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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.