Ashby de la Zouch – Oakthorpe 8 miles (13 km)
It was fairly recently that I discovered the castle at Ashby. Unlike many which dominate the town on an impressive outcrop of granite the castle at Ashby hides away, perhaps it’s the defensive strategy? If it was, it failed and now the few stones that remain are in the care of English Heritage, so a detailed look will cost you but it’s worth a free look over the fence.
Ashby still has much to show from the days when it served as a staging post for horse drawn coaches adding to the bustle of a market day. The road we take to the west has some imposing buildings until eventually we turn off right close to an interesting 1930 house. Take care along the estate roads, often leaving a village or town can be the greatest navigational challenge. Once on the footpath our waymarker is the spire of Blackfordby church over a mile away.
The well used path has some overgrown stiles and footbridges but the adjacent gap in the hedge make them redundant. The Black Lion looks inviting but is closed as I pass, a later start would allow lunch here. The clock on the church is the war memorial for the men lost from Blackfordby, the plaque looks a recent addition perhaps to explain the absence of any other memorial.
I liked the living roof on the very modern school extension, sadly hidden away behind an otherwise bland Victorian building. Take care along the next piece of path, on the day of my visit and for a long time I suspect, there has been remains of metal fencing sticking up out of the path surface. I hadn’t identified Boothorpe as a settlement but here it is with a cottage that reminds me of Rainbow and D.H. Lawrence and an amazing line of lollipop trees.
Crossing a new road we come to the fringe of Woodville, Derbyshire and for a few metres walk along the county boundary. At Booththorpe we meet again the National Forest Way (NFW), having briefly shared the route as we approached Blackfordby. This walk launched in 2014 twists and turns for 75 miles around the National Forest from The National Arboretum at Alrewas to Beacon Hill.
As the bridleway drops to the road at Hanging Hill I note two settlement homes on the right and one new house, I guess the other ‘sheds’ will soon be replaced. The NFW approaches Moira along the road but I offer a better alternative which is not on the map but easy to follow on the ground.
Walking down the approach to Conkers it appears that the entrance was once secure except the footpath gate had disappeared, was this theft or design? I ask a chap slowing climbing the slope on his bike, he assures me there is a way through, which I hope you agree is better than a road side trek.
It was a surprise to me to emerge by the end basin of the Ashby canal which we now follow for the full extent of the restored / recreated section. It was nice to see this section of canal ready and waiting, with mooring rings and bollards for the boats to use when the middle section is put back in water. On the way we pass a lock and then a honey pot of North West Leicestershire, Moira Furnace. There is a tea shop, craft workshops and essentially a loo, so it might be worth a pause.
The office planning suggested using the cycle track along the former railway line but on the ground the waterside walk is more appealing. A crumbling chimney and faded information board explains the challenge to improve this former colliery site, without that or local knowledge it might be difficult to appreciate the damaging industrial history of the area.
Another reminder of the challenge to the canal reinstatement are the new houses as we enter Oakthorpe along Canal Street. The section ends here where you can take a bus ride back to Ashby using Midland Classic service 19. While you wait or if you plan to continue another refreshment stop is available at the attractive village inn.