First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A blackbird was giving us the best of his autumn repertoire from a cottage garden in Combrook. Not even the stone angels forming a guard of honour either side of the church door could have sung more celestially.
We sat on the churchyard wall to hear him out, then followed a grass path under heavy-laden horse chestnuts. The fallen conkers lay all around, their spiny green shells half split to reveal a wink of shiny brown nut within.
Greylag geese waddled complaining among the ewes in Park Field, where the long ornamental lake of Compton Pools glinted between trees just beginning to change their dress from green to gold. From the sheep pastures around Home Farm we looked back down a valley landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1770s for Baron Willoughby de Broke. Artfully shaped slopes and dells guided the eye from tree clumps and skyline down to the lake and its three-arched ornamental bridge, a brilliant trick of depth and perspective.
The parkland path and roads led north past stubble and pastures, between hedges crimson with hawthorn berries – peggles, as old countrymen used to call them. The land in its green and brown stripes billowed like a tarpaulin on a windy day.
The horses in the paddocks around Banisters Meadow Farm were too intent on loading grass into themselves to give us more than a glance. Just beyond, we turned back along the homeward path, skirting the osier beds at Poolfield where the knobbly old trees stood knee deep in dark carr swamp.
On the far side of a great trackless field of plough we found Compton Verney’s parkland opening its sculpted vistas again. The pillars and portico of the early Georgian mansion stood beyond the lake, every painter’s dream of peaceful Middle England.
The Verney family built Compton Verney and held it for 200 years. Soap king Joseph Watson, manufacturer of Nubolic disinfectant and Bumpo soap powder, bought the estate in 1921. The new owner exemplified the self-made man of the post-war world. He died a lord, chasing the fox with the Quorn – a paid-up member of the galloping classes.
Start: Combrook Church, Compton Verney, Warwicks CV35 9HP (OS ref SP 307517)
Bus 67A, 67B to Compton Verney house.
Road – Combrook is signed off B4086 at Compton Verney, between Kineton and Wellesbourne (M40, Jct 12)
Walk (7¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 206): With church on right continue down ‘No Through Road’. In 200m, left by No 27 (307519, blue arrow/BA) down path, then beside Compton Pools. In 300m through gate (305521, BA), across Park Field. Gate to right of houses (305525, BA), right along drive to B4086 (307528). Left up Compton Hill; in 200m, right (‘Home Farm’, BA) along drive past Home Farm for 1¼ miles to cross road (318540).
Ahead for ½ mile; right (323545, ‘Hill Fields’) down farm road. In 400m, left along muddy lane (327543); at Banisters Meadow Farm (330545), left up drive to road (331549). Right; in 100m, right (stile, yellow arrow/YA) along field edge. At bottom, right; in 50m, left (333546) down field, across stream (334544) and on across large field. At corner of Poolfield Coppice, through gate (336537); right along fence; in 500m cross left end of Upper Pool (332535, BA). In 100m right across bridge (BA); follow field edge for 500m to Poolfield Cottages (328534).
Left up drive; in 150m, right (gate, BA). Aim a little right across paddock to hedge gap and deer gate (326534). On through wood; through another deer gate, across field, trending a little away from hedge on your right, for 500m to road (321536). Right; in 100m, left (kissing gate) into Compton Verney park. Follow path over meadow for ¾ mile to gate into car park (314527).
Cross in front of café; through gate; left on woodland path. Follow ‘Bird Hide’; pass hide, and follow woodland path to cross B4086 at bridge (311526 – take care!). Path across field (YA), into wood (310523, YA); straight ahead, no lefts or rights, to emerge in field (309519). Right, down to road by house (308518); left to church.
Lunch: Picnic, or Compton Verney Café (open 10-4:30)
Accommodation: Howard Arms, Ilmington, Warwicks CV36 4LT (01608-682226, howardarms.com) – cheerful, characterful village inn.
Compton Verney: 01926-645500; comptonverney.org.uk