Leader : Ian Robb. Distance : 7 miles.
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Four and twenty we were, not blackbirds ready for baking, but happy hikers assembled at North Cowton wondering what was in store for us on the day. With the area being predominantly arable and flat it was fairly clear that a field walk lay ahead. What transpired was more of a perambulatory ‘point to point’ or steeplechase in fact, complete with a cunningly conceived water jump mid way. But more of the detail later.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book the name Cowton means Cow Farm with ‘North’ simply used to identify it from its nearby siblings which we were destined to meet on our journey. It was from there we initially set off north east into the surrounding fields and were almost immediately confronted what was pretty much going to be our constant companion for the day- MUD. Flashing images of Hippopotamuses and Flanders & Swan began to appear.
Heading in a more or less straight line it soon became apparent that a degree of gymnastic ability was going to be needed as we negotiated stile after stile whose agricultural constructors seemed to have been in competition with the degree of difficulty. With two dozen souls of varying ability, traversing these impediments, progress was– laboured.
After tramping about a mile & a half we turned sharp right past Bowlturner House to head south towards our second Cowton of the day; East Cowton, where we enjoyed a brief respite from the clarts underfoot. But not before Ann produced the gymnastic performance of the day with her perfectly executed forward roll after crossing a particularly troublesome stile; a maximum 10 we would say.
Once through the village we were soon back on familiar ground, the word is used loosely, and ere long when halfway through our trek we paused awhile to take on sustenance. A convenient barn with assorted agricultural bits and pieces provided shelter for some while others plonked themselves on a couple of disc harrows. Convenient no doubt but as a result of their design they no doubt left interesting indentations in some rear ends.
The two minutes warning sounded and we were off again and shortly thereafter we turned for home after passing the twin High & Low Whinholme farms. Déjà vu was pretty appropriate as we plodded through mud again with our heights increasing exponentially with every stride. We passed close by the 17th Century Pepper Arden once home of Sir Cuthbert Pepper and now locally famous for its gardens and a short while later paused a while to admire South Cowton Castle, a fortified house situated in the now long gone medieval village of that name– the third Cowton of our trilogy. The castle was built by Sir Richard Conyers in 1470 at the start of the Wars of the Roses which gives an indication of why what is a country gentleman’s house is so heavily fortified.
A short deviation took us for a peek at the now redundant St Mary’s church standing somewhat isolated above the water meadows and close to the neighbouring castle. The church was also built by Sir Richard, an avid supporter of the House of York.
We were almost home and on the run in the ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ rhyme came back to mind but for Blackbirds read Mudlarks.
A field walk with a difference.