Walk 111: Bugbrooke & Stowe Circular: “Nine Churches”, Catherine Parr & a Tea Room

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 8.01 miles (12.9km)

Time to walk: There’s several places to stop off on this walk if you want to, including a few pubs & a fine tea room. We had lunch at the tea room & the whole walk took us just under 3 hours

Difficulty: Mainly off road across field paths, some of which are undulating, but not strenuous. Some parts may get muddy after heavy rain

Parking: We’ve started a few walks from Bugbrooke & always park in the free, large car park beside the church

Public toilets: The Narrowboat Inn, or the Old Dairy Farm Craft Centre

Map of the route: 

This walk was recommended to us by one of our Twitter followers & they promised a superb stretch of the Grand Union Canal, beautiful villages, amazing views &…a pretty good tea room! How could we resist?

What also makes it rather special is it shows off our Shire at its very best & is very much a contrast in terms of the busy, chatty, flats of the canal & quiet, rolling hills – we keep telling people to come & visit as they don’t know what they’re missing

So…let’s go & explore…

Let’s Walk!

1. We’ve started a couple of other walks from Bugbrooke & have also passed through it on the ‘Northampton Round’. The village lies about 7 miles to the west of Northampton & was listed in the Domesday Book as “Buchebroc”, being situated on the Hoarestone Brook, which flows through the village from south to north. The name of the stream is supposed to be a corruption of ‘Horse-stone’, as an old packhorse route crossed the brook by a simple slab bridge just outside the village. When the stream was widened in the 1970s, the last of the mediaeval slabs was damaged beyond repair, but the pillars remain intact

The brook meets the River Nene near Bugbrooke Mill. The first mill on the site was established in 800 AD &, by the time of the Domesday Book, was the third-highest rated mill in England. It’s now the site of Heygate’s flour mill, whose large central tower can be seen for several miles around including from those passing us by on the M1

Bugbrooke is also the birthplace of the Jesus Army, which sprang out of the Baptist Chapel in the centre of the village, & which it continues to use regularly today

As mentioned, we always park in the large free car park next to the church, walking back out to the road & turning left past the Church of St Michael & All Angels which dates back to the 13th century…

2. Walk up the road passing the Five Bells, which has had a chequered life, but today appears to be busy once more, gaining very favourable reports on review sites

Roughly 60 yards past the pub take the right turn towards Nether Heyford…

3. Be careful along here as the path quickly runs out, but it’s only 50 yards until we leave the road, taking the wide track on the left indicated by the signpost (the local bus nearly got us so take care!)

Although we’re not walking on high ground at present, the views across  our Shire are still pretty special…

We soon arrive at the bridge over the Grand Union Canal & a building on the other side was once known as the Old Crown which indicates its former use…

4. Don’t cross the bridge, but turn down the steps on the right side & continue along the canal. Don’t forget to look back at the bridge as it’s rather a pretty one…

For the next 3.5 miles we’re going to enjoy some superb Grand Union Canal walking so keep your eyes & ears open for wildlife as you’ll never know what you’ll see. Interestingly the section of the canal we’re walking along is part of a 14 mile, lock-free stretch which runs between Stoke Bruerne & Buckby locks

We walked this route in August 2018 & there were already signs of autumn in the hedgerows

5. The canal is quite wide at this point, which is good as today it was full of people who were not particularly experienced at handling their boats!

Pass the entrance to Heyford Fields Marina on the left which has berths for 100 boats…

6. We seemed to be walking at the same pace as of one of the canal boats. We managed to keep up with it from Bridge 35 until we left the water – they probably thought we were stalking them!

Even the family of ducks seemed wary of us…

Although the maximum speed limit on the canals is 4mph we were reminded that a faster life was not far away as a Virgin Train screams pass on its way down to London

7. Bridge 34 isn’t quite as glamorous as some of its relatives…

We’re now approaching the outskirts of Nether Heyford & there were many more moored boats along the banks & in Furnace Marina. It never fails to amaze us how people come up with names for their vessels

8. We continue under the next bridge & a barge fuel stop. Interestingly, they also had large amounts of coal which is a real hark back to days of old & shows how some boats still run. The black sign by the bridge advertises The Olde Sun in Nether Heyford which is a really traditional village pub

On a sunny day like today there really is no better place to walk in Northamptonshire & the 4mph chugging of the boats is extremely chilling & everyone has a “Hi” & a nod & a wave

9. Slightly further on there’s a very smart canal-side property with some working boats moored up outside. It’s always worth having a look down into working boats as their depth is deceiving & the amount of cargo they can carry is huge…

Mind you, that’s nothing compared to the barges carrying scrap metal that we saw on a recent trip to Moscow!

10. We’re still chasing that canal boat as we pass under the next bridge…

…where there’s another small, lively marina. Love the small “tug-style” working boat

11. Look across the fields to the right. On the hill is Flore, where we’ve started several of our walks from…

The canal now moves away from the open countryside & becomes extremely attractive. We’d caught up with the boat we’d been chasing now, but decided to let it run ahead to get a fab photo. They’d hired it for a week & were heading back to Warwick

12. The next bridge is one of our favourites on this stretch on the canal…

…& we certainly wouldn’t mind living in one of the properties that run alongside it

On the bank was evidence of a growing trend… painting rocks & hiding them for people to find – these ones were on sale though

13. On the left & at the top of the hill’s one of the Shire’s best known canal-side pubs & restaurants…The Narrowboat at Weedon It’s had a bit of a chequered history, but is now well worth a visit

If you want to visit the pub pass under the A5 bridge & then walk up the hill. Otherwise we have a further short walk ahead along the canal before leaving it

14. The noise levels now start to rise, as the main west coast line runs to the left of the canal & we’ll cross it shortly. There were quite a few houseboats along this stretch, but keep going until the next bridge, when we actually say “Goodbye” to the boat we’ve been walking with for the last 3 miles

Pass under the bridge & then walk up the steps & cross it. If you like taking pictures of trains then stand on the next bridge as there will be one coming along shortly…

15. It’s time to leave the water behind & do some field walking across some rolling Northamptonshire countryside. The incentive is that the tea room isn’t far away. Pass through the gate & keep straight on, initially keeping the hedge on the left…

…but after a couple of hundred yards this changes to the right hand side

Look across to the left & you can see Church Stowe on the top of the hill where we’re aiming for now…

16. On reaching the field boundary we turn left & walk down into the next field. Now it should normally be easy to walk up the hill on a defined path heading straight for the church, but the farmer had ploughed the field so we had to walk round the right edge

Once you reach the other side walk through the gate & climb the narrow path up the steep slope

Who’s left their socks??

17. On reaching the top of the hill we recommend you stop & have a rest as the kind people of Church Stowe have considerately placed a bench for you to admire the magnificent views…

Refreshed? Well what we suddenly realise is that we’re actually only half way up the hill to the village so come on…put your back into it!!

18. At the top of the hill exit through the gate & welcome to Church Stowe…

Church Stowe, together with the village we’ll come to next, Upper Stowe, make up the parish known as Stowe Nine Churches where there’s been evidence of a settlement dating back to a Prehistoric triple ditch system at the Larches in Church Stowe. The close proximity to the busy A5 (Watling Street) means that the Romans would also have had an influence

There’s been various theories as to how the ‘Nine Churches’ name came about. One is that Saxon builders tried 8 other sites before settling on this one

Rest against the wall & have a look at St Michael’s Church, the tall Saxon tower of which is the oldest part of this building, & was rebuilt in the 16th century & then again in the mid 19th century

19. Walk past the church & right round the bend up the hill past the Manor which was part of a Saxon Estate. It’s believed that the present house has its origins in the 15th Century, the first part being built in 1420. Unfortunately it’s set back so we couldn’t get a picture

In the sixteenth century The Manor was owned by John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer, who was the second husband of Catherine Parr.  On his death in 1543 it was given to Catherine for her lifetime.  It’s said that Henry VIII visited Stowe whilst courting Catherine who later  became his sixth wife.  Catherine therefore owned the Manor & may have lived there whilst being Queen of England.

 Continue up the road – Church Stowe really is a beautiful village

You’ve walked up a couple of steep hills so why not spend a few moments, like us sitting on the bench by the War Memorial…

20. Chilled? Excellent then let’s go & get that cup of tea! Walk through the gate at the back of the bench & down the hill & then up again. This really is rolling Northamptonshire at its best

Plus, look across to the amazing views on the left – we really do need to promote this Shire more!!

21. Pass through the gate at the bottom & then climb once more. If you’re feeling tired don’t worry as the chilled sheep are visibly encouraging you on…

…but maybe that’s because they’re encouraging you to leave the gate open so they can accompany you to the tea room! Walk through it & up the hill to the road

22. At the road, turn left & welcome to…Upper Stowe, which is probably best know for the Old Dairy Farm Centre. Most people visit in the spring to watch the lambs being born

Today though it’s more about the craft shops & some birds!

But why we’re really stopping here is for the tea room. On a winter’s day sit inside but, if it’s warm enough, the courtyard’s much better. We had the BLT in a baguette – shame it was one of those part-baked ones  that they warm up in the oven…

23. Fed & watered it’s time to leave the high ground & descend back down to Bugbrooke, so walk out of the farm & turn left until reaching the point where the road bends left, looking for a footpath sign into the field on the right

24. The temptation once entering the field is to walk straight down the hill (not the best idea) so follow the hedge on the right to the big tree & pass through the gap

Now keep the hedge on the left until reaching the boundary in the distance & then look for the hole in the corner that descends down some steps to the busy A5

25. Carefully cross the A5 & walk straight up into the farmyard – they obviously hold some ‘scrambling’ events here…

…plus there’s some impressive old farm machinery laying around…

26. Walk through the gap in the hedge on the left & then head slightly diagonally right down the field looking for the railway crossing bridge at the bottom of the hill – just look at the views across the Shire again!

27. It’s a bit grown over, but battle through & cross the bridge…

Ooo…there’s another one of those trains

28. Cross the stile at the bottom & then walk diagonally right up the hill…

…& climb a double stile into another field, heading straight on towards ‘The Old Crown’ which we came across at the start of this walk

29. Exit through the gate at the field edge, cross the bridge & follow the track & road we walked along earlier to return to the start of this walk

Well…what a little cracker that was & it’s amazing how you can start a walk from one place & take in so many different places! This one’s perfect for a family stroll at any time of the year so…

Go Walk!