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 & especially 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 as it can get muddy! Much of it is across well marked field paths so you’ll hardly see another soul…bliss!

Let’s Walk!

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. It’s one of the seats of the Marquess of Northampton. The original castle, a manor house, came about as the result of a licence obtained in 1306 by Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry. It’s a leading example of the Elizabethan prodigy House, with a Palladian section closing the front courtyard added in the 18th century

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…)

2. Come out of the car park & turn left along the footpath beside the road. If you fancy some free-range eggs there’s usually some in a basket here with an honesty box. There’s views across towards the house to your left

3. Continue along the roadside path past fields normally full of sheep on your left. There’s some felled tree trunks in the field & 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 turn right down the lane & walk into the delightful hamlet of Chadstone – it’s worth spending a few moments 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 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 Chadstone Lodge farm. On your left is a footpath sign beside a hedge – it’s now time to say “Goodbye roads” as the remainder of this walk is mainly across open fields & woodland

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 in the bushes & then keep going straight with the hedge on your right. Secret tip…there’s some great sloe picking bushes along here

7. Once you meet the road continue straight across following the path down the hill. At this point look right & you’ll see the church at Whiston – this is a great landmark & we’ll get a closer look when we visit the village later in this walk

8. At the bottom of the hill the footpath bears to the right which will take you to Whiston, but our route’s sharp left at the tree in the picture below descending 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 by the stream, wander around & enjoy the quiet beauty of nature – we hope you find it as special as we do.

10. Climb out of the dell. ignoring the cross path & cross the field ahead up the hill

At the top follow the footpath sign through the bushes & then bear left to climb the ‘Jerusalem Steps’…

11. After ascending the “Jerusalem Steps’ turn right & keep the hedge on your right along a field. Pass through the gate & immediately look for 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 towards the village

In prehistory, the Nene valley was a system of braided channels with Neolithic and later, Bronze Age humans living in around Cogenhoe. Many flint tools have been found including arrow heads, scrapers, boring tools & an axe-head. The village has also been found to have links to Iron Age & Roman settlements

The name, Cogenhoe, has two elements to it. The second, … “hoe”, is easy to interpret – having a topographical origin. A hoe was a spur of land, usually overlooking a valley. Other Northamptonshire examples include Farthinghoe & Wadenhoe’. The first part of the name is problematic. It could refer to a personal name – ‘Cucga’s Hoe’. A 19th century cleric believed that it was a corruption of the Latin word, “gucken”; if so it became ‘Gucken Hoe’ or ‘Spy Hill’

Apart from agriculture the village has, over time, supported other industries. Until the 19th century, this was a woollen & textiles area, but from the mid 19th century until shortly after the Second World War, Cogenhoe became a boot & shoe village, together with lace making

As with many areas along the Nene Valley, Cogenhoe was involved in the iron ore excavation industry which began in 1850

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. If it’s summer the fabulous cottage on your left is normally covered in wisteria

14. After descending the hill walk into Cogenhoe Mill Holiday Park which, in times of heavy rain, is always one of the first places in the county to suffer flood warnings. 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 & 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

16. After about 1 mile you’ll 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. Having crossed open fields & woodland & followed a beautiful stretch of river, this is just a straight cart track. Anyway at the end of the track cross the road & carry 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!). The name of the village derives from Old English and was first recorded as “Hwiccingtune” in 974. It means “the farmstead of the Hwicce tribe.” Take the left fork & walk round & up to the gate leading to the church

19. We’d warned you at the start that the path up to Whiston church is very steep. 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. This is Coombe Hill & a great place to sit is 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, which we’re delighted will be reopening in 2020

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 every time. 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

Go Walk!

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

4 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

  2. Andrew Fowler says:

    Amazing! I Googled Railway Children Walk & found it on your site. We live in Oakworth so we need a local walk to do during the Coronavirus outbreak.
    What a coincidence that the first walk on your site is at Castle Ashby because that’s where I grew up (in the farmhouse opposite the car park) 😃
    Keep up the good work. We’ll be down there when the world gets back to normal and we’ll definitely do this one. 👍🏻

    • Hi Andrew – wow that’s an amazing coincidence & what a small world! You are very lucky living in that part of the world. I was doing some work in Bradford for a week & decided to go over one evening & do that walk. My wife’s a massive Railway Children fan & we were due to be coming up in the summer but it may be later rather than summer.
      Some good news for you about Castle Ashby – the Falcon has been closed for several years, but is reopening as a boutique hotel & restaurant. It had become rather a sight.
      Take care & enjoy our walks when you can get out there
      Kind regards
      Dave

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