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.