This is going to be an ambitious walk and everything needs to run to plan as my start time will be later than normal. It is day two of my walk along the Jurassic Way and sorting out my outward journey on the bus has been a problem. The question was the uncertainty as to whether bus service number 67 between Gretton and Market Harborough was still running. Having read an article on the internet to say it was being axed was a major stumbling block and my enquiries before setting out on this trip didn’t get very far until I contacted the Post Office in Gretton. Thankfully the villagers had saved the bus service for the meantime.
So I’m driving from Market Harborough to Gretton early and have plenty of time to spare to walk around the village before catching the number 67 bus back to Market Harborough. Villagers waiting for the bus tell me the efforts they have made to save their bus connection.
I’m the only person going as far as Market Harborough and first I want to take a quick look around town. It’s already 11am and I have a twenty mile walk ahead of me and furthermore it’s October and it will be sunset about 6pm. I’m taking a good torch with me today but my main concern is getting to Gretton before it is totally dark. For one thing I could cut a chunk out of the walk but this would mean missing a section of the Jurassic Way.
My outward route from Market Harborough is along the Brampton Valley Way, a former railway track bed which is the same route that I had followed in the opposite direction on the previous day but at a brisk pace today I seem to walk this in no time at all. Leaving the railway path prior to Oxendon Tunnel I re-join the Jurassic Way above the northern portal of the tunnel and head east on field paths. The rain from yesterday showers has turned the ground a bit greasy. The route around Waterloo Lodge, the first farm is a bit confusing due to a lack of signage but I manage partly by luck to follow the correct route. Beyond, I decide to make a short detour to visit a trig point where there is a good view to the south. Back en-route I’m descending to Braybrooke with the plan of having a lunch stop in the churchyard but as it turns out there was no seat or anywhere suitable to sit. Even the village doesn’t offer any suitable stopping point and so leaving the village I enter a field part of which forms the village cricket pitch and fined a solitary seat alongside a hedge. Now this must be the most uneven cricket pitch in the country as it shares the field with a herd of cows and the castle earthworks. Braybrooke Castle is today no more than a series of earthworks but originally consisted as a fortified manor house complete with fish ponds. The original building is believed to have dated from around 1200AD and later served as a farmhouse until it was demolished prior to 1633. A 17th century farmhouse occupied the site until it too was demolished around 1960.
Now it is not my normal habit to take lunch in with a field of cows but these seem to be grazing some distance away and taking no interest in me.
It’s time to press on and I follow a path across several fields some of which are ploughed and unlike the previous days’ walking the mud was now beginning to stick you my boots. I pass next through Park Hill Farm and ascend to cross the A6 over well hidden stiles behind large hawthorn hedges then continue alongside Hermitage Wood. Beyond, the path is ill-defined as not only does it cross large fields but these fields were bounded by areas of set-a-side and are quite overgrown. At field boundaries the path is often poorly signed and I gather that this is not a well walked area. Next I have to keep out of the way of a farmer spreading liquid manure on his field and he is not going to stop for anyone so I wait for a suitable point then make a dash for it without being pelted with the brown stuff. As I near the A427 the walking becomes easier and I join a minor road and head into the attractive village of Stoke Albany by which time it is turning out a pleasant sunny afternoon. I next follow a lane to the nearby village of Wilbarston pausing briefly to look at the church.
Leaving Wilbarston I now follow a very pleasant and well used path as it runs along a low ridge with views to the north over the Welland Valley. I’m maintaining a steady pace with just short stops from time to time to take the odd photograph. There are a few people out walking on this section. I next skirt to the north of the village of East Carlton and take an even better path which forms the northern boundary of East Carlton Country Park to reach the village of Middleton. Here I have a short but steep ascent before taking a woodland path to reach the next village of Cottingham which is almost a continuation of Middleton.
It is now decision time which gives me the choice of a direct rather unattractive route along the B-road to Rockingham or to follow the longer route along the Jurassic Way via the villages of Bringhurst and Great Easton. My calculations mean that I can just about make it via the longer route before nightfall but I can’t afford to wander into village churches anymore today.
Following the Jurassic Way through Cottingham I am almost back-tracking and follow a path where maize is growing right up to the field boundary. Afterwards my route north is along a rough but wide track before crossing into Leicestershire to follow a field path to the little hilltop and attractive village of Bringhurst. It is unfortunate that by the time I get to Bringhurst, an area of cloud has made it turn really dull with bad light. An initially un-defined field path is next taken to larger village of Great Easton. Leaving via the road east of the village I soon branch off onto a track then a field path and this is where the sunshine returns. A combination of strong low sunlight and dark clouds overhead gave a magical feel about the area with a strange but very sharp light so it was out with the camera for numerous photographs. Ahead on the hill is Rockingham Castle which I had visited many years ago. There has been a castle on the site of the present Rockingham Castle since the 11th century and the first wooden motte and bailey castle was soon replaced with a stone keep. The castle through the Norman and Plantagenet periods was used as a retreat and a base for hunting.
During the English Civil War the Parliamentarians used the castle and it later fell into disrepair. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was restored and in more recent years has featured in TV dramas.
I’m crossing the B670 next and a short field path leads me into the very attractive village of Rockingham. It is a pity that this village has a busy main road running through it.
Time is pressing and the sun is now very low. The question now is do I have enough light to get to Gretton? The Jurassic Way runs east northeast and I find it easier to stick to the field boundaries rather than crossing numerous large ploughed fields. In places the path dives through hedges and although signed it would have been all too easy to miss these gaps in the dark. With the low sunlight and dark clouds overhead I can’t resist stopping time and time again to capture the magical light of the day. This is really walking at its best. Later I walk through a small wooded area then beneath the railway before making an ascent towards Gretton. The sun is down on the horizon as I ascend and beyond I just have one field to cross to reach the village. The moon is out and the shower clouds were beginning to fade away. I reach Gretton just as the sun is setting and it is now only a short walk to the car. I am now ready for a meal at the Wetherspoon pubin Corby which was just a short drive away.