It’s time to finish walking the Jurassic Way which I started some years ago but you would be wrong to think that I am walking in Dorset. The Jurassic Way is a 90 mile long path running from Banbury in Oxfordshire to Stamford in Lincolnshire and takes its name from the underlying rocks which run in a band from Dorset up through the central England, the East Midlands and into Lincolnshire.
I have set four days aside to walk the section from Welford near Market Harborough to Stamford in Lincolnshire and my plan is to use Market Harborough as a base, then drive each day to the finishing point of the walk then catch the bus to my starting point except for the last day.
I’m starting out on the first day by catching the bus from Market Harborough to North Kilworth. I arrive at the bus stop early and the bus towards Lutterworth is on time but there is only one other passenger travelling on this service.
I’m alighting at North Kilworth, about eight miles west of Market Harborough on what is a most glorious sunny October morning. It is still quite early as I set off through this fascinating village and I pause at an information board in the village depicting a rich history of the place. Before leaving the village, I walk through the churchyard of the 13th century St Andrews Church then set off towards North Kilworth Mill Farm on a private road passing a few people who are out dog walking on this perfect morning. I later join a path to pass from Leicestershire into Northamptonshire then cross the peaceful Grand Union Canal. Ahead, I continue with a good track to reach the village of Welford where I make for the churchyard for an early morning break. After the sunny start, an area of stubborn high cloud is now overhead despite it being sunny to the east and to the west of me.
From Welford I now join the Jurassic Way which I will stay with as far as Great Oxendon later in the day before following an old railway path back into Market Harborough. The path from the village runs northeast through a series of small and rather overgrown pastures and isn’t that well defined. It rounds Sulby Lodge Farm to reach a road and shortly I take a path alongside Welford Reservoir before crossing a causeway separates it with Sulby Reservoir. Both these reservoirs supply water to the Grand Union Canal and are not used for drinking water which is just as well as there are several cattle paddling in the water. I continue with a field path over pastures and passing the mounds and dips of the former medieval Old Sulby Village. It is believed that the village itself was abandoned between 1377 and 1428 not due to the Black Death but as a result of changes in farming practices as sheep were more profitable than growing crops. A church dedicated to St Botolph is recorded in the village, although it was said to have been ruinous long before 1451, and the remainder was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. To reach the next village the path is only defined where it met field boundaries as it crosses many fields diagonally, some recently ploughed but with the dry weather the going underfoot is quite easy. Sibbertoft churchyard is my stopping point for lunch and that stubborn high cloud is still blotting out the sunshine locally.
For the afternoon, East Farndon is my next village to pass through and to get there I have around three miles of pleasant and very rural field walking. Again the path is defined at field boundaries but runs across a number of recently ploughed fields and there is a path diversion before descending through woodland at Mount Pleasant. In one field a farmer is ploughing a large area with his ‘fast-trac’ tractor at high speed so I’m keen to keep out of his way and step up my pace across the field whilst he races down to the far end. Before reaching East Farndon I have an ascent and now the views really opened out and it’s time to pause to admire the rolling countryside on this fine autumn afternoon. The Jurassic Way here does an unusual route by doubling back down hill before entering the village when there is a perfectly good path directly into the village so I chose the direct way as there was no point in covering dead ground. The village church lies on a high point and I take a field path southeast to a road junction. I follow a quiet lane is next towards Great Oxendon and I am now on higher ground with views but to the northeast the first signs of showers which were forecast are on the horizon which I will need to keep an eye on. Entering Great Oxendon I take a field path east and opt to make a diversion to visit the isolated and historic church to the north of the village. It is a most pleasant diversion but as expected the church is locked. Another deserted village called Little Oxendon lies just to the northwest and it is possible to walk to visit what is left of the place which today consists of several of ditches and mounds. I’ve decided that today I will have to give this a miss.
Back on the Jurassic Way I continue east to cross the A508 to enter some wooded countryside before leaving the Jurassic Way for the day and descend close to the north portal of the old Oxendon Railway Tunnel. The railway now forms a cycle cum footpath named the Brampton Valley Way which runs all the way between Market Harborough and Northampton. I descend to this path then back track to the northern entrance of the 418 metre long tunnel.
The walk into Market Harborough is simply to follow this converted railway track bed north but the showers were now much closer and I know I can’t get to the end of the walk before the rain starts. I set a good pace towards Market Harborough but it isn’t long before its raining. At a couple of spots I stop to take shelter under larger trees but thankfully the rain doesn’t last too long. As I enter Market Harborough the schools are coming out and the side roads are cluttered with parked traffic. Thankfully I have parked in a side road on the outskirts of the town and with time to spare at the end of my walk I decide to go off to visit Foxton Locks only to get caught in a heavier shower.