Walk 122: Nassington Circular… this one will get you “In the Mood!”

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 7.7 miles (12.4km)

Time to walk: Just under 3 hours, although this was the hottest day of 2020 so far (May 20th) & we took quite a few drinks breaks

Difficulty: A real mixture of hard roads, fields & bridleways. There’s some inclines, but nothing too strenuous

Parking: We parked by the church in Nassington

Public toilets: None

Map of the route: 

This was our first walk after some of the “lockdown” restrictions imposed by Covid-19 in May 2020 & we were itching to get back out in the stunning Northamptonshire countryside

So why did we choose this walk? Well…in the time we’ve spent sitting around, we’ve been able to do lots of research & have found some amazing facts that we never knew. So…for example…how many people in Northamptonshire know that Major Glenn Miller conducted his orchestra’s last “hanger” concert in our County?

If you love standing in places where you can really feel history then this is definitely the walk for you

Shall we go & have a look then?

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk today starts in the beautiful village of Nassington in the east of Northamptonshire, where we park up outside St Mary the Virgin & All Saints church

The village has existed since at least Anglo Saxon times, when an Anglo Saxon hall was taken over by the Viking King, Cnut the Great, as one of his royal halls. Cnut is known to have visited after 1017, with his court including Aethelric the Bishop of Dorchester on Thames. In 1107 Henry I gave the hall & land to the Bishop of Lincoln, Robert of Lincoln, Robert Bloet, to endow a prebend

There’s a rather lovely bench next to the church, worthy of making a note of, maybe to have lunch on at the end of the walk

The village & manor were featured in Episode 117 of “Time Team”,  aired on 7th March 2004

The property is now a private home, but the Prebendal Manor & Tithe Barn Museum, & gardens, are open to the paying public on some days. The gardens only contains plants introduced prior to 1485

2. Turn away from the Manor & walk along Church Street…

Nassington really is a lovely village. On the right’s the rather fabulous ‘Elsie’s Vintage Tea Room. Check out the reviews, as it does sound a bit good…

Sadly in these tough times it was closed, but we made a mental note to come back & try it out. What also intrigued us was the Blue Plaque on the wall…

3. Continue along Church Street to the point where it bends sharp left. Our route lies straight ahead down Northfield Lane…

The Lane descends the hill…

4. Look out for Frog Hall on the left. Shortly after this, next to the delightfully named Lillypad Cottages is a footpath marker telling you to walk straight through the middle of the courtyard & then the stable area…

Once through the stables, look for a gate on the left hand side…

5. For the next 20 yards the path squeezes between two hedges & finally emerges through another gate into a wide open meadow – this is where the beautiful walking starts

The path is easy to follow as it lies straight ahead & has been trodden by many people

It was great to hear a sound we don’t hear that often these days – click ‘Play’ to hear

6. The meadow was full of an incredible array of wild flowers & it was great to see so many butterflies & insects…

Continue down the hill, through the kissing gate & into the next meadow – doesn’t the countryside look so lush

7. This is really easy walking through the next meadow to the only stile on this walk (although we’ll have to climb it again on the way back)

The blossom’s also putting on a great display…

8. After crossing the stile, you’re entering a livery so there may be loose horses around. They all looked pretty friendly to us though…

Walk through the next gate & then turn immediately right crossing the old railway line…

9. After crossing the bridge, walk straight ahead into Old Sulehay Forest Nature Reserve

Old Sulehay Forest covers 34.8 hectares & is a fragment of the ancient Rockingham Forest, a royal hunting forest that extended from Wansford to Kettering. The forest is part of the 85 hectare Old Sulehay Nature Reserve, which is managed by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, & Northamptonshire

This ancient forest has a number of different soil conditions & coppice types, & the ground flora is diverse

10. Coming out of the wood, there’s a marker post showing the path turning immediately left, parallel to the railway line. The best line is straight to the left of the water trough

The path arrives at another gate, so pass through that & then take the track, diagonally right heading up past the telegraph pole

11. At the top of the rise the track enters the woods again. There’s a choice of routes, but we decided to take the gate on the left…

…&, after a short distance, arrive at a t-junction with a bridleway

12. Turn right & follow the rough bridleway. Again, it’s pretty impossible to get lost…

13. Eventually the bridleway opens up & arrives at a crossroads with some other paths…

Note the gate on the left. This is where we’ll rejoin this bridleway later on in the walk. The gate on the right leads to Ring Haw Field Station, which we’ll visit later

14. For now though, our route lies straight ahead & through the next gate. At this point the track begins to climb & the landscape becomes more heathland in its appearance as it cuts between the woods…

It certainly is very scenic & you can see the remains of quarry works off to the left. Continue climbing & eventually the path re-enters the wood once more, before finally arriving at a gate leading onto a road

15. At this point you could easily take a small shortcut by walking straight ahead down the road until you arrive at Old Sulehay Lodge. We’d heard that the heathland route was more attractive so turned right & walked about 400 yards along the road until coming to a footpath sign on the left, just before the entrance with the massive boulders…

16. Follow the footpath sign through the small gate & walk straight ahead through the woods to arrive at another gate. Pass though this & turn right…

This is another area that has seen a lot of quarrying in the past & it’s a haven for mountain bikers. On another day we would have explored the area in more detail, but for now turn left before the trees in the above picture along a trodden grassy track…

17. It would be quite easy to walk around in circles in this area, so just remember to keep heading straight & then bear right when you can see or hear the road. At the junction with the dusty track turn right – the road will now be over a bank on your left

Continue up the hill through the gap in the bushes…

18. After 100 yards look for the cattle pens & exit from the park on the left…

Walk through the gate & turn right down the road to arrive at…Old Sulehay Lodge (you see…you could have just walked down the road!)

19. The next half mile or so is easy as we simply follow the road. There’s no path so be careful of cars as they do speed along this stretch…

Look across to the right towards Peterborough – the views across the fields are spectacular!

The road comes to a t-junction with an old Roman road that runs between Wansford & Kings Cliffe. Look directly across & you’ll see a half hidden “narrow road for cars” sign stuck in the middle of the undergrowth – we have no idea how you’d even contemplate getting a car in there!

20. Carefully cross the road & enter Croker Wood. Walk forward for about 100 yards & you’ll reach a junction with a small path that forks off to the left, running parallel to the road. Take this path…

This is very pleasant walking & some much appreciated shade on such a hot day. Again, there was an amazing array of birdsong

21. Continue along the track until you arrive at a waymarker. At this point turn left in the direction of the road, passing another marker, before eventually emerging from the woods

The pungent smell of wild garlic was heavenly…

22. Carefully turn right & cross the road & then walk left down the entrance into Kings Cliffe Industrial Estate…

Be careful along this & the next stretch of the walk as heavy vehicles use the road & track. At the main gates keep to the left & walk along the public footpath

23. The next stage of this walk follows a dusty track past the fence of the industrial estate…

Eventually it passes through a gate & into some woodland. There’s some big drops off to the left where quarrying has taken place. The current works are on the other side of the track

24. We now come to Jacks Green which was the wartime maintenance area for the USAAF base. There was a considerable amount of building work going on as planning permission has been granted for a number of holiday lodges – it seems a real shame…

The whole focus point of this walk was what we’re now arriving at. As the track splits, turn right & walk past the “Private” notice, before cutting back through the gap on the right

25. What you now walk onto is a concrete floor, at the end of which is a plinth. You’re now standing where a Callendar Hamilton hangar once stood. It not only supported the resident fighter aircraft, but played host to the last ever airfield concert from the legendary Glenn Miller

To commemorate the significance of the site to Glenn Miller aficionados, a memorial was erected on the surviving foundations of the hangar in 1987. Walk down to the plinth & turn & look back…imagine him standing where you are now conducting with his band behind him…you can really feel it!

This final concert took place on Tuesday 3 October 1944 as it was getting too cold to play in unheated hangars

Alton Glenn Miller was an American big-band trombonist, arranger, composer, & bandleader in the swing era. He was the best-selling recording artist from 1939 to 1942, leading one of the best-known big bands

Miller’s recordings include “In the Mood”, “Moonlight Serenade”, Pennsylvania 6-5000″ & “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. In just four years Glenn Miller scored 16 number one records & 69 top ten hits—more than Elvis Presley & the Beatles did in their careers

While he was traveling to entertain U.S. troops in France during World War II, Miller’s aircraft disappeared in bad weather over the English Channel

Here’s how the hanger would have look in those days. We’re not really sure what the impact of the holiday development will be, but surely this piece of Northamptonshire history has to be preserved &, maybe even better promoted

26. Once you’re ready to continue with the walk, return to where the track turned right to the memorial & then turn right, continuing in the same direction as you came from the industrial estate

Shortly the track crosses an old railway bridge. This is the disused railway line we crossed earlier in the walk…

27. Just after the bridge the track splits once more. This time take the left fork…

…& follow the bridleway for roughly 1 mile as it rises & falls through woods & heathland – there are several paths that lead off it, but simply remain on the main bridleway

28. Eventually walk through an old gate…

…& pass a pond on your left to arrive at a gate you may remember from earlier

29. We’re now back at the crossroads with the bridleway we walked along earlier. This time we’re walking straight across towards Ring Haw Field Station

The Station is run by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire & supports a wide range of training events take place here

30. Walk past the Station & through the gate at the end into the field once more…

Head slightly right towards the next gate which leads into another bridleway…

31. Continue through another gate & then the track bends right following a wire fence leading towards the first railway bridge we crossed near the start of this walk…

Walk up the field on the right & cross the bridge…

32. We’re now back at the livery & Nassington can clearly be seen in the distance once more

Now it’s simply a case of retracing your steps back over the stile, up the hill & down the narrow hedge to arrive at through the cottages at Northfield Lane

Then turn right to arrive back in Church Street & the church where we started this walk

Well…what an amazing first walk that was to experience since lockdown. It had a bit of everything…heathland, woodland, history, & a beautiful village

Please go & do this walk before the Holiday Lodges are finished. Stand where we stood & experience real history in Northamptonshire. Let’s not lose that

Go Walk!