Friday, 25 May 2018

Leicestershire Round #2 - Rearsby to Somerby 23/05/18

15 miles, via Thrussington Mill, Hoby, Rotherby (sorta), Frisby on the Wreake, Gaddesby   (sorta), Ashby Folville (sorta), Thorpe Satchville, Burrough Hill, and Dalby Hills.

Long Distance Trail means Selfies!
#2 at Rearsby Packhorse Bridge.
No walking opportunities for Monday or Tuesday, as I'm more useful to aid My Parents on a trip to the hearing aid clinic on one day, and to accompany them to the church lunch club on the other, though the heat and sunshine seem to have retreated once Wednesday comes around, but  the cue to get back onto the trail comes once time is freed up again, through the part of the Leicestershire countryside that feels most familiar to me. So my leg #2 starts, aiming at taking in the remainder of the guide's second and all of the third as I strike into the East of the county from Rearsby village, starting out from by the Packhorse bridge of 1711 as the Parental Taxi drops me off at 8.15am, under glum skies with a sharp wind blowing from the northeast, and the path leads us over the bridge, past Manor farm and up to the Church of St Michael & All Angels, and deciding that I'm feeling under-dressed as I sneak the paths from the suburban enclave of Church Leys and down past the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace convent. The waterproof is donned as a windcheater as we meet Station Road, and I'll wander slightly from the Round path to see the still-considerable remains of Rearsby Station, where the Cross-Country services now run over the level crossing without stopping, and only the mildest of trespasses is needed to get back on the right track, meeting the Round path by the foot-crossing for a field walk in the direction of the River Wreake, well away from the large dairy herd in the fields below Thrussington. Hit the riverbank after passing over three plots, finding the channel can look more like a stagnant ditch in places, but find it looking more active as we approach Thrussington Mill, where a canal-style bridge takes us over the channel of the river and the remains of a lock chamber, evidence of the Melton Mowbray Navigation, which canalised the Wreake from 1797 to 1877, noted before we pass the mill itself, firmly in the grip of a makeover to make it more like its neighbour downstream. From the driveway, it's back to field walking, through bouth cultivated fields and rough pasture, heading upstream and not really getting any aspect that would suggest we are at the bottom of a river valley, and also feeling no joy towards the wind as it keeps the early going cool, as we come up to Lodge Farm, and its enclosure of Christmas trees, which I always seem to forget have to be grown anew every year.

St Michael and All Angels, Rearsby.

The Wreake at Thrussington Mill.

Christmas Tree farming at Lodge farm.

Beyond the crossing of Mill Lane, we meet our first enclosure of cows to pass through, but this herd is quite happy to ruminate away as I pass by and enter the recreation ground at the bottom end of Hoby village, a place for which I have an unusual amount of fondness for as it was the focus for two days of village study which I did from school in 1986, and as it's met from Brooksby Road, and it immediately brings back a host of memories. It's a fine village for showing the different variety of styles and vintages of housing that can develop in a single location, with so many vistas I can immediately recall as we approach the rise up Main Sreet to All Saints church (our first in the county style of Ironstone and Ashlar) and I could tell you from memory that the house that my 11 year old self had to sketch was #3 The Chantry. The village study centre in the old school has since closed, but the village hall and the Blue Bell inn still endure, glimpsed before the village is departed, down the passageway to the cottages on Back Lane, and then down a singularly overgrown path to meet the field level again, striking down towards the Wreake once more and leaving Hoby high on its bluff away from the riverside. Approach the site of Hoby Mill but find no remnants of it as we make the passage over the river by a variety of paths and footbridges before meeting more cows that won't be disturbed from their ruminations, leaving them in our wake as we approach the railway line again, with trains again passing in both directions to show the passage of an hour since I last crossed it. Hit the rising path up the southern valley side, and finally get a valley aspect below the overcast skies, rising to almost meet Rotherby's Main Street but turning away with only a few of the village's house being seen to continue upstream with the route of the Round, avoiding more cows in the ridge and furrowed pasture before meeting fields of rapeseed that have already grown to my shoulder height, before passing over Hoby Road, which points in completely the wrong direction. Field walk on, shadowing Rotherby Road and enter several rough and lumpy fields of pasture above the Wreake, where the horses take in interest in our passing but the cows don't until the final field before Frisby, where several bovines are too close for comfort and threaten to get mobile. Still, Frisby on the Wreake is met with me unharmed, and the views up Main Street and down Water Lane suggest that this is one of the those charming and well kept villages that would deserve a closer examine on a sunnier day than this, and it's at the substantial market cross that I'll pause for morning snacking, before passing on up Rotherby Road and noting the saddest looking thatched house ever.

The Chantry, and All Saints church, Hoby.

The Wreake at Hoby Mill (former).

As close to Rotherby as the Round gets.

Pasture walking, with curious horses.

The Market Cross, Frisby on the Wreake.

Start the guide book's third leg as a field walk follows, hanging close to the hedge and trying no to startle the sheep as the high southern edge of the Wreake valley is scaled, a pretty sharp rise of 20+m to meet the level passage of the A607 Leicester Road, by the stump cross that stands actually pretty tall, taking our last looks back to the river valley before passing over the road and hitting the field walk into East Leicestershire. Not that this portion could be counted as being in any way familiar as we off to do 2+ miles across fields without passing over anything more substantial or otherwise accessible than a farm track, aiming roughly south to pass through fields of knee high wheat and shoulder high rapeseed, before aiming uphill through the furrowed pasture in the direction of a wind turbine, startling the sheep and wondering why ancient rights of way never follow the ridges when making a field passage. Top out and get sight lines down to Frisby Grange and Hickory Lodge farm before we strike on alongside and through a host of wheat fields before getting the first suggestion of the sunshine due to arrive on the day as we meet the track to Glebe farm, the single most dynamic feature on this stretch, before two more wheat fields follow, giving us a look to Harborough farm, before we meet pasture again. It's predictably rough and riotously covered in buttercups, whilst the signs of wildlife are limited to spotting Kestrels hovering around in search of prey, and I can discover the limits of my photographic abilities as I try to take pictures them. After what feels like almost an hour of pounding it on the fields, which I've done very little of in Season #7 so far, it's a relief to meet the road surface of Pasture Lane, which takes us to the very top edge of Gaddesby, though the route of the Round won't be taking us into the village, instead joining the footpath at the field edge behind the houses on Paske Avenue, where a guy out doing hedge trimming work pauses to make conversation with me on my walking progress for the day. Pass by rapeseed and into pasture, where there's machinery out in the process of haymaking as the field walk heads downhill, along the perimeter edge of Gaddesby Hall, though there are as few vistas to be had to the hall from this side as there were the last time we came this way. Once out of the cut grass we touch the paths that were previously made around this side of the county, and we complete our circuit of Gaddesby without ever getting a close look at it, our sight lines kept to a minimum as we pass over the tree lined former driveway down to hall farm, and taking our looks back to St Luke's church as the field walk descends away, keeping the local cattle at a satisfying distance away from our passage.

The Stump Cross, Leicester Road, A607.

Pasture and Wind Turbine, near Frisby Grange.

Wheat field walking.

Rapeseed and hedge trimming, outside Gaddesby.

St Luke's Gaddesby, at a remove.

We are back in familiar territory here, doing the exact same mile or so from a few years back, at least it should feel that way, but the meandering path across the fields seems to be one of those that doesn't linger in the memory and can't be easily recalled when it comes to plotting it, so it's a renewed adventure as we across pasture and through wheat before we get a sight of Mill farm , somewhere that is identifiable despite its windmill stump being rather too well concealed from all angles. Pass over the Midshires Way as well, and that's 230 miles of bridleway over the Midlands that really ought to feature in my future planning, before we make a few contacts with the twisting course of Gaddesby Brook, and run into the only field of cows that get mobile enough to worry me as I pass by, not that they suggest any risk to me, though they are probably going to cause difficulties for the woman that I meet coming the other way with here trio of excitable dogs. Finally find a memorable field as we rise through the green wheat on the way up to Ashby Folville Road, which is crossed as we start to pass above the village through an enclosure with many sheep, and this day does seem to be trying to avoid making too much contact with all of the local settlements, and thus our only contact with Ashby Folville itself will be from among the farmsteads and cottages at the top of Highfield End. There are a few views to be taken back, with St Mary's church tower standing above the trees, as we move on through more uneven pasture full of sheep, before we strike onwards on a fresh path again, through more arable fields that seem to have dried far too hard to sustain the crops growing through them, passing a couple of attractive coverts of trees above Folville House farm before entering the pasture above Markham House farm. Here the entire flock of sheep will gather together to observe me passing though their vast enclosure, where we rise to a high corner that offers little indication of where the path is heading across the next field and so dead reckoning has to be employed to pass over the undulations, though the way forwards becomes immediately obvious as the embankment of the GNR & LNWR joint railway of 1879 appears. There's bridge to pass under that's as substantial and large as any footpath passage needs, and we get sunshine to mark our passage below the line that ceased operation in 1964, and there's not much further to go through the rising fields beyond to meet the village of Thorpe Satchville, passing below the barns and the ha-ha of The Elms, before we take a turn into the churchyard of St Michael's, where we find a bench to take lunch.

Mill farm, between Gaddesby and Ashby Folville.

Highfield End, Ashby Folville.

The Markham House flock out to greet me.

Passage below the GNR & LNWR joint line.

St Michael's Thorpe Satchville.

Dress back down for sunnier weather, as the day starts to feel a lot more like the hot Spring we have become accustomed to, and it doesn't take long to pass through the village on the Harborough to Melton road, still at the heart of the horse business and once a hotbed for tennis, which is a strange sort of turn, a place that might feel desirable if it wasn't so remote, and it's soon in our wake as the day heads into its final third. Bakers Lane brings us our first substantial road walk on the entire day, providing an elevated route past Littlethorpe farm and teasing us with a few views back towards the upper reaches of the Wreake valley and reminding me that there's a whole lot of the county up above Melton Mowbray that I have ventured into maybe once in my entire lifetime, territory the Round will be going nowhere near as it draws us on towards Burrough Hill, the major focal point of today's stretch. Views in that direction come as the tarmacked road ends and we join the heavily rutted and extremely dry off-road path down Salter's Hill, with Burrough Hill suddenly advertising itself boldly, which for all its relative height and prominence manages to hide in the landscape rather successfully, only visible from up close at the high end of the upland that is also home to the village of Burrough on the Hill, sat on its ridge edge off the the south. Descend down the mud track to Melton Road, and then the hard work of ascending comes, as the day starts to give us the 20+C temperatures that we've enjoyed, and it's a press up the field edge for quite a distance at an unpleasant pitch to get to the rough edge of the enclosure of rough ground around this Iron Age fort, and heading up the edge of the rampart is at a steeper, but much happier, angle to make the shortest route up to the toposcope. Luckily my natural wariness, and the advice of the guide book remind me to take care when passing through the gorse bushes to reach the plateau of the most notable univallate hillfort in the county, and the view over the countryside from the sharp end of the triangular enclosure surely is a commanding one, though rather shrouded in haze today, and seen in rather clearer conditions in 2014, it's honestly a gem that I always feel ought to better known. Having walked the path along the north-western edge before, I'll walk to the entrance to this site that has been used since the Mesolithic age, to step up the 210m trig point, which is the summit for the day and a mere 2m lower than Old John hill, to look to the view eastwards, though again there's too much haze in the air to see the high points of Boston stump or Lincoln cathedral that are advertised as visible over 40 miles away to the north east.

Littlethorpe farm and Bakers Lane.

Burrough Hill, finally rising in the landscape.

Burrough Hill: Rising through the Gorse to the toposcope.

Burrough Hill: The fort entrance and the 210m trig point.

Burrough Hill: The north-eastern rampart.

Share salutations with the other pair of walkers up here before we have to move on, avoiding the resting cows that graze inside the country park, and the steep descent, and ascent onto the path to Dalby Hills is a pretty startling one, one that I'm thankfully expected, not that it makes the dried in steps in the soil below the long grass any easier to step upon. Then the last distinct section of the day starts as we meet the level path below Rise Hill spinneys, passing among a sea of white blossom on trees still unidentified, before we can enter the Dalby Hills plantation, which the signage indicates is open, and thus the permissive path can be paced without any interruptions from any loggers. Not that it seems to be particularly busy in terms of forestry, and it gives us a nicely shaded path out towards the north-eastern corner of the Round, offering us a bench for us to look over the view above Little Dalby and on towards Lincolnshire before we turn the corner by Buttermilk Hill Spinney and start the route's general tack towards the south. This starts with quite the most startling drop and ascent to pass across Punch Bowl covert, which feels like something I might have encountered on the Wolds Way, which feels kinda apt at parts of the north-east of this county are know as the Leicestershire Wolds , and a breather is needed at the top of that pull before we can set off on the filed walk beyond, where a distant village suggests itself as our finish line, but it's actually not, as it's Pickwell, the next village along outside the Round and once home to a popular market gardening concern. We have multiple fields to pound it out over, falling and rising with the contours above the wooded cleft of the stream that runs down from Somerby, our destination for the day, which becomes apparent as the church spire rises above the hillside on which it stands, as the terrain gives a good advertisement for why the east of this county got itself known as High Leicestershire. Frankly this day has had far more field walking than I'm used to, and I've run out of things to say about the countryside, so it's a relief to make the last climb of the day, past the lambs that are unusually eager to see what I'm doing as we rise to arrive in Somerby village, immediately the prettiest on the round so far as the afternoon sunshine lights up its many houses and other buildings which are almost uniformly built in the golden Ironstone which is so common through this part of the county and neighbouring Rutland. Altogether a grand looking place to end the day, and only one step beyond the familiar stomping grounds of East Leicestershire, and I'll shoot off a whole bunch of pictures here before concluding the day at the Stilton Cheese inn at 2.45pm (and we're only a dozen miles or so from the origin point of that dairy product too, Long Clawson in Leicestershire, not Stilton in Huntingdonshire) with barely any time to snack before the Parental Taxi arrives.

Dalby Hills plantation.

Punch Bowl covert.

Field Walking to distant Somerby.

The last field walk of the day.

Somerby village, boldly styled in Rutland Ironstone.

5,000 Miles Cumulative Total: 3269.4 miles
2018 Total: 170 miles
Up Country Total: 2961 miles
Solo Total: ????.? miles

Next Up: The Round continues through High Leicestershire, and Rutland!

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