Small yet perfectly formed is a good way of describing the lily of the valley flower. Its string of tiny, white coloured bells hang down from the flower stalk, hiding shyly amongst the leaves which are ridiculoulsy large compared to the size of the flower. I have to confess to being a big and blousy type, prefering large, colourful flowers which stand loud and proud. However, I know that lily of the valley is a popular garden flower with lots of people and so there’ll be many who’d like to see it in the wild. Siccaridge wood near Frampton Mansell boasts a large carpet of it right now, and you can create a circular walk incorporating the canal where there’s a riot of flowers and colour.
Lily of the valley flowers during the middle of May and, when I visited Siccaridge woods yesterday, the flowers were starting to ‘go over’ (as botanists describe the flowers beginning to die). The flower-buds were almost non-existent during May Day bank holiday weekend and I’d thought they wouldn’t be open until late May. The fabulous sun and high temperatures of the past three weeks or so have obvioulsy put the plant into overdrive so if you want to see it, this weekend is the time.
The sun-yellow flag irises are another wild flower that’s looking fabulous now and the disused canal from Chalford to the Daneway pub is an ideal place to enjoy it. These are wetland plants that grow tall out of the water and the flower has the classic shape of iris flowers – three large petals hanging down from a central coloumn of petals growing upwards. As well as the irises, there’s a riot of other flowers growing alongside the canal – the Queen’s Anne lace forms thick stands of delicate white-coloured flowers being true to their name, interspersed with the bright cerise pink of red campion, the light pink of herb robert, yellow archangel, white dead-nettle and all overshadowed by the icing-thick covering of white flowers on the hawthorn bushes. The birds are also in good voice, especially if you do this walk early in the morning or from tea-time onwards when the ‘dusk chorus’ gets going. This stretch of canal is the closest I think the Stroud valleys has to wilderness. The ‘real’ world seems millions of miles away and the whole atmosphere is peaceful and tranquil. Time spent here is the perfect way to unwind from the stresses of the day.
You can create a circular walk combining Siccaridge woods, this stretch of canal and the Daneway pub which serves great food and beer (as well as lots of other drinks, of course!). Now that’s what I call perfect nature watching!
When to visit: middle two weeks of May, and possibly until end of May (depending on how warm the weather is)
Location: the woods and the canal are on the opposite side of the road from the Daneway pub on the road from Sapperton to Tunley. OS Explorer map 935037.
How much time to allow: 1.5-2 hours for a gentle stroll with time to stop and admire the flowers and generally soak up the peacefulness. Don’t forget to add time for a pub stop!
Terrain: the path through the wood from the entrance gate is generally flat with the usual soil surface you’d expect in a wood but it’s quite stony in places. It may be possible for people with limited mobility to manage this stretch (though probably not wheelchairs). At the far end of the wood, the path goes steeply downhill to the canal towpath, which is then flat as it runs back to the road and the pub. Unfortunately, there are a few steps down from the road to get to the canal towpath so, although the towpath is flat and easy to walk on, it wouldn’t be possible for people with mobility problems to reach it. The beer garden at the Daneway is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the woodlands and countryside surrounding it, so one option is for the person with mobility problems to sit there with a drink and book whilst others do the walk which takes an hour.
Facilities: good food and drink, a large beer garden with great views, and general conviviality are available at the Daneway pub (http://www.thedaneway.pub/index). The pub sits on its own in the valley, surrounded just by woodland, countryside and wildlife. It’s a great place to sit in the beer garden and take in the peace. The equally good Bell Inn is further up the road in the village of Sapperton (http://bellsapperton.co.uk/).
from Stroud: from the A419 Stroud to Cirencester road take the turn to Frampton Mansell. Keep on the same road and drive through the village, along the country road through the countryside and to the edge of Sapperton where there’s a small cross-road. Take the left turn signposted to the Daneway. If you’re not visiting the Daneway, park in the layby on the left hand side just before the sharp right turn onto a bridge but if you are, park in the Daneway car park.
From Cirencester: on the A419 Cirencester to Stroud road, take the Sapperton turn-off, continuing straight over the crossroads, along the edge of the village to a mini cross-roads and turn left following signs to Daneway pub. If you’re not visiting the Daneway, park in the layby on the left hand side just before the sharp right turn onto the bridge but if you are, park in the Daneway car park.
Walk a short way up the road away from the pub and the entrance gate to Siccaridge wood is on the left hand side. There’s a gap at either the side of the gate which you can walk through. Carry straight on through the centre of the wood and half way along where there’s a clearing, the carpet of lily of the valley is on the right hand side. Take a little track on the right to find a bench a short distance along with a view over the valley. Return to the main path and the lily of the valley continues either side of the path. At the far end of the wood where the path splits, take the left hand path. Ignoring side paths off the main one, continue along to a major fork and take the right hand path and then left at a tiny crossroad of paths. This is the gentler of the paths down to the canal. Walk straight on to the canal bridge, from where you’ll get good views of the old canal and the lovely Frome valley. On the other side of the bridge, take the track to the left to find the main towpath. Continue along this path until you reach a few steps up to the road, and on the opposite side is the Daneway pub.