Walk 115: Whitfield Circular…”Mind that Stile!!”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4.6 miles (7.4km)

Time to walk: Just under a couple of hours at a steady pace

Difficulty: Mainly off road & across open fields & meadows. The paths are fairly well marked, & there are a couple of steady hills. Following the redevelopment of the A43, the bridleway section of the walk’s quite narrow & was very wet in places when we walked it in February 2019

Parking: We parked on the road outside The Sun Inn, in Whitfield

Public toilets: The Sun Inn at the start & end of the walk, if open, but nothing in-between. Apart from in Whitfield, it’s possible you won’t see another soul on this walk

Map of the route:

Whitfield lies in the valley of the River Great Ouse on the border between Northamptonshire & Buckinghamshire

Whitfield was a saxon parish, that was owned by the King at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, as part of his manor of Kings Sutton. It had a population of 34. In medieval times, the parish consisted of a single manor, which belonged to Worcester College, Oxford, who were also the patron of the church

The population of the parish peaked in 328 in 1831, before dropping to a low of 133 in 1951, recovering to 274 at the last census. It’s small place!

Right… Let’s Walk!

1. It’s a beautiful, cold February morning with clear skies as we park up outside The Sun Inn. The entrance is down the lane to the side. The pub has accommodation & is handy for Silverstone & also for exploring such places as Stowe Gardens

The pub sign, back out on the main road’s interesting. One side says ‘The Sun Inn’ & the other says ‘The Rising Sun’. Maybe an indication of a name change at some stage in the pub’s history

2. Across the road from the pub’s the Church of St John the Evangelist. The original church, built in the 13th century, was damaged by a heavy gale on 1 February 1869, which blew down the west tower, requiring it to be rebuilt entirely

3. Follow the road round to the left. On the wall is a sign of days gone by…

Whitfield once had a high profile “Point to Point” racecourse. However, the construction of the new high-speed rail network (HS2) connecting London with Manchester & Leeds will cut across the land here at Manor Farm. Consideration was given to realigning the course but, as this wasn’t possible, it’s now sadly been closed

4. Continue through what is a very pretty village, although the constant noise from the planes doing circuits from nearby Turweston aerodrome was slightly annoying…

Spring was definitely trying to make an appearance…

5. Exit the village along Mill Road…

…where at the bottom we find the River Great Ouse, very much in its infancy stage, & the beautiful old mill & gardens

The Great Ouse forms the boundary between Northamptonshire & Buckinghamshire & rises just down the road from here & is the one of the longest rivers in the UK. It passes through East Anglia & The Fens, entering The Wash after passing through the port of Kings Lynn

6. Walk up the lane for another 100 yards, looking for a footpath signpost into Mill Farm on the left…

We now faced a conundrum…the path goes directly through the stable yard, but the sign on the closed farm gate says “Beware of the dog. Do not enter before notifying owner”. The issues we had are (i) This is a blocked public right of way (ii) There’s no information as to how to contact the owner & there was no-one around

We made a decision to climb the fence on the left & negotiate our way around…technically trespassing as we were off the marked footpath. If you come across blocked pubic rights of way, please report them to the relevant local authority

7. Hopefully the restriction will soon be resolved, but on reaching the other side, walk to the right side of the metal training ring…

All along this valley we’re going to come across a series of ponds, which obviously attract numerous wildlife, so it’s worth keeping your eyes & ears open, as you’ll never know what you might see

8. Exit the paddock through the stile on the right

…turning immediately left & following the hedge to another stile in the corner, to pass into a much wilder, scrub land…

9. Several grass paths come & go from the sides over the next couple of hundred yards, but our one lies straight ahead – just think “I need to follow the river”, which is on your left. Eventually another stile leads you out of the shrub into a pasture…

Turn left & follow the hedge, which in turn, continues to follow the Great Ouse

The land we’re now on belongs to Biddlesden Park House, which is hidden away amongst the trees. The House now stands on what was once a Cistercian abbey founded in 1147 by Arnold de Bosco (de Bois), steward to the Earl of Leicester. Abbot William Wibert was deposed in 1198 for fraud, gross immorality & bribery. In the 14th to 15th centuries there was a long running dispute with the parish of nearby Wappenham concerning the collection of tithes. It was never a wealthy house for most of its history & would have been dissolved in 1536 if the monks had not petitioned, & paid, for its continuation. The monastery was finally surrendered in September 1538 & became the possession of Thomas Lord Wriothesley

In the 1730s, the ruins of the abbey were demolished & the house built upon the site

10. At the end of the field walk through the, very muddy, gate into the next one & keep going in the same direction…

Look across the river – there’s even more ponds now. The birds had definitely woken up & a woodpecker was hammering away to attract the grubs

11. At the end of this field, pass through another gate onto a small track, which then leads into a very large pasture

A signpost tells you the footpath heads diagonally left. It doesn’t, as you need to follow the line of trees on the right, behind which lies the house

12. At the end, walk through a gate into a final field, & look for a gate leading to a road on the right, just past a pile of rubble…

If you want to visit the hamlet of Biddlesden turn right, but this walk is now going to follow the road northwards until reaching the busy A43. The road can be quite busy so be careful. There are however, some magnificent views across the countryside

13. Eventually we reach the busy A43 & cross it…

…looking for a Bridleway sign on the left just before the large barn

14. The Bridleway used to meander through the fields but, since the conversion of the A43 into a dual carriageway, has now turned into a narrow channel between the hedgerow & the noisy road. It’s not the best stretch of walking we’ve ever done!

There’s nothing for it than to keep going, crossing a road & carrying on. A word of warning though…in the winter the bridleway might get slightly damp…

15. Eventually, & today we admit it felt like an eternity, the grass path drops down to a hard one…

Turn left & walk under the A43

16. We’re now unrestricted once more, back in the fields, so climb the track up the hill towards the copse…

This is probably the steepest slope you’ll encounter on this walk, but don’t feel tempted to rest against the fence!!

17. Just after the copse, turn right over the stile into the field…

Look straight ahead & you’ll see the spire of Whitfield Church. All you have to do now is walk straight towards it…

18. It was in this field that we met ‘Geezer the Greyhound’ & his owner. Geezer was on his daily lunchtime ‘run’. At the edge of the field is a new stile which we got stuck on! Geezer’s owner showed us how we could have used the gate instead…

Suitable back on ‘terra firma’ walk back down the track & turn right to return to the start of the walk

So…that was what we’d call a very nice, yet somewhat eventful short walk. Firstly the countryside here is beautiful, but the bridleway proved that you should maybe wait until the drier, summer months to undertake it

Secondly, there’s the issue of the restricted path through the farmyard. We hope it gets resolved & will update this page once we’re aware. In the meantime, it’s still a very peaceful stroll so…

Go Walk!