Leicestershire Border Walk – part 9

October 30, 2014 by

Cotesbach – North Kilworth 14 miles (23km)

I parked in the pleasant back lanes of North Kilworth on a road named ‘Along the Bottoms’ although the sign read Bottom because the ‘s’ had been painted out. An interesting name but not one recognised by either Google Maps or the Royal Mail postcode finder. They are enthusiastic sign erectors here with attractive cast signs offering directions to the church, millennium green, bogs (not a public loo) and the bowls club. All are worth inspecting in a village that is proud of its heritage.

09-09-bottom

I used the bus to Lutterworth and arrived in time to get a connection for the Rugby bus to Cotesbach but had planned to walk the mile south so had a look around the town before departing.

The route from Cotesbach to Shawell is an easy but uninteresting walk. The path has been diverted around a sand quarry and is often confined between fences although it had been mown throughout. It would appear that part of the quarry is now landfill and a whiff of methane pervaded the air.

The path runs alongside and then crosses the former Great Central Railway, did it ever live up to its name? Conceived to link Manchester via Leicester to the continent through a channel tunnel – a plan of the late 19th century that stalled at Dover. Part of the old trackbed further south will be used by High Speed 2 (HS2).

Shawell, another first time visit and a pleasing village set on a quiet back lane. The Swan Inn looks a bit posh so I made a short detour up to the church and found a welcoming bench in the sun for a lunch stop.

The Swan at Shawell

The Swan at Shawell

Having decided that a boundary walk should visit villages along the way, Catthorpe was a must being the most southerly settlement in Leicestershire. The map suggests the area is dominated by motorways but on the ground space is more evident showing the failure of maps to show the true scale of some features.

09-02-works

At the time of my visit there were major works in progress to improve the interconnection of the M1, M6 and A14 at junction 19. Improvements for the motorist that is, because footpaths and bridleways get diverted onto switchback journeys alongside the noisy roads to allow a safe crossing point. In addition to the published closures I find others which make this part of the walk a navigational challenge. It should improve once the work costing £191 million is finished in 2017.

Cherry Tree Inn at Catthorpe

Cherry Tree Inn at Catthorpe

The river Avon now marks the boundary with Northamptonshire until the village of Welford where reservoirs to feed the canal store much of the river’s flow. I’m told by a local that the footbridge to the south of Swinford is being replaced and a half mile of new fencing will segregate the upgraded footpath X6 which becomes a bridleway to compensate for others lost by the road works.

New fencing for a bridleway near Swinford

New fencing for a bridleway near Swinford

Swinford is another discovery for me, sleepy on this mid week visit but the Chequers Inn calls for a weekend visit with the website stating “The Chequers is also an ideal location for walking and is used by many walking groups exploring the local area with its maze of public footpaths.” and it serves beer from Dow Bridge Brewery.

You could easily miss the brief view of Stanford Hall but back in Northamptonshire you won’t miss the information board about Percy Sinclair Pilcher Learn more at this website (opens a new window) who may have beaten the Wright brothers to powered flight had he not been fatally injured here.

Percy Pilcher memorial

Percy Pilcher memorial

The final part of this section meets the Leicester summit of the Grand Union canal. It has a reputation among boaters for being a remote stretch of canal and the next few miles of the walk mirror that isolation. From the site of Downton medieval village there is a choice, take the canal towpath or the bridleway. I initially took the shortest route but then climbed twenty metres to take in the views back down the valley towards Rugby.

North Kilworth Green and memorial

North Kilworth Green and memorial

Shackerstone Tuesday 28th October

October 29, 2014 by

A summer day in October set the stage for our walk. We made use of the recently provided diversion to get round the long running Shackerstone railway footbridge saga. Thanks to the Crown Estates and L.C.C..

IMG_3903

Diversion round station footbridge

The route took us to Carlton, Barton-in-the Beans and Odstone Hall . We took a break  just beyond Carlton and the photo shows the summer clothing and the long shadows just before mid-day.Apparently it was 19C

IMG_3905

Cooling Off

 

A reported obstruction on footpath S89, which is hopefully to be dealt with,  caused us to trespass by climbing over the fence and back again 20 yards further on.

Shackerston footbridge diversion

Can You See It?

This is just 50 yards off Barton main Street and others have obviously been hopping over the fence for some time. My observation is that, in general, footpaths between fences rapidly become overgrown.

It was a much enjoyed walk by all,including the leader and The Rising Sun had some good value meals.

 

 

 

 

 

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 8

October 20, 2014 by

Burbage – Cotesbach 14 miles (22.5km)

For this section it was bus all the way, being easiest from Leicester to take the bus to Hinckley and walk to Burbage (or bus if you prefer), then the Rugby bus back to Leicester at the end. This does require a bit of faith that a one bus an hour service will arrive, although there is a tea room at The Stable Yard should you have to wait.

08-09-cotesbach

The Leicestershire Round only skirts Burbage and I did the same but on reflection I should have made a slight detour to the village centre. The M69 forces a departure along the B578, fortunately there is a pavement for much of the way. Once over the motorway the walk returns, at last, to open countryside, a little neglected considering how close we are to the conurbation but at least the dreaded piles of dog mess are absent.

Smockington appears to consist of just four farms. Without knowing it I’d passed through the settlement by car on many occasions, so I felt no guilt that I was missing out this boundary hamlet on the walk. Folk from Leicester will be familiar with Wigston which together with Oadby makes up a sprawling suburb of south Leicester. How many residents of that Borough will be aware of the tiny settlement, at the end of a road, Wigston Parva?

Wigston Parva

Wigston Parva

I’m still not sure what the crumbling monument at High Cross records but after a short quiet road walk I arrive at the crossing point of two Roman roads, Watling Street which has been the boundary with Warwickshire from Witherley and the Fosse Way which serves as a boundary between Hinckley & Boswotrth and Harborough.

High Cross

High Cross

Having taken the route of the Leicestershire Round from High Cross I arrived at Claybrooke Parva and for the first time strayed from the diamond marked path to see other parts of the village on my way to Ullesthorpe. It was another hot day during the summer of 2014 and taking an adequate supply of water was an issue. Last time I had been fortunate to find a good supply of taps along the way but today the churchyards and cemeteries were full of plastic flowers and I could understand why.

Claybrooke Parva church

Claybrooke Parva church

Ullesthorpe was another first time visit, as far as I could remember. A pleasant village with a brick windmill tower and a well stocked village shop which I used to replenish liquid intake. The path from here follows the old rail line and as I approached the A5 there was the option to use a permissive path using the embankment across the valley avoiding the fall and climb taken by the footpath.

Ullesthorpe villae and mill tower

Ullesthorpe villae and mill tower

I had to take care that I made the right choice on the final approach to the A5 because only the footpath offered a safe crossing point. I was having to make another loop around a former airfield, now better known as the huge industrial area of Magna Park. Crossing the road I again enter Warwickshire and find the Sarah Mansfield Inn at Wiley which I recall had been used by LFA for a midweek walk so the paths here should be good.

Wiley - The Sarah Mansfield Inn

Wiley – The Sarah Mansfield Inn

Had I been in Leicestershire I would have made made an effort to visit Churchover but being out of bounds I took the shortest route back onto home ground crossing the River Swift which I had seen signed when travelling along the M1 near Lutterworth.

Cotesbach church - just off route

Cotesbach church – just off route

A mix of arable and pasture fields are crossed as I approach walks end. A view over to the north shows that I have achieved my objective of avoiding the massive sheds of Magna Park. After a short wait the bus arrives, spot on time and provides a tour of the villages on its return to Leicester.

 

Saturday 25th walk from Ashby de la Zouch

October 19, 2014 by

This walk starts from Ashby with a bus ride so please don’t be late.

Meet at the bus stop NOT at the church.

The bus departs at 10.10 see time table in a new window here

The stop on Market Street is outside Birds the Confectioners see below taken from Google Street View.

ashby-bus

See you there. Ken

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 7

October 9, 2014 by

Sheepy Magna – Burbage 13 miles (21km)

The service 7 bus again offers a link to access this section and once more provides a enjoyable meandering tour of local villages on the way from Nuneaton. The road walk to Sheepy Parva is pleasant and packed with interest. Substantial brick buildings marked on my map as ‘factory’ are now apartments overlooking a large fishing lake which I suspect was the mill pond. Most incongruous is San Giovanni Italian Restaurant a huge establishment also overlooking the lake which must draw clientele from miles around.

San Giovanni Italian Restaurant and fishing lake Sheepy Parva

San Giovanni Italian Restaurant and fishing lake Sheepy Parva

Ratcliffe Culey church spire provides an ancient waymark

Ratcliffe Culey church spire provides an ancient waymark

The path passes through the meadow following the River Sence across to Ratcliffe Culey where it meets the main street by the Gate Inn and leaves through the church yard. The diminutive spire would still offer a waymark for path users entering from the south but what struck me most about the church were the very plain sheets of glass in the windows, more like a greenhouse than a house of God.

I may have said this before and I might say it again but the great thing about walking in this area is the first time exploration. I couldn’t be doing with walking the dog along the same section of footpath day after day.

The owner of the Witherley Hall estate must have owned a brick making operation that specialised in engineering bricks. The former farm yard and the pillars of the disused gates to the hall were all in hard blue brick, suitable for great railway viaducts or tunnels but far to harsh for these purposes.

In a relatively small community I was surprised to find the impressive headquarters / clubhouse of Witherley United FC as I made my way along bank lanes and footpaths to the church. Here on the grave of John Slack is a majestic Monkey Puzzle tree. Archibald Menzies, a botanist and naval surgeon had brought the first five monkey puzzle saplings to the UK in 1795. Now I like to try and guess the age of trees but this one was easy because the last burial in the plot had been an infant in 1865 so I guess it was planted soon after that and wow! has it grown in those one hundred and fifty years.

River Anker at Witherley - left bank Warwickshire.

River Anker at Witherley – left bank Warwickshire.

I sat under other churchyard trees by the small river Anker. The river here forms the boundary and as I sat eating lunch Warwickshire was a mere stones throw on the other bank. Soon after setting off from this delightful spot I passed a concrete post marking the boundary between Leicestershire CC and Warwickshire CC then crossed Roman Watling Street for a foray into foreign parts.

There was no sign on the ground of Mandvessedvm a Roman settlement marked on the map. I suspect the settlers have moved north east to Mancetter. Approaching the tiny settlement of Caldecote the path follows the River Anker and I speculate that had it not been for the Romans and their straight road, the Anker might have been the county boundary and I would be walking in Leicestershire.

Mount Judd at Nuneaton

Mount Judd at Nuneaton

The path approaching Weddington offers the best closeup of Mount Judd, a mountain created from the waste of Judkins Quarry, which could first be seen in the distance from Twycross. From this point I was able to amend the route with the help of two local ladies who confirmed that I would be able to walk along the Weddington Trail, a disused rail line, under the A5 and along a quiet lane into Higham on the Hill.

Here it was the Germans causing grief. The deviation across the A5 was forced on me by the former airfield at Higham which has become the Motor Industries Research Association and, as can be seen from the map, footpaths still end abruptly at the site perimeter. It’s a shame that I could not use the paths from Witherley through Fenny Drayton then passing Lindley Hall Farm, because here is the exact centre of England, as calculated by the Ordnance Survey.

Higham on the Hill a King George Playing Field

Higham on the Hill a King George Playing Field

Higham appears to have lost it’s shop because it was shuttered on the day of my walk but the church offered me refreshment in the form of a tap to replenish water bottles on this hot day. A plaque on the school here marks the birthplace and perhaps early schooling of Geoffrey Fisher. Born in Higham Rectory he became Archbishop of Canterbury and crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

Dropping down from Higham to the Ashby canal the expanse of Hinckley is evident and another cause of difficult choices to pass through this urban area. The solution was to follow the towing path of the canal which for most part is also a right of way but on meeting the A5 the options are more difficult. I tried using the towpath to the next footpath but there was no official link now the canal path is only permissive and crossing back over the A5 was perilous. There is a wide cycle path along the A5 but I didn’t fancy that, even for less than a half mile. A jogger points me to a path through the industrial estate, not perfect, but I’ve gone for that as the safest.

The Ashby Canal and Lime Kiln Inn at Hinckley

The Ashby Canal and Lime Kiln Inn at Hinckley

Now there is little choice but to pass through a built up area for two miles……sorry.

 

Newsletter autumn 2014

October 5, 2014 by
New Footpath at Groby

New Footpath at Groby

New footpath at Groby.

 

The Leicestershire Ramblers perseverance over many years persuaded an Inspector at a local inquiry earlier this year to approve this footpath. The footpath proceeds along the access drive to 53a, Markfield Road and extends for 235 metres to Forest View (adjacent Martinshaw Primary school).

 

Lower down Markfield Road towards the church, footpath R34 provides access under the Groby By-Pass and on towards Groby Pool. These combined footpaths will afford walkers a different approach in gaining access to Martinshaw Woods.

 

Claim for new link footpath at Anstey

Member John H of Anstey advised our Association earlier this year, of his claim for a link footpath in the Parish of Anstey. He has walked the route for a period in excess of forty years. Part of the route incorporates the track leaving Anstey Lane proceeding in a northerly direction to Anstey High Leys Farm. The respective grid references are SK537079 and SK537086.

Can you help claim for path near Anstey?

Can you help claim for path near Anstey?

Following submission for this link to be included on the Definitive Map of Rights of Way, a reply has been received to the effect the matter cannot proceed unless additional user evidence forms by members of the public are completed.

If you know the claimed link and have walked it unchallenged for a period in excess of twenty years, then your evidence would support this claim. Please contact our Secretary if you can assist in Mr. H’s claim. The map shows the route A-B claimed by John.

East Midlands Gateway Rail Freight Interchange

A company is applying for a development consent order to authorise the construction, operation and maintenance of a rail freight interchange and warehousing with highway works on land in the vicinity of Junction 24 of the M1 to the north of East Midlands Airport, south of Lockington and Hemington and to the east of Castle Donington.

The consent order if successful will considerably alter the rights of way network. Surprisingly a good deal of attention has been devoted to public access. I had to attend County Hall to obtain a comprehensive map outlining the proposals and will bring this to the Annual General Meeting in February 2015 for members to study. The links will be maintained between Castle Donington and Kegworth and in particular a new bridleway has been planned.

You can view the full details on the project website, www.eastmidlandsgateway.co.uk

Brian J

LFA History -The Minute Book

When I volunteered to take on the job of recording the minutes at LFA committee minutes little did I think that I would still be doing it almost ten years later. I was taking over from Diana Davidson who was still recording the minutes by hand in a large bound ledger. Not wishing to do this I started to use my computer and have been collecting these minutes ever since in loose leaf binders. That Minute Book, along with others back to 1887, is now lodged at the Wigston Record Office where it can be consulted.

Some time ago Heather had the bright idea that these later minutes should also be bound. The committee agreed that for this we could use money that has been donated to LFA rather than just putting this money into the general fund. The binding has been done by the University of Leicester Print Shop. This volume covers the minutes from 2006 to 2011 and was ready for the committee to see at a recent meeting. It will eventually be lodged in the Record Office. The minutes from 2012-2015 will be similarly bound when that time is completed. I am hoping that by then I will be able hand over the position of Minutes Secretary. If anyone feels they would like to take over this interesting and very rewarding job perhaps they could contact me. I would be happy to talk them through what is involved.

Jennifer M 

What did the Law do for us? – Rights of Way Act 1990

Occupiers of land are permitted under section 134 of the Highways Act 1980 to plough footpaths and bridleways that run across arable land. The right to plough or otherwise disturb the surface of a path is subject to the path being reinstated for public use.

Excellent cross field path compliance in Leicestershire

Excellent cross field path compliance in Leicestershire

The 1980 Act failed to make clear when and how paths should be reinstated so the 1990 Act clarifies the requirements by setting the width for a footpath at 1 metre minimum or for a bridleway 2 metres minimum. After the initial ploughing or other cultivation, carried out in connection with sowing a crop, the occupier is allowed 14 days to reinstate the path surface and for a second or subsequent disturbance it must be reinstated within 24 hours.

The path should also be apparent on the ground so when any crop, other than grass, emerges the occupier must ensure that the line of the path through the crop is indicated to at least the minimum width and prevent the crop from encroaching within this width. It is unlikely that the tramping of many public feet will meet this requirement.

Byways open to all traffic (BOATs) and restricted byways may not be ploughed, nor may footpaths and bridleways that run along the edges of a field (headland paths). The minimum width of headland paths is footpaths 1.5 metres, bridleways 3 metres and other highways (including byways and restricted byways) 3 metres. If we find paths that do not meet these requirements we should report them to our Obstructions Secretary or LCC.

Rural Payments Agency (RPA)

Cross Compliance and Area Payments. Good news or bad? I fear to investigate too deeply in this mine field of EU subsidies, but it would appear that there could be some good news for walkers. I had a comment from an LCC officer that continued failure to reinstate a cross field path would be reported to the RPA and now I hear that the Ramblers Association is calling on the Government to allow individuals to report footpath obstructions directly to the RPA. If there is little chance of a penalty folk take risks and ignore the law. Increase the chance of getting caught with a fine or penalty and we toe the line.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has reiterated that English farmers must maintain public rights of way or face losing EU subsidies. The UK is the fifth largest recipient of subsidies, with nearly 200,000 farmers receiving £3.3 billion in payments.

Network Rail – Crossing Closures

As you know, the LFA was formed to protect and preserve the local footpaths and open spaces. This is still our fundamental role. One piece of national legislation that particularly affects several Leicestershire footpaths and bridleways is the Government directive to reduce the accidents at railway crossings.

Clive F and I attended a meeting of The Leicestershire Local Access Forum in April to hear a presentation by Martin B , the Safety Manager Midland Region, of Network Rail. This was an informative meeting with scope for general questions only.

The presentation was on the proposals of Network Rail to reduce the number of all forms of railway crossings at ground level with a view to reducing the number of genuine accidents. This has to be done within budget constraints.

Footpath crossing the Wreak valley railway line

Footpath crossing the Wreak valley railway line

The Government has set them a national target of reducing fatal accidents to zero by 2020 and a reduction of the 6,500 crossings by 25% in the next 25 years. Over the last 10 years there have been an average of 12 accidental deaths per year, of which about 3 are pedestrians or cyclists.

To this end there will be better automatic safety measures at controlled crossings including low level obstruction sensors which will detect a fallen pedestrian. In 2017/18 after re-signalling there will be no manned signal boxes and control will be from a N.R. centre in Derby.

Within Leicestershire the Midland Main Line will be electrified in the next 5 years and the speed limit will be increased to 125 mph. The cross country route, Birmingham to Peterborough, will be 90 mph. This route to the East of Leicester, known as the Wreak Valley Route, has had all its bridges raised to allow passage of container trains. It is to become a main artery to East Coast ports. The number of passenger trains and goods trains will both double.

One of the modern criteria for a footpath crossing is that there should be clear visibility for 2000 yards either side. N.B. at 90mph 2000 yards is covered in 45 seconds. Even at half this speed with poor weather and /or poor eyesight there is little time.

A certain number of foot bridges will be constructed but at £350,000 to £400,000 they will be limited. As for bridle way bridges they cost £1.5 million upwards depending on land required.

Footpath level crossing of the railway near Syston

Footpath level crossing of the railway near Syston

We were told N.R. wished to work with all stakeholders, of which we are one, but not all could be satisfied. They are saying there is still a lot of consultation to take place. We have an interest and duty to keep as many crossings as possible open. As only some will be kept open we need to come to a common approach with other walking groups to preserve attractive circular walks and of course The Leicestershire Round. Already some farmers have given up their rights to cross the railway to their fields and accepted compensation to offset their inconvenience. In those instances support in our request for keeping the crossing open would not be forthcoming

Currently your committee is dealing with some proposed diversions and closures but unfortunately it is piecemeal and we have no overall scheme to view. We aim to monitor this closely…………………….

Neil B.

Congratulations from Martin W

To the much derided Health & Safety Executive who managed to bring a successful prosecution of the Stanford on Soar bull and cattle keeper.

To LFA member Roy Shakespeare for organising and collecting an impressive petition for Leicester to keep King Richard III – this invaluable help achieved success.

Have you walked the Leicestershire Round?

A new stock of sew on badges has been purchased so if you don’t have one, the old one is tatty or the rucksack is in need of renewal get a badge now. Send s.a.e and £2.50 to LFA at Gamekeepers Lodge, 11 London Road, Great Glen, LE8 9DJ

Looking Ahead

At the last AGM Judy S and her team from the W.I. produced their appetising lunches as usual which they had done for a number of years. All good things must come to an end and those of you who attended will know it was the end of an era. We established that attendees came not only for the business but also the lunch, meeting friends and walks.

Although February 2015 seems a long time away this is the last newsletter this year and in order to organise ourselves properly we need to decide on lunch arrangements well in advance. Feelers were put out to outside caterers who may have been able to cater at an acceptable price but nothing was forthcoming.

We therefore come back to catering for ourselves. We hope to set up a sub-committee to decide what is feasible and co-ordinate matters. It will not be possible to duplicate Judy’s menu which was a monumental effort. At the time of writing nothing is decided but I am using this opportunity to put you in the picture. The sub committee will certainly need help at committee stage and practical help close to and at the AGM. Requests for particular help will come through walk organisers/leaders and we trust there will be a positive response.

Neil B

Summer Walks Programme – Analysed

Sad it may be but I’ve plotted on a map the start point of all LFA walks from the summer 2014 programme (excluding Tuesday long walks because details are not available). There were 26 walks each on Tuesday, Wednesday (short plus long), Thursday and Saturday, a total of 130 walks. Add to that 14 mid summer Monday evening walks and thirteen Tuesday long walks, a grand total of 157 walks. I have been surprised by the variety and spread of the walks. It is difficult to show the maps in printed form so an illustrated report can be found on our website.

Each group has spread walks around Leicestershire and all have wandered occasionally into adjoining counties. Looking at the combined picture, LFA walks have shunned Melton district, north east of the A606. Two other areas also show neglect, the M1 corridor north of Markfield and to the far west the villages south of Ashby have been ignored. One group totally ignored north west Leicestershire.

On the positive side I was surprised to see both the Tuesday and Saturday groups had walks starting from North Kilworth, an area I have recently discovered to be a bit barren of footpaths. Jim M has long complained about a path from Bitteswell that stopped abruptly at Magna Park but a recent link has improved things, so well done Jane D for putting on a walk from this pretty village.

Membership Trends

members

  • Annual reports going back to 2006 reveal membership numbers for both members and parish councils to be as shown above.
  • The trend in member numbers has been consistently upwards in the years up to 2013, albeit in varying numbers ranging from 3 in 2008 to 33 in 2009.
  • For the first time since 2006 we appear to be heading for a net reduction in membership this year, with a drop of 42 (9 resignations including deaths plus 33 non-renewals) against 24 new members, giving a net reduction of 18. Although there is still plenty of time for further new members to join us. It should be said that attendance numbers on the walks are holding up, and even increasing.
  • The decline is due to the lower number of new members, which was 45 in 2013. If we do have a drop in 2014 it will be in line with the RA who have reported “The numbers of people walking in the UK is steadily rising but I am afraid our membership is slowly ebbing away”
  • Parish council membership has declined steadily over the same period, probably due to financial cut-backs at all levels of local government.
  • Despite these small reductions we are still in a very healthy financial position, with the accounts heading for a surplus in the region of £1,000 by the end of the year.

Thinking of a walking holiday for 2015?

walk-partnership1Don’t forget if you book with Ramblers Holidays please mention you are an LFA member so that we receive the Partnership donation (£10 for UK, £20 for Europe, £30 for long haul; per person).

For more information visit

http://www.ramblersholidays.co.uk/page/thewalkingpartnership

The National Forest Way

Map of The National Forest Way

Map of The National Forest Way

Launched after 5 years of planning. It Links the National Arboretum at Alrewas Staffordshire with Beacon Hill at Woodhouse Eaves. The route is 75 miles and a bit like the Robin Hood Way in Nottinghamshire it twists and turns like a drunken sailor. I know from bitter experience that the National Arboretum is not a walker friendly location, being trapped alongside the A38, railway and rivers Trent and Tame there are very limited access points. It’s a shame they haven’t been able to use Mythaholme Bridge over the Trent, it cost £130,000 in 2004 and still has no footpaths linking to it. I noted new waymarks recently on the Ivanhoe Way between Staunton Harold and Ashby de la Zouch and thought perhaps that route had been renamed ‘National Forest Way’ but it appears it uses the same paths, unfortunate we couldn’t have waymarks showing both routes. I’m not impressed.

See http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/ for more information.

Cross Britain Way

Tim Bruton left a message on our website, “I am the culprit! My wife and I have put the Cross Britain Way together over the past five years, with the blessing of the six English Counties involved I may add, and we waymarked the whole route in May and June. I would be happy to tell you more if you want to contact me.” I’ve tried but had no reply (Ed)

A Google search offers the following information from the Macmillan Way and Barmouth Town Council websites:

From Boston, the ‘Cross Britain Way’ heads westwards through middle England. Across the Lincolnshire Fens, through the Vale of Belvoir and the National Forest. After the canals of South Staffordshire it turns south-west across Cannock Chase and into East Shropshire, passing through Iron Bridge Gorge before heading into the Shropshire Hills. Leaving England behind it crosses the rolling green hills of mid Wales and into the Berwyn Mountains. The final stretch is through Snowdonia before reaching journeys end at Barmouth. From the minutes of Barmouth Town Council 25th March 2014: ‘Correspondence …Cross Britain Way – best place for end of walk marker Harbour Masters Office – forward letter to Barry Davies for his response.’

Summer Walks analysed

October 1, 2014 by

Sad it may be but I’ve done it anyway, plotted on a map the start point of all LFA walks which appeared on the summer 2014 programme (excluding Tuesday long walks because details are not available). There were walks each Tuesday, Wednesday (short plus long), Thursday and Saturday twenty six of each making a total of 130 walks. In addition there were fourteen mid summer Monday evening walks and thirteen Tuesday long walks making a grand total of 157 walks.

Summer Monday evening walks used a section of the Leicestershire Round

Summer Monday evening walks used a section of the Leicestershire Round

Evening walks this year were spent ‘Going round the Round’, with start points at villages on the Round and usually part of the Round included on the walk.  Numbers averaged about ten with a good mix of walkers from the normal walking days.  The greatest attendance was 18 for the walk from Newtown Linford at the start of August, when Brian R’s tour of Bradgate included the history behind the war memorial and information about how the park was once used regularly for training racehorses.  Next year will feature another set of walks from the Round, filling in the gaps from this year.

Despite some criticism that LFA walks use the same pubs and same paths repeatedly I have been surprised by the variety and spread of the walks.

Leicestershire Footpath Association - Tuesday walks summer 2014

Leicestershire Footpath Association – Tuesday walks summer 2014

The information for Tuesday walks wasn’t complete at the time of writing this report but the map shows a good spread of start points. It’s hardly surprising that some locations have been used more than once but only the Wednesday walks have repeated visits to two pubs during this programme. The other duplication has been by the different groups within LFA.

The map shows Wednesday short walk start points

The map shows Wednesday short walk start points

Each group has spread their walks around Leicestershire and all have wandered occasionally into adjoining counties. There have been no far flung destinations this summer. There are some neglected areas and I’m sorry to appear negative about Wednesday but their short walks overlooked north west Leicestershire this summer.

Map of start points for the Wednesday longer walks, summer 2014

Map of start points for the Wednesday longer walks, summer 2014

In their defence Roger W says ”  Having checked your maps it seems to me that members choose walks within approximately 10 miles of home, as we have a spread of members around the county most areas are covered, most members who do short walks are not in the Hinckley, Lutterworth areas but a few who do long walks are, as can be seen from your maps. On the short walks we have averaged approx 18 walkers with a max of approx 32.”

Leicestershire Footpath association Thursday group walks summer 2014

Leicestershire Footpath association Thursday group walks summer 2014

The Leicestershire Footpaths Association’s walks programme has grown over the years. In early years members walked on Saturday afternoon, after work and avoiding church attendance on Sundays, or perhaps because public transport, on which they relied, closed down on Sunday. We then started Tuesday walks, followed by Wednesday. The most recent group to set up walks on Thursday so I am especially impressed that their start points show a good coverage of Leicestershire but they are also willing to explore elsewhere.

Kate P who organises their programme has done a good job and says “That’s a very interesting map and we do seem to have covered a very wide area. Although we often revisit the same pubs (actually, not that often) we rarely cover the same footpaths. I know one or two people have said we shouldn’t base our walks round pubs, but we find the lunch at the end of the walk is a very sociable occasion and has done a lot for the cohesiveness of the group.” Kate adds “I am off to France to do some walking there. Great footpaths but hardly any walkers. They seem to prefer cycling.”

Traditionally LFA have walked on Saturday

Traditionally LFA have walked on Saturday

The Saturday walks were originally the mainstay of the Association, they did look like falling by the wayside but Vanessa and now Bob have done a good job to attract new walkers to the group. The walks are usually a little longer than the mid week walks and are not based on a pub lunch. Hence the start points can be from any village and a longer journey is acceptable.  Bob says “My diary shows the average number on walks was 13 with a maximum number of 20.”

Looking at the combined picture, LFA walks have shunned Melton district, the area north east of the A606 (Nottingham to Oakham road) is untouched territory in this programme. Two other areas also show neglect, the M1 corridor north of Markfield and to the far west the villages south of Ashby have been ignored.

 

Map showing the start point of all walks on the Leicestershire Footpath Association walks programme summer 2014

Map showing the start point of all walks on the Leicestershire Footpath Association walks

On the positive side I was surprised to see both the Tuesday and Saturday groups had walks starting from North Kilworth an area I have recently discovered to be a bit barren of footpaths. Jim M has long complained about a path from Bitteswell that stopped abruptly at Magna Park. With few other paths serving this pretty village it is good to see a new link has been provided. Well done Jane D for putting on a walk here.

This analysis shows there is no serious concern about coverage of our local paths but we should bear in mind the founding aim of the Association to protect all the footpaths of Leicestershire. So when you next plan a walk try and find a path that needs a bit of TLC and some boots on the ground.

 

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 6

September 28, 2014 by

Oakthorpe – Sheepy Magna 13 miles (21km)

On this section I parked the car at Sheepy Magna and took the interesting and meandering bus ride on the two hourly service 7 which links Nuneaton with Ashby de la Zouch serving most of the villages in a wide swathe along the way.

Feature or real? On a pond in Sheepy Magna

Feature or real? On a pond in Sheepy Magna

Although a lot of these paths were new territory for me a few around Measham were familiar and the start of this section had less than pleasant memories. Today the cross field path was blocked by oil seed rape but a track offers an alternative. Last time the area was under water but today no such problems only nettles to sting bare legs on this hot day.

The church in the tiny settlement of Stretton en le Field is no longer used for worship and is maintained by the ‘Redundant Churches Fund’. It was possible to enter as the door lock appeared to be controlled electrically.

Stretton en le Field church interior

Stretton en le Field church interior

Emerging from the cul de sac which serves Stretton onto the busy A444 I was relieved to see the footpath opposite clearly defined across the next large field. This had also been a sea of oil seed on my last visit, the improvement was impressive and most welcome.

Excellent cross field reinstatement on the footpath to Chilcote

Excellent cross field reinstatement on the footpath to Chilcote

Chilcote didn’t have a lot to offer except for a seat at the village hall play site so I took this opportunity to take an early lunch. Tucked into a corner of the county and close to the boundary it did tick all the other boxes for a boundary walk. I had been tempted to cross over into Derbyshire and Netherseal the resting place of Sir Nigel Greasley, an essential homage for train buffs.

Chilcote Village Hall

Chilcote Village Hall

From here to No Man’s Heath the paths lived up to the name of the destination. Although some had been sprayed out, the crop of oil seed had flopped and made the going tough plus two very overgrown sections on these paths that showed little sign of use by other walkers. Not a walk for mid July, I recommend you wait until after harvest.

Tunnel path through strawberries

Tunnel path through strawberries

On my map the boundary makes a clear cut box to keep the whole of No Man’s Heath in Warwickshire but the paths I used had both been signed by Leicestershire, a bit of neighbourly co-operation.

Crossing some welcome pasture I approach Dingle Farm where the west facade offers a modern image while around the corner the style is 1920’s. The going remains easy as I pass another Parva and Magna, this time Appleby. Sadly we don’t see much of Magna except for the splendid Sir John Moor School and Foundation where time stands still, until they get the clock repaired.

Old and new faces at Dingle Nook

Old and new faces at Dingle Nook

No refreshments in Norton juxta Twycross, the Moors Arms, so reports say, has been closed and awaiting a new landlord since early 2013. On my last visit, some years back, it must have been feeding time at the zoo because the animal calls and screams were horrendous, today it’s silent, except for the joyful shouts of children in the adventure playground. I couldn’t work out the purpose of the large gates for the footpath to enter and leave the zoo grounds. There was no risk of animal escape as the path only crosses the public car park.

Sir John Moor School and Foundation at Appleby Magna

Sir John Moor School and Foundation at Appleby Magna

Dropping down the next path offers a view of Mount Judd some eight miles distant, more about it in the next section. Another forest of rape slows my progress and this time no sign of earlier reinstatement, just a week later and it might have been cleared which would have made all the difference.

Orton on the Hill another border village new to me and I suspect, other walking groups. There is a pub and a decent network of paths to the south west but not much evidence they get used.

The final miles to Sheepy Magna remain a blur at the end of this challenging 14 mile section. I was relieved that the car awaited me rather than having to start a long journey home by bus.

 

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 5

September 20, 2014 by

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 castle for free

Ashby castle for free

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.

Leaving Ashby

Leaving Ashby

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.

Black Lion at Blackfordby

Black Lion at Blackfordby

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.

Blackfordby school's living roof

Blackfordby school’s living roof

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.

End of the Ashby canal, it never reached the town of its name

End of the Ashby canal, it never reached the town of its name

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.

Moira Furnace

Moira Furnace

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.

Start of Winter Walks Programme

September 15, 2014 by
Waiting in the shadows

Waiting in the shadows

Members should soon see the winter walks programme drop through their letter boxes. If you don’t receive one it might mean you are not a member, so join / renew your subs now. If there is a problem please contact the Treasurer who should be able to sort things out. The programme is also available here on the website at Walks Programme (opens a new window)

Don’t forget to check here for any late changes to walks. Click on ‘Follow’ at the bottom right of the page to receive an email alert for the latest postings on our website.

The analysis of the summer programme showed that we offered close on 160 walks and the winter programme will provide over 100 so plenty to choose from.

Seasoned walkers will know that winter can offer some excellent walking weather, a different view of Leicestershire and as always with LFA walks hospitality. New members are always welcome and you can try a few walks for free before parting with the annual fee of just £5.00


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