Leicestershire Border Walk – part 7

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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.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 8 click here

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

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