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.