and occasionally rides a bike.
A word of warning. The walk descriptions are not detailed enough to guide you - please take a map. The batteries never run out, and you always have a signal. Oh, And don't take left or right as gospel!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Barnwell Country Park - Ashton - Polebrook - Barnwell

With Barry and Gordon.  Ten miles ( including parts where I went wrong!) Quite a lot of this walk is along the Nene Way.  We had at least two hours of rain - the wettest I've been this year.

A few examples of the fauna spotted en route

homo sapiens sapiens

ardea cineria 

Carterocephalus palaemon - chequered skipper

Felis catus culmis - the thatched cat
Apart from these we saw Canada geese, a goldfinch, house martins,  horses and donkeys, one sheltering from the rain.  Then lots of cows, calves and bullocks, swans and cygnets, and a couple of piglets, who seemed quite excited to spot us from across the road.  By this time my camera was tucked away in my rucksack, and I was too wet to take photos. Worth keeping a change of clothes handy for wet weather wanders.

Ashton church

We started this walk from Barnwell Country Park, making our way to the Mill (Oundle or Barnwell?) with its guillotine lock gate.  Just opposite this the Nene Way goes North East past Oundle marina, along to another lock where we crossed to the left bank of the river.  We walked across the flat field to a gate where we turned very sharply right to return to the river.
We followed the water , going through some trees under the A605.  The path and river meanders, and the land is quite flat on the left, but rises more steeply on the right. We could see New Lodge Farm, which we would pass later in the walk.
Along the river there are a couple of weirs and another lock. At one point we watched a heron standing on a long wooden platform, not bothered by our approach. 

Still following the Nene Way we turned right to cross the river via a footbridge and the path led us into Ashton, an estate village built by the Rothschilds.   The pub, the Chequered Skipper , was  renamed from the Three Horseshoes in 1966 by Miriam Rothschild, the celebrated zoologist who lived in Ashton Wold.

After the pub we followed the road as far as a small wood, where an unpaved byway ( a boreen in Ireland) turns right towards Polebrook, leaving the route of the Nene Way. When we reached the road from Polebrook to Ashton we crossed it, walking as far as New Lodge and Red Lodge farms.  There is a stile at the gate just before Red Lodge, which leads through fields, past a stable and after another couple of stiles (beware - they can be slippery in wet weather) the path led us into Polebrook, into a lane from where we could see the pub and the church.  As it was already raining cats (on a warm thatched roof) we didn't hang about to explore, but made our way down the lane, which turned into a track, then an overgrown path before emerging near an industrial building.  

We should have turned slightly to the right here on another byway, and ignored the surfaced road off to the left.  Eventually on track we walked until we saw a footpath sign pointing up across a recently harvested, and unusually (for this year) muddy field, so we attacked the path, and followed it through yet another field of cows.  It rejoined the byway at the farm (Armston Hall).  A little way along the road, and another footpath sign showed the way to the left across fields, and past a couple of donkeys, one of them sensibly sheltering from the downpour. 

The path touches the edge of Armston Grove woodland - giving us enough shelter for a well-earned snack stop, but not stopping me from making yet another small detour - that'll teach me not to believe footpath signs!  Within a hundred yards or so the mistake was clear - no way out of the field.  Back we trotted, and from now on we followed the path into Barnwell.We passed behind  Barnwell Manor on a grassy path and came into the village just before the Montagu Arms. Here we turned right along the road,then right again to rejoin the Nene Way as it follows Barnwell Brook past the manor again and the remains of the castle.  We were too wet to bother looking around in any detail. At a T-junction we turned right along the road and carried on until we saw a sign to the left for the Nene Way. This took us to the Oundle bypass (A605) and across to the old road which we followed back to the country park. 

Map and details - once again one or two unintended detours, but they bumped the mileage up to almost 10! 

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