Walk 1: Castle Ashby Circular (6.5 miles, 2hrs): 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: Park in village car park which is set at the back, approximately 200 yards from the shopping village, Note, do not park on the road

Public toilets: Rural Shopping Yard, Castle Ashby

Map of the route:

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. Cross the bridge & 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’. Nov 2020 update:- please be careful with dogs at the top of the steps as the farmer has placed an electric fence on the field edge

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 parkIf 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

15. So….refreshed, walk back a few yards, turn left & go down the side of the mill & through the gate & 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

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. At this point you have a choice…

You could turn left, keeping the hedge on your right & follow it down to a very high new stile onto the road. Cross this into the opposite field & continue down the hill with a hedge now on your left. At the bottom cross into the copse & follow the path across more unfriendly stiles to the hotel car park.

The other option is simply to turn left down the hill on the road. At the t-junction turn right & follow the road up the hill back into Castle Ashby passing The Falcon

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

So….we 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

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

48 Responses to Walk 1: Castle Ashby Circular (6.5 miles, 2hrs): 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

  3. Graham Brown says:

    Completed 27/06/20 – Lovely walk, excellently described. Sadly, Polo seems to no longer be at the stables.

  4. Tabatha says:

    What a lovely walk. Easy to follow instructions even though I still went slightly wrong.
    Beautiful scenery!

    The Falcon looks lovely and I can see wine glasses set iut on the tables inside.
    The shops at the rural shopping yard are open so enjoy!

  5. Paula says:

    Great walk. Very easy to follow

  6. david locke says:

    We completed this today. Very well described and thoroughly enjoyable!

  7. Vince says:

    Lovely walk the directions were really clear and the route is also marked by the Falcon Hotel markers. The little stream under the bridge was the highlight for us. Thanks David.

    • Thanks Vince it’s a lovely little place. Yes I know about the Falcon. I’ve emailed them 3 times to see if we can promote each other & they say they’ll get back to me. Nothing yet though! Keep walking! 🙂

  8. Ian reynolds says:

    Anyone know more about Whiston crypt

  9. Julia Ginns says:

    Lovely walk today. Memories for me as I lived in Castle Ashby as a child. Directions easy to follow, we almost turned up the road instead of across into the holiday park, as it was a little unclear, other than that – great. We had our coffee by the fountain on the seats in the rain, but it didn’t matter one bit. Most enjoyable 😃 🚶‍♀️ 🚶🏻

  10. Jen Kenny says:

    Completed this today . My first from the website . Found it very clear to follow and enjoyed it a lot . Thankyou for this resource . Tomorrow I will tackle walk 2 !

  11. Rebecca Cottingham says:

    What a fabulous first walk for us, your directions and pointers are brilliant and definitely feel confident trying some more of your routes. The sun was shining for us so it was an Absolutely stunning walk

  12. David Buswell says:

    Fabulous, brilliant walk and completely unexpected. Nearly cried off as it was drizzling but SO glad we didn’t. I had anticipated that this would be a pretty routine walk. Far from it!! The magical wood after the footbridge was awe inspiring – and worth the whole 6.5m just for that. The view from Whiston church was pretty good too!
    However, we did get lost after the Cogenhoe Holiday Park and walked for what seemed like ages round a field of wheat until we trespassed /tiptoed through some industrial units and had to walk on the road to Whiston. Even now I cannot see how we missed the route to Whiston Lock (will have to do the route in reverse to find out)!
    Then, an incredibly overpriced “snack” at the Falcon (£75 for two which included cold coffees and dry lemon drizzle cake but a very good fishfinger sandwich). Got the impression they don’t like walkers (“We don’t normally do walk-ins” said the receptionist) mixing with the Range Rover set.
    Finally, the second best part of the day. Castle Ashby Gardens. I’ve lived in this area for 40 years and these gardens are just AMAZING!! If you have not been, please DO, DO, DO go. £10 for an adult. Brilliant.
    Thanks for the walk.

    • Hi David. Glad you enjoyed it.
      You don’t enter the Cogenhoe Park. The path is on the right, signposted just before the Mill, on the right. You go through the gate & the mill ponds on your left. Then just follow the river all the way to Whiston Lock. I understand it’s quite overgrown at the moment. Dave 🙂

  13. Pip says:

    Lovely walk today and even managed to reunite a little lost dog with his very worried owners

  14. Lootie says:

    Lovely walk and your walks are always so well described thank you. Just a heads up, the Falcon have put up various stiles on the last leg – after leaving the churchyard, going through the gap in the hedge and then rejoining the road – you don’t actually have to rejoin the road anymore, which is nice. You can follow the footpaths / stiles along edge of fields /through a little woods that lead up to the back of the hotel. Nice!

    • Hiya & thanks for your lovely comments.
      Yes I’ve seen the new stiles put up by the Falcon. Sadly many people feel that the steps & drops are too high & they certainly aren’t accessibility / disability friendly which is sad

  15. Evie says:

    Bit of a warning – I went two weekends ago and the hill for part 10 has been fenced off by the farmer so I couldn’t complete the walk – I followed the road to the right to the end and then went down the hill to pick up at page 18. Very frustrating.

  16. Hi Evie. I put your comment out on the Facebook Group. Apparently the farmer has put up an electric fence as there are sheep in that field. There is however a lower ‘insulated step over’ so the path isn’t blocked. Dave 🙂

  17. Katie says:

    Lovely walk completed yesterday with 6 and 8 year old who are new to walking, took 6 hours haha! but we all loved it. The field leading up the hill to the woods has an electric fence but there are isolated step throughs to use which were fine. We followed the new ‘walking route’ signs by the falcon at the end which was much better than walking on the road. The walk ends in the falcon hote carpark. The new stiles are great but we all struggled to get over them as the step up is so high, they really need another low step to start with.

    • Awwwwww glad you all enjoyed it.

      Do you know what…when the Falcon put in the new stiles I wrote to them saying they weren’t child, or disability / accessibility friendly & could they put in kissing gates. The drops are just too big!

      Sadly they never responded…but I will try again. Dave 🙂

  18. Laurence says:

    This is a magnificent website! My wife and I will try this walk tomorrow for a New Year’s Day stroll. Dave, is there a regular walkers’ club we can join in 2023? This is the first page I came to on your site, so forgive my laziness if it’s obvious elsewhere.
    Laurence F

  19. Emmeline says:

    Came across this page yesterday and completed this walk today. What a lovely way to spend an afternoon! Everything was well described and my partner, dog and I had a really lovely time – thank you!

  20. Wendy says:

    What an amazingly beautiful walk. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to share it. Your directions are spot on and the photos are really helpful too.
    This is the first of your walks that we have done but it won’t be the last- please keep them coming.

  21. Phil says:

    Did this walk on Saturday 10 June 2023. A great walk for sure. Just to let you know, the walk along the river from the mill to Whiston lock is just about impassable at the moment. Head high stinging nettles in places. Best to just turn right when you get to Cogenhoe then right to Whiston. Maybe it’s easier at other times of the year?

  22. Kasia says:

    We did this walk with my daughter. Such a lovely walk I must admit. Clear directions and enjoyed every step. The only warning would be huge nettles during summer on the Nene Way (wear long trousers for sure) and advise to keep striaght forward towards Cogenhoe crossing all paths / roads on the way in the field part (first part after leaving Chadstone), as sometimes we were slightly confused. My daughter said the walk to St Mary’s wasn’t steep as mentioned, but this could be very individual I understand.

  23. Victoria says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I have just completed it and had the most fantastic afternoon. Saw a kingfisher on the Nene too and many birds getting ready to head off. I will be walking this one more than once again. Thank you again.

  24. anarchowalker says:

    Did the walk yesterday, and can confirm that the canal path from Cogenhoe to Whiston Lock has been strimmed. Didn`t see a kingfisher though, *sigh* but there were plenty of herons.

  25. Carl & Sharon Green says:

    Me the Wife and 2 Old Westies (8 Yrs) have just completed this walk, challenging underfoot conditions, a few very brief showers but overall a fantastic way to while away 3 hours. And the Courtyard in Castle Ashby at the end of the walk to relax and have a cuppa in! Directions were very clear and able to follow from start to finish (Thank You)

  26. Pennie says:

    My dog, Doogle, and I did this walk this morning. It was so lovely seeing all the autumnal colours and wildlife on the way. Thank you for sharing. The route was very clear and easy to follow from your instructions ☺️
    PS I lost a grey hat with snoopy on it on the way… if anyone sees it please let me know.

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