Walking in Leicestershire and Rutland
Leicestershire, part of the North Midlands, is a county of surprisingly varied landscape. Charnwood Forest is a wild jumble of crags, rocky outcrops, open heathland and undulating ridges. There is an untamed desolation to the scenery of this once densely wooded area. The area provides fascinating and dramatic walking amongst the ancient pre-Cambrian granite outcrops and remaining oak woods. There are fine views from the tops of Beacon Hill and Bardon Hill.
However, Charnwood Forest is not typical of Leicestershire's countryside. It is mostly undulating rich green grazing land on a clay soil, particularly in southern Leicestershire between Leicester and Market Harborough. Here there is a network of minor roads winding through the agricultural landscape and connecting sleepy villages, some of considerable charm; the Langdons, Hallaton and Horninghold are well worth including in walks. A particularly attractive feature of the landscape is the numerous small woods set amongst the undulating fields and hedgerows. These are not remnants of ancient forest, but were originally planted as fox coverts by the wealthy landowners who made Leicestershire famous for hunting with hounds.
A branch of the Grand Union Canal, which connects Market Harborough with Leicester, passes through some lovely, peaceful open countryside, making walking routes incorporating part of the towpath very pleasant on a warm sunny day.
Exton is a peaceful hamlet with thatched and honey coloured limestone cottages clustered around a village green with sycamore trees. Mentioned in the Domesday survey, it's name means 'ox farm'. It is notable for the fascinating monuments in the church of St Peter and St Paul, including work by Grinling Gibbons and for Exton Park with its now ruined Elizabethan Old Hall. The new Hall is the home of the Noel family, the Earls of Gainsborough, and the estate has been in this family for over 400 years. The village is not far from Rutland Water.
A Walk from Exton [SK 925112] OS Maps: Explorer™ 234
This walk features gently rolling farmland, woodland and two beautiful lakes, which are set in the grounds of Exton Park, a magnificent privately owned country estate. There are some fine views to be enjoyed along the way, together with an air of tranquillity. From the village green leave Exton via High Street following the Macmillan Way. Continue to the left of Tunneley Wood and, at the top of a rise with woodland to the left take a path heading east (GR SK929129). Continue eastward, eventually dropping down through woodland until you meet North Brook at the bottom. (GR SK 950129). Cross the stream and descend wooden steps and follow a path southwards through woodland with the stream to your right. Soon a beautiful lake will be revealed with an intriguing folly known as Fort William built in 1788 for Henry Earl of Gainsborough. Continue past a second smaller lake and follow the path westward which will take you back to Exton. About 5.5 miles.
Best Pub1 for this walk
Fox and Hounds, Exton Tel: 01572 812403 (Good Pub Guide)
The Fox and Hounds is a 17th century warm and friendly coaching inn overlooking the village green. The comfortable interior comprises a public bar, lounge and separate dining area. In winter real fires roar, while a rose garden or the tranquil village green can be enjoyed on warmer days. The varied menu includes jacket potatoes, soup, home made Italian pizza and lasagne, pan fried liver and bacon, rack of lamb with apricots and rosemary and grilled halibut.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks for Motorists - Northants, Cambs, Leicestershire and Rutland' by Martin Hall
Manton is another small sleepy village close to Rutland Water and not far south of Oakham.
A Walk from Manton [SK 879045]
1 Walk down the sloping road to the left of the Horse and Jockey past the sign saying 'No access to Rutland Water'. Go through the gate at the bottom and turn right under the bridge and along the road. When the path stops continue along the verge of the A6003 to the bridleway sign. 2 Turn left, cross the railway and bear right, through an entrance into the trees. Follow the obvious track through the wood. Turn right at the exit and keep going around the edge of the field. Go through the gate in the top right hand corner and along a narrow hedge lined path opposite; maintain direction through the grounds of Gunthorpe, making a slight detour to the right at a wall, to a wooden gate. 3 Join the concrete road on the right and continue direction. Change sides just past the cattle grid to walk in the right hand field with the hedge on the left. Keep going along the left hand side of the second field to the top left corner; go through a tree lined gateway and down the right hand side of this field. Bear right at the end through a gateway and down a hedge lined track to a hardcore bridleway. 4 Turn left over the bridge and into the village of Brooke. Walk past the church up the slope and turn left at the green triangle, signposted for Uppingham. Continue uphill to the crossroads and turn left signposted America Lodge. 5 Keep your direction along this bridleway when the tarmac stops, cross a cattle grid and walk past a pylon. As the information board states a large house and a village called Martinsthorpe existed here until the 17th century. Go past the remaining stone building, Old Hall Farm, to the right. Cross the fence and follow the right hand fence to the gate; go through and keep direction along the line of trees to the yellow top post. Continue through the gate and along the bridleway to the road. Cross the A6003 and walk down the road into Manton and your vehicle. Distance 5 miles.
This walk is taken from the guidebook 'Walking Close to Rutland Water' by Clive Brown
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