Unfortunately the weather doesn't seem to be too promising as we pull up in the car park at Over Haddon after we have both suffered from slow, tedious journeys to get here. Rain seems to be a distinct possibility too, so in order to be prepared I've brought the big brolly. If nothing else it will shelter our birthday buns when we are eating them.
This is a very familiar walk and we hardly need the map, but we bring it along with us, just in case. Like boy scouts, we like to be prepared.
Leaving the car park we head off down the sloping lane towards the valley bottom. The lane winds around a bit before we reach the bottom and find that the river is flowing briskly, but beautifully clear, thanks to recent rainfall.
We cross over the narrow bridge and onto the track at the far side which is a muddier mirror of the one we came down on: climbing steeply with a sharp bend. Mollie is allowed off the lead for a little while here, there are no sheep or livestock for her to bother with and she is completely engrossed in a game of find a stone to play with.
At the top of the track we go through the gate and into the field leading down to Meadow Place Grange Farm. At least the field isn't muddy (nor has any cows in it) but the farmyard, which we have to pass through, is most certainly muddy. But fortunately not deep.
We are soon on the hard-surfaced lane leading away from the farm and passing, on our left, the remains of the medieval village, the humps and lumps in the far fields less distinct on this murky day than they are in full sun.
Suitably replete, and after saying a Good Day to a few other walkers, we carefully go back down the hill and retrace our steps to the Conksbury Road. It is a narrow road, and some cars travel far too fast on it, so we are very careful and wary on the tight bends.
It doesn't take long to reach the lovely Conksbury Bridge where we pause to take a couple of photos and another couple race to pass us. They make a bee-line for the benches on the upward side of the bridge, clearly determined to stake their claim before we get there, although they can't know that we don't plan to sit there this time.
At the far side of the bridge we go through the gate at the side of the river and find the bench part way along vacant. We sit down and prepare for lunch.
Salad and sandwiches, coffee, a glass of birthday wine (red, to keep the chill at bay) and banoffee pies with fresh cream are the bun of the day. We start off with gusto, but gradually slow down as we get fuller and fuller. PC stoically manages to eat everything of hers, but I end up giving the last of my pie to Mollie - who isn't complaining.
We are well ahead of schedule so linger for quite a time over our coffees as a few wakers pass us. Then we pack up our things and head on up the river.
The river and its weirs are full today, and we watch with amusement as some ducks half paddle, half fly up the mini waterfalls. And we see a dipper as well as a grey wagtail. Clearly the late season hasn't put them off.
The path climbs up above the river and where it becomes rocky there is a fence-cum-handrail on the left hand side, very useful given the slickness of the boot-polished limestone when it is wet. Once down on the level again it is only a short walk back to the bridge where we set out.
It does seem to be getting chillier, and duller, but as yet I have not needed the brolly at all (though no doubt if I hadn't brought it along we would have had to put up with a deluge). Then we are off up the last pull of the lane up to the car park. We see a lost balloon tangled in a shrub, its Happy Birthday message upside down but still amusingly appropriate.
Then we are back at the cars with enough time to sit for a while under our fluffy blankets (always handy when waiting around in a cold car) and chat some more.
No walking next week, PC is away for her birthday, but we are hoping to manage the week after.