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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Northamptonshire is a county you pass through to get somewhere else, and this has been the case since the Romans came and built Watling Street found that the easiest route was to pass through Northamptonshire on the way to Chester. They came. They saw. They passed right through. Do not stop. Do not collect £200. And it has been the same ever since. You see it’s all to do with the geology, apparently. The canal and railway builders searching for the best route from London to the industrialised cities found the easiest way was through the Watford Gap. Daventry may have been a resting place where you changed horses but it was never a final destination. Even when the railways came they avoided Northampton altogether – the town’s station was at Roade, some 6 miles south of the town. Even now Northampton town is on a loop line, a diversion. The faster trains north and south, skirt the town altogether.
This month’s walk took us near to the place where canals, railway lines and motorways converge – The Watford Gap.
Our walk started in Welton, a village a couple of miles out of Daventry but which is being encroached upon by the nearby town – new housing estates are being built right up to the parish bounds. Driving off the main road into the village we climbed upwards past the parish church of St Martin and parked by the road side just past The White Horse – which was planned to be our final destination. Heading upwards and out of the village, ignoring a bridleway finger post on our right which, while that route would have taken us directly to the canal we would have missed out on the views across to Daventry and Borough Hill, so, following our guidebook, we continued along the road, turning left towards Watford.
We continued along the road until we came to a crossroads, crossing the main road our roadside walk continued until the road bore sharp right and we saw the signpost pointing our way across the side of a muddy field. Although this was a minor road it was still quite busy with local traffic.
Crossing a bridge over the Leicester branch of the Grand Union canal at Welton Hythe Marina, we walked along the towpath parallel to the A5, though the road itself was hidden from view, and I can’t say that we were aware of its presence. Toby had to be put back on his harness as he had decided he wanted to slide along the muddy embankment. We crossed back and forth over two more bridges to get on the main Grand Union Canal – the left turn would have taken us to the locks at Watford – we turned right towards the eerie mouth of Braunston tunnel. Counting the bridges as we walked under them for our guidebook said we should leave the canal at bridge 8, the third bridge, and return along the road to Welton village. When we came to the third bridge it was clearly marked No 6. Fearful that we would have to retrace our steps we rechecked the map and decided the book was wrong – either that or someone had renumbered the bridges since 2000 when the book was published. A quick recce revealed ahead of us was the eerie mouth of Braunston Tunnel and above the road we needed to get us safely home – or at least safely to The White Horse.
A quick inspection of the 13th century church of St Martin’s and once back in Daventry an even longer inspection of the menu at The Evergreen Café in Sheaf Street (dogs welcome).