Helpston is the birthplace of John Clare, known as the Northamptonshire peasant poet. In his lifetime the village was in the Soke of Peterborough, part of the County of Northamptonshire. Now it is in Cambridgeshire. There is masses of info and photographs of the village on this site.
Ready to go - outside the John Clare Cottage in Helpston, now a museum with a café.
Almost opposite the John Clare Museum, the path leads east out of the village, and alongside a field before turning right (south) along the hedge. We followed the field boundary, through a gap in the hedge and to the left before crossing a ploughed field ( dry, luckily) diagonally to the left, emerging at College Cottage. We walked almost due south again before turning quite sharply to the right (west). We followed the field boundary again, almost parallel to a line of pylons. When we met the Torpel Way we turned left and made for the edge of some woodland. We walked along by the wood until we reached a road (Stamford Road). Instead of walking along the road, we turned left towards more woodland, then slightly to the right towards the road again.
Unfortunately the sweetest juiciest blackberries come with the scratchiest sharpest thorns.
At the road we turned left and very soon took the path to the right. You don't go through the trees which are ahead, but turn right and follow the wide grassy track through the fields. It skirts another wooded area, then goes gently uphill to the Stamford Road again.
We had a snack break here, then walked along the road as far as the farm shop (not open on Mondays), before turning right.
The path goes past an area which has been landfill - lots of meters for measuring methane. There is also a Nature reserve at Swaddywell Pit. (Swordy Well in a John Clare poem).
The former quarry and landfill site has had the topsoil replaced, and is now rich in limestone wildflowers such as bee orchid and wild carrot. There are many butterflies, and moths, as well as skylarks and buzzards.
to West Street with its memorial to John Clare and the Butter Cross. [Butter Cross at Helpston was where a weekly market took place. Customers had the added protection of knowing that traders were selling their wares by the Cross. This meant that everything was above board and the integrity of those traders was guaranteed. Who would dare sell dodgy goods under the protection of the Almighty? Info from Peter Hill, via Barry - many thanks! ]
then had a look round St Botolph's church with its octagonal tower
before going into the café next to John Clare's cottage.
Map and details