Monday, 11 January 2021

Harpole, Nobottle, Nether Heyford Northampton Round Walk


The Northampton Round Walk

The starting point for today's walk is the historic village of Harpole. There has been a sharp frost and it is extremely foggy, in short it is freezing!

We travel and park in separate cars in accordance with government guidelines. Starting point is close to the church, through a gate and hey presto we are into open countryside and once more on the Northampton Round. I think I mentioned the NR on the last write up therefore this time I have included a map o the entire route. It is a total distance of 54 miles approx. While doing a bit of research I found out that someone had completed the entire walk in a day. Starting at 6:30 in the morning and finishing late at night. I believe that it was a mixture of a walk and some jogging. Considering he went wrong a few times it was a really good effort. Ironically enough it was someone that I once worked with too. The walk today will take us past Harpole Covert and as far as the Nobottle Road.

The Northampton Round Marker

We turn back on ourselves , picking up the Midshires Way. We really are out in the wilds now. As we progress we have Glassthorpehill on our left. Not that we can see it of course with the fog obscuring any views.     

Friendly Sheep

Looking at the map we are a good distance from the nearest road . As you would imagine aside from the odd sheep it is extremely quiet. The water troughs are completely froze, the ice is a good inch thick. We break it up just in case the sheep feel a little thirsty.

There is the occasional pond too so it is a great area for wildlife. The fields are littered with rabbit droppings ! No rabbits just the droppings in vast quantities. 

The path takes us under the M1 Motorway and then across the busy A45 into the village of Upper Heyford. Half a mile later we reach Nether Heyford. From either the Old English word "heg/hedge", meaning "the ford by the hedge", or from "haeg/hage", meaning "the ford over which the hay is carried". 

It is famed for having one of the largest village greens in the country.

We are now on the Nene Way! And following close to the River Nene.  There are few people about today, heeding the advice to stay indoors. I think we have seen two other people so far and no sign of life in either of the villages. 

Heygates at Bugbrooke Mills

 The next point of interest is the Heygates Flour Mill at Bugbrooke Mills. There has been a mill at Bugbrooke, on the very same site, since before 1086. This extraordinary fact is known because the mill was mentioned in an early publication of the time, the Domesday Book. The Heygates, a family of Northamptonshire farmers, took it over in the late nineteenth century. The direct descendants of the first of these millers still run today’s mill, which is the group’s main location, producing the biggest share of the company’s flour output from its three mills. over 200,000 tons of wheat is milled annually, resulting in 150,000 tons of flour. This is mainly for bread production, including a large share of Fine Lady Bakery’s needs, but is also for biscuit manufacturers and other specialist areas.


Abandoned wheat silos
 

Around the mill there must be at least thirty abandoned wheat silos. These fallen giants portray a very eerie scene amongst the misty gloom. It is more like a scene from Cape Canaveral or a US military base missiles silo. Many of them are rusted and rotted and must have been there for years. I would have thought there would have been some scrap value at least?

 

We continue along the Nene Way and there are some interesting pieces of social commentary to be seen...On all of the bridges someone has scribbled in chalk anti government messages. Clearly not a big fan of Boris Johnson that is clear. 

Some nice scenery along this stretch with the water flowing nicely. The water has a very deep turquoise colour to it , never really noticed that before . Maybe it's something to do with the fog?Back under the M1 and across the A45 we go. We seem to have saved the muddiest fields for this last part of the walk

For good measure the farmer has bolted the gate fr the final footpath. After we have climbed over the footpath is non existent. We skirt the edge of the field and hope we are going in roughly the right direction. 

Finally we reach an exit gate and we are back in the village of Harpole. 

It has been a decent walk, one that I would like to do again on a nice clear day. Total distance 8.5 miles.


Monday, 4 January 2021

Salcey Forest, Hartwell and Northamptonshire Round Walk

First walk of 2021!Nothing much has changed from 2020 except that we are now in Tier 4 of course. Which is very little from being in 'Lockdown'. We are staying within the County boundary so no danger of breaking any laws all being well. 

Starting point is the village of Piddington south of Northampton ans North of Buckingham. It's a bright morning although the forecast is for it to cloud up after lunch. A short walk takes us in to the ancient woodland of Salcey Forest  again. Somewhere we have visited fairly recently when walking The Swans Way. 

There are quite a few walkers out and about today, lets face it there is a fast decreasing list of things that are still permissible. The forest is a remnant of the medieval royal hunting forest. Reminders of the past can still be found, with building remains and ancient trees.The 'Druids' or veteran oaks in Salcey are rare and distinct wildlife habitats, and some of the veteran oaks are believed to be over 500 years old.  


Salcey Forest

Leaving the forest we came across a bit of an obstacle ... The footpath taking us under the M1 was closed. A new bridge was under construction and accessibility was not possible. We didn't particularly fancy trying to cross the M1 especially with 'Archie' the dog in tow. Some creative thinking was required. Very carefully we made our way through the tunnel which was quite waterlogged. We made our way along the fence line and climbed over to join the original pathway. Thankfully we were back on track. 

Leaving the tunnel behind we realised that we had taken a bit of a detour , going the long way round. Oh well It's all good exercise I suppose, a bit of fresh air never hurt anybody.

The problem now though is 'Mud' and lots of it. The boots are absolutely clogged and it is a real slog. 

Approaching Hartwell End I spot a familiar building. The home of an Old friend who is out with her dogs. After a brief catch-up we are on our way passing  a solar farm which is a real blot on the landscape. I don't understand why that can't at least be converted into wild flower meadows as well? Perhaps even a few grazing sheep too?

 

 

We pick up the 'Northamptonshire Round'. This 51-mile circular route takes in some of the prettiest villages and countryside around the town of Northampton. The walk officially starts at Brixworth Country Park and takes in Harlestone, Bugbrooke, Gayton, Piddington, Yardley Hastings and Sywell Country Park.      

Leaving the 'Round' we then join up with the 'Midshires Way'.  a long-distance footpath and bridleway that runs for 230 miles (370 km) from the Chiltern Hills near Bledlow in Buckinghamshire to Gtr Manchester.



Wind Turbines

By the 1870's Piddington was linked to the national rail network by the Bedford to Northampton Line.
It closed to passengers in 1951, and was later shut completely as part of the 1960s Beeching cuts. The picture on the left literally shows the end of the line. 

Still on the 'Midshires Way' we pass Fox Covert , sadly no sign of any Foxes today. In fact there has been very little in the way of wildlife today. Aside from the obligatory Red Kite and occasional Buzzard it has been quiet. 

We reach the M1 again and this time it is a straightforward crossing over the bridge. We are now on the homeward leg of the route.  I have long given up trying to clear the mud from the boots. It has really been an energy sapping walk . 

There seems to be an airfield as we head back towards the village.  

  
It has been a walk of just over eleven miles, but did feel longer at times. Always enjoyable though and another area of the County ticked off (again).





Wednesday, 30 December 2020

The Shakespeare's Avon Way - Welford (2)


 
St Mary's Church Welford


The second leg of The Shakespeare's Avon Way and we are starting from St Mary's Church in Welford.Located on the River Avon border between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

After 'Storm Bella' did her worst overnight it is calm and bright. We are under no illusion how boggy some of the parts are likely to be. Hopefully the floods won't be bad enough to stop the intended route?


Flooded Fields ......

We are not far out of Welford when we pick up the Grand Union Canal.  The Welford Arm is a short, 1 mile, waterway leading to the village of Welford. The canal was opened in 1814 and originally built as a navigable feeder, linking the Welford Reservoir and Sulby Reservoir to the Old Grand Union Canal. 

What is this we see? A dam seems to have been created, surely not Beavers ??  I suspect with the the high water and stormy winds the old reeds have all been dredged up over the outlet pipe.  

For this part of the walk we don't seem to be particularly close to the River Avon. Although we are passing close to the village of Stanford On Avon which is reassuring. 

It is nice to leave the sodden fields and take the road that leads to our next village Clay Coton. Either side of the road there are impressive pillars giving distances to places nearby.


Distance markers

Clay Coton

Sadly one of them seems to have lost the globe off of the pillar. Our water problems were far from over though.... The road into Clay Coton was flooded with several inches of water. No alternative but to walk through it, the result being pretty wet feet. A couple of cyclists coming the other way seemed to make much better progress than we did though. 

There are some lovely properties along the road too. The village is dominated by the former Church of St Andrew built in 1340. It fell into disuse in the 1950s and was renovated as a private house in 2000. However, the surrounding graveyard still has public access.  All of which are flooded out today.

This will be our starting point for the next leg of the journey. Hopefully it will be a bit drier. But for now we are heading away from the Shakespeare's Avon Way. More saturated fields await us.   

 

 

A handy bridge for crossing the swollen river.

We cross the A14 once gain and further on to Bridge 31 on the canal picking up the Jurassic Way footpath.  The path ahead is very clear and we are approaching the Hemplow Hills. 

It is a slog through the mud to reach the woodlands. It is an even harder climb when we get there as the path becomes steeper and stickier. Looking back there are fantastic views of Honey Hill and wonderful rolling countryside. 

Hemplow Hills
A Christmas Donkey

Leaving behind the Hemplow Hills it is the final part of the walk and back to the starting point at Welford. 

It is mostly by road and then through a small housing estate. Seems that a few other walkers are returning back to their cars as the light starts to fade.

It has been a great walk and quite a long one coming in just short of 10.5 miles.


 



Monday, 28 December 2020

Cottesbrooke Christmas Walk


   

A beautiful crisp and sunny Christmas morning for a walk around one of the most beautiful areas in the County. Walk number 132 on the Northamptonshire Walks website is the planned route for today. There has been a sharp frost overnight on top of all the recent rainfall. Hopefully it should make some of thye mud a little easier to walk on?

Leaving the car in the middle of the village we set off passing the Grade 1 listed All Saints Church on our right hand side. It is distinguished for its architecture and the box pews and three-Decker pulpit in the nave.One of the bells, dated 1317, is reputed to be the world’s oldest bell hung for change ringing.

Cottesbrooke Grange is another lovely building , particularly with the sun highlighting the stonework and a frost on the grass. These days it has been converted into luxury apartments. 

We take the signpost towards Brixworth following the path and crossing over the bridge. As you would expect given all the recent rain the water is flowing and bubbling along like no tomorrow.  

We arrive at some gates on our left which I know will take us towards Blueberry Lodge. We will now be on the Macmillan Way long distance footpath. 


Cottesbrooke Grange

Fast flowing water

 It's a great place to walk with views to the left over the Cottesbrooke Estate and House. Lots of open fields to the right.    

I remember coming here a few years ago and seeing lots of Short Eared Owls. There is plenty of bird life around though as well. Small flocks of Starlings, Goldfinches and Chaffinches are on the ground.  Fieldfares are in the bushes feasting on the remaining Sloe berries. There is also the occasional Redwing too. A pair of Green woodpeckers are on the ground after a worm or too perhaps?

It is pretty much a case of just following the path or track to Blueberry Lodge. This is easier said than done with the mud starting to thaw in the sun. Each footstep is something of a lottery much of the time. One wrong move and what looks solid ground becomes a bog....

We stop by the lake at Blueberry Lodge for a bit of a breather,  a bite to eat and a cup of tea. We are going to need an energy boost as the next leg will be a steep climb up Haselbech Hill.

It is a long slog up the hill as expected , I'm surprised that I've never been up here before as the views are spectacular. Looking back there are great views of Hanging Houghton and Lamport. 

At the top there is a seat and a very large stone memorial which I believe relates to the previous owners of the house at Blueberry Lodge. 

 

Spectacular Views

There is still a short climb to complete to reach the summit. 

Turning right we follow the field edge following the elusive footpath signs. In the distance Haselbech Hall stands proud.

 The house was gutted by fire in 1917 and re-modelled after that date. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire" that "Haselbech Hall was built just before 1678 for the Wyke family.


A pond in the field



 

 

 


    


The skies are blue and the birds have started singing again, what a glorious day to be out in the countryside. A scene of tranquility and calm, It was all going so well .... Passing through a gate into a field the mud was particularly bad. A small group of people were coming towards us wit several dogs.One dog in particular came charging over and Mrs A took a bit of a tumble.

Thankfully she was able to see the funny side and no harm was done. Undaunted we continued our trek, one slightly muddier than the other.  

After the field we reach a firmer track and a couple of nice properties. One of which looks deserted, which is a great shame as it has the potential to be something very special. 

We continue on the track slightly uphill where a steady trickle of water is still flowing down. The local farmer has dug a small gully diverting the water into the field. There is a very small whole that is swallowing all the water like a plughole. 



We emerge to a road junction , our route is to the left and it is road all the way back to where we started in Cottesbroke. I remember this particular hill very well from a bike ride during the Summer. It was one of the longest and steepest that I encountered. 

Given the state of the fields there are no complaints about being on the hard surface. At least some of the mud on the boots is starting to fall off ! 

On the left hand side we have views of Cottesbrooke Hall. Looks nice with the lake and a horse in the foreground. In the field opposite is a memorial standing all on it's own. I haven't been able to find out too much about is so far. The Hall is a near-perfect example of Queen Anne architecture located in a large parkland setting with wide views across the local countryside. We are back in the village passing 'The Old Forge' and the Post Office, the end of a cracking walk!

 

Cottesbrooke Monument


 








Harpole, Nobottle, Nether Heyford Northampton Round Walk

The Northampton Round Walk The starting point for today's walk is the historic village of Harpole. There has been a sharp frost and it i...