and occasionally rides a bike.
A word of warning. The walk descriptions are not detailed enough to guide you - please take a map. The batteries never run out. Oh, And don't take left or right as gospel!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ashton to Salcey Forest circular

Thu, 2014 Apr 17 9:36 AM BST
With Maureen. Probably just over 10 miles. Lunch at SF cafe. A bit too much road coming out of SF, and too much close to the M1 - noisy. Otherwise very pleasant, pretty flat. Weather beautiful am, turned dull and cooler pm.
We park in Ashton (near Roade), and walk up past the church and the bright blue primary school. The path goes off to our right, under the mainline railway bridge, then turns at a right angle to bring us out on the Hartwell road.
We turn left and walk a short distance before turning right along a footpath. This takes us south east to a minor road. We cross this and take the footpath angling left across a field, well maintained and signposted.
It is easy to follow over two fields, then cuts a corner of a field near Hartwell Park Farm, follows a line of trees and joins the drive just after the farm gate. We walk along the drive towards the village, and turn right along a footpath just before another gate which leads to the road into the village.
This path follows the edge of the cultivated field, then goes into another grassy one and turns right. We follow it south west past Ravenshead farm, until we rejoin the Northamptonshire round footpath, and here we turn left, almost due east.
The path is clear through crops across two fields, then we get slightly confused. We know the direction to go, we know where we are  - heading towards the lane to Chapel Farm, but we choose the wrong side of the hedge. The real path goes through two wide farm gates, downhill. There is a sign, but it's not easy to see, almost concealed by the hedge. And yes, there are more footpath markers at the bottom of the slope. We don't take the NR this time, but head straight up to the lane, turn right for a short distance then take the path onthe left hand side. According to the map this goes through the medieval village of Hartwell, but we see no evidence of it. The path turns left and meets a different Hartwell Road. A left turn and just over a hundred yards of walking takes us to Stone Pit farm, where our path goes off to the right. We walk behind the farm, and across one field, through a hedge and into a more sheltered field with a grassy edge - perfect for a short break.
We follow the path along the hedge for a couple of fields, through some awkward gates, past a pond and Hartwell End House and Farm.  
Turn left and then right over a stile, then through a gate and the muddiest section of the walk. Turn left here and go into the next field, keeping straight on  (north west here) as far as Elms Farm, and turn right along the hedge.
Follow the field edge to the right again, then turn left into some very attractive woodland, spoiled only by the din of the M1. Celandine, primroses, a few bluebells, stitchwort are some of the flowers growing here.

Our path takes us through a tunnel under the motorway, then we turn left and walk through the grassland and trees of Sandpit Copse. Very noisy, of course. It's a relief to meet Forest road and walk away from the M1. At the crossroads we turn left into Wootton Road, and eventually into the car park and cafe area in Salcey Forest. Lunch. And a forty minute break. Then another mile or so of Wootton Road, which is quite busy today, so we have to keep hopping on to the verge, which is not designed for walking.  It also runs near enough to the M1 to be unpleasantly noisy with the wind from the west.  We pass the dismantled railway, which now seems to be the access road to the wind farm. A little further on at Quinton Green, we join the midshires way and walk west towards the M1. This time we cross it via a footbridge and head a bit further west. Now the wind is carrying the noise away from us. Judicious use of map, garmin and footpath signs (and diversion signs) keeps us on track. We follow the midshires way as far as the road, then turn left and walk as far as Ashton Lodge Farm. A footpath to the right goes through the yards behind, and we follow it , crossing the railway by a bridge, then crossing a road and picking up the footpath opposite which brings us into Ashton. We leave the footpath and take the road downhill past the school and church and back to the car.
At various points in this walk you can choose different footpaths for variation. The big disadvantage is the proximity of the M1!

Map and details

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Northamptonshire Round 5 - Ashton circular catch-up

Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:15 BST
With Marta, around 8-9 miles. Beautiful weather, took it easy. Ate in Ashton.

We set off from near the pub inAshton (the Old Crown - who do a decent ciabatta+ salad +juice drink for £8). Follow the road towards Stoke Bruerne and take a path between two houses, to the left, near Vale Farm. 
Cross several fields past a stables, cross a track and some woodland, and follow the path southwest, then south until you reach the Grand Union Canal, at Lower Lock Farm.
water boatman in a trough

Turn right, north west, along the canal past three locks, then after a bigger gap a fourth one, and you are at Stoke Bruerne with its pubs, caf├ęs and canal museum.

We stopped for a coffee, and unusually some chocolate cake, before leaving the canal. Cross the bridge and head towards Stoke Bruerne church.

The NR footpath goes right, just before the church. Or you can walk through the churchyard and join the path on the other side. It passes some houses and leads west towards Shutlanger. It crosses a minor road, goes through fields, one with what looks like an allotment in the middle of it, the next one full of sheep today, then past the monastery.

When you reach the junction of a road and a bridleway, opposite a private road, turn right towards the main road through the village.

Twitch Hill or High Street in Shutlanger lead on to Showsley Road, which you follow for half a mile past a dismantled railway, turning right along a bridleway where the road bends left. The path goes alongside a belt of woodland, and then past Nun Wood.

Female orange tip?
The signpost at the south end of Nun Wood is misleading - we turn right, then realise our mistake. Mr Garmin confirms this!
At the north end of the wood  the NR goes off ot the left, but our route today is to the right and we soon join the Midshires Way, then cross another footpath. Soon after this, at the end of the field, we turn left, and head pretty well east toward the road from Blisworth. We hear and then see a light plane taking off.

At one point we catch sight of the air shaft from the tunnel.
We turn right at the road  walk along for a hundred yards or so, then take the woodland path back to the canal. It joins the towpath just past the south end of Blisworth Tunnel.  
A short walk leads us to Stoke Bruerne again, but on a fine day close to Easter the waiting time for food is 40 minutes, so we plod on to Ashton, by road this time. It's a bout a mile and a half. Luckily for us the pub here is serving food, so we can have something more substantial than our emergency ration cereal bars!
We may try some more circular walks as we complete the NR walks.

Barnwell circular, via Armston

Mon, 2014 Apr 14 9:20 AM BST
Led by Barry with me and Maureen. Mostly good paths on clear fields. Not much mud. Fine if windy. Almost 8 miles.

We head south out of Barnwell, past All Saints Church - and take the non-Nene Way bridleway which leads across a dyke-cum-drainage ditch beyond Lower Farm.
The path turns slightly and leads south east over Barnwell Brook with its small sluice, and uphill slightly. There are cowslips and other flowers along the way. We join another bridleway, swinging slightly further towards the east and making for Bull Nose Coppice.
Here our path turns 90 degrees to head more or less northeast, then north, passing South Lodge Farm on our left, and heading to the minor road.  We can see the village of Thurning a mile or so away on our right.
We cross the Thurning to Barnwell Road, and skirt North Lodge Farm before resuming our course to the north. We're getting ready for a break, and find a sheltered spot with a fine view of the water tower.
We follow the field boundary for a couple of fields, then cross the Barnwell to Hemington road. We catch sight of Polebrook church some way ahead of us. The path goes straight ahead, turns left then right following field boundaries, then diagonally over another field, through a short stretch of woodland, and across a narrow field. It turns left and follows the hedge, then right and along until it meets a "privately maintained road, where we turn left, almost retracing our steps for a couple of hundred yards. We follow this road as it bends right and takes us into the hamlet of Armston.

The road swings left and as it bends to the right once more, our path goes off to the left, south east. It crosses a field and skirts Armston Grove woodland.
It continues in the same direction behind Barnwell Manor, eventually turning left and into the village.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Thu, 2014 Apr 10 9:27 AM BST
Led by Barry. Pleasant walk, gently undulating, a few muddy patches. Just under 9 miles. Fine weather, sunny even.

From Billesdon village we take a footpath between two hedges, which leads us into a field, and then down towards the A47.
Looking back from near the A47
The road is very quiet this morning and easy to cross.
We can see the distinctive shape of Billesdon Coplow ahead of us.
We walk through the cottages, braving the noisy dogs, and along the drive past the big house, then at the Tilton Road turn left. We take a footpath to the right and keep on in a south westerly direction until we reach the A47 once more. We cross it, and turn right.  We walk along the path until we reach the turning to Houghton on the Hill. Here we turn left and into the village of Houghton.

 A sunny sheltered bench in the churchyard, right on our route, proves irresistible. Time for a break. The path heads south east towards Gaulby.  We see glimpses of its tower and pinnacles from time to time. There are a fair number of butterflies out today - mainly peacocks.
 Luckily there is also a new footbridge over the river here.
If we look back from the path near Gaulby we can see Leicestershire's "mountains" on the horizon.

 In Gaulby we take the Illston Road for a good half mile, before taking a footpath to our left, which leads over fields, then uphill through woods behind Ashlands.
 The path crosses several fields, always waymarked. It almost meets the road, but here we turn left, more or less north east, to head back to Billesdon.
 Billesdon Old School has four sundials, one on each side.
 In front of the church spring is in full bloom.
 We walk apst the market place - surprising for what is really only an overgrown village.

Unfortunately the village shop is closed for lunch, so we go back to the car chocolateless. An excellent walk, touching some known territory and some new.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Straiton Monument and Bennan Hill

Fri, 2014 Apr 4 10:53 AM GMT
From Genoch Cottage, up Craigengower, Straiton, lunch at the Buck, back via Bennan and Bennan Hill. A lot of low cloud, mist., slightly muggy, but dry. Almost 9 miles.

We walk from the cottage down to the road. We turn left and walk along for almost a mile as far as the turning to Craigfad and Balbeg.
A left turn takes us down to a small bridge. Just before the bridge are wooden steps to the path beside the river, Water of Girvan.
  We follow the path back up to the road, just opposite a small house. We turn left. About a hundred yards on our right, after the house is a gate into the field. We make our way up the hill, tyring to follow the line of the path on the map, but it's mostly a steep grassy slog up to the top and then turn left towards the Monument on Craigengower. It celebrates Lt Col James Hunter Blair who died after the Battle of Inkerman (during the Crimean War) in 1854.  It's very gloomy and atmospheric when we arrive in low cloud.

We decide on our route down, and soon enough this becomes clear and easy as we step below the cloud. Down the hill, over a step stile into Traboyack Wood, back to the road just before the school. We turn right and walk into the village of Straiton, past the war memorial, with at least two more Hunter Blairs' names.  A little further and we stop for a very welcome coffee and sandwich at the Buck. . This is run by a couple who came to the area for the mountain biking, then opened the coffee shop, so rarely get out there. But the coffee and cakes are good.

 Now, we think, a gentle stroll back, maybe a diversion to Bennan Hill Viewpoint. We are told there are otters and kingfishers by the river, but we see none today.
We pause for a quick look at St Cuthbert's church, from the outside, then look for the footpath before the road bridge.  This leads to a footbridge over the river, where we turn right, then left for a while to join a small road, past Bennan farm, then off to the right through a large field and into Bennan Wood.

When we reach the sign promising a 25 minute walk to Bennan Hill viewpoint, we follow it, but miss the turning from the main track. We make our way through some wet ground within the plantation  and eventually find a route, where the barbed wire has been wrapped with tape. Of course a lot of the view is shrouded in mist today.

 The descent is pretty steep, but we reach the track and follow it to Craigfad. From here it's a mile or so along the road and back to Genoch.

Map and details