway, named after the village, is preserved in a museum in Brockham, Surrey. I daresay all this provided Scaldwell with extra 'bread' for a while.

These days there's no sign of that industrial past, and a long undulating path stretches across ripening wheat fields towards Lamport. It's a moment of high summer, the point when I always feel regret for the passing year and the coming end of the golden time. So many opportunities wasted. So much to do. I think to myself that it's a round half century since 1967's 'Summer of Love', when my affair with rock music really began. The line up at that year's Monterey festival famously included not only Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin (in her role as lead singer with Big Brother and the Holding Company) but also Eric Burdon, The Mamas and the Papas, The Who, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Buffalo Springfield and Simon and Garfunkel, amongst others. In the October of 1967, John Peel hosted his first Top Gear Radio 1 programme (nothing at all to do with Jeremy, Richard, James and testosterone fuelled motor cars!) and I was quickly hooked, thereafter attempting to combine my weekend study of Thucydides and Ovid with listening to Skip Bifferty, Mandrake Paddle Steamer, Chicken Shack et. al.. I was an innocent, mostly ill-informed bystander of the political difficulties of the day, and as a South East London schoolboy would have had to answer a definite 'no' to Hendrix's album title enquiry 'Are you experienced?' , but at the domestic level perhaps we all responded to the strait-jacketed post-war attitudes of an older generation with scepticism and a longing to do things differently. So in those regretful memories of mid/late teenage years is also a sense of another golden era ended, not just because of the passage of years, but because 1967's optimism and idealism are largely out of the window today. And yet, and yet, as Stephen Stills sang back then, right now in 2017, 'There's something happening here/What it is ain't exactly clear...There's battle lines being drawn/Nobody's right if everybody's wrong...'

I turn left at the main road and cross the field to Hanging Houghton. This is partly because I love the name of this small village which looks out over the valley from its beautiful position. I also know there was once a chapel or church here, and wondering where it might have been, I want to be in the place to pray briefly for those who live there now without its benefits. I can see a couple of candidates for the building's one-time location, and just generally wander around, nosing, remembering that in Sue's mum's later years we saw the new development of houses here above the farm and were tempted to buy. It would have been a good investment, I think, but the place was certainly too remote for a fit person in their eighties, and perhaps for us too.

The Swan at Lamport provides a lunchtime drink and a loo. It's trying to be a gastro pub, and it's perfectly clean and everything, and the staff are nice, but I'd have preferred to tap up whatever tearoom arrangements are in place at the Hall except it doesn't open until 2. On the road beside the Grand House is All Saints church. Something bad must have happened here in recent times.I can't get in, and the notices advising of the church's surveillance by a security company are obvious and legion. Next to the front door is a small war memorial in the shape of a Celtic cross carrying the name of William Barnard Rhodes- Moorhouse V.C.. Sources variously have Rhodes-Moorhouse as born in Yorkshire, London and Lamport, but it seems that actually the family moved into Lamport Hall later in the year of his birth -1887. His mother was of Maori descent through her own mother, which interestingly gets William included on the Northamptonshire Black History Association's alumni list. He was always clearly fascinated by the mechanical, and became the first flyer to be awarded a VC, killed as a result of injuries sustained in a daring bombing raid on the railway station at Courtrai in 1915. As he lay on his deathbed, he commented that for him the experience of dying, that journey into the great unknown, was like his first solo flight. His family later lived at Spratton, and there's an individual commemoration of him there too.

Away from Lamport, I take the bridleway which runs north-east from the Old road along the crest of the slight ridge at about 150 metres. Eventually this meets another broad byway which carries me south-east to the lost village of Faxton, once the Saxon 'Fakr's Farm'. The breadth of the path is telling. What I'm walking along was once the main access to the little village, and is sometimes given as one reason for its decline - because it was so poorly maintained, and must have been impassably muddy in the sharp dip a couple of hundred metres from the houses. Most 'lost' villages in the South Midlands are the result of enclosures and other regrettable actions by landowners in medieval or post Civil-War times. Faxton held on long after that, recovering after decimation by the Black Death. Its church, unusually dedicated to St. Denis, patron saint of Paris, was only demolished in the nineteen fifties. All that remains of it now is a font and various gravestones lying somewhere in a field, although I don't find them. A watercolour by John Piper, now held in the V&A, shows the ruins of the place before it was finally pulled down. You'll find its likeness on the web. The last Rector of Faxton was W.M. Watkins Pitchford, whose son Denys (was the name a coincidence?) became a celebrated twentieth century author and illustrator in his own right. Did Piper and Watkins Pitchford know each other? I think they must have done. Possibly they met at the Royal College of Art where both studied. Piper had a penchant for wild-looking ecclesiastical buildings but his depiction of Faxton is relatively muted. Under the name BB ( a kind of shot used against geese) Watkins Pitchford wrote many books, often for children, often with countryside themes. The gentle singer and muse of early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, was a devotee. No doubt BB's eccentricity and whimsicality appealed. 1967 again.

All that survives of the ancient farm apart from the churchy bits is a single house in a copse. On my hippie kick, I find myself singing an (adapted) Joni Mitchell lyric:

'I came across a child of God
He was walking along the road
I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
He said "I'm goin' down to Fakr's Farm
Gonna join me a rock n'roll band
Gonna camp out on the land and set my soul free"

We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden...

And if you know the rest of the song, you'll know why the sight of so many butterflies (everywhere plenteous this year according to D. Attenborough) coppers, whites, red admirals and even one peacock, brought a tear to my eye in this maudlin place, as the bombs still fall, not now in Vietnam, but in Syria, Yemen and in unknown places in Africa. There is still everything to do.   

Stats man:  14 km.  4 hours.  19 degrees. Cloudy but clearing with a chilly north-easterly breeze.13 stiles. 13 gates. 4 bridges. Two churches still standing. Both closed for the day. No one to talk to.but the sheep, the chien mechant and the butterflies.

Dear Lord
I thank you for those who work the land.
Who produce our food.
Who keep an environment
Where I can feel at peace
And feel you close.
I pray for fair and thoughtful trade
For unselfish sharing of the earth's resources
For a restraint of the greed
Into which we all so easily fall.
I pray that in my own habits
And conversation
I may show real solidarity
With the poor of the world.
Forgive my hypocrisy.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hotter than July...oh, it is July!

At the Anglian Water lodge by Pitsford Causeway, nice Mark behind the counter doesn't charge me for a permit since all I want to do is walk along the Pitsford and Walgrave arms of the reservoir and find a way out to the village of Old, rather than degrade Pitsford Water's fish stocks or spend hours in a bird hide hoping for a sight of the Great Crested Hoopoe Duck. Nor does he charge me for parking the Audi beside the ranger's office, but he doesn't know if it's physically possible to do the route I have in mind. Don't worry, Mark, I did!

Perhaps this is the best bit of walking to be had at Pitsford, but if you want to try it, please go and make sure the office near Holcot are OK about that first. The paths are mostly cut into the grass, although some are currently blocked for access because of unspecified ongoing ecological projects. There are good shady sections through woodland dells, which is helpful to me because even at ten o' clock today it's obvious it's going to be a 'scorcher'. If you're a birder with an interest in waterfowl, then you're well catered for with well-constructed hides and viewpoints. A coot alerts the large flocks of ducks further up the shoreline to my presence, and they swim to the middle of the lake for safety. I wonder if I'll be able to follow the angles of the bays easily enough, but in the event it's fairly clear where I need to hop over a fence and pick up the path which zig-zags from Walgrave to Old through fields of barley, oats and wheat. A small sheep field then brings me into the heart of the village.

I must 'fess up'. On what I know will be a really hot day, I lay out my various necessary accompaniments before leaving home. High vis jacket: check. Sandwiches: check. Anorak (there are thunderstorms forecast): check. Hat: check (lol). Water bottles. Yeah, what happened to those water bottles? Oh bother, I realise half way round the reservoir, they're still sitting on the dining room table back home, aren't they?  Note to self - and to all who read - this was a very silly thing to do. Getting dehydrated is Very Bad, particularly if you're knocking on a bit. So as I enter the village, I'm still pondering my options. Village shop? Waiting for the pub to open? Hammering on a villager's door and begging for alms? Or maybe (an outside bet, this...) the church will be open and will have a servery with a tap...?

 There is no village shop, nor is the pub open, but the church comes up trumps, so I don't have to shyly importune startled locals. Inside St. Andrew's I find the Rector, Karen Jongman, who looks after a benefice which also includes Walgrave, Hannington and Scaldwell. The church is lovely and light with high walls along the nave. We talk about various churchy matters, music included, over a pint of extremely welcome water, and I realise/remember that this is a benefice which is lucky to have two of the county's best church musicians resident close by - Ian Clarke and Andrew Moodie. Karen's own tastes (and her husband's) are for jazz with a traditional flavour, although like me in her teens she once liked something more modern on the jazz spectrum. I admit to her that the ability to 'swing' is not a musical skill I find easy - as is often the case with players whose background is in either rock or the classical arena: the loping freedom of rhythm which tends to place the felt beat slightly ahead of where a computer or metronome would put it eludes us. And we find the chords too complicated. And the egos of jazzers...but that's another matter.

Old used to be called 'Wold', and around the village the ancient name still occasionally makes an appearance. The place certainly has an airy feel to it, although the surrounding countryside is no more than gently undulating. Its current moniker achieves continuing fame courtesy of the local haulage firm 'Knights of Old', which gives a chuckle to some of us when we see their lorries pass, and always makes me think of Jan Struther's children's hymn: 'When a knight won his spurs in the stories of old/He was gentle and brave; he was gallant and bold/with a shield on his arm and a lance in his hand/For God and for valour he rode through the land.'

The weather forecast today is annoyingly unpredictable: both the BBC and the Met Office have been pondering the possibility and timing of thunderstorms for a few days now. Briefly they bring forward the likelihood of problems to the early afternoon, although there are no signs of it in a largely cloudless sky, but I take a conservative approach to my route, and so retrace my steps almost to the reservoir boundary before following the track up to Walgrave. There's something satisfying about a circular walk which I think is partly (in me at least) down to a rather human 'Ooh, aren't I clever' tendency, as well as the more mystical, magical symbolism of a completed circle, but there's something to be said for 'out and back' walks too. The further I go in a day, the less I'm inclined to turn around and look at the landscape from different angles, but a 180 degree view of things can be interesting and revealing. The hill up which one has toiled is scarcely noticeable when gravity and momentum are aiding rather than hindering progress. The line of a path across a field which wan't picked up easily in one direction is stonkingly clear in the other. The sun illuminates the fields and buildings differently.

I remember Walgrave as being 'Walgrave St. Peter's', but I can see no reference to this in any map or article - and I'm sure I remember once seeing a road sign which read 'Walgrave St. Mary's', but now I think maybe I'm making this up. At any rate another of Karen's churches is the high-spired St. Peter's, just above the village green. It's distinctly hot now, and the shade inside is a relief.

I can't help it. The junk box of my brain makes a connection between the long-form of the village name and sixties' singer 'Crispian St. Peter's', so the soundtrack to this part of today's walk is his hit 'You were on my mind', much beloved of Tony Blackburn c. 1966. Crispian (actually Robin) was largely a one-song-wonder, although his career continued with reasonable success thereafter. He was born in Swanley, Kent, where my parents live (and I like this) was once part of a group called 'The Country Gentlemen'. The song was written by Canadians 'Ian and Sylvia'  and it recently turned up on a Steve Earle/Shawn Colvin album, who probably never knew it had been such a huge hit in England. Just thought I'd share all that with you. Too much information, probably.

I have a drink at the pub, set off, reach the edge of the village, climb a stile, realise I've left my walking stick at the pub, mumble and grumble wordlessly the way old folk do, retrace my steps, and then decide not to take the path across the fields after all because there are horses blocking the way, standing in the shade of the trees on the brow of the hill, and I don't want to have to make nice with them. There's an alternative route which takes me off the road half way to Hannington, so I can still enter it by the pretty route, across a little garden field where the hay has been newly mown.

There's not much to Hannington, but as you can see the church has a bisected nave, which isn't common, and which though you might call it a design feature, could scarcely be commended as a thing of beauty or an aid to contemplative worship. It's...well it's just in the way, folks. The church is set up on a little mound, and the suggestion is that this might have been the village's moot point before the church was built - by which I don't mean that it was an irrelevant earthwork, just that people met there to chew the fat about who had nicked whose pig, or the possible options for entertainment at the Harvest Supper in 968 AD.

The sky's still wonderfully blue, and there's not the merest suggestion of sturm und drang, but I take the direct route along the road back to Holcot, the reservoir and the car...and then regret it. The heat is reflecting savagely from the tarmac and my left ankle is sore. England, having elected to bat, are now making the South African bowlers suffer under the sun at Lords. This is a not inconsiderable consolation.

CODA. Yesterday's Times trumpets that the government intends to make a billion pounds available for the building of by-passes. This perhaps will include the completion of the northern by-pass to Northampton. It will pass close enough to Walgrave and Old and Hannington that villagers are already taking part in consultations about the likely impact on their communities. As the CPRE have reminded everyone, research shows that by-passes do not solve traffic problems: they increase them. And once a by-pass is built, as I've previously remarked on more than one occasion, the logic is for infilling at least up to the new boundary created by the road. Which may be the real reason the government is willing to spend the money.

Stats man: 17 km. 5 hrs. (Some wandering around in both Old and Walgrave). 28 degrees. Little in the way of breeze. 5 stiles. 7 gates. A lot of bridges (lost count). One barbed wire fence safely negotiated. A distant heron. Numerous ducks - but I can't tell you what sort ( which can provide an alternative polite vernacular as in 'Him? He can't tell his Teal from his Widgeon!' ) Some cheery villagers in Old. Three churches - all open!

                                       Wall painting and flowers: SS. Peter and Paul, Hannington

Thank you for the wonders of your creation,
Always new,
Always astounding in their beauty.
Please help me to see myself
And all those I meet
As part of this panoply of love
And to treat us all