It’s my last day walking the Jurassic Way, long distance path that I had started to walk several years ago and the plan today is to walk from Barrowden to Stamford and catch the mid afternoon bus back to the start. With over fifteen miles to cover I am making an early start and I park in the same spot as on the previous day in the village. After a few days of fine weather, my luck is running out as I set off on this gloomy dull morning with the possibility of rain not too far away. I head down through Barrowden then set off across the water meadows of the River Welland to reach the nearby village of Wakerley. A field path is followed up around and behind the village church before joining a road. Next I continue through Wakerley Great Wood in the morning gloom and beyond I cross fields to reach the A43. On the far side there is an area rough grazing as I skirt around Fineshade Abbey. In medieval times Fineshade Abbey, an Augustinian priory, was established on the site of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle known as Castle Hymel. The priory came to an end with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1545 and a fine country house known as Fineshade Abbey survived until it was demolished in 1956. Only the stable block now remains and was more recently converted into private housing which is still retains the name of Fineshade Abbey.
The path now runs through tall grass but soon I am back on a better field path to reach a lane. This leads to Top Lodge Visitor Centre which I briefly visit. The centre depicts the history of the local area. To get to the next village of Duddington I have a fair bit of woodland walking ahead of me and now the rain starts which seemed to be setting in. It gradually gets heavier so I stop by a seat to don full wet weather gear. This woodland forms part of the area known as Rockingham Forest. The forest once covered around two hundred square miles and stretched from Northampton all the way to Stamford. Created by King William I not long after the Norman Conquest, the area was an important hunting area for several centuries but by the time of King Charles II much of the forest had been sold or given away. Deforestation continued over past centuries to leave only small fragments of this once extensive forest. Today there are only a few forested areas and most of these lie southwest of Stamford and to the south of Corby. Checking the map in the shelter of a sawmills I now turn north but this path proves quite overgrown but thankfully I soon join a better forestry track. The A43 is crossed once more as I enter the attractive village of Duddington where I make for the village church by which time the rain has stopped so it’s time to get out of my wet weather gear in the church porch. It’s also a good time to stop for elevenses.
Duddington is an pleasant village with many old cottages and today the place is fairly peaceful but this has not always been the case. Being at the junction of the busy A43 and A47 trunk roads the village is now by-passed. Its just a pity that the day is so dull and not worthy of any photographs.
I leave the village via Mill Street and cross the River Welland once more via the historic fifteenth century bridge. I join a field path to reach Tixover Grange and cut across another ploughed field by which time my boots are clogged with mud. A better field path leads to the edge of Geeston and here I make a right turn along a road and once more cross the River Welland. This river forms the country boundary between Rutland and Northamptonshire and today I will cross it several times. I now have an ascent across fields to Easton on the Hill but most of these fields have been recently ploughed and un-walked. Progress is slow as I pick up so much sticky mud and I have to stop several times to remove a large accumulation of mud off my boots.
Easton on the Hill is a large village with the older more attractive part close to the church. Its claim to fame was that Lancelot Skynner came from the village. His name will probably not be familiar to you but he was the captain of the HMS Lutine which foundered in a storm on the West Frisian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands in 1799. The ship was carrying shipment of gold and the bell from the ship was salvaged. Today the Lutine Bell is housed in Lloyd’s of London and is used for ceremonial purposes at their headquarters.
Before stopping for lunch, I make a small detour to visit the 15th century Priest’s House, a National Trust property which as it turns out is closed. Well its time I’d stopped for lunch so I head for the village church to find a seat. It proves a cold spot on this cloudy damp day and so I am keen to move on. A good path descends northeast from the village and at the foot crosses the railway line then passes beneath the busy A1. Nearby and unmarked is a feature unique in England insomuch it is the meeting point of four counties – Rutland, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and the City of Peterborough, the latter being a unitary authority. A walk through Town Meadows leads me into Stamford where I have plenty of time to explore the place at leisure.
Stamford is an interesting town with a history dating back to Roman times. Ermine Street passes through the town and in its early history served as an inland port. Very little is visible today of the town walls but centre of the town has a plethora of historic churches which I shall have to visit another day when the weather is better and I have more time. Stamford was used as the setting for the television adaptation for the George Eliot novel Middlemarch.
This is the end of my walk along the Jurassic Way and all I need to do now is to catch the bus back to Barrowden on this dreary afternoon before the drive home. I arrive in good time at the bus station and the solitary bus parked at one of the stands is the service I want. I settle down to a good read of the free Metro newspaper before moving off and I am satisfied that I have achieved the completion of yet another long distant path.