Archive for the ‘The Long One’ Category

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 3

December 25, 2014

Zouch – Castle Donington  14.5 miles (23 km)

WARNING After a wet few weeks I just managed to get through on this walk, there are sections that would be impassable in flood conditions. For me this section was the final part of the border walk. Having taken it in stages during 2014 there was no sigh of relieve that it was over and now I could take a well earned rest, just a small feeling of pride and achievement that I had devised and walked a two hundred circuit around Leicestershire, but what next?

The new Long Horse Bridge over the Trent

The new Long Horse Bridge over the Trent

Today I left the car at Zouch, I needed a prompt start having arranged company for the last ten miles. There are regular buses linking start middle and end, so this is an easy linear walk of 14 or even 10 miles.

Zouch lock and the warning board showing 'Red'

Zouch lock and the warning board showing ‘Red’

As the last section ended, this one begins, walking in Nottinghamshire alongside the Soar but within yards of the boundary which runs down the centre of the river. The warning to boaters not to navigate when the river is in flood offers us some guidance and today it was red, but perhaps only just. Initially there is the opportunity to walk on the high ground of the flood bank but later our path is the wrong side of the squat concrete wall which protects the village of Sutton Bonington to our right.

An information board reminds us that the University of Nottingham has a presence here having taken over the Midland Agricultural and Dairy College in 1948. The college must have owned land which the university has used to create the 60 acre Diamond Wood. New seats have been installed to look over the site, lets hope they are better used than the lichen covered picnic benches behind the flood bank.

I do like the setting of an unnamed house on the edge of Kegworth, it looks very old but perhaps appearances were part of the design, a pleasant mix of stone and brick with an intriguing narrow door offering the suggestion of an ancient water gate. The church spire as a backdrop shows we are near the village. The roar of flood water over the weir briefly drowns out the roar of traffic that has been present all the way from Zouch.

Kegworth New or Deep lock

Kegworth New or Deep lock

Another information board explains the presence of two locks although the disused chamber may be hidden in undergrowth during the summer. Enough of walking out of county but the river here is too wide for a simple foot bridge so we must make a long detour to the stone road bridge taking us back into Leicestershire beside the Anchor Inn.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been identified The Anchor as having a heritage pub interior, from a rebuild of 1934. It was closed when I passed at 10am so I didn’t have an opportunity to take a look before bearing left along the Bridge Fields footpath where a mix of houses front onto the path giving them views across the meadow.

St Andrew's church at the centre of old Kegworth

St Andrew’s church at the centre of old Kegworth

The spire of St Andrew’s is now straight ahead and this time we are allowed an unimpeded approach. The village has much to offer including a small museum which might tell you about the thirteen pubs at one time available, perhaps because Wells Brewery was located here before being swallowed by Worthington’s of Burton. The Cap and Stocking should merit listing as an heritage interior but the quaint 1/- (5p) three play jukebox and beer in a jug direct from the cellar created a cult following which the brewery exploited and spoilt the place.

There had been no need for this loop into the village centre except the short cut along Station Road would have been of far less interest. Our path leaves the village by passing underneath number 65 Station Road an unusual but welcome accommodation of the footpath. The path soon returns to the river side but now in Leicestershire with moored boats on the Nottingham side at the ever expanding Redhill Marina.

Redhill Marina and Ratcliffe on Soar power station.

Redhill Marina and Ratcliffe on Soar power station.
Cooling towers or turbines?

The objective is finally reached and depending on conditions you may be able to stand close to the meeting of three shires where the Soar meets the Trent, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire also converge but you would need a boat to visit the precise spot.

Riverside homes set at the foot of Redhill

Riverside homes set at the foot of Redhill

So close to activity at the ‘honeypot’ of Trent Lock but so inaccessible from south of the river. Close inspection of older maps shows a footpath crossing the river, the path has disappeared from recent maps but the FB (Footbridge) symbol remains although I know of no evidence to suggest a bridge ever spanned the river at this point, but why should public paths head here without a crossing?

Trent Lock and the Erewash canal a popular destination for leisure

Trent Lock and the Erewash canal a popular destination for leisure

Lucky I had company today because the next bit could be a drag without the distraction of conversation. The final twist around the perimeter of Sawley Bridge Marina does at least lead to the ‘Plank and Leggit’ and an offer of lunch.

An aqueduct taking drinking water to Leicester

An aqueduct taking drinking water to Leicester

Back on the final leg we pass under the steel aqueduct which carries piped water from the Derwent dams of Howden, Derwent and Ladybower to Leicester. The River Derwent joins the Trent soon after at a cross roads created by a junction with the Trent and Mersey canal. Here the Trent needed to be crossed by the horses towing the barges to Shardlow but the concrete bridge became unsafe and was demolished leaving for many years a break in the Midshires Way. The gap has now been filled but that would take us into Derbyshire so we can give it a miss today.

The hidden and tiny settlement of Cavendish Bridge

The hidden and tiny settlement of Cavendish Bridge

0312-signThere is often a weak link in a walk or a black spot and approaching Castle Donington might well get worse but there is little alternative. Scrubby fields always suggest to me, a site awaiting development, for now the walk stays green but only just. The final approach to the village is a short but steep climb so stop and turn around near the top to take in a view right across the Trent valley to the Nottingham Derby link road at Risley.

So the task has been completed and I look for a new challenge, a theme on which to base a series of walks interspersed with other walks in random locations. I inspected the Nottinghamshire border but it looks dire in the north of the county. I dismissed Lincolnshire as walker unfriendly then I heard that the High Sheriff of Derbyshire had beat the bounds of his county and that’s where I’m now investigating. If that walk comes to fruition I’ll be back in this area but next time looking into Leicestershire from north of the Trent.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 4 click here

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

 

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Leicestershire Border Walk – part 2

December 19, 2014

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.

An autumn walk

An autumn walk

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.

Welcome to Leicestershire

Welcome to Leicestershire

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.

Village path in Old Dalby

Village path in Old Dalby

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.

Traffic passes into Leicestershire on A46

Traffic passes into Leicestershire on A46

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

Wymeswold

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.

Another stream another crossing of the border. Kings Brook

Another stream another crossing of the border. Kings Brook

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.

Approaching Stanford on Soar

Approaching Stanford on Soar

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.

Santa Special on Great Central North

Santa Special on Great Central North

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.

Normanton on Soar

Normanton on Soar

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.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 3 click here

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 1

December 13, 2014

Bottesford – Upper Broughton 14 miles (23 km)

Although this is section one of the Leicestershire Border Walk there is no necessity to start here. Personally I did desire to make the circuit of the county a contiguous walk but as noted by these reports I started on section four at Castle Donington and walked anti-clockwise. Because there is no written route instructions you could easily reverse the direction and start anywhere.

Plungar from The Gas

Plungar from The Gas

Looking at Leicestershire from the city of Leicester, Bottesford is perhaps the most isolated settlement within the boundary. As the crow flies Bottesford is 25 miles from Leicester with no direct link by road or rail to the city. Logistically this may well be the most difficult to reach. There is however a two bus link between the start and end using services 19 and 24 changing at Melton.

Footpath alongside Barkestone church

Footpath alongside Barkestone church

The walks starts along Barkestone Lane which the maps shows as a direct connection between the two villages but not a route for motor traffic. Taking a path across the fields brings us to Redmile where at the time of writing the once prosperous Peacock Inn is awaiting some TLC.

From Redmile to Hose the walk could have used the towpath of the canal. We stay on the field paths but this parallel path offers you the opportunity to make circular walks. The villages come thick and fast along this section and all have some services but check opening times if you plan a visit. Dove Cottage Hospice also offers a tea room alongside the canal at Stathern Lodge. Finally there is the bus threading its way along the narrow roads offering you the opportunity to split this section or create short linear walks, no wonder the Vale of Belvoir is already a popular walking destination.

Long Clawson Old Manor House B&B available here

Long Clawson Old Manor House B&B available here

Long Clawson lives up to the name being a straggling settlement hugging the road that famously has twelve sharp bends serving to calm traffic speed. Another tea shop in the centre opposite the doctors surgery and pleasant protected paddocks cheek by jowl to the constant pressure for more housing.

At West End Long Clawson Dairy has been making Stilton cheese since 1911, when production moved from farm to factory. There have been casualties along the way as will be seen at Nether Broughton but Peak District ramblers will be aware of the derelict shell at Hartington and a modern cheese factory at Harby has stood abandoned for many years. The cold war still simmers with producers at Stilton in Cambridgeshire peeved that they can’t use the name.

After a mile the walk leaves Long Clawson and climbs Slyborough Hill from which there should be decent views, but not for me as the day retained a stubborn mist. These fields appear to have been abandoned to nature and have become rough untended pasture. Nether Broughton offers a series of information boards around the village for which you might like to detour and locate. The one in front of the Anchor Inn tells us of the many small producers of Stilton which like most activities have been consolidated to large factory units. The trend with beer is currently the opposite and just off route at Old Dalby, Queensway, is Belvoir Brewery one of the many micro breweries that have appeared in recent years.

Nether and Upper Broughtons share a name but are divided by county and the Dalby Brook crossed on a plank bridge between the two villages marks our first crossing into Nottinghamshire.

Nether Broughton Heritage Trail

Nether Broughton Heritage Trail

Go to the next part of the walk Part 2 click here

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 15

December 9, 2014

Buckminster – Bottesford 17 miles (27 km)

This walk can be based on Melton Mowbray by taking the 9.45 bus 55 towards Grantham which will drop you just fifteen minutes later in Buckminster. There is a service back from Bottesford but check on times. Or a safe leisurely option, start in Bottesford take the 08.30 bus into Melton and walk back to your car.

 

Buckminster bus shelter built to mark the coronation 1953

Buckminster bus shelter built to mark the coronation 1953

I left the bus shelter passing the shop which once supplied petrol and post office services but manages to stay busy attracting locals for their daily papers. Walking along the main street the modern village hall has replaced a tin shed left over from the 1914-18 war. Alongside is the prosperous ‘Buckminster Yard’, former farm buildings converted to offer employment from modern businesses. Hopefully this site now provides additional custom to the Tollemache Arms opposite.

Buckminster the old village hall

Buckminster the old village hall

1504-towerThe massive brick water tower is a landmark within another attractive block of buildings. Opposite is the start of the Mowbray Way along the tree lined road leading to the church and family mausoleum. The wall on our left marks the grounds of Buckminster Hall built in 1798 and demolished around 1950. The present house, which can be glimpsed through the gates, was built after the demolition.

Good views north across the fields are to be enjoyed, confident of safe footing while still on the tarmac. The final piece of road is avoided by a cross field path which showed signs of reinstatement so should be useable even with a mature crop. Another water tower stands here obscured or screened by the trees depending on your opinion of this modern concrete structure.

I should have said sooner that this walk is again remote. Sewstern Lane or The Drift is an ancient track used long before the linking of towns to form the Great North Road. While travelling humans needs the services offered by the coaching inns of towns such as Grantham and Stamford, animals driven to market along this parallel track needed only the grass on the verge for their overnight sustenance. It is said that at one road crossing stood the Three Queens Inn offering refreshment to the Drovers. Today there are no services until we reach Woolsthorpe.

1505-track-shadowRamblers and footpaths have finally been accepted by most landowners so after years of campaigning for walkers rights I struggle to oppose those who use routes with higher status. Heavy use by horses can soon turn a bridleway into a quagmire and speeding cyclists often surprise unwary walkers but if the route allows passage of motorised vehicles should we oppose them? It is unfortunate that many motorised users of green lanes appear primarily to enjoy the mud and challenge of ruts which too often destroys the surface for all other users. It’s hardly surprising that the authorities take steps to discourage this abuse to the detriment of any sympathetic motorised use.

The welcome board at Buckminster Gliding Club could well be inviting those mud loving off roaders when it offers “Passion Freedom Fun” but only for those with a head for heights. When the Viking Way long distance route was created there appeared to be a gap in the highway across the airfield. The curving footpath we use today was created in 1997 to fill the gap but it’s only a footpath so no horses, no bikes, no motorised vehicles. The ancient Drift road has been lost or has it? Saltby airfield was built in 1941 and derequisitioned in 1955. Emergency powers were in place to temporally stop up highways for the war effort but all temporary closures were lifted on 31st December 1958 unless steps were in hand for permanent closure. With no permanent closure the Drift should now be available along the old line, but it’s not. If you want to know why, ask Lincolnshire County Council.

Tank traps protecting the SSSI on The Drift

Tank traps protecting the SSSI on The Drift

North of the airfield serious action has been taken to prevent motorised abuse. Tank traps prevent access which is legally controlled by a Traffic Regulation Order. The wide highway is managed by the Wildlife Trust and they have certainly improved it for walking. A scheme to improve the grass land involves taking off the hay each summer and this has been left on site in the form of miniature round bales.

Two things happened while I walked this pleasant stretch. One is fairly common the other very uncommon. A dog walker approached from the opposite direction and one dog suddenly makes a barking bee line for me. The owner attempts to call it to heel but as is often the case the dog ignores the calls. I stand still and the dog becomes more aggressive. Finally the owner is able to get a leash on and I can relax. What was most unusual was the owner accepting full responsibility for the incident and apologising.

The Drift Lincolnshire

The Drift Lincolnshire

After crossing the Melton to Grantham road there are views to the east of sprawling Grantham centred around the impressive tower and spire of St Wulfrums church. I’m now back on a track where motorised vehicles are tolerated and later even accepted with a small sign stating ‘Unclassified County Road’.

I’m not really an animal person, as the dog incident may suggest but when I see a small bird attempting to escape from a tangle around its leg and a twig I go to the rescue. It looked like sheep’s wool which to a small bird was the equivalent of heavy rope for a human.

Grantham canal Longore bridge

Grantham canal Longore bridge

I decided to amend the route and head directly for the Grantham canal, no need to tick off Woolsthorpe by Belvoir as it’s in Lincolnshire. This route still takes us past a potential refreshment stop at the Rutland Arms. For forty three years this inn, know as The Dirty Duck, has prospered with Bob Taylor at the helm but after the 2014 annual bonfire party at the age of 74 he was calling it a day. Some say it was retirement others say the Belvoir Estate wanted him out.

Muston Cross

Muston Cross

Leaving the easy walking of the canal towpath at the traditional brick ‘Longore Bridge’ number 58 the path takes me across Muston Meadow one of the finest lowland meadows left in England, so tread carefully please. Turning right by the 14th century cross the path crosses the River Devon (de-von) and emerges by the church and Old Forge Tea Rooms.

Bottesford is not far away but to follow the border and add another village I cross the A52 then the Nottingham to Grantham rail line. There is an application to close this level pedestrian crossing but it won’t be lost without a fight. The next section is again remote although the distant drone of traffic on the A1 is ever present. There had been more rain on the heavy clay soil so I was relieved that the paths here were on wide grass headlands keeping my boots free of cloying mud.

Beacon Hill Bottesford

Beacon Hill Bottesford

The spire of Bottesford church visible as if standing alone atop the hill, not part of the hidden building beyond. As I approach Normanton to the north is another former airfield site. Now an industrial estate but the concrete roadways are used to store cars and vans as far as the eye can see. This is the most northerly village in Leicestershire. A straggling satellite of Bottesford, it is also the furthest point North on the walk.

A fitting finale is the climb over Beacon Hill before passing St Mary’s church and passing over Flemings bridge leading to Church Street and walks end. If you have not been to Bottesford before then a look inside the church is recommended to see the impressive memorials to the Earls of Rutland.

Flemings Bridge over the River Devon at Bottesford

Flemings Bridge over the River Devon at Bottesford

I thought there was little to see along this final section but I appear to have written more than usual. While there was little to attract my attention I had time to think, a pleasure or curse of walking alone.

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

 

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 14

December 4, 2014

Burton Lazars – Buckminster 14 miles (22.5 km)

The easy option for this section was to take the car to Buckminster then the bus to Melton. The driver kindly dropped me at Lag Lane from where I was able to walk directly to the start but adding a mile and a half to the already long day.

Sewstern

Sewstern

Burton Lazars has little of visible interest for the visitor. You could make a detour and explore the field humps which are all that remain of St Mary and St Lazarus Hospital. It’s surprising that such a posh village should wish to retain a name derived from it being a former leper hospital.

At the time of my visit (2014) the listed grade two starred monument in the churchyard was being repaired by specialist masons. This striking monument commemorates William Squire, a weaver, who died in 1781. His fortune of £600 was to be used for the monument and to provide education for the poor of the parish. However, so the story goes, by the time the monument was completed there was no money left for any other purpose!

The walk begins by crossing the upper valley of the Wreake which starts life as the River Eye, a valley also appropriated by the railway but only after a fight. The tiny settlements of Brentingby and Wyfordby are our preliminary destinations but blink and we’ll miss them.

Brentingby church house

Brentingby church house

First the railway. When the Midland Railway proposed a line from Leicester to Peterborough, Lord Harborough of Stapleford Park strongly opposed its construction, in fact he set his staff into battle against the surveyors. The line was eventually built, no doubt with the company paying significant compensation. Was this passed by his Lordship to his gamekeeper foot soldiers I wonder? The Railway also obliterated the earlier, and unsuccessful, Oakham canal. isolated remains of which still appear on maps of today.

The tower of Brentingby church acts as a waymark for our route but as we get closer the parish church is not what it once was having been converted into a house in 1977. Less obvious but more attractive, hidden among encroaching trees and bushes is Manor Farmhouse, another Listed building.

The 'road?' to Brentingby

The ‘road?’ to Brentingby

143-wyfordbyStatus of the route over the level crossing of the railway appears in dispute. Plans are in hand to increase speed and volume of traffic along this line. These so called improvements could be detrimental to walkers because they include proposals to abolish many of the level crossings. So it’s a bit of a worry that Network Rail state on the site notice “Highway Act 1980 – Network Rail hereby give notice that this way is not dedicated to the public save as a footpath” While the county council highways people have erected two 30mph restriction signs a few yards further along the the same route hey ho!

Freeby is on a spur of the road, unless you have a liking for off roading, so it doesn’t get many visitors which might explain the demise of yet another church, this time with significant structural problems. Investigation has been undertaken and a repair grant was awarded for a range of repairs but the place still looks sadly neglected with no sign of it being in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust as planned.

Looking back to Freeby

Looking back to Freeby

We leave Freeby alongside the chapel founded in 1665 and still in use – just. For the first day of November I was enjoying wonderful weather. The sun was still warm and the breeze had dried the ground, after some heavy showers of previous days, so that earth didn’t stick to my boots. Crossing a track close to a farm a boot disappeared into some green slime. Foolishly I put the next foot down hoping to extract the former promptly, bad decision. The second boot also vanished. It was so close to over topping and coating my foot in foul slurry.

It’s turning out to be a walk of churches. “Saxby Church built in 1789, a Grade II* listed building designed by church architect George Richardson. It includes some original Hawkes stained-glass windows and a rood screen originating from Westminster Abbey.” So says the sales blurb when it was recently on the market at £300,000, having been sold by the diocese in 2011 for around £60,000 for conversion into a domestic dwelling.

Wymondham main street

Wymondham main street

Approaching Wymondham we cross a disused railway, built at the end of the 19th century. Here footpath crossings were made safely by bridge unlike the early lines which crossed road and footpaths on the level. It is unfortunate that the earlier railway lines make up the network of today. Network Rail only now, nearly one hundred years too late are concerned about safety and wish to close footpaths that still cross on the level.

The walk through Wymondham was for me the highlight of the day, but don’t get too excited, it was the excellent weather that took the trophy today. I was hoping for refreshment at the Berkeley Arms but poking my head around the door the bar looked far too posh for a man in muddy boots and shorts.

Living on the road at Wymondham

Living on the road at Wymondham

Taking the path to Edmondthorpe I was reminded of the days when many green lanes were taken over by new age travellers, many left piles of rubbish after they were moved on and most have now disappeared. The old village pump at Edmondthorpe is rightly the centre piece of the village. Installed in 1856 by WAP, but who was WAP?

Edmondthorpe pump and social club

Edmondthorpe pump and social club

The next path we take heads directly for Market Overton but as it crosses into Rutland a path follows the boundary and is perfect to use for this border walk. I was confused, now I’m intrigued. The Leicestershire Definitive Map includes the paths which follow the boundary so I had expected to be walking on the north side of a hedge which I had assumed would mark the boundary. Wrong. The path was on the Rutland side of the hedge, so had I misread the map? Returning home I investigate and find that in fact the boundary is not at the hedge it is a few yards to the south. So the field headland and path is in Leicestershire while the ploughed part of the same field is in Rutland.

A seat for Thomas on the Rutland Round

A seat for Thomas on the Rutland Round

This path is also used by the Rutland Round which I thought parochially stayed within county, wrong again. Large sheds to our right are now an industrial estate but until the 1960s were a centre of the ironstone quarry operations that had been active here since the late 19th century feeding Holwell and later Scunthorpe and Corby steel works.

After a short section of road we meet the long distance trail from the Humber Bridge to Oakham, The Viking Way. The planners for that path took the easy option of green lanes but where possible I intend using the footpaths to Sewstern and eventually walk’s end, Buckminster. This is all part of the Buckminster Estate home to the Tollemache family a name that crops up across vast swathes of England. While many of the paths have been moved, officially, onto field headlands it was disappointing to find that those that remain as cross field were not apparent on the ground. This made navigation difficult where the yellow topped marker posts were also hidden by overgrown hedges.

Buckminster

Buckminster

The late style of a model village is clear as we enter Buckminster. With the sale of so much social housing from the large planned urban estates it’s appealing to see the symmetry that has been retained here at The Crescent.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 15 click here

Go to the Leicestershire Border Walk home page

Leicestershire Border Walk – part 13

November 28, 2014

East Norton – Burton Lazars 15 miles (24.5 km)

I dropped off the 747 at the shelter on the A47, not too convenient for the residents of East Norton but the by-pass was perhaps a price worth paying. The bridleway is soon crossing large arable fields where local riders use the alternative headland paths. There appears to be no remains of Loddington Mill as the only visible buildings are fairly modern.

East Norton Hall through a thin autumn hedge

East Norton Hall through a thin autumn hedge

Towards the end of cross field track we pass the faint remains of the high Leicestershire railway line after which we take a footpath across the field to the church. The little church of St Michael and All Angels stands remote from the village with no connecting road only the cross field footpath, pity the poor pallbearers.

I’d heard rumour for some time of a Youth Hostel having once been located in Loddington. Today I speculated that it may have been located at The Grange. Investigation on my return home, confirmed this and there are some interesting memories at Leicestershire Villages (opens a new window)

Loddington Grange the former Youth Hostel

Loddington Grange the former Youth Hostel

I had considered taking in Launde Abbey but this required a fair bit of road walking although it would keep the route in Leicestershire. In the end I decided to enter Rutland and keep off the roads. Because Rutland was annexed by Leicestershire in 1974 when the LFA devised their centenary walk in 1987 they took it briefly into the smallest county. Part of our foray again joins the Round for a mile.

Approaching Knossington

Approaching Knossington

As the walk meets the county boundary we pass an Ordnance Survey triangulation pillar. These obsolete structures dotted around the British mainland usually stand proud in the landscape marking a place where we can pause and take in a fine view. Here at 191 metres above sea level the view is fair but the pillar is almost lost in the hedge.

This is a fairly remote bit of countryside between Loddington and Knossington and the remaking of the landscape through the Leighfield Estate emphasises this. The fields are large but the public paths stay on estate tracks or along headlands and the rolling landscape allows distant views emphasising the vastness of the estate a parish without a village.

I was on known territory but unfamiliar paths. It was interesting to look down onto Withcote Hall through which I’d passed many times using the route of the Round. The path has been diverted at Preston Lodge so take care if you have an old map, the footpath to Knossington has little sign of use so I’m pleased to include it on this walk. As I pass through the village so does the 113 bus which serves the area on it’s corkscrew route between Melton and Oakham. This and other local services offer the opportunity to create linear walks.

Meeting the bus in Knossington

Meeting the bus in Knossington

The garden centre at Cold Overton looks to be pushing further into the fields and may soon surround our path. There are some interesting buildings on the minor road passing the church. Our path passes through the sparse garden of a house before it drops away through a nice pasture field. The next section has been diverted and will soon be enclosed between trees on the right and a hedge on the left. Currently a view of the Queen Anne style house can be admired as I’m sure the owner desired by placing it here prominently in the landscape.

Somerby can still offer the services of a shop, pub and bus service so you can refresh yourself here or call it a day and get the bus to Melton or Oakham. Yet again our route joins the Leicestershire Round this for the last time until High Cross on the west side of the county. At the foot of the steep bank approaching Little Dalby you will find a seat provided to mark the achievements of Jim Mason who installed many of the original stiles and bridges to open up the Leicestershire Round.

Somerby shop and main street

Somerby shop and main street

Leaving the Round our walk is now part of the Jubilee Way extension although there is little sign. We could follow this to Belvoir but that cuts the corner so we will leave it and head east from Burton Lazars. This section ends here, while there are no services on offer in the village there are buses into Melton or the walk along the road has a pavement.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 14 click here

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Leicestershire Border Walk – part 12

November 21, 2014

Bringhurst – East Norton 11 miles (18 km)

East Norton todays destination

East Norton todays destination

Initially taking the road south from Bringhurst we soon enter a field on the left by the first of two possible paths and briefly join the Jurassic Way. The walk over to Great Easton is pleasant and uneventful. On my last visit a notice on the village Post Office and shop read that Diane and Mark Howson would be taking over the shop from 1st September 2014. It was nice to see the door open today and the place looking prosperous. Stock up here for today’s walk because there is little else in the way of community and facilities on this ten mile trek.

The road into Great Easton

The road into Great Easton

I had been tempted to take the road along the west side of Eyebrook Reservoir and take in yet another settlement, Stockerston but the fields of pasture convinced me this was the better walk although it did get a bit rough towards the end. There is a short bit of fairly busy road but keep to the right and traffic should see you on the outside of the slow bend.

I’d not realised how high I’d climbed until taking the minor road towards Blaston. I didn’t see the village name sign for Blaston so can’t count this as on the route. What goes down, must go up and another climb to the next road where the map shows an OS Trig pillar at 158M and from the next track we get the benefit of the height.

Sheep on the road to Blaston

Sheep on the road to Blaston

At the bend our route takes us onto a green county road and as the sign advises, it’s unsuitable for motor vehicles, which of course means they are allowed. Fortunately there was little sign that the mud worshippers use this track and it was good walking across mostly pasture. Not having to watch where each foot was placed allowed time to take in the view which included Eyebrook Reservoir through the centre of which passes our boundary and its now Rutland on the other side.

Finally meeting a metalled road we drop down into Allexton and on the way can see the larger village of Belton in Rutland (there is also a Belton in Leicestershire) across the valley of the Eye Brook. At Allexton I took the path passing the redundant St Peter’s church but you could continue down the road to the county boundary at the bridge.

Allexton another redundant church

Allexton another redundant church

Emerging from the churchyard we meet the Leicestershire Round yet again and join it briefly up Allexton Main Street which quickly fades into a footpath. This was once very muddy but a few road planings laid by the County Council has made a much improved path.

The Round goes off south to Hallaton but our route continues westward along the bridleway getting ever closer to the Eye Brook until an oxbow laps the track just before we meet and cross the A47. Just north of the road the boundary leaves the brook and heads north along field boundaries but we are going to bag another village before heading north and East Norton is a good place to break the walk and take the 747 bus back to Leicester.

Looking into Rutland across the Eye Brook

Looking into Rutland across the Eye Brook

Go to the next part of the walk Part 13 click here

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Leicestershire Border Walk – part 11

November 14, 2014

Lubenham – Bringhurst 12 miles (19 km)

I had extended section 10 to finish on Leicester Road (B6047) so it was easy this time to do total bus yet again today. The X3 from Leicester to Market Harborough dropped me at the hospital stop where I could use footpath A24 and its bridge to access the canal.

Nevill Holt Hall from footpath B65a

Nevill Holt Hall from footpath B65a

But I must start this description from Lubenham. We leave opposite a striking black and white building constructed in 1876 as a Hunting Box with stabling for twelve hunters. Gore Lodge known also as The House that Jack Built, now offers B&B.

The plateau site north of the village was ideal for an airfield built in 1941-2. It was used by the R.A.F. until 1946. Traces can still be seen as our path crosses the site.

Great Bowden Hall flats from the canal

Great Bowden Hall flats from the canal

It turned out to be a fairly easy walk starting along the well used level and stone surfaced towpath then a short cross field section to Great Bowden. It was also the return of more attractive and interesting terrain. A bit early in the walk but Great Bowden offers a shop, tea room and inns which may be more tempting if you have walked from Lubenham.

Rectory House Great Bowden

Rectory House Great Bowden

The next stretch is along Welham Road but there can be no through traffic as you will discover when crossing the Langton Brook by a narrow bridge. Easy it is but tiresome it becomes so I was pleased to cut the corner along a footpath across pleasant pasture. We are walking parallel to the boundary here, just a couple of fields over to the right.

The clock at Welham church was stopped but I’m assured that it will soon be repaired. The Old Red Lion could offer lunch but I’m on a tight schedule so pass by. The next path takes the walk along side the small river Welland which marks the boundary with Northamptonshire.

The Old Red Lion at Welham

The Old Red Lion at Welham

This walks gets better by the mile. Medbourne is a secret gem of a village with much to attract the eye including the Nevill Arms, a walk beside the Medbourne Brook then over the ancient bridge. The interior of the church is also worth exploring and a village shop offers an alternative to the Inn.

Entering Nevill Holt

Entering Nevill Holt

Just a mile up the road we pass through the ever open grand gates to enter Nevill Holt and we are close to the highlight of this walk, Nevill Holt Hall owned by The Cunard shipping family from 1876 to 1912. In 1919 the hall became a preparatory school but this closed in 1998. In 2000, it was bought and restored by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross and we get a grand view as the footpath almost crosses his front lawn. (Navigational note. The Definitive footpath used here was badly overgrown at the time of my visit. Although the area appears to be well waymarked the footpath was difficult to follow.)

It’s down hill from here but still gems to be discovered at Drayton. The church of St. James is the smallest consecrated church in Leicestershire, externally a rather uninteresting former chapel of ease which appears to have an assured if perhaps under used future. Close by stands the village hall, well it did when I passed in 2014. From a distance I managed to read the sign on the door “Do Not Enter – Dangerous Structure”.

Drayton village hall

Drayton village hall

Yet again I had ignored contour lines and hence it came as a surprise that the next settlement stood atop a small but perfectly formed rise. Clustered around the church the iron stone houses made a congenial setting at the extremity of this Leicestershire peninsula, close to Corby.

The sections ends here but I’d just missed the hourly bus to Oakham so decided to press on to Great Easton but more about that in stage 12.

Bringhurst walk's end

Bringhurst walk’s end

Go to the next part of the walk Part 12 click here

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Leicestershire Border Walk – part 10

November 7, 2014

North Kilworth – Lubenham 10 miles (16km)

Total bus again today, the X3 from Leicester to Market Harborough then 58B to Lutterworth dropped me at North Kilworth. I extended the walk to the old A6 near the Airfield Industrial Estate and hopped back on the X3 from there. This made the day’s walk twelve miles.

Boat horse in bronze at Foxton

Boat horse in bronze at Foxton

North Kilworth is not the best served village for footpaths so field options were zero and I was forced to take the pavement alongside the main road towards Husbands Bosworth, as far as the canal. Although not a public right of way at this point the towpath is available and offered respite from the traffic. The canal banks soon started to rise leaving the water and me in a deepening cutting until the mouth of Husbands Bosworth tunnel came into view. This proved to be an interesting route because it also uses a part of the horse path over the tunnel but then another section of roadside footway to the village. My first impressions were not good but looking a little closer I found some character in a village intersected by two busy roads.

Husbands Bosworth

Husbands Bosworth

Here again only one path to the south and debatable if it leads anywhere and one out to the north which I took to cross the canal just east of the tunnel portal. Much of this section could, from here follow the canal towpath and initially much of it did. It’s easy walking but doesn’t really connect with the countryside so I decide to add a half mile and take in Mowsley and Laughton which will also provide a walk up the flight of staircase locks at Foxton. It’s an easy bridleway along a track for much of the way but take care after about a mile and follow the left fork which soon becomes a footpath. The climb into Mowsley may come as a shock after so much low level walking and a glance back offers a view over the Avon/Welland watershed.

No excuse to get lost in Mowsley

No excuse to get lost in Mowsley

The other benefit of this late route change is the addition of two more villages. Mowsley could offer refreshment at The Staff of Life and the main street and church are attractive, but I was struck by the road sign. Not wanting to offend neighbours it lists five destinations on a traditional finger post. The cross field walk to Laughton came out by the small church where a thatched capped cob wall encloses the churchyard.

Laughton Village Hall

Laughton Village Hall

Leaving Laughton by the diminutive village hall there is now a good two miles with little sign of habitation. I especially liked the sloping pasture to the south of Oak Spinney, the sky was bright blue and I could hear buzzards calling and watched as they swooped trying to avoid the attacks from a crow.

Crossing the bottom lock at Foxton

Crossing the bottom lock at Foxton

After crossing Foxton Road on the edge of Gumley the top cottage and old engine house of Foxton locks and incline come into view. Our path crosses over the bottom lock where there is a choice of refreshment venues and just off our route a loo. Walking in summer you would be very unlucky not to see a boat passing through the locks but you will have to share this short section of path with other gongoozlers (people who enjoy watching activity on the canals).

Tower House Lubenham

Tower House Lubenham

The paths to Lubenham return tranquillity to the walk and arrival in the village offers another encounter with the boundary if you continue beyond the church and stand on the bridge over the Welland, before returning to the main road and perhaps celebrating the walks end in The Coach and Horses.

Go to the next part of the walk Part 11 click here

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Leicestershire Border Walk – part 9

October 30, 2014

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

Go to the next part of the walk Part 10 click here

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