Upper Broughton – Zouch 15 miles (24.5 km)
This section starts at Upper Broughton LE14 3BQ in Nottinghamshire and spends much of the fifteen miles out of county. I used the Nottingham to Oakham bus to arrive at the start and then Skylink via Loughborough to get home.
Yet more rain had been falling but the forecast was for a dry day and that was almost right, just a few heavy spots posed the question, should I get the waterproofs on. The first part of the walk was across pleasant pasture but on reaching the hedge that marked the crossing into Leicestershire I could see horrible arable ahead of me. Although churned up by a tractor, a headland offered a cleaner passage than tramping across the open field.
There is usually some highlight on a walk but I wasn’t optimistic today, with a leaden sky I was tempted to offer you pictures in black and white. Today it was my ears which offered the delight of dancing water in the fast flowing streams as the flood raced around and over obstructions which created small waterfalls.
It’s no longer a novelty to those who know the area, a London Tube train trundled back and forth in the mist along the Old Dalby test track. I like to add variety to a country walk with exploration of villages, so there is a loop around part of Old Dalby taking us past the old chapel and perhaps old Crown Inn which is again closed but I’m told the locals expect it to reopen after another refit. I’ve heard that before, so let’s wait and see. I remember The Crown as a basic country pub with a six day licence and beer from a barrel standing behind the bar. Perhaps I should keep my memories that way.
The climb up Debdale Hill offers a quiet metalled departure and a good view back over the village and the former MoD depot, now a commercial business park. The path soon crosses back into Notts. and the useful yellow topped marker posts disappear. Taking in Willoughby allows for a safe bridge crossing of the Fosse Way and a view to the south showing the county boundary marked by a large roadside sign unlike the invisible crossing for those using the footpath network.
Horseshoe Close marks the site of the last village inn, The Three Horseshoes, so no services here today. A footbridge over the infant Kingston Brook takes us back into county and potentially onto a section of road, but a very wide verge protected from encampment by a ditch offers protection for us.
Wymeswold is half way and offers a shop, and a pub or if required you could break the section and get a bus to either Melton or Loughborough. Another tiny watercourse next marks our guiding border but before that a small area of well mown grass and steel containers marks the site of a model aircraft test site.
We now walk on the Nottingham side of the Kings Brook then at Kings Bridge cross over to the Leicestershire side. There is a choice here and I’ve chosen to take the high ground and views but you could follow the border and river all the way to Stanford on Soar should you wish. From the vantage point of Hoton Hills Stanford Hall can be seen to the north, not outstanding from this viewpoint but worth exploring (see Stanford Hall). It is being converted into the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre’ (DNRC) after being purchased by the Duke of Westminster in 2011. For many years it was owned by the Co-op. I kicked my self having once bought tickets for an event in the grand 1930’s theatre and then forgot to attend.
The village of Stanford on Soar is evidently an Estate Village but the busy road blights the tiny settlement. Lucky me, as I walk towards the crossing of the old Great Central Railway a steam train glides across the embankment. Not a common sight yet on this part of the line which is cut off from the busy Leicester section. That is until the connecting bridge is replaced across the Midland Main Line at Loughborough station. The fund raising is almost complete and work has started for the return of steam trains running between Leicester and Nottingham.
From the next section of path you can see why I have taken the walk across the river. This high ground offers an adequate gap from the sprawling industry of Loughborough and offers views of the town’s church and carillon towers, with the hills of Charnwood beyond.
The crossing of the next railway raised safety concerns and the footpath which once crossed the busy four lines on the level now uses the cattle creep tunnel, an older map may not show this diversion. Finally Normanton on Soar and the splendid new village hall welcomes us to this affluent riverside village. The Plough Inn offers the only decent public access to the river, most of the bank is the exclusive domain of luxury houses – best seen by taking a boat cruise.
The walk ends as it started in Nottinghamshire at Zouch LE12 5EQ. Catch the hourly Skylink to Loughborough or walk into Hathern for an half hourly service.
You can view and download the walk route using Bing Maps click here (opens a new page).
You can also use Bing to download a .gpx file of the walk follow these instructs. When the walk route appears on the map click on the line or button and a black box appears, click on ‘save to your places’ and another box will appear. Next click on ‘Actions’ and then ‘Export’ you can select either KLM or GPX another box will appear inviting you to open or save the file. Give it a go.