Walk 125: Roade & Stoke Bruerne Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5 miles (8.05km)

Time to walk: A nice couple of hours stroll although, if the pubs are open, you may wish to spend longer in beautiful Stoke Bruerne

Difficulty: A mixture of hard surfaces & field tracks. The whole walk is fairly flat, although there are a few stiles towards the end

Parking: We parked in the close opposite ‘The Cock’ in Roade

Public toilets: When open, the pubs in Roade & Stoke Bruerne

Map of the route: Sadly none as our mapping app stopped working halfway through the walk, but the paths are extremely easy to follow

Our walk today starts in the village of Roade which lies approximately 5 miles south of Northampton on the busy A508. The village is also divided in two by the West Coast Main Line so you’re likely to hear & see high-speed trains whooshing by

Evidence has shown there were settlements here back in Roman times. It’s been quite hard to find out much about the village. Even our Bradshaw’s Handbook’ states ” The village of Roade is situated on the right of the line, but presents no object requiring notice” – charming!

It does have one link with society mind. Glenys Kinnock, wife of former Leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock was born in the village

Shall we get going then?

Let’s Walk!

1. The starting point for the walk is the bench under the tree on the small green, near ‘The Cock’ public house…

We’ve visited this pub many times in the past & it has an excellent reputation for its drinks & food

2. Walk past the pub & continue down the High Street, admiring the many beautiful thatched properties…

You’re actually currently walking on the long distance, Midshires Way, which runs for 230 miles from the Chiltern Hills near Bledlow in Buckinghamshire, through Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire to Stockport, Greater Manchester

The route was opened in 1994 & the section that runs through Northamptonshire also takes in part of the Brampton Valley Way

3. Turn right into Church End, following the sign towards the church…

Again there are some rather lovely properties in this street, many of whose names indicate their original uses

4. At the top of the road continue straight ahead up the narrow alley past the church…

This is the church of St Mary the Virgin which was originally built in Norman times, although much of it was added to / changed in the 19th century. The tower dates back to the 13th century

5. The alley opens out into a residential area. Turn immediately left & walk on the path between the houses…

…continuing straight ahead up the hill to meet the main road

6. Turn right & cross the road at the pelican crossing & then walk down Hyde Road (i.e take a right dog leg)…

Continue over the railway bridge & follow Hyde Road right down to the end where it bends right at the paddocks

7. Continue straight ahead beside Dovecote Farm & Hyde Farmhouse…

The path soon becomes a track & passes through a beautiful hedge tunnel

8. Once through the tunnel the path opens up into the fields, where it climbs steadily keeping close to the hedge…

Ignore all other footpaths going off at various angles. Our path remains straight, passing through a gap into the next field

The hedge is now on your right

9. On reaching the copse continue straight ahead up what’s now a farm track…

At the top of the rise the track arrives at the Blisworth Road. The Midshires Way continues straight across, but that’s another walk! Turn left & carefully walk along the road for roughly 50 yards to the gate on the left…

10. Walk through the gate. The track you’re now walking on was once the horse tramway used whilst Blisworth Tunnel was under construction. Work began in 1793, but errors by contractors left a wiggle in the tunnel &, after three years work, it collapsed due to quicksand, claiming the lives of 14 men. It was then decided to begin again with a new tunnel

By the time the rest of the Grand Junction Canal had opened between London & Braunston in 1800, apart from the crossing of the River Great Ouse, the section of canal from Blisworth to the lower end of Stoke Bruerne locks was the only section unfinished. This was despite the tunnel having been under construction for seven years: the gap was filled by the temporary horse-drawn tramway you’re now walking on, over the top of the hill, with goods being transported from boat to wagon & back again. The tramway, built in 1801, was Northamptonshire’s first railway. In March 1805, the tunnel was finally opened & the rails were used to connect the main line of the canal to the River Nene until the branch canal to Northampton was constructed

11. Pass between another old railway line. This really is pleasant walking with lots of birdsong

A noticeboard confirms that the track you’re walking on is called ‘Boathorse Road’. Once the tunnel was completed the horses were brought over the hill to Blisworth whilst the boats were “legged” through it

12. Descend the hill to reach the canal. To the right’s the entrance to the tunnel…

At 3,076 yards long it’s the third longest navigable canal tunnel on the UK canal system after Standedge Tunnel & Dudley Tunnel & the ninth longest canal tunnel in the world. At its deepest point it’s roughly 143 feet below ground level

13. Follow the towpath away from the tunnel to arrive in one of our favourite places in the County, & one we’ve visited on many other walks, Stoke Bruerne…

We’ve spoken enough about what to see in the village elsewhere so we’ll just click on this link to see more. Given the pandemic, there was hardly anyone around, but you could get take-away refreshments at ‘The Boat’

14. Continue past the Canal Museum & attractive cottages…

…plus the beautiful retro ice-cream van

15. Before you leave the village you have to take the traditional photo from the bridge – you can see how quiet it was…

The route continues immediately left at the bridge along Bridge Street…do not cross the canal bridge

16. At the junction with the small green turn left up beautiful Mill Lane…

At the top of the hill continue through the gate into the field, noting the sign warning to keep dogs on leads as grazing animals may be present

17. The route is straight ahead & climbs steadily. Today the only livestock present was this couple…

18. On reaching the fence, ignore the gate on the left & pass through the one straight ahead, walking through the railway cutting…

The path leaves the woods at a junction of paths. Our route turns immediately right up the track to the corner of where it enters another field

19. On reaching the gap in the picture above, the path continues slightly diagonally left across the field towards the trees in the picture below…

Walk through the gap at the trees & continue straight ahead through the next field keeping close to the oak trees

20. At the end of this field, walk straight ahead through the gap & cross the next one – you can see the roof of Roade School in the distance

You can’t miss the stile in the hedge as it’s got a massive marker!

21. The school’s in plain view now & a sign asks you to stick to the path as you’re walking across horse paddocks. The sign takes you down the hill in the direction of the wood…

…where at the bottom of the hill you’ll find a stile, bridge & a further stile which takes you into the edge of the wood

22. Turn immediately right after crossing the second stile & follow the path between the fence & the wood round the corner & up the hill

On reaching the corner turn left & walk towards the corner of the school…

…looking for a stile in the hedge of the right leading to a path beside the main road

23. Turn left & walk up the hill into Roade once more…

Carefully cross the road & turn right down the alley just before the garage

24. The path descends the hill down towards the railway line once more, before turning the corner to reach the footbridge across it…

The new housing estate you’re now walking into was once occupied by a major employer, Pianoforte Supplies Ltd. In 1910 a London floor polishing paste firm known as J. Masters & Co began the manufacture of polishing paste on a site nearby the railway tracks along the small village train station

J. Masters & Co closed after only 12 years in business & was purchased by a former employee, C.T Cripps. In 1923 Cripps founded ‘Pianoforte supplies Ltd’ which was dedicated to the production of castings & fixtures for Piano manufacturers & also successfully produced large quantities of fixture parts for automobiles

In 1933 the factory suffered from severe fire damage & was rebuilt later that year. During WWII the factory went into full time production creating spare vehicle & aircraft parts as part of a contribution to the war effort in Britain

Later during the 1960’s employment peaked with the factory employing just over 1,800 workers, this success was however short lived & when the railway station of Roade was closed in 1964 Pianoforte began a slow journey into gradual decline.

In 1980 the factory ceased to production of piano parts altogether. Production in other areas continued for a time, but eventually everything was closed down & the large residential area we see today was built

25. After crossing the bridge walk diagonally right & up the path leading between the narrow alley with railings…

…& at the end turn left to arrive at Roade War Memorial on a small green

26. Bear left & walk past the old school & some very desirable properties to arrive back at The Cock & the small green with the bench where this walk started

So that’s it…a pleasant, varied, alternative route that takes in two attractive Northamptonshire villages, fields, woodland & canals – something that shows the assets of the county off very well

Plus now the pubs are open again, there’s plenty of opportunities for refreshment stops!

Go Walk!