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!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rutland Water -a good standby

A distinct lack of action recently. Mea culpa - recovering from a broken wrist after falling while ice-skating  in Leeds, around three weeks ago.  Ouch.

This week the sunny weather tempted me out - walk from Normanton to the Mantin wildlife centre and back and another from Sykes Lane to Barnsdale and back. A pair of great crested grebes looked as though they were about to perform the weed dance, but then fizzled.

The third walk was the five or so miles around the Hambleton peninsula - another glorious early spring day. It's more than good to get out there again, even with my right wrist in a cast. And, of course, I'm right handed. That makes photos tricky. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hardwick, Sywell, Mears Ashby circular

I decided on this walk, as we hadn't done it since 2013, when Barry led it for us. It's at least 8 miles, but felt longer because of sticky, muddy, recently planted fields. OK, maybe nearly 9 including occasional rerouting around fields. Beautiful weather, and very little wind today.

We set off from Hardwick church
Take the road opposite the church, and when it bends to the right, take the footpath going off to the left. This heads away from the track and alongside the hedge. In the next field, keep walking in the same direction until you reach a footbridge over a stream. We walked uphill with the hedge on our right, and when we reached the next field boundary turned left, keeping the hedge on our left.
 When we reached the end of the hedge our true path was directly across the recently ploughed field, to a marker near a small ruined brick building . Horses and people had gone before us around the field edge, so we decided to follow - the going was not easy, but easier.

We've already diverted round the edge of a large field to avoid mud! Onward toward Hardwick Lodge.
 We met the path at the point in the photo above, marked by some rusting machinery. We followed the route over the field and round a small copse with a pool, and came out at the road and a junction of paths near Hardwick Lodge, which sells eggs, and is well protected by dogs, who barked until we clearly showed that our intentions were honourable. The footpath has been routed round the edge of the properties. 
Now the path goes towards Hardwick Wood, turns left and makes for the corner of Hardwick Short Wood. We follow the edge of the wood, as it becomes Sywell Wood and then continues behind Wood Lodge Farm to meet the road into Sywell.
A left turn and a short section of road walking with no verge takes us past the Aviation Museum and some industrial buildings. Just before Sywell Hall our footpath turns off on the left - the sign was obscured from our direction, so involved a few yards of retraced steps.
The path soon comes out on a small road. Turn left here and before long left again to pick up the footpath to Mears Ashby. It goes uphill to a bench, before heading diagonally and downhill over a field towards Sywell Bottom. It may be possible to go further to the right and pick the path up. We went through the trees - see picture below!
Time to practise our limbo dancing? Near Sywell Bottom.
 Next we turned right for a short distance, then left to climb gently towards the village of Mears Ashby. Here we followed the road past the school, and through to Highfield Road.
Mears Ashby dog - the quietest one we met today.
 The path goes to the left from Highfield Road, just where the road bends to the right. The next big fields were pretty sticky - we ended up with extra boots, made of mud. Heavy workouts for the legs. Even after crossing the Sywell to Hardwick road, the going was - soft?  At one point we wandered slightly from the official footpath, by following the hedge. Luckily the magic machine showed us what we needed to do, and we were soon back on track and heading back to Hardwick. 
Very large snowdrops - or a vey small tractor? I think the leaves are a giveaway.

Another crocodilian

Still smiling after all I've led them through today!
Map and details

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Gretton to Rockingham and back

We followed the Jurassic Way from Gretton all the way to Rockingham. An easy six-mile walk on frosty fields, we thought. We must remember it is not so easy when the ground is wet, a couple of fields are sticky with mud, and one of the gates is surrounded by a foul-smelling pond. To be fair the path has been clearly made good by the farmer.
We found some snow on the path across to West Hill - one of my favourite vantage points near Gretton.
West Hill itself was pleasant to walk down, firm underfoot. But at the bottom, through the gate near the railway we had a taste of mud to come. For the most part the walk across was good, apart from the gate mentioned above, but we negotiated it without too much trouble. We were very warm, and there was little wind. We soon reached the beginnings of Rockingham, and could see traffic crawling up Rockingham Hill.
When we reached the road we turned right, and walked down to the teashop. 
The return journey was not so pleasant, as sleety rain was falling. The gate with its attendant water proved trickier this time, and in the muddy fields our boots grew heavy.
The way was clear but the ground was sticky
Such elegance!
We chose the low level route back into Gretton, rather than climbing up the steep side of West Hill. In spite of the unexpected obstacles, we enjoyed our walk. However, in future we'll choose snow, frost or dry weather for this walk.


We decided to spend most of today exploring the town of Crowland - a place which used to be one of the many islands in the fens. This meant that our walk was short - five miles, maybe. It was cold too.
The Welland valley covered in last night's snow

Tixover church

The approach to Crowland
Crowland is a place I am more used to seeing in hot weather, sometimes after a sweaty cycle ride through the fens, but today was very different.

Triangular Bridge
The bridge used to span the two rivers which met in the town.  Before the fens were drained the main streets of Crowland were waterways. There was originally a wooden bridge, but this structure was probably built in the fourteenth century.

Not Cromwell, may be Christ, or may be an abbot

Thatch cat

The Abbey
There are some excellent self-guide sheets available, both for the present church and the outside area, which used to be a very large abbey. It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and also suffered a siege in the Civil War, when Cromwell's forces defeated the local Royalists and the abbey was destroyed in 1643.
On the rood screen - St Guthlac arriving at Crowland in his boat
Guthlac was a Saxon noble and warrior who later became religious and a hermit, arriving at this isolated island ( with a servant or two) to spend his life in contemplation and prayer. For more details see this blog.
An unusual aggressive green man
Other curious items in the abbey include a heart casket, in which hearts of those killed in the crusades were kept and the skull of Abbot Theodore, who was slain by Viking invaders while he was praying. The skull is kept in the abbey, but locked away since it was stolen in 1982, but returned 17 years later with a note of apology. 
'As a callow youth, I stole the skull and as a responsible adult, I return it!'
The fifteenth century parish chest is a hefty affair with three locks. Three people had one key each, so that no one person could unlock it.

Halley's comet - the hairy star, apparently seen by the stonemasons.
 It was cold even inside the abbey, and it was essential to warm up before we walked anywhere, so off to the Copper Kettle tearoom we went. The warm fire and friendly company worked wonders.  
We took the track towards Peakirk, following this as far as Kennulph's stone. According to Heritage Gateway, this is the story:
After a succession of lawsuits about the possessions of Crowland Abbey in the marshes, and the appointing, in 1389, of a commission to enquire into the marking of boundaries, new stone crosses were erected at Kenulfston and elsewhere. In 1394 men of Deeping destroyed the cross and were imprisoned in Lincoln Castle, where they remained till their friends set up another cross at Kenulfston. A modern block of stone with date 1817 has been erected on the old base, which stands on the banks of the Welland. 
Kennulph was the first abbot of Crowland in 716.
Kennulph's stone
A bird box - not sure what for though
We returned via a path nearer to the river, through a field with a rather importunate pony. We were glad to shut the gate on this one, and turned right parallel to the road from Fen Bridge. Not a day for many people to be sitting on the benches, and five minutes was long enough for us!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Burghley, Stamford and the canal

This is the same walk as on January 22nd, without the detour along the Welland after the bridge.
Altogether it was about five and a half miles of flat walking. 

Tommy, Gordon, Kate, Sue, Norma, Chris and I had a fine walk in dry bright weather, starting from Burghley House car park, turning right at the bottom of the drive and walking along the new footpath by the road as far as The Dingle. 
Then we crossed the road near the bend, and took the footpath down the track to the left of the Dingle, turning right to walk round the field by the stream, and turning left to reach the railway crossing in the far corner. We followed the path over another field, and then continued to the footbridge over a stream, turning right to walk with the Welland on our left as far as the road to Uffington.
My suggestion of an extra couple of miles did not go down well! 
We turned left to cross the stone bridge, then left again to the footpath following the course of the canal.
This path continues for a mile or so, through trees with the Welland just south of us on our left.
We turned left at the first footbridge, crossed a field and another footbridge, then another field to reach the gate on to the track near the mill. Once again, my suggestion of an extra half mile was laughed at.  We briefly admired the old bottle, and greeted the crocodile improving his shining tail, before heading up the track to the Uffington Road. We waved to Morrisons supermarket, and took Priory Road. The benches in the Priory gardens were ideal for our coffee break.
From there it was simply a matter of walking down past Wharf Lane car park, over the Albert bridge, and following the Waterside road to the main road, just opposite the pedestrian entrance to Burghley Park. A short mile through the park took us back to the cars. Unfortunately the Orangery is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lubenham to Harborough via the Judith Stone.

With Gordon and Maureen. A fine, very cold morning. Some muddy sections. Around five miles (estimate).
We covered  the same ground as this walk from November, but in reverse.  I found my way to the Stone more easily this time.

We started from Rushes Lane, heading towards the Tower House and the church, then past the Verger's Cottage and Eden House, with its A-frame and cruck beams. 
We crossed School Lane into Old Hall Lane, and took the footpath to the right shortly before the road bends left. The path is fenced off here and crosses the Welland, then the minor road to East Farndon, before heading slightly uphill across a field, through the hedge, then alongside the hedge of two fields. In the second of these fields is the Judith Stone, easy to see today in the ridged and furrowed field, especially since there were no sheep to distract us.

 The Judith Stone was probably deposited by a glacier and in the 11th and 12th centuries was a boundary marker for the estate of Countess Judith, a niece of William the Conqueror.
We walked back to the lower edge of the field and decided to turn left along the bridleway which leads to Harborough, since most paths promised to be a little muddy. The bridleway was not an exception. 
It crossed the Lubenham road and grew even muddier, with giant tractor tracks. They were cutting back the hedges today. At the end of the bridleway is a new housing development. We turned left just before it and found our way across a ditch and then walked with the Welland on our left. When the river met the disused railway we turned right parallel to the embankment. The footpath soon turned left under a bridge and we walked along the path between houses until it came out on Welland Park Road. We turned right, then left at the mini roundabout, crossing over to the entrance to Welland Park.  The information board about the Battle of Naseby is worth looking at too.

 We were pleased to find the park cafe open, and stopped for a coffee and snack, before making our way back to Lubenham. We walked along Coventry Road for a while, turning right into Gardiner Street, then taking the public footpath to the left to Brookfield Road. At Brookfield Road we turned left then into Spinney Close and picked up the footpath to Lubenham. This is a permissive path leading straight uphill through a field, then down on the other side to the main road. There are wide views from the top.  
Snow on its way?

Looking back to Harborough

and down to the main road and Lubenham
 The path comes out at the A4304, and continues on the other side, a little to the right. It is clearly marked as it makes its way back to Lubenham and Old Hall Lane.
Part of a moat by the footpath 
 We walked back past the church and saw the double railway bridge with the lower carriageway on one side for laden farm carts. A short distance further took us to the moat at Thorpe Lubenham Hall.
The (different) moat near Thorpe Lubenham Hall

Signs of spring?
 Finally we walked back along Rushes Lane to the car.  A few drops of sleety rain didn't last long.
The Tower House

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Around Deeping St James

Walk done January 27 2015, starting at about 10.30am.

Marta and I continue to explore the Welland. Our initial hope was that we might reach Crowland, but we decided to take things a little easier. 
Our first problem was the route. We were not sure how far along the left bank of the Welland we could walk, and wanted to avoid any road walking, since the road concerned is a typical fenland road. It's pretty straight and tempts people to speed.  In fact it is possible to walk along the high bank, and beside it, but underfoot it was a little soft which made it harder going. On the way back the wind was in our faces too.
We parked at a space used by local dog-walkers, just after Deeping St James, where the road bends sharply to the left.  
I picked some local brains first, a couple who were looking for the seal which has been seen during the last few days in the river. They hadn't seen it, but recommended the walk anyway. 

The first half mile or so follows the Welland south east, along a tarmac private road, with Deeping Lakes Nature Reserve on the left, and the river on our right.

A glimpse of one of the lakes through the trees
The path goes under the mainline railway, and the river soon joins Maxey Cut, and becomes a more serious-looking ruler straight river, with raised banks. It flows northeast.
Where the waters join there was a little egret

Soon after turning the corner we found the entrance to the nature reserve - our plan at present is not miles under boots, but exploration, so in we went.
A group of children with teachers were visiting, and we stopped to chat - they'd seen herons, little egrets and also a long-eared owl, which often visits the reserve at this time of year. We hied us to the hide to try to spot the bird, but without binoculars we couldn't be sure. Our luck was in, as a group of birdwatchers with telescopes arrived.
At first we thought the white blob was the owl - no it was one of those pigeons pretending again. In fact the owl is in the photo, towards the top right.

The best I could get at the time, but we did have a peer through a telescope - a beautiful bird.
We left the reserve and continued towards Crowland.
The nature reserve

Lots of geese

Crowland Abbey in the distance

We walked a couple of miles or so along the river, then decided to turn back, and leave Crowland for a more leisurely exploration in future.  
Altogether we walked about eight miles today. In case you're wondering, we didn't see the seal either.

Map and details