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Walking in Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire been dubbed the county of 'Spires and Squires' and although you might not bump into many squires on your walks nowadays you won't go far without seeing evidence of the many graceful spires. Driving through the county on the M1 you might be forgiven for not wanting to stop, as industrial areas and the adjacent scenery do not make you want to reach for your walking boots. But head for the Nene Valley in the north of the county and you are soon in rich pastureland sprinkled with woodland remnants of the once vast Rockingham Forest. Here you will find some enjoyable walking such as at Woodnewton, Duddington and Gretton.

Much of Northamptonshire lies on the great Jurassic ridge, the limestone belt than runs from Dorset to the Humber. The attractive historic villages tucked away in many parts of the county are built with this silver grey stone, often tinged with iron ore to give a warm brown appearance. These peaceful places provide the best locations for countryside walks in the central and southern parts of the county, and particularly attractive villages include Welford, Cottesbrooke, Eydon, Grafton Regis, Marston St. Lawrence and King's Sutton. Walks based on these villages and a number of others surrounded by quiet, peaceful countryside are included in many of the guide books available from our bookshop.


The county town of Northampton lies on the River Nene and is traditionally associated with the shoe industry, although today it's economy is more broadly based. The city still has an industrial feel, but there are a number of surrounding villages with a pleasant aspect of undulating farmland to explore. There are interesting waterside walks along the Nene, where several examples of the watermills which provided power for early industrialisation can be seen, and also along the canal system.

Harlestone Heath, part of the Althorp estate, is a very popular location for walking and a circular route from here to include Church Brampton and Harlestone provides a pleasant 7 mile walk; of course you could just meander around the Heath. Other villages and their environs well worth exploring are Blisworth, Roade, Piddington, Cogenhoe, Great Houghton and Earls Barton where the parish church has a famous Saxon tower.

The historic village of Rothersthorpe lies 2 miles south-west of Northampton close to the Grand Union canal. In the 9th century the village was the focus of a major battle between the Saxons, led by Edward the Elder, and the Danes, in which Edward triumphed claiming much of the land of present day Northamptonshire. The village has much else of historic interest related to the canal building age and provides the basis for an interesting walk to include the canal and Danefield, site of the battle.

The quiet backwater village of Piddington lies 4 miles south-east of Northampton. The village and surrounding countryside make for pleasant walking and 3 miles south is Salcey Forest, a large woodland area managed by the Forestry Commission which has nature trails. A route known as 'The Old Deer Park Trail' also passes the excavations of a Roman Villa and visits Preston Wood.

Sulgrave is an interesting village with some lovely old houses built of locally quarried stone. Its main claim to fame today is that Sulgrave Manor was the home of Lawrence Washington, a distant relative of the first president of the United States. It is a charming house to visit with Tudor and Georgian furniture as well as memorabilia. All manner of event days take place here, often with guides dressed in costumes of the period.

A Walk from Sulgrave [SP 557454] OS Maps: Explorerâ„¢ 206

This lovely walk through undulating wooded countryside with beautiful views opening up takes you to the interesting village of Culworth before returning to Sulgrave across fields and through a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Leave the village along Stockwell Lane for Culworth. On the way you will pass an old watermill with an amazing garden and an old windmill, now a private house. Walk through sleepy Culworth, past Culworth Hall and the church and turn left down Banbury Lane opposite the churchyard and the left on a concrete path. The route now passes through Culworth Grounds, Lower Thorpe and Magpie Farm before returning to Sulgrave along a lane. About 4 miles.

Best Pub for this walk
Star, Sulgrave Tel: 01295 760389 (Good Pub Guide)
Originally a farmhouse, the 17th century creeper covered Star Inn has a small bar area with an inglenook fireplace as well as a restaurant. In the summer you can eat outside under a vine-covered trellis. There are benches at the front and in the back garden. Baguettes and sandwiches are on offer along with some very mouth-watering main courses, such as lemongrass and sundried tomato risotto or steak and sage sausages.

Harpole is a small village just to the west of Northampton and just to the north of the A45. There are two local pubs, the Bull in the village and the Turnpike on the junction with the A45.

A Walk from Harpole [SP 557454] OS Maps: Explorerâ„¢ 207

This walk explores a section of the River Nene near Kislingbury and visits three old watermills. The Nene was an important source of power before the steam age provided by these watermills.

1 Walk out of Harpole towards the A45 (Northampton Road), take the footpath signed left between houses; go over the stile and down the right hand side of the left hand field. Cross the stiles and the footbridge and follow the right hand field edge to the road. Turn left along the road to the footpath sign on the right.

2 Turn right through the gate and cross the field, which may be under cultivation although the path should be well marked at a slight diagonal to the right. At the corner bear left along the right hand field edge, keep direction with the hedges to the right and the hospital on the left, to a wide metal gate and a marker disc.

3 Turn right through a wooden gate and down the left hand field edge to the A45. Turn left, cross the road at the gap and continue ahead along Upton Lane. Go down to the bottom, bear right through the right hand gate and carry on past the front of the Upton Mill (First Watermill). Bear left through a gate and cross the iron railed bridge.

4 Bear right almost immediately and walk between the fence and the river (the lake is on the left). Continue through a gate and along Camp Lane into Kislingbury; go straight on over two junctions and turn right into Church Lane. Bear left at the 'Sun' into Mill Lane; walk past the mill (Second Watermill) and carry straight on into Willow View. Keep direction out of the village, through the kissing gate, along the field edge (wire fence to the left) and through another kissing gate to the Ml.

5 Turn right, go through a gateway and bear right over the iron railed bridge and stile; Maintain direction over two stiles at the site of Harpole Mill (Third Watermill); continue over the stile/footbridge in the corner ahead and another footbridge. Keep direction, over a field which may be under cultivation, to the A45.

6 Cross this busy road carefully, take a right hand diagonal on a path which should be well marked through the first field. Keep direction across the next field and the ridges and furrows of the final field; go through the kissing gate and down the village street into Harpole and your vehicle. Distance 6.75 miles.
This walk is taken from the guidebook Walking Close to Northampton by Clive Brown

Map of Harpole Walk



Oundle is an old country town set in lovely countryside and surrounded by the River Nene, making it a popular sailing centre. It is famous for its two public boy's schools, Oundle and Laxton, both founded by the grocer William Laxton in the 16th century. The town has many old buildings lining narrow streets and also some ancient inns including the 17th century gabled Talbot Inn. The riverside areas are very attractive with delightful views. Just five mile north of Oundle is the pretty stone village of Apethorpe with a Perpendicular church. The village can be visited by making a diversion from the Southwick walk described below. Also nearby is Cotterstock Hall, a 17th century grey stone manor house set in a large garden by the River Nene. The hall is open to the public and you can walk to it from Oundle following riverside footpaths.

A Walk from Oundle [TL 024913] OS Maps: Explorerâ„¢ 224

Park on the hard standing by the side of the road between Southwick and Glapthorn at the top of the hill close to the water tower. This is about 2 miles north of Oundle.
1 Walk towards Southwick between the water tower and the wood. Go down the slope into the village; turn right at the T-junction then almost immediate left along the double signposted lane. Go over the footbridge across the stream.

2 Continue ahead to the wood, bear right on the path through two gates and turn left along the hardcore road; carry on along the green path by the marker post when the road swings left. Walk 200yds to the next marker post and turn right. Keep direction down slope over the footbridge and up the slope next to a narrow wood. Continue left past the pond and regain direction to the top at the corner of Tomlin Wood.

3 Turn sharp left along the farm road past Morehay Lawn (trees not grass!), turn left at the derelict building and follow the bridleway right. Go through two gates and over the sleeper bridge at the bottom of the hill; carry on through the next gate to the crossroads of paths.

4 Turn left down the slope and then right at a marker disc; go uphill through a gateway and along the left hand field edge. Keep going between Boar's Head Farm and the wood up to Crossway Hand Farm and cross the cattle grid. Bear right down the concrete farm track to the road.

5 Turn left and almost immediate right on the bridleway. Swing to the right with the bridleway, turn left over the footbridge and follow the right hand field edge uphill. Turn left at the end of the derelict barn and continue along the right hand edge of the left hand field. Go through the metal gate and bear right on a sharp diagonal down the slope, through the gateway and up the left hand field edge.

6 Go through the gate, between the barns, bear left then right and continue along the fenced hardcore farm road. Turn left at the corner through the marked gate and walk across the field to the far gate. Go through and follow the right hand field edge and the edge of the wood back to the road by the water tower and your vehicle.

This walk is taken from the guidebook Walking Close to Oundle by Clive Brown


Map of Oundle Walk


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