The Three Rivers Challenge (Part Two)

There is a track leading to the church at Charwelton that leads to the village, or alternatively you can walk, as we did, past the manor house, through the churchyard and out across a field where, apparently remains of the old village earthworks and medieval fishponds may be seen, though our concern was trying to find the path and the exit gate to the field at the far right corner. The guidebook informed us that we had now joined the long-distance footpath known as The Jurassic Way and that “there is no better-marked path in the county than the Jurassic Way, and no words are necessary to direct you on the next five miles to Staverton!”

Well we had a few well-chosen words to describe parts of the next section of the walk where there were no clear markers of the where the footpath lay!

We emerged from the field onto the track that led away from the church and headed towards where the village lay, crossing over the remains of the Great Central Railway.

The path led us across a field on the right – adequately waymarked – and along a rotting plank bridge across a stream to the main A361 where directly opposite was the bridleway path we were to take on to complete our journey. But first, it was time for a diversion. We had left Staverton at 10:00am. It was now 12:59. So we turned left down the main road to The Fox and Hounds for a refill.

Suitably refreshed we managed to rise from our tables to begin the climb towards Hellidon and home. We retraced our steps to cross the ancient packhorse bridge and then cross the A361 to the track to a sign on the right indicating our way across a field. Half way across we stopped to listen to the alarm calls of a bird somewhere to the left of us and looking up we saw what had distressed them – a Red Kite.

We came to a road where, according to our guidebook we were to turn left for 80 yards – except the signpost was almost immediately opposite us. Again the guidebook stated that “The waymarking is excellent…on the climb up Windmill Hill” – which it was, apart from the bit where it wasn’t and we had to force our way to create a path that suddenly was no longer there. But at least this bit could not be clearer.

Entering this field the arrows indicated the path which had also been evidently marked out by the farmer, but on leaving this field there was way marker and no clear path – the last arrow we had seen on the previous field had indicated straight on and the guidebook said to climb up over Windmill Hill (though I think it could have done with more words than that right now), but the true path skirted left round the hill and passing a gate we saw the welcoming sight of the village before us and the even more welcoming sight of The Red Lion

…which had stopped serving 10 minutes ago.

The River Leam rises in the basement of Leam House, which stands just below the pub but at this point I just couldn’t care less, so being denied the chance of a refreshing pint we pressed on – Staverton lay a little over 2 miles away by road on a right, but we headed left into the village, past the Old Village Pump and a glorious Thatched Cottage. The owner of the cottage was just coming out so I asked if he would mind if I took a photo. More than that he very kindly spent some time talking about the history of the house and a little bit of information about Thatched roofs.

I had hoped the next leg of our walk would be easy and, for the most part it was – along a gated road to Lower Catesby – but I was forgetting the dip down to the viaduct and the valley bottom and then final continual climb upwards into the village while having to negotiate a number of high stiles, which I could have done without at this stage of the walk.

The Road goes ever on and on, crossing the River Leam a little further on.
Catesby House

Continue on ignoring the road leading right to Upper Catesby but look for a waymarker on a gate to your right – walk diagonally to the far left corner of the field to a stile. I say walk but you could run, skip or dance your way across the field should you care to.

I did not care to.

Follow the fence along to a dip beneath the broken arch of a railway viaduct – our old friend The Great Central line once more – then onwards – the way is pretty obvious from here on. There is another dip though some woods and a steep bank to cross a stream but its all pretty much uphill all the way with some awkward stiles.

The footpath ends, for us, opposite The Countryman but as it was only a little after 5pm and 50 minutes to opening time!

So a level 250 yards through the village, past the Green and home to consume a couple of generous pints of apple and blackcurrant squash.

Well, it was most definitely a challenge and is described as “possibly Northamptonshire’s best walk.”

I’m glad to have tried it and would like to explore parts of it again. But I think dear friend, let our next walk be a short low level one – perhaps alongside a canal and definitely one without stiles.

The Three Rivers Challenge (Part One)

A few miles south of the village lies Arbury Hill at 225m (738 ft) is the highest point in the County of Northamptonshire. The surrounding area gives rise to three major rivers – the Nene, which travels north-easterly to The Wash; the Cherwell, flowing sweetly to meet The Thames at Oxford; and The Leam which heads westerly to Leamington Spa to join The Avon and thence into the Severn. Having recently completed a 7 mile walk along the River Nene Alex and I decided to try something more ambitious and complete an 11 mile circular walk that encompassed the sources of all three rivers. The route also passes Four Pubs and in earlier less restricted times it would have been possible to have found refreshment at each.

The start of our walk has been well documented before – starting from the public footpath to Badby, where you cross a field by the vets, walk though a conifered border and across a well defined path through a crop of beans to a soggy field where the earliest waters of the River Nene are to be found. With the Nene on your right hand side you eventually cross it to veer left to the infamously wobbly stile that leads to the busy A361

The Churchyard at Badby had been recently mown and only a few solitary wild flowers remained. Last time we were here the churchyard looked like this

Now it was reduced to this

Just one or two flowers left at the edges.

We were on the well-signposted Knightley Way, except that in spite of walking this route several times although in the opposite direction, and the fact that it was not so well signposted as all that, we took our first wrong turn and wandered back and forth amongst the fallen trees in Badby Wood. We eventually found the path which led us to the point where we should have entered the woods. Emerging from the woods it was time to consult one of the OS maps (our walk took us across the edges of OS maps 151 and 152), as we had a choice of two paths, either of which would bring us to the road we needed to be on. Having made the decision to stick to the possibly longer one as it was a path we had taken before I picked up my soggy backpack, took a sip of what little water I had remaining, and on we went towards Fawsley Hall. (Note to self: Must but a new water bottle – preferably leakproof).

Down through the parkland to the road where we turned right and followed the road alongside the lake on the right and Fawsley Hotel and Spa on the left, looking for a signposted bridleway on our left just past a stone farmhouse. The very farmhouse it turned out that was the home of someone we had been to school with, which gave rise to a moment of anecdotal reminiscence on our part as we walked by.

The bridleway to Charwelton took us by The Granary – now a Wedding and Function venue, along a well defined track which led into a large field where the track was not defined but if you carry on in the same direction you eventually come to a gate and waymarker.

A well-defined track

No, we had no idea either.
Into a Very Large Field
Nearly there
looking back
Well, almost nearly there.

Cross the minor road and carry on straight ahead between some farm buildings to Church Charwelton – the church stands at the end of a gated road some way away from where the village now is. The original village was moved in the 15th century – another victim of enclosure when the Knightley family, amongst others, replaced the villagers with more profitable sheep.

The Peasant Poet

He loved the brook’s soft sound,
The swallow swimming by.
He loved the daisy-covered ground,
The cloud-bedappled sky.
To him the dismal storm appeared
The very voice of God;
And when the evening rack was reared
Stood Moses with his rod.
And everything his eyes surveyed,
The insects in the brake,
Were creatures God Almighty made,
He loved them for His sake–
A silent man in life’s affairs,
A thinker from a boy,
A peasant in his daily cares,
A poet in his joy.

John Clare

I’m Just Wild About Harry

A few years ago I was chatting to a singer/songwriter friend whose main income was earned from playing the standards in hotel lounges and in bars on cruise ships. He would mostly play piano and occasionally sing, often slipping in one of his own sings. One time he decided to sing one of the Gershwin standards that he usually only played but in doing so he decided to change the lyrics to be more gender appropriate, changing pronouns where necessary and guy to gal etc. He clearly had not given this a great deal of thought as he be began to realise soon into the song when it was too late to do anything about it, as he began to sing – “one day she’ll come along, the gal I love. And she’ll be big and strong, the gal I love….”

“The Man I Love.”

Some songs are gender specific and the performer has the choice of either audaciously changing the lyric, singing them as they are, or just leaving them out of their repertoire altogether,

When Sinatra made his comeback in the 50s, after a dip in his career when he could hardly fill an end of pier auditorium, he began recording what became a series of classic LPs for Capitol, He chose songs from a decade or two earlier, including Cole Porter’s 1934 classic from his show “Anything Goes.” Only he changed the lyrics in order to protect his fragile masculinity and in so doing utterly broke the beautiful inner rhymes of the song.

I get a kick out of you

The original lyric is

“I get no kick in a plane

Flying to high

with some guy

in the sky

Is my I-dear of nothing to do”

Pure genius.

By changing Guy to Gal Sinatra breaks that inner rhyme and reduces the song from a great song to merely humdrum.

And don’t get me started on what he does with the Rogers and Hart “The Lady is a Tramp” – a song he should have just avoided completely.

He is not the only one who is guilty of this. When Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song, set about recording the Great American Songbooks she took another Rogers and Hart song – “Have you met Miss Jones?” and turned it into an opprobrious mess that has me leaping up and reaching for the skip button each time I play the album.

An earlier generation had no problem with just singing the song as written, and no one gave a flying finger…

Gracie Fields’ biggest hit was a love song to the pride of our alley and Al Jolson could get quite ecstatic about Harry’s kisses without anyone questioning his masculinity or suggesting he was making a political statement about his sexuality.

Just sing the song.

Badby Down

A circular walk from Badby alongside the River Nene to Newnham, Little Everdon and across the hills to Fawsley Park, skirting Badby Down as we return to the car, conveniently parked near to The Malsters!

The Nene Way – The signpost clearly pointing the start of our journey down Courtyard Lane, Badby. This long-distance walk roughly follows the course of the river Nene, starting at Badby, Northamptonshire and ends at Sutton Bridge in Lincolnshire some 177 km away. We shall only be following it as far as Everdon before veering off to join up with The Knightley Way for our return journey. Both the Nene Way and the Knightley Way are well marked – it was the section in between that momentarily confused us where we had to trust we were actually heading in the right direction.

We passed through a Kissing Gate at the end of the path that led past Courtyard Lane and into a field continuing in the same direction to another kissing gate and over a footbridge to walk alongside the Nene.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to those helium party balloons – well here’s where they end up.

Keep heading on towards Newnham – now in sight, past the resting sheep, and unusual wooden sculpture (to be honest we expected to see more of these) and over a footbridge.

Another kissing gate will bring you onto a road, turn right and enter the village of Newnham. It was too soon on our walk to stop at the village pub – we had planned to reach Everdon by lunchtime for a suitable refreshment, but more of that later.

It’s worth spending some time wandering around the village – the 14th century church, perched on a high bank in the centre of the village, disappears from view temporarily the closer you get to it. Past the church we bore right to turn down Manor Lane passing some fine houses, not least of which was The Nuttery which is the site of a Hazel Orchard. Then over a stile and left uphill past a telegraph pole and a farting sheep, bearing right in the next field to find a kissing gate and keep on this direction.

Keep following the signs, through the parkland past Everdon Hall bearing right through yet more kissing gates onto a road and follow the roadside path bear right at the junction in Everdon down to the church. To the left is The Plough Inn and a signpost to Snorscombe. The Plough Inn has a fine reputation for good food but even though the signs outside promoting their lunches indicated that the Inn opened at midday – it was now 12:30 – all was in utter darkness and the doors remained firmly shut. There was no sign of life within. As we stood outside wondering whether to explore further a less than friendly resident drove past, slowed down and yelled out “It’s Closed” and drove off. I think we’d managed to work that our for ourselves, thank you very much. (Back home, the next day I was told that the pub had closed completely and the owner was hoping to either sell or install a tenant. Another victim of the consequences of the current pandemic.

The second mystery we were faced with was why neither of us had ever heard of the village of Snorscombe – having grown up nearby and having worked in the area at various points in our lives – Alex was a journalist for the local newspaper for many years and he had never heard of Snorscombe*. Something to explore later?

So deprived of a break and our refreshments, which in hindsight was probably a good thing as we now had a number of hills to climb – we pressed on – ever onwards and upwards (as it turned out). With the church on our left and the pub most decidedly behind us, we walked through Everdon along the road, past more wonderful Northamptonshire sandstone houses, along the road (left) to Fawsley starting the climb upwards, looking out for steps on the right half hidden in the overgrowth leading to a rather high oddly-angled stile into a field turning left and climbing up the hill.

Time for some pictures.

Beginning to get something of a view in spite of the rain.

The weather so far had been ideal for walking – a bit overcast but not to dismal and certainly not too hot as our Foxton Locks walk was this time last year. But now the rain arrived, in fits and starts at first so you hardly noticed it, then heavy enough to regret our choice of walking gear and for me to put away the camera and get out the raincoat. It is also here, or here abouts that the guidebook began to let us down a bit. The next part of the walk led us through a couple of fields of crops where a path should be distinctly visible and lead us across a couple of stiles. We just about made out what we were 90% sure was the path leading to a gap in the hedge.

There should be a couple of stiles here.

Falling victim to Rising Damp as we sought our way through Knee-high crops then through lush meadows that had managed to retain most of the rain that had fallen the previous day, only to transfer it at first to our boots then our trousers we glanced at the vague directions in the guide book which indicated merely keep onwards in the same direction until you come to a road. I think it missed out a couple of fields as there was no sign from our vantage point of a road anywhere. Alex was prepared to declare us officially lost. I concurred but decided that the best way was to continue onwards rather that retrace our path. That this was a path was evident by the fact that a party of ramblers came walking towards us. Whether it was the right path was another matter. We stopped and exchanged greetings and I asked where they were going, we said we had started at Badby and were heading back via Fawsley. That they neither laughed nor called us mad fools reassured us that perhaps we were on the right path after all. I think our waterlogged feet (it had got through to the socks now) had sapped our confidence.

In time we came to the road which we had to cross and enter more fields and start climbing upwards to be rewarded with a view of Fawsley Park, Not only where we definitely on the right route but we were nearly back at our starting point. We only had to make one short detour to photograph the Church and the House. Cue more pictures.

The path is signposted The Knightley Way, in honour of the family who destroyed the village of Snorscombe*, unlawfully enclosed the land and forced a number of families to be out of work and homeless.

We followed the track, clearly posted , through the park up to the woods where we turned right through a gate and followed a path that skirted Badby Woods (on the right) and Badby Down on the left.

Emerging from the woods I took us with absolute confidence across a meadow path that led to the wrong footpath causing us to cut across a rain soaked meadow to find the right path. Our trousers, which had just dried out were once again soaked.

Do Not Take The Path On The Left


The sunken path leads to the Church where we turned right and followed the road downhill to the Pub. This bit did seem a bit of a race to make it in time before the kitchen closed.

We made it


Malsters Inn

Badby Walks

Nene Goose

Native to the Hawaiian islands the Nene (pronounced nay-nay) Goose

One of the world’s rarest geese, it has been on the endangered species list since 1969.

Anyone who has visited the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust centre at Martin Mere will be greeted by these friendly birds, especially if you are carrying bird seed which they will happily take from your hands.

Adopt a bird