A Good Walk | Jurassic Way

It seems an age since we last walked along the Jurassic Way, but with May fast approaching (one of the best times of year for walking) we consulted the maps, packed our rucksacks and jumped on a train.

The problem with linear walks is getting to the start and returning home. My preferred option is use public transport, but this can be very difficult, especially in rural areas where buses and trains are infrequent or non-existent. Taking a taxi to the start or finish is an (expensive) alternative, but you can wait an age for a taxi to reach you and every local taxi seems to be booked out at school run times. Leaving a car at both ends is possible if the walk is local, though I hate seeing the end before I start. When it’s too awkward, as it has been since we walked to Sibertoft, we do circular walks. It can also be difficult to find accommodation on the route and believe me, the closer the better.

Consequently, we often veer away from the official route to fit in with transport and accommodation or just because there’s something interesting that we want to see. On this last part of the Jurassic Way, the nearest rail station is a few miles north at Market Harborough, so we began on an alternative path. On the second day, to fit in with accommodation we had the choice of nine miles (too short) or twenty-four miles (too long), so we diverted briefly to the Rutland Round to cut a few miles off the longer day. It’s not a problem for us to approximately walk a path, but I know some people get a bit het up about walking every step of a named route.

The Jurassic Way follows the band of Jurassic limestone from Banbury to Stamford, so the rolling countryside has been a beautiful backdrop to the honey coloured stone buildings in the villages that we’ve walked through or spied across the valleys.

If you’re thinking of walking this route (I’d highly recommend it) a word of warning that in the final section heading towards Easton on the Hill, the path runs uphill cutting across several large arable fields. It was easy in May, with the crops only knee high and the well walked path dry underfoot, but I suspect it’s a bit of a slog in a wet autumn.

So, another long distance walk completed. It’s always a bit of an anti-climax when we reach the end, especially on the Jurassic Way as there didn’t appear to be an official finish point. At least Stamford, frequently described as “the finest stone town in England” was an excellent place to end the walk.

Where to next, I wonder.

Walking the Jurassic Way

September is an ideal time for walking in England as the fields are firm underfoot without too much foliage to hinder the way and the days are still reasonably long and warm. On the farm, an early harvest meant we had some free time before autumn sowing, so we packed our bags and headed to Northamptonshire.

Earlier this year, we started The Jurassic Way, which is an 88 mile trail between Banbury in Oxfordshire and Stamford in Lincolnshire.  According to the Jurassic Way leaflet (produced by Northamptonshire County Council) archaeologists in the 1940s believed that the Humber and Severn estuaries were linked by a prehistoric trackway that followed the Jurassic outcrop across Middle England and though the theory of a single track has subsequently been disproved, the Jurassic Way was devised to follow the route it could have taken.

Chipping Warden to Staverton (12 miles)

We picked up the Jurassic Way again at Chipping Warden (about six miles from Banbury) and headed off for Staverton on a beautiful sunny day. Despite being told not to get lost by a cheerful chap driving past us in a muddy Land Rover, we promptly lost the path in a wood amongst bunkers and buildings that look as though they’re used for war games. We eventually found a way marker and set off across the fields to Woodford Halse, which turned out to be a village with probably everything a walker needs – convenience store, butcher, pharmacy, podiatrist and best of all a café with delicious carrot cake. The Old School Café had only opened at the beginning of the month and the menu looked so good that I was rather disappointed that I’d packed sandwiches for lunch.

Our lunchtime sandwiches may not have been exciting, but the peace and solitude of the church and adjacent manor house surrounded by fields at Church Charwelton more than compensated. These medieval deserted villages have been quite a feature of the walk.

Staverton to West Haddon (12 miles)

On Day 2, fortified by a “Full English” breakfast, we headed out of Staverton.

We paused on the bridge at Braunston to admire the narrow boats on the canal and carried on to the pretty village of Ashby St Ledgers with its street of thatched houses and magnificent manor house associated with the Gunpowder Plot.

In short succession, we then encompassed nearly all modes of transport as we walked under the London to Birmingham railway line, along the Grand Junction Canal towpath, under the A5 and then under the M1. We had reached the infamous Watford Gap, where the break in the limestone ridge has made it an important traffic corridor for thousands of years and (some would say) the divide between north and south. In contrast, the village of Watford is tiny and very quiet and the walk to West Haddon uneventful.

West Haddon to Sibbertoft (12 miles)

On Day 3 we walked to Winwick, up Honey Hill with its panoramic views, down the other side of the hill past a stone that marked the place where the Jurassic Trail was opened in 1994 and onwards towards the Hemplow Hills.

For once, a good place to sit coincided with lunch time and with no need to rush, we sat on the thoughtfully provided picnic bench perched on the hillside and enjoyed the sunshine and the views. I had made the mistake of not switching off the audible reports of our mileage and pace from the route tracker on my phone (it’s always a surprise when your rucksack starts speaking to you) and Bill was determined to make up for the slower mile when we climbed Honey Hill, so we set off after lunch at a very swift pace. Next time I shall mute the tracker.

After what looked on the map like a walk across water, but actually turned out to be a concrete causeway between two reservoirs that had been constructed to supply the canal system, we came to another deserted medieval village at Sulby. The village disappeared between 1377 and 1428 (according to my leaflet) probably to make way for sheep pasture. This was just one of the many different styles of stiles that we climbed over the walk, some more sturdy and accessible than others. We made it to Sibbertoft five minutes before the pub closed for the afternoon, so had time for a quick refreshment before heading for home.

All in all, an excellent way to spend a few days in the September sunshine.

Read about some of our other Long Distance Walks here