Walk 101: Brigstock & Fermyn Woods Circular: Wear your green tights for this one…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6 miles (9.66km)

Time to walk: We didn’t really know this route & the instructions we followed weren’t the best. It took us about 2.5 hours but, as it was a hot day, we did have a few rests

Difficulty: A mixture of hard surface, grassy fields & woodland tracks. It’s possibly muddy in places during the winter. There is the odd stile

Parking: We parked in the centre of Brigstock near the church

Public toilets: Cafes & pubs in Brigstock at the start & finish, but nothing en route

Map of the route: 

This walk’s taken from Mia Butler’s excellent ‘Northamptonshire Rambles’ book first published in 1991, although there’s several other versions. We start in the lovely village of Brigstock in the north east of the county between Corby & Thrapston

That’s the only inhabited place we’ll visit today, but we do have a good look around the village. From there we head north into Fermyn Woods to encounter the mysterious Bocase Stone, before completing the loop. The map above shows a slight detour left along the A6116 as we were looking for a path that wasn’t there – a local lady set us back on the right track

Shall we go then?

Let’s walk!

1. We hadn’t visited Brigstock for quite some time & had forgotten what a beautiful village it is. Even the new developments have been done tastefully & the nearby main road that’s the bypass means that it’s very serene & unspoilt. There’s parking right in the centre, but be careful you don’t block anyone in…

The village is surrounded by the remnants of the royal forest of Rockingham & dates back to the Bronze Age or Saxon period. Several properties in the village appear in the Domesday Book, in which Brigstock is referred to as “Brigstoc” & Roman relics have been found in & around the village

The old stone market cross dates to 1586 before Brigstock market was founded in the mid 15th century. Standing on a small traffic island called Hall Hill the ‘cross’ is at the junction of Church Street & Mill Lane. Edward IV granted the market to the village of Brigstock in 1466. The market cross was erected as a monument after Elizabeth I passed through the village. Today the cross is used as the place where the May Queen is crowned every year

As a market cross it is not a typical cross design but stands on a stepped plinth and has a weathervane on the top. It reminds us more of a “Buttercross’

2. Near the cross is the George & Dragon public house which is a grade II listed property…

Have a look at the left hand end of the pub to see an unusual gargoyle staring back at you

3. Follow the road as it bends left – it really is a lovely village, that also appears to have a very active community spirit

Another of the village’s pubs is on the right…The Olde Three Cocks which was once a coaching inn, taking its name from a heavy horse which was used to help drag stagecoaches up steep hills & not poultry, although the modern pub sign does indeed show poultry

There’s certain things you only see in a village…taking the ponies & dog for a walk!

4. Continue straight ahead, looking for a short alley on the right which takes us into Farm Close…

…& turn left at the junction through a newer development. We always like a good ‘honesty box’ & this one was for eggs, including some superb duck ones

5. Stop at the large building at the end. This is known locally as ‘The Matchbox’ & was an old clothing factory. According to the locals, the trousers of suits were made here…the jackets were made in Kettering!

Turn right & walk along the road that leads to the bypass (we’re not going that far)…

…turning right up Hunter Rise, which certainly lives up to its name!

6. It’s now time to say goodbye to the village for the time being so at the top of the hill pass through the somewhat rickety gate that leads into a narrow grass alley…

…& then over the first of a few stiles into the open fields

7. The field was empty today, but our “Sherlock Holmes” instincts led us to deduce that cattle were sometimes present!. Walk diagonally left to exit the field via another stile to arrive at the busy main road – be careful!

Cross the road, turn right & then left up Old Dry Lane (North) which will take us towards Fermyn Woods

8. The lane meanders up the hill & eventually crosses a cattlegrid which signifies we’re now entering the Fermyn Wood Hall large estate…

This was where the famous Brigstock International Horse Trials were once held which attracted the world’s top riders. The Trials stopped running in 2012 due to the sale of Fermyn Woods Hall. David & Mary Laing re-established the Brigstock Horse trials after it had been dormant for seven years

Nearby Rockingham Castle has now taken up the event on its land

9. Pass by the impressive Bushylawn Lodge & the bungalows on the other side. There’s still many of the old horse jumps around

This is lovely parkland with buzzards & red kites soaring overhead. We’re still on a hard track now heading towards Bocase Farm

10. The entrance to the farm carries various warnings & how visitors must use the intercom before advancing further, but there’s the footpath sign on the right so best foot forward

Although you can’t see much of it behind its high walls & electronic gates, you get the impression that Bocase Farm is a pretty impressive place. However…have you ever had the feeling you’re being watched…

A lifesize metal samurai soldier stands opposite the entrance to the farm – go & have a closer look, they’re very good

11. Having safely passed the guards, walk through the gate & follow the manicured hedge on one side & the edge of the woods on the other

After a couple of hundred yards look out for a small tree with what looks like a gravestone next to it

The Bocase Stone marks the spot where once stood the Bocase Tree which were probably boundary or route markers in what was then a heavily forested area. There are more romantic tales though! One is of Robin Hood being in the area & going to the church to pray on St Mary’s Day

The priest betrayed his whereabouts & there was an ambush waiting when he left. Robin drew his enemy away from his men & hid his bow & arrows in the hollow Bocase Tree

Another story is that archers in the forest would hang their bow cases on the tree

12. Keep following the wide grassy track until it reaches a gate straight ahead leading out of the woods into a field…

This field edge arrives at an old grassy lane after about 200 yards where we need to turn left

We met a lovely dog walker along here with two very boisterous boys out for their morning stroll

13. Eventually the grassy lane arrives at a gap in a hedge. Pass through it & turn immediately left along a narrow dirt path to arrive back at the entrance to the woods once more

Welcome to Fermyn Woods proper. Fermyn Woods is an ancient wood & once formed part of Rockingham forest. When walking through it look out for its renowned variety of butterflies

14. This is really easy walking as the hard track we’re on now is the one we’re going to follow all the way through it

We were walking along the stretch above when we noticed some movement ahead. Some years ago we spent a day with a wildlife expert on the Island of Mull & his advice was “Always look for something that shouldn’t be there or for something that is moving however subtly”. In this case we’d come face to face with a female fox who was as curious of us a we were of her

15. After a mile or so the track climbs & then reaches the edge of the wood & Old Dry Lane (North) again…

Turn right & follow the lane all the way back to the main road once more. Cross carefully, turn left & walk along the small footpath for about 100 yards

16. Now look for a hard pathed lane leading to a gate which we need to pass through…

…to follow it all the way back down to ‘The Matchbox’ once more

17. It’s time now to have a look at the other side of Brigstock, so turn left along the High Street to the corner of Bridge Street where stands the impressive Fotheringhay House

On the other side of the road’s the Post Office which also has an excellent Tea Room

18. After a cuppa, cross the road & walk down Bridge Street…

…crossing Harper’s Brook which is a tributary of the River Nene. It starts close to Market Harborough & enters the Nene close to Thrapston

Further along on the right’s the traditional village cricket ground

19. At the top, turn left into Park Walk. Look across to the left to see Harry’s Park Wood & maybe a glimpse of the old manor house which was built as a hunting lodge. Even the cows were feeling warm today…

Further down Park Walk on the left’s the Primitive Methodist chapel which opened in 1843. After its closure it became the Women’s Institute hall

20. Continue to the bottom of the hill & then turn left, crossing Harper’s Brook again…

…to reach the main road. Turn left to visit the Church of St Andrews which is renowned for its round Saxon tower which dates from around AD750…

The Danes burnt the early church down, but it was rebuilt & then added to over the years including when the monks of Cirencester took it over. Go inside & have a look round…

The church also contains the tomb of Robert Vernon, the 1st Baron of Lyvden, who was Secretary of State at the outbreak of the Crimean War

The church also had a fabulous array of jams & marmalades for sale. We bought an excellent orange & ginger marmalade

21. Come back out of the church & turn left to walk the final 100 yards back to where we parked the car & the start of this walk

So that’s our 6 mile Brigstock loop, which we must admit didn’t really feel that long, but it definitely was. Brigstock itself is a village worth visiting on its own, but Fermyn Woods is a lovely place too, especially on a warm day like today

Plus, we also saw something today we didn’t know existed in The Shire…the Bocase Stone. Maybe next time we’ll do this walk in our green tights…maybe not!

Go Walk!