Walk 128: The Ecton Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5km)

Time to walk: Roughly 2 hours 45 minutes, but that included taking pictures, but not the well-earned pint at the end

Difficulty: Village paths, a short stretch of road, field & riverside tracks & crossing fields, very muddy in parts

Parking: Roadside parking between the Worlds End pub & the school

Public toilets: Pubs in Ecton

Map of the route:

This great walk, pictures & commentary has kindly all been done & put together by Penny Gasson, one of our avid walkers, who’s kindly agreed to help me put together some new walks – thank you!

Ecton is a small village on the A4500 between Wellingborough & Northampton. For more information click on this link http://www.ectonvillage.co.uk/

Early settlers in Britain probably made their first homes in valleys such as that of the Nene, which provided water as well as wildfowl & fish. Ecton is just such a site & it certainly found favour with these early parishioners. In fact the parish has been described as remarkable for the large number of prehistoric & Roman sites which have been found, the oldest a Neolithic & Beaker settlement – evidence of a community there over 4000 years ago

Benjamin Franklin visited the village in 1758. Imagine the scene….

It’s late on a sunny evening in July 1758… Three men cast long shadows as they walk through the village into the churchyard in Ecton. They have called first at a decayed old stone building still known by their family name. The father, grandfather & great-grandfather of one of the men had all been born in the village & it was a niece who had showed them to the churchyard

They pause to look at the church registers before exploring the churchyard, near the north porch. Soon one of the men, a servant called Peter, will wash the moss & lichen from two of the gravestones while a younger man, William will take down the inscriptions. The third man, a portly figure in his 50s, the father of William, will watch anxiously. He has come a long way for this moment….

Slowly the moss is cleared from one of the gravestones & the inscription reveals…

‘Here lyeth the body of Thomas Franklin who departed this life January the 6 Anno Domini 1702 in the sixty fifth yeare of his age’ and on another gravestone nearby, ‘Here lyeth the body of Eleanor Franklin the wife of Thomas Franklin who departed this life the 14th of March 1711 in the 77 yeare of her age.’

The portly man, Benjamin, has found what he came to Ecton to seek…evidence of his roots. Now many Americans visit the village of Ecton for the same purpose, to search for the roots of one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America…Benjamin Franklin.

Ok…

Let’s Walk!

1. From the war memorial below head down the High Street. You will past the Three Horseshoes (doesn’t do food) & some lovely ironstone cottages. We will see more of Ecton Hall at the end of our walk…

Love the combined village sign & notice board

2. Look out for this lovely cottage sign & the old “School for poor children” – I can’t find any details on the history of this…

3. Continue along the High Street until the houses end. Be careful as this is a fairly busy road & there is no path & the noise of the A45 gets louder

Not sure that is a good place for a bath…

4. You’ll soon come to the bridge over the A45. Cross it & look for the bridleway sign on the left immediately after the bridge. There was lots of fly-tipping along here…

Having walked over lots of old carpet, you can see the path ahead between 2 large stone blocks…

5. Carry on along this track, turning right when you come to the next set of concrete blocks…

Turn right here & follow track until you reach two separate of bridges. It was here I saw a couple of swans…one of them appeared to be asleep!

6. You’ll then see a sign saying you have reach the Ecton Complex, which is for “Members Only” fishing. Take the path slightly to the right as signposted below…

7. Go over the next, old packhorse bridge into the water meadow. You can see the lock & Cogenhoe Mill caravan park ahead of you (always one of the first areas to flood after heavy rain)

Continue towards the old mill building, where a plaque says this was a site of several watermills in continuous use from Domesday to 1950…

8. Immediately after the mill building look out for the red footpath sign below…

You’ll follow the ‘Nene Way’ all the way to Whiston lock as the path winds around to the right of the river. There’s supposedly been sightings of a kingfisher along here but I haven’t seen it yet…

9. This is a lovely stretch of the Nene, very peaceful, Look out for the small seat someone has attached to a post…

Continue walking alongside the river & eventually Whiston lock will come into view

Look out for the German registered dredger that’s been here for sometime…

10. When you see the footpath sign turn left first over the lock & then over a second bridge into a small patch of woodland…

After a few minutes you’ll see the wooden bridge below. Cross it (it’s very slippery) & follow the path round the edge of the quarry workings

11. This path has been diverted because of the quarry workings, but you can’t go wrong as it is fenced on either side…

12. Continue to follow the track until you reach the fork below. Take the left hand path onto the bridge over the A45…

13. Continue walking along the Nene way towards Earls Barton with the road to your left, past Whites Nurseries

14. When the path runs out, carefully cross over the road & continue past the Earls Barton sign & two “30”signs

Just before the 7.5 tonnes weight limit sign there’s a hidden footpath sign in the hedge on the left hand side

15. Go through the gate into a large field.

Don’t cross the field in the direction of the large brick building, but walk diagonally left & look for the footpath sign & gate in the trees between the telegraph pole on the left & the tree on the right…

16. Go through the gate & follow the first field keeping the wood on your left. Go over the small bridge into the next field…

17. Follow the field uphill through three trees until you reach a farm track. Continue straight for another couple of fields until you can see Ecton village in front of you…

18. Look to your right to see Ecton Hall. The first recorded owner of the main manor, in the Domesday survey, was Bondi. He was succeeded by Henry de Ferrers, who also owned the nearby manors of Earls Barton (his chief manor), Great Doddington, Wilby & Mears Ashby

Ownership descended through the Duchy of Lancaster to the Montgomery family, who held it until 1574 when the brothers William & Theophilus Montgomery sold the estate to Thomas Catesby

In 1712, for only the second time since Domesday, the estate was sold again. The buyer was Thomas Isted, whose family had originated in Denmark

In 1881 the estate passed by marriage to the Sotheby family to Charles Sotheby who died in Antigua in 1887 whilst on a yachting cruise! It continued through the Sotheby family passing to Colonel Sotheby who died in 1954 at the age of 83

His nephew & heir, Commander Sotheby, decided to sell up the treasured contents of the house and it fell into ruin for many years

It was finally rescued by a property developer & turned into luxury apartments

19. Go through the gate below into Barton Field &, at the end, turn right up the High Street & return to your car…

It’s worth stopping for refreshments at the ‘Worlds End’ a really good gastropub

So that’s it…another fantastic walk & thanks Penny for doing this one for me. Lots to see & experience so…

Go Walk!