Because dogs aren’t allowed on buses, I usually have to make do with circular routes when I walk locally, so it was a nice change to be able to get a lift (from my very understanding girlfriend) to do an “A to B” walk following part of the Northamptonshire Round (thanks to @TowcesterNews for the recommendation). This leg takes in the view up the huge drive to Castle Ashby, Yardley Chase, Salcey Forest and the villages of Yardley Hastings, Horton, Piddington, and Hartwell. Although there was a lot of road work, the route was very enjoyable.
The Northamptonshire Round is a 50-mile circular route set up by a bunch of “fellows” (their words) who formed the Ten Foot Club to give a walk or selection of walks to others in recompense for the pleasure they had gained from walks organized by others. It is designed to show people some of the delightful villages and sights around Northamptonshire.
Northamptonshire is a low-rolling and modest Midland county. Most ramblers, contemplating the map in search of a good walk, let their eyes drift briefly across the county before deciding on the Lakes, the Peaks or somewhere with a bit more elevation and glamour.
That’s why the Ten Foot Club has devised a 50-mile circular walk, the Northamptonshire Round, to lure walkers into discovering old deer parks, woods, farmlands, villages and other secrets and overlooked delights.
Cogenhoe to Hartwell
|Date||6th February 2010|
|Time Taken||5.5 hours|
|Average Speed||2.4 mph|
|Max Height||448 ft|
|Min Height||193 ft|
|Height Gain||834 ft|
|Height Loss||623 ft|
The route starts at the foot of the village of Cogenhoe (not pronounced how you might think), and quickly enters some lovely examples of Northamptonshire countryside – peaceful rolling hills, woods and farmland.
As you leave Cogenhoe behind you, and prepare to drop down (relatively) to the village of Yardley Hastings, you cross the impressive mile long drive to Castle Ashby. At the time the castle was just a blob on the horizon, but looking at the photos I took really show how big the drive is (it would be brilliant for cantering I am reliably informed!). The photo is towards Castle Ashby, taken about half way up the drive.
The Castle is the result of a licence obtained in 1306, for the Bishop of Coventry, to castellate his mansion in the village of Ashby. The present rebuilding of Castle Ashby was started by Lord Compton in 1574, and the house has been visited by Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, King William III, oh and Sir Elton John .
What I liked a lot less is the next part of the route – a quiet country road into Yardley Chase that seems to go on for ever!
Whenever I am walking long stretches of road, I always have the first line of a song from Lord of The Rings rattling around in my head (best sung in the Radio 4 version) which @ydnab40 has kindly provided the rest of:
The road goes ever on and on,
down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
and I must follow if I can,
pursuing it with eager feet,
until it joins some larger way
where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then I cannot say.
Fellowship of the ring, a long expected party
Nothing brings you back to reality than the sound of automatic weapons! There I was, minding my own business, reading the various interpretation boards along the footpath (Yardley Chase is an Area of Special Scientific Interest) when suddenly I could hear the sound of rifle fire. Whilst the gunfire continued I passed a wire fence with a hard to view yellow warning sign (the zoomed in photo of which is above – click to enlarge (just like all photos on the site)), and looking at the map there certainly seems to be some suspicious huts marked with little moats – was this some kind of secret Army base?
Well, secret in the sense that it has it’s own Wikipedia page! The huts marked on the map are concrete and were used to store bombs until the 1990s, when the MOD shut them down due to their obvious ineffectiveness in a nuclear strike. The site is now used by the Army and Air cadets and the Territorial Army, which explains the weapon fire (blanks presumably!). Judging by some of the forums I stumbled across the site, although fairly basic, is well liked by cadets.
The Northamptonshire Round leaves Yardley Chase and, after another long road, passes through the villages of Horton and Piddington (the field between Horton and Piddington was possibly the longest most horrible stretch of sticky mud I have ever walked through!) before turning South to head into Salcey Forest.
As it is right next to my village (Hartwell), I have walked a considerable amount of Salcey Forest – the official marked walks, the old (and in my opinion better) routes, the cycle route, the horse route and various other little tracks!
The Northamptonshire Round enters the forest in the North East corner and quickly joins the cycle route (going clockwise) – it was really nice to see so many families out walking on a Sunday afternoon! Just before you hit one of the roads that cross the forest, you turn off onto a darker, more mysterious track – one that I have never walked on before.
The route makes it way through the forest – after a bit of road you rejoin the cycle route briefly before continuing out towards the South West corner of the forest. At this point I turned off the Northamptonshire Round to cut back to Hartwell – my final destination.