Walk 116: Welford Reservoir Circular – two hidden gems

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 7.7 miles (12.45km), although we did get lost so it’s probably nearer 6.5 miles

Time to walk: Roughly 2.5 hours, although there is the opportunity of a refreshment stop in Sibbertoft, half way round

Difficulty: Fairly easy walking on a mixture of hard tracks, fields & paths. We did this walk on a warm day at the end of May 2019, so the fields were very dry. It could get muddy in places in wet weather

Parking: Free parking at The Wharf in Welford

Public toilets: The Wharf pub at the start & end, & the Red Lion in Sibbertoft

Map of the route:

Welford is well know for it’s walks & we’d already done a couple along the canal, but saw one called ‘The Reservoir’ walk which looked rather attractive, so we thought we’d better give it a go

Welford, our starting point, sits right on the Northamptonshire / Leicestershire border. Indeed the starting point is about 20 yards inside Leicestershire. Given its location, approximately halfway between Leicester & Northampton, it was an important stagecoach stop. In medieval times its Premonstratensian Abbey moved to Sulby, some two miles to the east, & Welford lost its market charter which was sold to West Haddon. There is clear evidence that Welford shrank considerably during the medieval period & it’s notable that three of its neighbouring civil parishes, Elkington, Stanford-on-Avon & Sulby are almost entirely depopulated

It’s a warm summer’s day & the birds are singing so…

Let’s Walk!

1. All of Welford’s walks start from The Wharf pub & there’s parking behind it. We’ve driven past it many times &, from the road, looks like a castle…

Behind it though is the end of the Welford arm of the Grand Union Leicester canal, together with Welford Marina

Also in the car park is a notice board showing some of the village’s walks, including the one we’re doing today…

2. Come back out to the main road & turn right across the wooden bridge known as ‘Stacey’s Bridge which leads into the pocket park…

The river we’re crossing is the Avon, which is the same one that flows though Stratford on Avon & Tewksbury – it’s somewhat smaller here!

3. Turn left up Naseby Road & be careful as there’s no path, but we’re only walking on the road for a couple of hundred yards…

At the top of the rise we’re going to join the Jurassic Way Long Distance Footpath, but look at the name of the house on the right…

Now we have a flipping song in our head for the rest of the walk! However it reminds us that the group’s original singer, Allan Clarke lived (maybe still lives) in our Shire

4. Turn left up the lane which is the Jurassic Way. This long distance footpath connects the Oxfordshire town of Banbury with the Lincolnshire town of Stamford & largely follows an ancient ridgeway traversing Britain. Most of its 88 mile route is in our County

At the gate we arrive at Welford & Sulby Reservoirs & it appears there are some rather large fish in them there waters!!

5. Although the footpath goes straight on, it’s worth a quick wander out onto the dam…

Both reservoirs provide water to the summit level of the Grand Union canal – it really is a pretty place. Our walk though continues down the narrow track between the water & the livestock fields…

6. Eventually the path arrives at a fence & gate…

…so pass through it & walk across the weir that separates Welford & Sulby reservoirs. Just a quick tip…walk on the right side of the barrier otherwise you’ll have to climb through at the end. Something else that’s worth looking out for is the size & number of carp that are cruising the shallow waters here

7. On reaching the other side cross the bridge & track & walk through the gate into the fields

We have to say a big thank you to the local farmers who really have left the paths clear. Maybe we need a couple more signs but, in general, this is easy walking countryside

8. Just after the tree in the above picture climb the stile into the next field & keep walking in the direction of the marker posts, to climb the stile into the next field. Watch your step though as the fences around here are all electrified!

The path continues across the next meadow to the left of the horse chestnut tree & the large house…

9. On reaching the track, cross straight over & head for the next gate to the left of the large barn. It was so hot the ‘ladies’ were taking shelter…

10. Exit through another gate & now we’re walking along a hard track…

Keep straight ahead through the gate. Did you know you’re now walking along an old World War II airfield? No, neither did we! There’s a very interesting, modern, property on the right called ‘The Generating House’ & you can see why due to the size of the solar panels next to it

11. The track soon comes to a junction & now it’s time to head into the fields once more. Again, how helpful is this farmer for mowing the path!

Walk straight across, passing the pond…

…& then climb the stile back into the fields again heading straight up the hill

12. At the top of the rise go through the gate & head towards the farm, however when you reach the hedge turn sharp left…

We’re now walking towards Sibbertoft & you can see it in the distance. We love field walking when the paths are so clearly marked

13. Cross one more stile & field to exit into Sibbertoft

Turn right along the road & follow it round to the left. Sibbertoft in the 11th century was known as “Sigbiorn’s toft” & was large enough to support a priest. The village was prospering with enough cultivated land to support 13 ploughs together with nine slaves. In AD1066, Sibertod, as it was then known, was valued at a mere five shillings. Twenty years later it was valued by William the Conqueror’s inspectors at thirty shillings

The twentieth century saw many changes. Two world wars bought enormous disruption. In the Great War there was the loss of many males from the village. In World War II the Bosworth airfield was built with its Wellington bombers taking off low over the village roofs.  The installation of piped drinking water, electric power, sewage drains & metalled road surfaces were the most significant factors in raising living standards. New roads, such as the M1 & M6 bought people closer to the village &, at the close of the century, the A14  was started. However today Sibbertoft remains a lovely rural village

14. Turn left down Westhorpe…

Now then…this is the first time of this walk that we went wrong (& yes, there’s a 2nd & 3rd time!). Instead of following the road to the end, look for a footpath sign on the right…

15. Walk through the gate at the end into the meadow & then go straight towards the church. Don’t you love it when there’s a gate to walk through in the middle of nowhere…

Enter the churchyard & welcome to St Helen’s Sibbertoft

16. Exit through the church gate…

Now…this is where we had our first piece of confusion but we got there in the end. So our best guidance is..after coming out of the gate keep straight on. You’ll come to the junction below…

Turn right there to come to another triangular junction where we turn left along the Naseby Road

17. Walk up the road until it bends shop left, looking for the bridleway straight ahead…

The area we’re now walking in is probably one of the most important in England as we’re on the edges of the Naseby Battlefield. The Battle of Naseby was a decisive engagement of the English Civil War fought on 14 June 1645 between the Royalist army of King Charles I & the Parliamentarian New Model Army, commanded Sir Thomas Fairfax & Oliver Cromwell

Have a look at our Naseby walk to learn more…

18. Walk straight ahead & then turn right along the track just past the cottage…

Ok…here’s where we went wrong a second time. The above track bends sharp left. Just after it does look for a gap in the hedge on the right with a couple of wooden posts – it’s pretty obvious & is just before a battlefield sign. Straight ahead will be some large farm buildings. Walk through the gap & follow the edge of the stream across the fields to emerge through a gap in the hedge…

We couldn’t work the route out so continued to follow the rough track which eventually linked up with the proper route again

19. Now back we’re supposed to be, walk straight ahead across the field towards another gap in the hedge

Walking through the fields of growing corn on a day like this, is one of life’s simple pleasures

20. Walk through the gap into the next field & continue down the hill. At the bottom of the field, turn right & follow the grassy track towards the left corner of the copse…

…passing down & into the next field & going straight towards the next wood

21. Having walked across fields for quite a time, to walk through this charming wood is a real pleasure. It was full of flowers & birdsong…

Look out for all the chickens & ducks on the right just as you come out of the woods onto a track

22. The track eventually reaches a road, so carefully turn right & cross it into another meadow by the footpath sign…

Now walk diagonally right down the hill to the right of the farmhouse at the bottom of the hill. Cross the track & go through the gate into the next field…

All together now…”Baa Baa….” That’s another song in the head!

23. Keep close to the left side of the field & exit it through the gate at the bottom. Basically all you need to do to finish this walk is keep going in the same direction

In the next field were our favourite enemies…bullocks! And they were standing against the gate we had to pass through on the other side. They eventually saw us coming & moved away up the hill – phew! Actually, they were really executing a complicated pincer movement & seconds later decided to charge towards us

All you do is stand your ground & they should let you pass (we climbed the fence…)

24. Walk across the next meadow & through the gap into another one…

Welford now lies ahead, so walk across two more meadows & exit down the left side of the bungalow through a house gate onto the road

25. Cross the road into Welford Pocket Park which was built on former waste land & opened in March 2000…


It’s only small & right next to a busy main road, but it’s a real gem. We’ve pretty much finished our walk so why not have a relaxing sit by the pond

To finish continue back over Stacey’s Bridge to arrive back at The Wharf

So that’s our look at Welford’s Reservoir walk. We must admit that we enjoyed the outward leg to Sibbertoft more than the return one. Maybe that’s because the instructions we were following were minimal &, on reflection, we should have taken O/S maps

It’s interesting that, when describing the route back from Sibbertoft, the instructions say “If you get a bit lost, don’t worry, just follow the Naseby Road back to Welford.”

Never!

Go Walk!