Monday, 12 April 2021

The Shakespeare's Avon Way - Clay Coton (3)

Good to be back on the 'Shakespeare's Avon Way' footpath once again. Starting point is exactly where we  left off last time in the lovely village of Clay Coton. Conditions are much better too! Last time we were here the road was flooded and the fields were a muddy nightmare.

Quite a short walk today as the footpaths are a bit limited for a circular walk. Probably fair to say that expectations are not altogether high. However sometimes it is the ones that you least suspect that throw up the most interest. 

The footpath leads us past the wonderful former Church of St Andrew that ceased services in the 1950's. It then became derelict and was even threatened with demolition. It stayed fenced off for around 30 years all boarded up. Rescue finally came in the early 2000's when it was converted to a private home.   

Former Church of St Andrew

The Church is a 14th Century building much restored by the Victorians. The nave was rebuilt in 1866 but the west tower and the short spire are original. 

Sadly much of the medieval wooden carvings were stolen during the years of abandonment.

As we walk towards Lilbourne there is a signpost for 'Greenhaven Woodland Burial Ground'. It opened in 1994 and was the first privately owned natural burial ground in the country. The site originally catered for approximately 7,000 plots. It is hoped that the site will be completely wooded by 2060 and passed over to a wildlife trust who will maintain it as a natural ecosystem.

Further on we find a dead lamb that has probably perished in the overnight cold weather. It is stamped with the number 13 which has proved unlucky for this poor creature....


Motte and Bailey

Just outside of Lilbourne we get our first glimpse of the River Avon. We have walked past the local church, All Saints, which is Grade I listed building dating from the 12th century. 

There are also the remains of a Norman 'motte and bailey' castle.(A fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised area of ground called a motte, accompanied by a walled courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch. It is always a moment of excitement to come across one of these.Windsor Castle in England, is an example of a motte-and-bailey castle.

 We pick up the next footpath that takes us uphill to the village of Catthorpe.

Catthorpe gives its name to the nearby Catthorpe Interchange  road junction formed by the M1 and M6  motorways and the A14 road. So it can get pretty noisy around these parts.

If we had carried on we would have ended up on the M6 so we detour across a large field. The field is only notable for the remains of a tree in the centre. There are numerous rabbit warrens that look pretty active judging by the amount of droppings around the base. Also a lot of the bark has been removed, possibly a Badger or Deer?

The path leads downhill to Catthorpe Manor, there seems to be an outdoor wedding venue within the grounds too. Down towards the pond we make a sad discovery by one of the trees. On closer inspection it transpires that it is  Red Kite. It is perfectly intact with no signs of injury. Even the eyes have not yet been pecked out by the local crows. Hopefully it hasn't been poisoned and maybe died of hunger or the cold? I am starting to feel a bit like the 'Grim Reaper' today with all the death references....


Red Kite

It's a sad sight to see this most majestic of birds cut down in its prime. It is the first time that I have had the privilege of seeing a Red Kite at such close quarters and they really are a special bird of prey. 

Thankfully following a reintroduction projects Red Kites are no longer endangered and are now a regular sight , particularly around Northamptonshire.

We leave the grounds of the Manor and pass under the motorway bridge. Following the footpath that then takes us alongside the A14. 

Despite the busy road networks there is still an amazing abundance of wildlife, meadows, streams and open spaces. The path gradually pulls away from the A14 and we are heading back towards Clay Coton. 

The church at our starting point comes into view and we are almost back. It really has been a cracking walk, not what we were expecting at all. 

In total a total distance of 7.16 miles.   

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Quinton, Piddington, Horton and Hackleton circular Walk

Starting point today is St John the Baptist Church in the the village of Quinton. It is based on the route listed on the Northamptonshire Walks website. I tend to go off on a tangent and more often than not get a bit lost too. 

The footpath is just out of the village and runs parallels to the road. It is very quiet until out of nowhere an errant dog comes charging over and jumping up at me. Thankfully the walking trousers are not clean on today. I manage to get hold of the lead and hand the energetic hound back to a grateful owner. At the T junction I follow the path towards Park Farm.  

It didn't take me long to get off the marked track, however I was able to pick up the Midshires Way and correct myself. In the distance I could see the Church at Piddington so I kept heading East. 

Eventually the path passes through a farm and then exits into a lane in the village of Piddington. There seems to be a tank parked in the drive of one of the houses. Not something you tend to see on a walk really. The lane winds down to the village pub ' The Spread Eagle'. Not a place I have fond memories of ... Almost opposite is the bridleway.


 This part of the walk is very exposed, thankfully the weather although chilly is dry. This is actually part of the Northampton Round Footpath.You can't go far wrong her and the path takes you into the next port of call 'Horton'. On the bend I spot my old nemesis the Police 'Speed camera van'. It was this very spot some years ago that I was trapped. Yes I still feel bitter about it to this day! A bit of walking on the path now rounding the bend towards Brafield. the next Bridleway is located on the left hand side.

It's a lovely open stretch of countryside once again, very peaceful with nobody else about. The only noise is from the Skylarks who are in good voice overhead. 

The exit lies in the corner and a nice little stile/bridge which is re-assuring to find. I have now arrived in the next village 'Hackleton'. The path is a little tricky to find as it is over the road and runs between houses and the Village Hall. 

The path winds it's way back up to 'Piddington' and emerges into a housing area. Just out of the close I can see the Church and the next part of the walk. But the priority is a spot of lunch and a drink both of which I have brought with me. 

Suitably refreshed I continue past the splendid looking  Parish Church of St John the Baptist.Built in about 1290, although it is believed that there may have been a place of worship on this site prior to that date. There are some wonderful barn conversions here too, I complimented one gentleman on his beautifully maintained garden. He seemed to appreciate the encouragement from a fellow gardener.  

The tower rising to a spire was rebuilt following a rate levy in the Parish in 1847 and on the east face of the tower is the church clock, more than a 100 years old, believed to have been made by Dent and Co., who manufactured "Big Ben" From here there is access to a number of country paths to explore.

This is my favourite part of the walk, the countryside is beautiful with the yellow of the oil seed rape just coming out.

Thankfully the paths are very well marked for the majority of the walk. A lot of it depends on the Farmer as to well they are defined. To me it makes sense to clearly establish the footpaths so that responsible walkers can keep to them. The path eventually takes me back to the path that I picked up after leaving Quinton at the start.

It has been a cracking little walk and comes in at exactly 8.4miles. Probably a shade more than if I hadn't gone wrong early on in the walk.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Long Buckby, Whilton, Brockhall & Grand Union Canal Walk

Long Buckby Castle


We are starting off today at Long Buckby out towards Daventry in Northamptoshire. I have been doing one or two more local walks of late and have covered these off in previous write ups so its good to venture into pastures new as they say. The Castle ring-work is known locally as The Mounts,  and lies in the centre of the village. It was a bit tricky to find actually. Archaeological evidence suggests that it was built by 1150 AD. Many
Many Norman castles were built of earth and wood and were defended by a timber wall built on an earth bank surrounded by a ditch or moat. It is officially a ring motte with at least one bailey, and perhaps originally two.


We are walking in a clockwise direction today. The route takes us over the railway bridge across fields towards the village of Whilton. It is listed in The Domesday Book of 1068 under the name 'Wiltone'. The Parish Church of St Andrew is constructed from the local Northamptonshire Ironstone and was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. Little remains of the original, having been restored in late 18th century 

We spend a bit of time looking around the churchyard. Outside there is a memorial to Captain Harry Reynolds VC MC.Harry was a Whilton man, whose bravery and character during World War I brought him to the attention of the nation.

We pick up the footpath that crosses the Little Brington Road towards Brockhall.   


Brockhall, like many estate villages, is a small settlement that has developed around its eponymous hall. The village - Brocole in Old English, which means Badgers Hill - was recorded in the Domesday Book. There are some lovely old buildings, full of character and it is a charming little hamlet. 

Medieval gatehouse, Muscott

We pass through the lost village of Muscott just to the north-west of the village of Brockhall, although the two places are identified as separate settlements.The site consists of the earthwork remains of the deserted medieval village and of a double moated site, the location of the Muscott medieval manor house. The gatehouse to the present Muscott House is considered to be late medieval in date with 19th-century additions and is listed Grade II.

We cross over the busy M1 and drop down on to the Grand Union Canal running alongside the M1.

Whilton Marina

We follow the canal along it's path up to Whilton Marina. A flight of seven locks that are also referred to as Buckby Lock Flight.The locks are numbered from 7 at the top of the flight to 13 at the bottom. To the south of the flight is a long level pound, which stretches 14.6 miles (23.5 km) to the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum.


As always there is some interesting artwork on display along the canal. Some better than others lets just say. Being a Fox lover I particularly like the one pictured above with the sinister face around the corner. We continue up to Long Buckby Wharf as far as the New Inn. We then cross over the A5  followed by the bridge over the railway line and the M1. We follow the footpath past Greenhill Farm towards Hoborough Hill. From there we are almost back to the starting point and it is a matter of finding where we left the cars!

Looking back

It has once again been a cracking walk , a bit breezy at times but generally good walking conditions. In total the distance covered was a fraction over 11 miles.


Thursday, 18 March 2021

Wollaston, Podington and Farndish Walk (3 Shires Way)


The Roman Road

We are starting out from a windy Wollaston today, rain promised later so best get cracking. We are walking in an anti-clockwise direction today We soon arrive at a 'Roman Road' according to the map. It's a very muddy path to say the least. 

We follow the Roman Road until it meets up with the 'Three Shires Way'. A bridleway running through quiet rural landscape and remnants of ancient woodland. Linking with the Swan's Way at the start, it takes in the county boundaries of Bucks, Beds and Northants. A circuit of Grafham Water has now been added to make a total distance of 49 miles.

We pass 'Dungee Wood' on our right which is closely followed by 'Forty Acre Wood'. We make a small detour through the wood as the map shows a lake and a moat! The path was even more muddier than anything we had encountered previously. Also there was no sign of the lake or indeed a moat...It took a bit of clambering over a ditch and up a steep overgrown bank to even see the water. In truth it was a bit of a disappointment as it was essentially a simple fishing lake for Anglers. I stumbled back to find that my walking partner had just seen a Muntjac Deer run out in front of him.The startled Deer then ran straight into a fence in it's confusion to escape.   

We have now crossed the border into Bedfordshire, on the site of the former airfield at Podington. Podington airfield was originally built between 1940 and 1941 to accommodate two RAF  bomber squadrons. On 18 April 1942 it was made available to the United States Air Forces 8th Air Force. The first USAAF unit to use Podington was the 28th Troop Carrier Squadron in June 1942.The USAAF returned Podington to the RAF in July 1945 and the airfield was retained by the Air Ministry for storage. There are still some reminders of it's history. But sadly it seems to be a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish which is a great shame.

Old Nissen hut on the former airfield

Still on the site of the old airbase we come to Santa Pod Raceway.The airfield was finally broken up in 1961 and sold to private investors. 

However before all the airfield was ground into aggregate, a group of drag-racing enthusiasts approached the owners to use the main runway as a drag racing strip. In 1964 an agreement was reached for what became 'Santa Pod'. In 1972 the concrete was re-surfaced with asphalt and a major European centre for Drag Racing was created. The straight track is used for 1/4 and 1/8 mile racing. 

Santa Pod is the venue at which the current world drag racing record, a time of 3.58 seconds at 386.26 mph (621.61 km/h) was set in July 1984. Santa Pod for many years remained the fastest all-asphalt drag-strip in the world since most North American tracks are partially or entirely concrete in construction.

As you might imagine, it is extremely open and the wind has got up and become a bit chilly. We continue on the footpath going past Great Hayes Wood on our left. We are going in the direction of the railway line. Having been through a wind farm we are now surrounded by solar panels. Something we see more and more of while out walking. They do seem to be a missed opportunity to utilise better for wild life or wild flowers. 

Badger Paw print

Little bridge over a stream


Our path veers to the left and we are heading towards the village of Podington. The map shows that we are passing by a 'motte and Baileys'. Some kind of mound and structure, usually a castle or fortification of some kind.There is a lot of evidence of Badgers, some big setts on the banks. There are also some very distinguished 'Badger runs' in the fields. They probably make the same trip every night and create their own well worn paths.

Podington is a small picturesque rural village; many of its buildings are stone cottages dating from the 18th century, and some even earlier. It has a nice garden centre too. We weave through the village and pick up the path that will take us to the rural hamlet of Farndish. The name Farndish means fern-clad pasture. It is home now to Saxby's Cider Farm since 2011.Many of the apples are grown in their own orchards.The family used to have a business selling pork pies The business traded for over 100 years but sadly closed in 2008. I recall always having a Saxby's pork pie in the fridge at the weekend as I was growing up.

 They still keep the pig logo as a memento to those days which is a nice nod to the past. No cider today though unfortunately and onwards we go. It has now started to rain as approach the last and bleakest part of the walk. An uphill climb all the way across fields to the B569 and past the school, back to the start point in Wollaston. A cracking little walk, coming in at just over 11 miles.  


The Shakespeare's Avon Way - Clay Coton (3)

Good to be back on the 'Shakespeare's Avon Way' footpath once again. Starting point is exactly where we  left off last time in t...