Walk 120: Collyweston Circular…searching for the lost palace

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3.11 miles (5.0km). In summer this walk would be slightly shorter as we had to walk around the edges of the fields due to the sodden ground

Time to walk: Roughly 1 hour at a leisurely pace

Difficulty: A mixture of field & hard surfaces. One section, on road, involves a hill up to the village & the final stretch is on a path beside the busy A43. There are no stiles

Parking: We parked in the large lay-by opposite the village sign at the start of the walk on the A43

Public toilets: The Collyweston Slater pub towards the end of the walk

Map of the route: 

Today’s walk starts close to the village of Collyweston, in the north-east of Northamptonshire, about three miles southwest of Stamford, which lies just over the border in Lincolnshire

The village is on the southern side of the Welland Valley &, on this walk, we’ll be rewarded with magnificent views over it. The long distance footpaths, the Jurassic Way & the Macmillan Way, both pass close to the village

Collyweston is probably best known for the slate that was mined in the area & we’ll come across this early in the walk. We’ll look at other aspects of the village when we pass through it so…

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk begins from the large lay-by that can be found opposite the village sign for Easton on the Hill. Carefully cross the busy A43 & walk down the gravel drive past some houses, as indicated by the footpath sign…

At the end of the drive, walk through the gate to enter “The Deeps” Nature Reserve

2. This small, yet important, nature reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire. It’s one of only a few remaining fragments of limestone grassland in the county

Collyweston stone was quarried here until 1960 & used for the production of the famous slate. Today you can see all the humps & hollows created as a result of the workings…

The flora is diverse, & more than a hundred flowering plants have been recorded. There’s also a substantial butterfly population &, apparently, numerous glowworms too!

3. Follow the trodden path, as it bend through the humps & hollows, down the right side of the reserve & pass through the gate into the next area…

Continue straight ahead to exit the reserve through the gate. Beware…ever had the feeling you’re being watched?

4. On the other side of the gate’s a playing field with football & cricket pitches. Walk towards the large hut diagonally left pass the cricket square…

On reaching the hut, walk through the gap at the right side to arrive at a wide track

5. As if from nowhere, directly ahead of you is an incredible view straight across the Welland Valley. The large factory directly ahead is Ketton Cement Works, whose history can be dated back to when Frank Walker, a Sheffield builder, who was looking to establish a works for sectional buildings & cement products. In 1921, he bought 1174 acres of land, most of which consisted of old quarries & clay pits

Now owned by Heidelberg Cement, the plant produces around one tenth of the UK’s Portland Cement needs

6. Turn left along the track which forms part of the Jurassic Way & is called the  ‘Ketton Drift’…

Continue for roughly 100 yards to drive at a gate. Walk straight ahead through the gap in the hedge, following the footpath signs…

7. In dry weather simply follow the direction of the signs straight ahead across the field towards the large tree. As the field was extremely wet, we followed the edge round to the left…

Walk through the gap & head diagonally right down across the next field. In the distance you can see that there’s one further field to cross to exit onto the road

The village that can be seen in the distance is Ketton, whose name originally meant “on the banks of the River Chater“. It was originally three separate settlements: Ketton, Aldgate & Gemstone but, as they grew, they merged to form the village that is Ketton today

The village gives its name to Ketton stone, which is quarried locally & the limestone is used to make cement, hence the closeness of the Ketton Cement Works. The reason the area is so rich in these minerals is it was once covered by a shallow tropical sea

8. Walk across the next field (or, in our case around it) & carefully pass onto the road

Turn left & walk up the hill into the village of Collyweston itself. If you’re feeling weary, just past the 30 mph limit sign is a bench with fine views across the valley

9. Enter this beautiful village & follow the lane as it bends to the left…

The area around here is thought to have been the site of Collyweston Palace which had been the home of Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond & mother of Henry VII. An extensive Tudor palace, visited by Henry VII, Henry VIII, Catherine Howard & Elizabeth I, it was dismantled about 1640

The palace was also the place where a sad farewell was made to the 14 year old Margaret Tudor as she progressed north to take up her position as Queen of Scots

10. Turn right along New Road…

…& then left up the High Street, which doesn’t appear to have changed for years. The Village Shop is run by volunteers for the benefit of the community & is a great place to stop for snacks, fresh sandwiches, hot & cold drinks & locally sourced products etc. It’s open seven days a week & you’ll be sure of a warm welcome

At one point in its past Collyweston once had five pubs & two brew houses which served a population of just 361. Some of the old pub sign stands can still be seen up the hill

11. The Church of St Andrews is on the left, halfway up the hill. It ‘s open every day & contains an exhibition about Collyweston’s Royal Palace in The Lady Chapel

Continue to the junction with the busy A43 where, directly ahead over the road’s ‘The Collyweston Slater’

The village’s historical society tells us that the pub was originally a 17th century coaching inn called the Slaters Arms. It was renamed the Cavalier in 1973 for a period, before reverting to a name similar to its original. There were originally three cottages next to the inn

12. The final part of this walk is actually quite disappointing as it simply follows the path beside the A43 all the way back to the lay-by where it started…

One thing to look out for though is the building on the right that has a large horseshoe over its door. This was originally the village forge

So that’s our very short stroll around quite a beautiful area. As we said, it would probably be easier once the fields had dried out as the routes would be more direct. If you’re feeling energetic, this walk could be combined with Walk 74 from Easton on the Hill

Go Walk!