Walk 1: Castle Ashby Circular: A fantastic walk including a stately home, great tea rooms, rivers, wildlife, spooky graveyards & a secret place…shhh!

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5km)

Time to walk: Have done in just over 2 hours at pace, although there’s so much to see take your time & enjoy the views so normally 3 hours

Difficulty: Mainly off road. There are a few hills, including a steep path up to Whiston church

Parking: Use the parking in Castle Ashby allocated for visitors to the Rural Shopping Yard

Public toilets: Rural Shopping Yard, Castle Ashby

Map of the route (c) the AAMap

We’ve done this walk many times & it’s a great one to do in the different seasons to see an ever changing landscape & wildlife. Beware though in winter it can get muddy! Much of it is across well marked field paths so you’ll hardly see another soul…bliss!

So…get yourself across to Castle Ashby & here we go…

1. Park up in the free parking outside the Castle Ashby Rural Yard. Castle Ashby is a fantastic place to visit, although to get to the house & gardens you need to get back in the car & follow the brown signs. The house isn’t open to the public, but the gardens are & these are well worth a visit through the seasons – get your ticket from the office near the car park & have a quick cuppa at ‘The Walled Garden Tea Room’ first (we’ll come back here later…) Here’s a link to the house & gardens etc

2. Walk along the path on the right of the road out of the village heading south west with the house on your left. If you fancy some free-range eggs there’s usually some in a basket here with an honesty box. There’s lot’s of signs here too reminding you to “Pick up the poo!”

3. Keep going along the roadside path past enclosed fields normally full of sheep on your left. There’s some felled tree trunks here & the sheep like nothing more than playing ‘King of the Castle’ although today they seemed more content in the shade

4. When the pavement ends take a right down the lane & walk into the delightful hamlet of Chadstone – it’s worth spending a few moments here looking at the fabulous houses & cottages &, if the locals are around, say “hi”. They’re really friendly & happy to chat about their hamlet

5. Follow the lane down through the hamlet & then bear right on the road up the hill (ignore the footpath signs left which will lead to Denton). Maisy decided that the grass on the side was too irresistible to not have a roll

6. At the top of the hill you’ll reach the farm of Chadstone Lodge. On your left is a footpath sign with a hedge on your left – it’s now time to say “Goodbye roads”

Follow the track up the hill looking out for deer, buzzards, red kites & also listen out for the chattering call of a local green woodpecker, or his hammering on a tree. At the top of the field go straight on through a gap & the bushes & then keep going straight with the hedge on your right. Secret tip…great sloe picking bushes along here 😉

7. Once you meet the road go straight across & keep following the path down the hill. At this point look right & you’ll see the church at Whiston – this is a great landmark & keep it in mind as we’ll come back to later

8. At the bottom of this hill the footpath bears to the right which will take you to Whiston but we need to bear sharp left at the tree in the picture below & descend through the gap in the hedge down to the stream with the wooden bridge crossing it…

9. We’re not going to post pictures or comment on what you’ll find here, but please stay a few moments, wander around & enjoy the quiet beauty of nature – we hope you find it as special as we do.

10. Right….come on still a long way to go! Climb out of the dell & straight over the paths crossroads up the hill

At the top go ahead through the bushes & then on the left prepare to attach crampons & ropes ready to climb the ‘Jerusalem Steps’…

11. After ascending the “Jerusalem Steps’ turn right & keep the hedge on your right along a field. You get the impression you’re still going uphill & you are (so it must soon be time to come down!). At a gate go through it & then spot the immediate steps going down on the right – descend them, but be careful as they’re steep & narrow

12. Suddenly you’re out in the open again with a view over Cogenhoe. Keeping the hedge on your right descend the hill to the road, crossing it & continuing up the path through the next field

13. On reaching the top of the field go through the fence & turn immediately right following the path even higher up the hill – watch your step here as it’s a dog walkers paradise…. On reaching road carry straight on down the lane towards Cogenhoe holiday park, but in summer first have a look at the fabulous cottage on your left

14. After descending the hill we come into Cogenhoe holiday park & here our path turns sharp right through a gate on the right just before the garden on the left

However, before that, it’s …time for a rest & there’s a bench in a small garden on the left with a strange fountain. So sit a while & refresh (The Westie expects drinks & biscuits here) & then spend a few moments exploring this side of the mill – even have a wander over the bridge through the homes to the old stone packhorse bridge on the other side

15. So….refreshed go back & through the gate before the mill & then follow the path along the river. Stop & have a look back at the millpond – it changes with the seasons.

Now, if you’re a photographer, it’s time to fit your long lens as, along this stretch, we’ve the opportunity to see various geese, kites, buzzards, swans, heron, kestrels & numerous water & hedge birds. Yesterday there were several swans still sitting & hatching their young but plenty of others out & about

16. After about 1 mile we arrive at Whiston Lock which is another great place to sit & rest a while. You’ve just walked 1 mile of the Nene Way footpath & it’s still a long way to go to Norfolk & the sea! Boats navigate this part of the river (see below), but at the lock take the right hand path towards the ‘lighthouse’ that is Whiston church – remember that?

17. Having done this walk many times, for us this is one of the stretches we don’t look forward to. We’ve crossed fields with gradients & had a great time following the river & this is just a straight cart track. Anyway at the end of the track cross the road & keep straight on via the road into Whiston – watch out for wildlife as earlier this year the field on the right was full of fieldfares having a stop over on their migration

18. Enter the village (if you can get the horses in the fields on the left to come over they like mints!). Take the left fork & walk round & up to the gate leading to the church

19. Right…we know you’ve had a lovely walk, but now it’s heads down & a quick steep climb up to Whiston church – yes you’re nearly there! On the way up have a look over the wall on the left to see if Polo’s at home

20. Go through the gate into the church yard. There’s a notice where to get the key from if you fancy a look inside the church. There’s a great place to sit on the wall on the left for a fantastic view over Earls Barton & Wellingborough & back down to the Nene valley.

Now for the spooky bit – go round the church on the left side & have a look down that crypt…oooer & wouldn’t want to be here after dark!!!! Follow the path round to the back of the church & spot the two bars in the wall

Climb over & keep right up to the gap in the hedge. Go through & keep straight on until you rejoin the road. Turn left down the hill looking over to Castle Ashby on your right

21. Carry on down the hill & at the t-junction turn right & follow the road up the hill back into Castle Ashby passing The Falcon (sadly closed at the time of writing)

Then it’s round the bend & back to where you left the car, passing the shopping village on the left.

So….The Westie & ourselves hope you enjoyed one of our favourite walks. As we said do try it at different times of the year as you’ll see something different everytime. We had a great day & at the end headed round the corner to the gardens & The Walled Garden Tea Room They do fantastic hearty soups (the best is the white onion) – this time we had gorgeous carrot soup, plus a few more treats for The Westie

Enjoy & happy walking!

Updated post….here’s a drawing by local artist Jean Edwards of the view of Whiston Church. Love it Jean…thanks

Whiston Church picture by Jean Edwards @jeaned70

Whiston Church picture by Jean Edwards @jeaned70

2 Responses to Walk 1: Castle Ashby Circular: A fantastic walk including a stately home, great tea rooms, rivers, wildlife, spooky graveyards & a secret place…shhh!

  1. Simon Carter says:

    Excellent walk, well described! We will do this walk again, I’m sure. It’s easy to follow and logical and has enough points of interest to keep you lingering.

    Sadly, the Falcon at Castle Ashby is no more and looks as if it is being redeveloped. The sign has come down now!! On the other hand, the Rural Shopping Village has a good café as does Castle Ashby Gardens themselves.

    Thanks again for introducing us to this walk!!

    Simon & Penny Carter

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