I was talking to some friends in a bar about the wonderful walks around the countryside of West Northamptonshire, the Nene Way, Knightley Way, Jurassic Way and Grand Union canal as well as the many short walks around some of the county’s most beautiful villages such as Badby, Welton, Newnham and Ashby St Ledgers.
One of the group, slightly the worse for wear, after having drunk too much of the counties finest ales, gave us his own words of wisdom on the subject, `One of the problems with planning a walk in the Northamptonshire countryside, is how do you get back to the start of the walk, because you have left the `bloody` car there!
It was an obvious point, many of the walks I have mentioned straddle the full length of the county, and arrangements have to be made to juggle walkers to and from the start and finish of the walk, to successfully complete it.
I began to consider whether it would be possible to circumnavigate my own town of Daventry, there are numerous brochures published by the county, available in all good libraries, describing both long and short walks around the West Northamptonshire villages, but no long walk in which you could leave your car at the start and collect at the end – a circular walk of Daventry, in fact!
The idea grabbed my attention, surely there are bridleways and footpaths which could be linked together to create a circular walk taking in some of West Northamptonshire’s most beautiful villages , a village walk long enough to be a challenge for the hardiest walker, but not too far as to discourage the novice walker?
I dug out a copy of the OS maps for the local area and set about joining up the dots, a collection of footpaths and bridleways, creating a seventeen mile circular walk of Daventry, passing through seven villages, far enough out of town so as not to become embattled with urban traffic and housing, but close enough should walkers wish to join or finish part of the walk from the town itself, instead of walking the whole 17 miles.
You can obviously start at any of the seven villages along its route, but I usually choose to start in the beautiful village of Welton, as it’s also got a wonderful pub, The White Horse, and it is a great place to finish the walk, with a wonderful cold beer and some satisfying food!
From Welton, it’s a short forty minute walk across fields to the village of Ashby St Ledgers, historically associated with the Gunpowder Plot but far more interesting today for its picturesque range of thatched cottages, the historic Manor House and the local ironstone Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the refurbished pub, The Olde Coaching Inn.
From Ashby there is then a long walk of about three miles following the hedgerows around several open fields to Braunston, nestling alongside the Grand Union canal. Braunston was once a very important village on the midlands waterways system, the Grand Union canal and Oxford canal converging at this point, on the canal network. The canals bought a number of important trades to the area, carpenters, blacksmiths, saddlers and rope makers, many of whom can still be seen alongside the towpaths in the Braunston locality. `The Admiral Nelson` is a good place to stop, standing on the narrow bridge watching the narrow boats pass underneath, whilst allowing your feet to rest awhile!
Then up and over the busy A45, you approach the village of Staverton, retaining its village character despite its proximity to Daventry and the Stavereton De Vere golf course complex along its eastern fringes. There is also a delightful country pub in Staverton. `The Countryman` which is well worth a visit.
Walking through woodlands and alongside small streams, it’s only a couple of miles to the next destination, the village of Badby, once described as `one of England’s most beautiful villages`, it certainly is! Badby Woods is famed locally for its carpet of bluebells in the spring months of April and May.
Each of the seven villages has at least one public house, Badby has two, we usually stop for lunch at `The Windmill, a perfectly located country pub situated in the heart of the village. After refreshments, there is a pleasant walk of a mile across fields following the course of the river Nene, to the slightly larger village of Newnham, where the walk passes `The Romer Arms`, then up the hill and along a footpath that takes you through the churchyard of St. Michael and All Angels Church.
It is at this point that your feet begin to ache and you realise that the walk really is a bit of a challenge, a steep climb alongside Newnham Hall, then down crossing the A45 once again before passing the medieval Burnt Walls, the supposed site of the ancient settlement of Benavenna, skirting the Eastern edge of Borough Hill, over 200 metres above sea level.
The final village on the walk is Norton, a small linear village consisting of a pub, `The White Horse` not to be confused with the pub of the same name in our final destination, and the church of All Saints.
A final hike of two miles across fields and bridging the Grand Union Canal for the second time, the trail finally takes walkers back to the place they started in Welton, and a much needed break.
Welton to Ashby St Ledgers 2.0 miles
Ashby St Ledgers to Braunston 3.0 miles
Braunston to Staverton 3.0 miles
Staverton to Badby 2.0 miles
The Windmill – Badby – Lunch Break (After approx 10 miles)
Badby to Newnham 1.0 miles
Newnham to Norton 3.5 miles
Norton to Welton 2.5 miles
Total (approximate distances) 17 miles