Walk 106: Welton Circular: Up the Junction

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4.9 miles (7.85km)

Time to walk: This is roughly an hour & a half walk, but it’s worth stopping, especially in summer, for a visit to one of our canal-side pubs

Difficulty: A mixture of hard surfaces, field edges & canal paths – we walked the route in January 2018 & it appeared to be fairly well-draining & you don’t need to cross any fields

Parking: Park carefully on the street outside the White Horse in Welton. The pub does have a car park, but it’s for patrons only

Public toilets: Pubs at the start & halfway round

Map of the route:

We’ve passed through beautiful Welton on a longer walk from Braunston, which also took in Ashby St Ledgers

Today we’re starting in the village itself & heading in the opposite direction, down country lanes & then taking in the very quiet Leicester Branch of the Grand Union canal to where it meets with its parent at Norton Junction. We then follow the Grand Union towpath, before leaving it to walk back into the village

The walk also offers superb views across the rolling countryside &, although it’s not far from the busy A5 & M1, it’s an extremely peaceful walk, so take in the birdsong

Welton lies 2.6 miles north of Daventry & is 13 miles west-north west of Northampton. The name Welton derives from the Old English meaning ‘Wel’ or spring & ‘Ton’ being the Saxon word for a village. Archaeological evidence has shown that the six wells in the parish prompted a Roman encampment. The nearby A5 Watling Street was an ancient highway that was first paved by the Romans

We’ll look at some buildings of note in the village later in this walk, but now it’s time to get going so…

Let’s Walk!

1. What a beautiful January morning – frosty & clear, blue skies. Be careful parking on the street as it’s quite busy with the Village Hall & Academy School. We parked outside the Village Hall & always have a look at the local noticeboards. The village is obviously fed up with dog fouling as it’s spraying to highlight where people have failed to pick it up…

Walk up the hill past the White Horse which is well known in the local area for its hospitality

It’s a typical Northamptonshire village pub & has a traditional skittles table. It’s also clear that it has a wicked sense of humour…

2. Continue past Welton Academy. Have a look up at the tree in the school grounds – it’s absolutely full of mistletoe

At the junction continue straight ahead, signposted towards Watford – at this point we’d like to point out this isn’t the better known Watford (well…actually it’s probably better known in our Shire ;-))

3. The road bends round to the right & exits the village…

There’s a couple of gates either side of the road where we want you to stop for a few moments & admire the views across our beautiful countryside. We were chatting with Helen Blaby on BBC Radio Northampton earlier in the week about how ‘rolling’ our Shire is

The views on either side back that up…

4. At the crossroads continue straight across towards Norton

We’re dropping down the valley now & that’s because we’re heading towards the canal. As the road bends sharp right keep straight on through the gate onto the bridleway

Directly ahead now can be seen our next checkpoint which is Welton Haven Marina. Whenever we walk along the canals we’re surprised at how many local marinas there are, some small like this one & then the huge ones at Crick & Braunston

5. As we approach the Marina the direction of the path is quite confusing, mainly down to the fact that the direction arrow on the post has worn out – please fix! We walked straight ahead into the Marina area, but apparently you should turn left & walk round the back of the buildings…

Anyway…here’s Welton Haven Marina

This place is a bit of a hidden secret as this Marina sits on the very beautiful & quiet Leicester arm of the Grand Union Canal. The three sections of the ‘Leicester Line’ between Norton junction & the River Trent are mixed in size. From Norton to Foxton, the route is a narrow canal, but below Foxton to Leicester it’s a wide canal. From Leicester to the Trent, the route is effectively the River Soar & the locks & bridges are wide

We’re always up for a chat & there was a young chap maintaining a boat that had been dragged out of the canal. He could deal with the first couple of easy questions, but then obviously got fed up with us & said “I’ll have to get me gaffer to answer anything else..”

6. Walk over the bridge to the other side of the canal, down to the bank & turn left (do not go under the bridge)…

There was a young swan that had clearly made its home with the ducks & other wildfowl

7. It was really cold today & parts of the canal had ice on them, but this is such a quiet & serene stretch the temperature didn’t seem to matter…

If you want to turn round & head towards Leicester it’s quite a long way

…but we’re not going that way as it’s only a few hundred yards more to Norton Junction which is from where the Leicester Canal Section starts it’s long journey

8. If you want to carry straight on, cross the wooden bridge, walk behind the toll house & over the canal bridge to continue along the left bank of the Grand Union canal

However, should you fancy a visit to one of our rather lovely canal-side pubs, turn left & follow the bank towards the busy A5

The New Inn is across Top Lock No.7 at Long Buckby Wharf so, if you’re feeling daring, walk across the top of the lock. The pub will obviously get very busy in the summer but, on a cold January day, it was extremely cosy & we can highly recommend a pint of Hob Goblin!

9. Refreshments over, walk back to Norton Junction along the same bank as the pub. You never know what you’re going to find on the boats on our canals – last Xmas we found Santa & now…

From this side of the canal you get a much better view of the old toll house which was, until the 1950s, the home of a Salvation Army couple who ran their own mission boats…

10. We’re now going to follow the Grand Union canal, pretty much all the way back to Welton. This stretch appears to be quite elevated with good views across both sides, including back up the hill to where we started

There’s no water vole signs like near Crick, but if you’re here in summer, you might need to beware of the wasps nest

11. As always, the bridges along our canals are stunning…

…& the ones along here still have their ‘rubbing bars’ which are the iron bars with their groves made by the towropes as the barges were pulled by the horses

12. We had this walk pretty much to ourselves & the canal path is easy walking. The next bridge is ahead in the distance. For reference purposes, we’re looking to leave the canal at Bridge No.6

Even in the depths of winter there’s always some colour to be found somewhere – in the this case it’s a bright, flowering gorse bush…

…& it’s on days like this you just want to keep walking, but don’t want the walk to end…

13. Bridge No.6, where we’re going to leave the canal is not the prettiest, but it does carry a main road…

Walk up the steps at the side & turn right. If you fancy a look at the entrance to Braunston Tunnel then it’s a couple of hundred yards further on – you can see it from the other side of the bridge

Braunston Tunnel is 2,042 yards in length & was built by Jessop & Barnes. Opened in 1796, its construction was delayed by soil movement & it was probably the resulting movement that led to the tunnel having a slight ‘S’ bend. There’s room for two 7 ft beam boats to pass. The tunnel passes underground alongside another Grand Union Canal feature, Drayton Reservoir, from which the feeder enters the canal at the east end of the tunnel

14. It’s a few hundred yards now up the road back to Welton. There were many people parked along the pavement following a local hunt in the fields across to the left. It was slightly ironic that as we drove out of the village on the way home, a large female fox strolled across the road in front of our car

Just inside the village boundary on the right are the gates to Welton Manor. The Manor dates back to the mid 18th century & nothing of it can be seen from the road due to the large trees. It ‘s licensed for weddings & meetings etc

15. At the junction turn left back into the village up Churchill Road…

This road has nothing to do with ‘Winston’ – it actually should be named ‘Church Hill’ as it rises steeply as it snakes its way towards the church. Look out for the cedar trees on the left. These mark the site of one of the village’s former grand houses, sadly no longer here…Welton Place.

Welton Place dated back to 1758. The Clarke family had been associated with the parish of Welton since around 1596 & Joseph Clarke had been High Sheriff of Northamptonshire. Welton Place was known to the locals as ‘The Big House’ & it had been in the possession of the Clarke family for a further century after its completion. The house was situated by a lake, around which were planted rare Cedar trees. Sadly it fell into disrepair & was finally demolished in 1972

16. Remember the ‘dog-poo’ shaming spray notice at the start of this walk? Well, they certainly mean what they say…

We’ve visited St Martin’s church on a previous walk. It’s constructed from Northamptonshire Iron stone. Stop for a moment though to examine the gravestone that’s showing over the wall

The gravestone is to the memory of a six year old boy who was ‘lost in the fields’ adjoining the village in 1806 & starved to death

17. From the church it’s a short walk back to the White Horse where we parked the car & started this walk

So that’s our second walk that looks at Welton. This one is much shorter & easier walking &, even in January, was pretty dry underfoot. Again, it’s another of those that is great for a Sunday stroll, even combining it with lunch either before, halfway round, or at the end

It comes highly recommended so…

Go Walk!