Walk 127: Piddington Circular Walk

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5.65 miles (9.10 km)

Time to walk: Roughly 2 hours, but you may wish to just stop & admire the amazing scenery. This isn’t a walk to be rushed

Difficulty: Virtually all across open fields so may be muddy in winter. This is arable land & the farmers do a great job of clearing the paths. In winter they won’t be so obvious & there are some ‘turns’ that aren’t signposted, but trust my instructions. This is an easy walk & there are no stiles. Livestock-wise we passed through one pasture with six docile sheep & met a couple of friendly dogs near a house. If you have a dog that likes to be mostly off the lead, this is a good walk for you

Parking: We parked carefully on the road near the Spread Eagle pub

Public toilets: The Spread Eagle at the beginning & end of the walk if it’s open

Map of the route:

Today’s walk starts in the beautiful small village of Piddington, around six miles to the east of Northampton, amongst some glorious rolling countryside & massive skies

The village has strong links with the Romans. Near Piddington is the site of the Piddington Roman Villa One of the most important roads in the country, used to transport troops, ran through the village

Several residents of Piddington & neighbouring Hackleton were part of the “dissenter” church movement in the 18th Century. William Carey lived in Hackleton, where he worked as an apprentice shoemaker, & later briefly in Piddington with his wife Dorothy Placket, before departing on his voyage with the Baptist Missionary Society to Bengal. The couple were married in the local church in 1781. Initially Dorothy had refused to accompany William on his voyage, but with all decided & farewells written, the missionary party were denied a licence to travel on a vessel of the East India Company by the company directors. The opportunity then arose to travel in a Danish East Indiaman, & Dorothy was finally persuaded to leave Piddington & join her husband & son, Felix

Today’s route heads generally south out of the village before skirting the edge of Salcey Forest. From there it turns north-west passing close to stunning Preston Deanery before ending with an incredible uphill stroll towards Piddington’s beautiful church

What’s not to like & it’s a glorious sunny day so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Today’s walk starts outside the Spread Eagle pub in Forest Road…

Facing the pub turn left & walk up the hill. You can see from the colour of the sky what a beautiful day it was

2. Look for a Bridleway sign beside the large white house on the left. It’s time to leave the village &, until we return, the rest of this walk’s pretty much across open fields

The enclosed part of the Bridleway is short & you soon emerge into the fields…

3. So in summer the path is easy to see. In winter I would recommend heading slightly diagonally right (not much!). When you get further across the field, look for a line of telegraph poles heading off to the right

There’s bridge just to the right of the bush in the above picture…

4. And there’s those telegraph poles which are showing you the way of the path so either walk straight towards them or walk around the edge of the field…

The track at the top of the slope is actually the former Northampton to Bedford railway line & Piddington had its own station

The line & station were opened in 1872 & operated by the Midland Railway, which became part of the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923 in 1923. The line closed to passengers in 1962. Until 1939 the western end of the line was at Northampton St Johns Street Station.That station closed in 1939 & the trains were diverted into Northampton Bridge Street Station & from there they ran into Northampton Castle Station

For a short while from December 1892, Piddington & Horton were also served by the Stratford-upon-Avon & Midland Junction Railway, with a station called Salcey Forest to the south west of Horton & south east of Piddington

5. Cross straight over the old railway into the open field…

…& now the route is easy as it follows the telegraph poles all the way across it

Isn’t Northamptonshire at harvest time just stunning!

6. On reaching the other side of the field look for a kissing gate in the hedge…

You’ll see from the above picture that the farmer’s done a great job of indicating the path through his property. After passing through the gate bear right…

7. The exit from the farm is diagonally right, but have a look at the house as it has some magnificent stags in the grounds & a very old oak tree…

8. There’s a stile that obviously once used to be climbed, but now the gate’s wide open so walk through into the pasture…

This is where I encountered the six docile sheep, but they’re very kind, as you can see from the above picture, as they’ve marked the diagonal route to the top left corner of the field for you!

At the top of the field you’ll find another kissing gate to exit onto a road

9. Walk up to the top of the lane & turn right passing through the first gate towards Piddington Lodge

At this point you feel like you’re trespassing, but you’re not so don’t worry. After a short while you come to an even more impressive security gate. Luckily it has a gate at the side which lets you through

10. Continue along the road, passing the rather nice properties on the right…

After the second property & where the fence bends, as in the picture below, our route bears right down past the house. At this stage, if you wish, you have the option to continue straight ahead through the barrier into Salcey Forest…

11. Salcey Forest’s for another day so turn right past the house. It was at this point I encountered a couple of enthusiastic, but friendly dogs

At the bottom of the lawn is a gap & a bridge over the ditch leading back into the fields once more…

12. This is actually the same large field you followed the telegraph poles across earlier. Now…if the corn isn’t there, it’s important that you follow a slightly diagonally right direction to the top of the rise…

Once you’re at the top of the hill you’ll see in the distance some farm buildings & telegraph pole, as in the picture below. This is where you’re aiming for

13. But before you can reach the buildings the path dips again & crosses another bridge…

…before now finally climbing once more towards the barns

14. Exit the field through the gap onto the Bridleway…

Ignore the fact that the signpost points left as your route lies to the right

15. Just around the corner’s a sign showing the bridge you’re approaching is weak. This bridge crosses the old railway line again that you crossed near the start of this walk…

After crossing the bridge you’ll see another Bridleway sign showing that the path now turns immediately left keeping the farm house on your right

16. If you look across to the left you’ll see there’s an airstrip. The Bridleway heads dead straight now for almost one mile, passing the white container…

 

This is amazing “big sky” walking & is pretty much what the rest of the walk will be like so just enjoy! Look at the fantastic view to the right across to Piddington church, which you’ll visit near the end of this walk

17. The Bridleway drops down the hill, but keep heading straight. If you look ahead up the hill, you’ll see an orange & white gas pipe marker post – that’s where you need to head…

Ignore the path going off to the right beside the hedge & continue past the gas marker

18. Walk straight past the post & through the gap in the hedge. Now continue in exactly the same direction…

The Bridleway leaves the hedge behind & continues straight down the field. This really is glorious walking

19. Across to the right’s what looks like a small wood (stunning)…

…& across to the left’s the windmills lining the M1

20. At the bottom of the hill the path reaches a crossroads. Bear right up & around the corner of the hedge, keeping it on your left…

In the distance now you can see the outskirts of Northampton. Continue straight ahead, past the large pile, if it’s still there towards the marker post…

21. The footpath marker post is actually by the fence to Rookery New Farm, which you can see on your left…

There are several directional markers on the posts. Our route lies diagonally right across the field towards the wood

22. On reaching the wood, another signpost guides you around its edge to the right…

Then keep going straight ahead through the gap

23. On emerging from the gap you’ll see Piddington church spire ahead once more…

Keep the hedge on your left & shortly you’ll arrive at a signpost showing another track going off to the left

24. You’re now heading towards beautiful Preston Deanery. The grass track becomes a harder surface & passes a gorgeous property…

Continue straight ahead along the road, ignoring the footpath going off to the right

25. At the bottom of the hill continue on the road, beside the fence, up the hill & around the right bend past Rookery Farm

Unfortunately you’re not going to see much of the hamlet on this walk, but it’s worth driving through, or strolling separately as it’s stunning

26. As you turn the corner at the top of the hill, you’ll see a footpath sign telling you to continue straight ahead…

The hard surface gives way to a rougher one again as it heads towards the local sewerage works

27. On reaching the sewerage works, bear right at the gates…

The directions back to Piddington are now very simple…Head straight towards the church spire! So at the corner of the hedge carry straight on down the hill…

28. In the bottom of the dip, cross the bridge under the tree…there’s the spire!

Continue up the hill towards the church – this really is a fabulous end to the field-walking part of this walk

29. At the top of the hill pass through the gate. That was a little climb so, if you feel in need of a rest, there’s a fantastic bench to rest on before entering the churchyard…

And the view’s not bad either!

30. To continue the walk pass through the churchyard…

The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, Piddington with Horton was built in about 1290, although it is believed that there may have been a place of worship on this site prior to that date

The tower rising to a spire (described as ‘strange & unsatisfactory’) was rebuilt following a rate levy in the Parish in 1847. The style of spire is similar to those where a wooden spire tops the tower, but in this case the spire is of stone. On the east face of the tower is the clock face of the church clock, more than a 100 years old, believed to have been made by Dent & Co., who manufactured “Big Ben”

31. Follow the path out of the churchyard. Turn back to see the full church profile…

Continue to the junction & turn left along Church Road…

…passing Highgrove House on the left (no…not that one!)

32. At the junction bear left into Chapel End passing some new houses…

At the top of the ‘End’ on the right’s Piddington Roman Villa Museum

The site was rediscovered by workmen digging for limestone in 1781. A complete mosaic was unearthed, but people from Northampton came & took it away as “souvenirs”. Trial excavation started in 1959. Since then excavation on the site has been conducted by the Upper Nene Archaeological Society, part-time, since 1979. It’s a long-term rescue excavation, since parts of the site are close to the surface & thus plough damaged.

Excavation is carried out on Sundays throughout the year, a week at Easter, three weeks in August & a further week in September

The names of two probable 2nd-century AD owners had their names stamped on some of the villa tiles. They were Tiberivs Clavdivs Vervs (Tiberius Claudius Verus) & Tiberiv Clavdivs Severvs (Tiberius Claudius Severus), presumably related. Their names suggest they were Roman citizens, but are thought most likely to have been native Britons. The villa was at its largest & grandest at this time. This is clear from objects found on the villa site which came from all over the Roman Empire. Today, Piddington may be a backwater, but at the time it was part of a thriving economy with wide-ranging trading partners

On 4 September 2004, Tony Robinson of Channel 4’s Time Team officially opened Piddington Villa Museum. The Upper Nene Archaeological Society originally bought the redundant, & de-consecrated, Wesleyan Chapel in 1992. The intervening period involved restoration, conversion & fund raising. This work was finally rewarded with a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum now displays some of the many finds made during the long-running excavation of the Piddington Villa

33. To finish this walk, walk back down Chapel Street & turn left, walking back towards the Spread Eagle & where the walk began…

Well…what a joyous walk that was! Massive skies, easy to follow paths (especially when the corn’s growing), & just beautiful scenery

It’s another that shows Northamptonshire off at it’s best so…

Go Walk!