Cold Ashby’s Rambling Explorer


As regular visitors will realise, the previously described circular walks  were all based on the premise that they could be reached and completed on foot from Cold Ashby itself and most were quite well known to the Rambler before the creation of this website.
On this page, the Rambler, armed with two new maps, will not only be returning to walks he has previously experienced, ( which are further afield but still within easy driving or cycling distance of Cold Ashby)  but also striking out for ‘pastures new‘ .
All walks will be within the area covered by OS Explorer 223, Northampton & Market Harborough and OS Explorer 222, Rugby & Daventry.


***In addition, the Rambler would be pleased to include walks suggested or described by  fellow ramblers.

Should you feel that you could contribute to this project , please contact the Rambler here with your suggestion.
All contributions will, of course, be fully acknowledged on the site.

{The Rambler strives to give accurate descriptions of the walks on this site but is aware that any text is always open to a variety of readings and possible (mis)interpretations.
He therefore strongly recommends that walkers are equipped with a relevant O.S. map (Explorer 222 or 223 ) and decent compass which should enable them to regain the intended route should they be unintentionally misled  - please do not rely only on his meagre attempts at sketch maps!
Constructive comments and/or criticisms are always welcome here.}

** Relevant OS maps are now available here.

**For previously described walks around Cold Ashby click here.

Quick Links to walks on this page:

Walk 1 : Draughton Crossing - Green Lane Crossing - Maidwell - Draughton and return.

Walk 2 : Yelvertoft to Winwick and Return (Figure of Eight)

Walk 3 : Former Brixworth Station - Houghton Crossing-Hanging Houghton - Lamport- Isham Crossing and return

Walk 4a : Hanging Houghton - Lamport Hall Park - Medieval Faxton - Faxton Grange and Return to Hanging Houghton

Walk 4b : Alternative walk to Medieval Faxton and site of the former St. Denis Church - from Old to Faxton via Mill Lane and Return on Footpath.

Walk 5 : Welford Reservoir Car park - Welford Wharf  - Towpath to Bridge 40 - Return to Welford via Hall Lane

 

Rambling Explorer Walk 1


Draughton Crossing - Green Lane Crossing - Maidwell - Draughton and return.

Walk starts and ends at : Draughton Crossing Car park on the Brampton Valley Way.
Difficulty: Easy stroll over clearly marked paths with generally good surfaces.
Distance : 3-4 miles

This short circular walk is a good choice in unsettled weather as you will never be too far from your car should you be in need of shelter . Despite this, you have the interest of walking on the old trackbed of the Northampton - Market Harborough Line, which retains interesting features, using a well-marked, still partially surfaced ‘green lane’ and visiting two pleasant Northamptonshire villages.

The Car Park, which is clearly marked on OS Map 223 is reached by taking the turn for Draughton off the A508 in Maidwell itself.
Once parked you set off (North) on the old trackbed towards Green Lane Crossing , which you reach after about  1 mile.


At the crossing turn left (West) in the direction of Maidwell, strolling along the wide green lane, ignoring the branch to the right which you reach after about ¼ mile, and continuing into Maidwell.
Pass the village school on your right and as you reach the church notice the sign which directs you left (East) along the Macmillan Way. A glance over the churchyard wall reveals the rear of the impressive Maidwell Hall.

You then cross the pasture, heading for the splendidly decrepit (yet somehow surviving!) metal footbridge over the old railway bed which you reach via an equally splendid,  new wooden footbridge over a stream.


 

At this point your car is parked only  about 400 yards away , so if the weather has turned awful you can march swiftly back to it. However, if all is well meteorologically, you can  press straight on across the old track in the clearly signed direction of Draughton village. The path is usually clear on the ground , curving round a small pond on your left, and entering the village via the drive to the Old Rectory and a step-style to the right of a white gate.
Draughton is a very small but attractive hamlet in the middle of lovely countryside so do take a walk along the main street to see the fine church  and an interesting variety of buildings.

 

On my last visit, Draughton was reminiscent of Brooke’s Grantchester - note the clock in the photo, standing not ‘at ten’ but at ‘five to three’!
(I did not enquire into the reserves of  honey!).

 

From Draughton, take the Maidwell Road back to the crossing and the Car Park, with a useful picnic area on your left.

Historical Notes on This Walk

The Northampton to Market Harborough line, designed by George R. Stephenson and George Parker Bidder, was opened in 1859 to exploit deposits of ironstone discovered in this part of Northamptonshire.
It was closed to passenger traffic on 4th January 1960 ( thanks to Beeching!) but was reopened on the 6th January 1969.
It was closed again on 1st May 1969 and re-opened on 10th July 1972. The passenger service continued until 26 August 1973, after which it carried only freight.
All traffic ceased on 16th August 1981.
The Brampton Valley Way was opened in  1993.
The Northampton and Lamport Railway Society now maintain a short section of track from the former Pitsford and Brampton Station.

 

Rambling Explorer Walk 2

Yelvertoft to Winwick and Return (Figure of Eight)

Walk begins and ends at : Bridge 20 of the Grand Union Canal.

Distance: about 3 miles

Difficulty: easy and fairly level, clearly marked.

 

The Rambler suggests you begin this walk at Bridge 20 of the Grand Union Canal , about half a mile from Yelvertoft church on the West Haddon Road. Parking for two or three small cars is usually available off-road here. If not, you can begin at the previous bridge which has more space, or park in Yelvertoft and make your way to bridge 20 by road and canal towpath - a glance at your map will make this option obvious.

From Bridge 20 take the excellent wide and flat towpath towards Winwick (South) and simply enjoy the typical English scenery.

(One of the most relaxing aspects of walking the canals is the impossibility of mistaking your path on these sections!)

After passing under a bridge, the canal makes a surprisingly sharp turn East and continues to the next bridge at Winwick Grange.

Here, you leave the canal and join the single track lane towards Winwick, watching for the footpath sign on your left shortly after passing the Grange.

Take this clearly signed path to Winwick, noting the undulations beneath your boots - fine remnants of the ancient ‘Ridge and Furrow’ open field system which are so obvious all around this area. The path takes you more or less diagonally across two such pastures and along the mill stream to cross a stile with the church tower in view.

From here the path becomes the village street.

 

Do take time to appreciate Winwick Manor, the church and the other fine buildings, large and small.

 

From the crossroads at Bridge Cottage you walk up the hill in the signposted direction of Crick but soon fork right along the lane ‘Unsuitable for HGVs’.

From here you have fine views of Winwick itself and Honey Hill to your right (North). Continue along the lane, passing an interesting old stone ‘wellhouse’ and a large pond on your left before reaching Winwick Grange again.

Instead of rejoining the towpath, the Rambler suggests you continue on the lane over the canal bridge, passing New House Farm on your left and joining the West Haddon to Yelvertoft Road, turning right along this road for your return to Bridge 20.

 

Historical Notes on This Walk

For information on Winwick’s history the Rambler strongly recommends this link.

 NB *This walk connects with Walk 11

 

Rambling Explorer Walk 3

Former Brixworth Station - Houghton Crossing-Hanging Houghton - Lamport- Isham Crossing and return

 

 

Begins and ends  at :  the site of the former Brixworth Station on the Creaton - Brixworth Road about I mile from Brixworth where there is parking for 3 or 4 cars.


Difficulty: Easy for the most part;good surfaces after rain; excellent waymarking - slight climb up to Hanging Houghton.


Distance: About 5 miles


After parking, take the short access path to the site of Brixworth Station on the Brampton Valley Way.
Then head North on the track in the direction of Houghton Crossing for about 1.5 miles.
Although, like much of the BV Way, this section might be considered boringly straight by some, this section offers much of interest to the observant.
On your right as you begin the walk can be seen the remains of the terminus of a narrow gauge tramway which once carried ironstone from the Brixworth Quarry.
The Brampton Arm of the Nene runs along to your left and about half way along this section, again on your right, is the site of a 'Calcining Bank' (where the Iron Ore was reduced and then loaded on trains).
In summer the wild flowers are a delight and the views of the Northamptonshire countryside to West and East, on the more open sections, are enjoyable.


 

On reaching Houghton Crossing, turn right (East) on to the small road to Hanging Houghton. a pleasant small settlement which has somehow avoided being placed on the busy nearby Harborough Road (A508).
Do stop at the bend just before the village, where what appears to be a concrete track to a sewage farm (or similar) joins the road and look back to appreciate the view of Clint Hill and beyond.


In Hanging Houghton look for the footpath to Lamport which is on your left, or if, like me, you realise you've missed it,  then continue to the Harborough Road. The footpath is recommended, however, as it cuts out some of the busy road which you are required to suffer for about half a mile through the outskirts of Lamport.
Lamport offers you its Hall and Gardens ( Check opening times) and refreshment at The Swan.


To continue this walk, find the clearly signposted ‘Bridleway to Haselbech and Brampton Valley Way'  which is off the Harborough Road (on your left after leaving the village towards Market Harborough).
This takes you East to rejoin the Brampton Valley Way at Isham Crossing, through a pasture with fine views ahead and ridge and furrow to your right.
At Isham crossing, you have the opportunity to explore the area of Permissive Access Land off the Bridleway to Haselbech, before returning to the Way, by which you may return to Houghton Crossing and your starting point at the former Brixworth Station.
If you still have time on your hands, why not continue into Brixworth, past the Pytchley Hunt Kennels and visit the Saxon Church, one of the finest in Britain, or explore the complete Brixworth Heritage Trail?

 

Historical Notes on This Walk

Iron ore was discovered in Brixworth area soon after the railway track was laid - a discovery which was to change the emphasis of the local economy from agricultural to industrial and which has left its mark on the landscape to this day.
Iron pits were also established around Hanging Houghton, Scaldwell, Lamport and Pitsford, though most of these appear to have been worked out by the end of the Second World War.
The narrow gauge tramway which carried ore from Brixworth Quarry to the Calcining Bank (mentioned above) is apparently traceable, though overgrown.

Denys James Watkins-Pitchford MBE ( 'BB') was born and lived at Lamport. He was a naturalist, writer and artist who took as his ‘motto’ the following inscription that his father allegedly copied from a gravestone: 

'The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.'

Lamport Hall was the home of Sir Thomas Isham (1658-81) who, as a boy,  kept a diary in Latin.

    

 Rambling Explorer Walk 4 (A)
 

An information  leaflet produced by Northants C.C. in 1992 which clearly maps this walk and other connecting paths is now available here.

Hanging Houghton - Lamport Hall Park - Medieval Faxton - Faxton Grange and Return to Hanging Houghton
  
 

Begins and ends at : Hanging Houghton (or Houghton Crossing)
 

Distance :  5-6 Miles
 

Difficulty : Fairly level, one moderate ‘climb’ approaching Faxton Grange.
Waymarking suspect in places (particularly during harvest!).
Footpath sections sometimes overgrown and unclear on the ground.
Take a decent compass as landmarks are not always visible, even though the site of the former village is quite elevated.
 

Parking :  in Hanging Houghton, avoiding verges and the Green.
Alternatively, there is room for a few cars at Houghton Crossing on the Brampton Valley Way which means walking up the hill to the village - a pleasant stroll with good views.
(See walk above)
 

This walk takes you from the hamlet of Hanging Houghton, through the Eastern edge of Lamport Hall’s parkland  then on a bridleway towards Shortwood House. From here you pass through the site of the former village of Faxton and return to Houghton via Faxton Grange.
 

From Hanging Houghton walk up Manor Road to the junction with the A508.

Cross this busy road, with care, to join the bridleway signed almost opposite this junction. The path takes you East with a line of trees to your left.

A few yards from the end of the trees look for a waymark on your left, pointing you through the hedge and across the field in a north easterly direction to a gate which gives you access to the Eastern edge of Lamport Hall’s parkland. Continue northwards, through two gates to reach the Porter’s Lodge and the Lamport to Old road.


Cross, again with care, to the Bridleway signed opposite, slightly to your right.
From here you walk on a broad track Northwards through four fields, passing through a gate at the edge of the fifth and another into a small wood at the edge of the sixth.


Emerging from this wood, walk on to the next gate.
After passing through it turn sharp right (East)  You should now be on the byway which gives you a view of the distinctive Shortwood House and takes you to the site of the deserted medieval village of Faxton.
You will be entering the abandoned village as you go through the gateway crossing a stream with a pond on your left.

Your return from Faxton is first by the bridleway in the form of a track which leaves the main crossing of paths in a Southerly direction and then by footpath which begins as a footbridge on your right just before the edge of the first field since leaving Faxton.

However, should you wish to locate the site of the former Faxton Church (which if you, too, are truly a 'Rambling Explorer' you most certainly will!) then stop before crossing the footbridge and turn left across the field in a direct line with the bridge to reach the edge of a wooded area then continue in the direction of the faint waymarker to the next clump of trees, within which you will see this:

 

It's a pillar which marks the site of the altar of St. Denis Church, Faxton, the church having been demolished in 1958 ( see Historical Notes below).

Retrace your steps to the footbridge mentioned above and cross it to rejoin your footpath to Faxton Grange.

This section of the walk can be very much overgrown and the path unclear in places.
Make sure you are travelling South West across the corner of the field to cross a second footbridge and soon a third. You emerge on a  path climbing up a hill across the middle of the field.
As you walk down the other side of this hill you should spot Faxton Grange ahead. Go through two gates to pass the Grange on your right and rejoin the Lamport to Old road.
From here walk along the road towards Lamport (North West) until you see, again,  Porter’s Lodge.
From here you can return to Hanging Houghton by following the bridleway you used on the way out.
 

 

Historical Notes

Shortwood House

The tower in the middle of this building was built in the early Eighteenth Century for hawking.
 

Faxton Village

Sadly, Faxton finally lost its status as a settlement around 1958 after the demolition of its church of St Denis.  A single house remains on the lonely hill surrounded by typical, undulating Northamptonshire countryside.
The village proper is generally believed to date back to the Twelfth Century, though it clearly has a Norse name and some Roman artefacts have been discovered in the area
The Domesday Book gives a population of 60 to 80 people for the ‘Manor of Fextone’
The demise of the village appears to be the result of a ‘naturally dwindling’ population, though there is the ‘standard plague story’ ( which is sometimes true - but, in many locations is merely legend) which tells of refugees from London infecting the intrinsic population.
It seems likely that the Enclosures may be partly responsible.
More sensationally, Faxton also has a good ghost story - the following is from the Wikipedia entry for Faxton:
‘A memorial to Sir Augustine Nichols was positioned inside the parish church but it was smashed during the church's demolition in 1958. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London retrieved the pieces and spent three years restoring it to its former splendour. A legend is connected to the smashed memorial.
It is claimed that a phantom, reputed to be that of Sir Augustine, has been seen since the demise of the church and his memorial.
Judge Nichols was poisoned in 1616 by four women. They were related to a man who was to appear before Judge Nichols for murder. They thought that by killing the judge they could spare their relation from execution.’ 

Rambling Explorer Walk 4 (B)

Alternative walk to Medieval Faxton and site of the former St. Denis Church - from Old to Faxton via Mill Lane and Return on Footpath.

(The Rambler created this route after a miserable failure to locate the remains of Faxton Church during his first attempt at the above walk!)

Walk begins at:  Old Church where there is limited public parking.
Distance : Approx. 4 miles
Difficulty : Mostly level ; tarmac surface for at least half distance; waymarking mostly good; four well- maintained footbridges to cross .

(Map showing this walk and others in the area is available here.)
 

From Old church walk past the garden and end wall of The White Horse pub on your right and the ‘Jubilee Tree’ in the village centre and along the Harrington Road for about 200 yards to its junction with Mill Lane.
Mill Lane is a narrow unclassified road - when the Rambler used it the traffic was sparse but do take care.
Walk North on Mill Lane for about one and a half miles, noticing fine views to your left (including a glimpse of Shortwood House with its ‘hawking tower’) until you reach the Old Lodge on the left and the byway sign directing you East.
Continue on tarmac with the Old Lodge and other dwellings on your right until you reach  a gate with a forbidding ‘Private Road’ sign to its left.
The official byway continues through the gate and straight ahead on grass.
(Notice ahead a good example of former ‘Ridge and Furrow’ cultivation).
Follow the track through the field, passing the rear of a house on your left and finding a waymarked gate in the top left corner of your field.
Pass through the gate with a barn (under renovation) on your left until you reach the crossing of several bridleways and paths.
Technically, you should be able to take the footpath in the direction of the sign (left) but when the Rambler tried it he got entangled in the undergrowth and nettles (Ouch!) beyond the house and so returned to the crossing of the ways and continued down the bridleway (which he used for his return towards Faxton Grange in the above walk) until he reached the footbridge on his right, then proceeded to the remains of Faxton Church, as described above, by turning left.
Having examined the remains of the church you need to emerge on the Western edge of the small wooded area containing the fenced plinth and skirt this on the Northern side, (i.e. follow the edge of the wood, keeping it on your right).
Eventually you travel South through the first field to the end of the hedge line, from here continue straight on through this field to discover and cross an excellent footbridge and follow the way marks from here to another good footbridge in the field’s corner. ( You should see Old Church, reassuringly ahead and to your left, as you approach).
From here your path is pretty clear. You should cross two more bridges to enter Old Cricket Ground which you leave using some steps in the far right corner and then make your way back through the village, via Chapel Lane, to the church.

Distance:  5-6 Miles

 

 

 

Rambling Explorer Walk 5

A map with notes on the history of this area is available here.

(There are also excellent information boards at the Marina and walks leaflets published by the Wharf Inn.)

Wharf Inn, Welford  - Welford Wharf  - Towpath to Bridge 40 - Return to Welford via Hall Lane 

 

 Walk starts and ends at: Wharf Inn, Welford 

Difficulty: Easy stroll for the most part - though the towpath is somewhat eroded in places and as always with towpath walking the unavoidable ‘list’ towards the canal  puts extra strain on first one leg then the other!

Distance: 5 miles 
     

This is a well-known, popular local route which The Wharf Inn have now styled ‘The  Mary Gilbert Walk’ after a former keeper of The Wharf  ( then ‘The George’) who worked on the narrow boats when they carried limestone and coal etc. rather than holidaymakers.
It takes you along the Welford Arm of the Grand Union Canal as far as its junction with the canal proper, along a very pleasant rural section of the Grand Union which you leave at Mill Bridge, returning via Hall Lane to Welford village.

From the Wharf Inn, go through the car park and join the towpath with the canal on your left.
At the time of writing there is a diversion in place around a small basin of the Marina (which is good if you’re interested in the boats!).

There used to be an old footbridge on the closed section which seems to have been removed.
From this point you walk along the towpath,  to a lock and footbridge (see photo above), which you cross, continuing with the canal now on your  right - there is an area of Permissive Access here which you might like to explore.

You will reach the junction with the main canal after about one and a half miles, having passed  under three bridges. (Ignore the footbridge over the canal - it is not part of a right of way.)

If time and weather permits do make use of the seat (pictured just beyond the sign) ...

... and admire the setting before crossing the bridge ( 42) to join the main canal in the direction of Norton Junction.
With the canal now on your left continue over the viaduct, noticing the dismantled railway  to your right and the unfortunate domination of the new wind farm along this stretch ( possibly wondering, like me, whether future generations of ramblers will be scanning the view for evidence of a dismantled wind farm).

Pass under  Bridge 41 and, on reaching Bridge 40 leave the canal on Hall lane which takes you South Easterly towards Welford village. (Alternatively, just beyond Bridge 40, you now have the option of walking part of the aforementioned dismantled railway trackbed to extend your walk - see Rambling Explorer Walk 12)
On this wide, clear bridleway you pass an old gravel pit and rabbit warren on your left.
Continue in a South Easterly direction following the blue waymarks. Your path becomes more 'grassy' and eventually passes a small wood on your right and Lodge Farm on your left.
The track is now concreted and dips downhill then up again to reach a permissive path on your left - look for the 'Permissive Access' sign (pictured).


 

Go left here into the field, following its right boundary until you reach a stile. Cross the stile and head diagonally towards the allotments ahead, pausing to view the ancient fish pond  before entering the allotments and following the path through to the road (West Street).
Turn left here and walk down to the main street. Turn left again and you will shortly spot your starting point to the right.

 

Historical Notes

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Further Rambling Explorer walks appear on 'Rambling Explorer Continued' and More Rambling Explorer.

You may also find the Three Hills Walk page useful.

The Cold Ashby Rambler thanks you for your interest - Happy Rambling and come back soon for more walks in this area!

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