Walk 131: Everdon – Fawsley – Preston Capes Circular (Get ready to roll!)

Distance: 6.7 miles (10.89 km)

Time to walk: Roughly 3 hours, but then I did take lots of photos. Plus I couldn’t resist sitting on “a stile with a view” in Preston Capes

Difficulty: Mainly across fields & a small bit of road walking. Be in no doubt…this is a hilly walk & may be muddy at times. There are also numerous stiles, some of which are not in the best condition & also there are lots with no gaps for dogs, so you’ll need to lift! Also, expect livestock, mainly sheep, but there were a few cows, all of which didn’t bother me

Parking: Carefully on the road in Everdon

Public toilets: The Plough Inn at the start & end in Everdon 

Map of the route:

Today’s walk has some of the most stunning scenery Northamptonshire has to offer & some of it’s biggest hills. Indeed the County’s highest point, Arbury Hill is close by

It begins in the beautiful village of Everdon, before climbing Everdon Hill for magnificent views & where you can pretty much see all of the route. Walking along a ridge, the path then descends into Fawsley Estate with it’s magnificent Hall. From there we continue across more hilly fields to beautiful Preston Capes. Lastly there’s more hills, before a final, magnificent descent back to our starting point

I guarantee it will not disappoint! So…are you ready?

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts by the Green in the beautiful village of Everdon

Everdon lies some 3 miles south of Daventry & has seen evidence of both Saxon & Roman occupation during its history. It’s thought the Saxons buried their dead on the edge of Everdon Stubbs, the protected ancient woodland just east of the village

We don’t visit Everdon Stubbs on this walk, but it’s well worth a separate visit. The Stubbs is a deciduous woodland covering an area of approximately 100 acres & was once a famous hunting covert. The land now covered by the woods was originally grazing land for Wild Boar, from which Everdon gets its name, from Old English “eofer-dūn,” meaning ‘boars hill’. In the spring the area is covered with its famous carpet of bluebells, extremely well known throughout the county

Everdon village lay on a route on the way to the important Royal Saxon Estate at Fawsley, which we’ll visit on this walk

Walking around the village there are signs of the thriving place it once was. Just look at the names of the houses & you can imagine what life here was like many years ago

2. Continue straight up the hill…autumn is definitely coming…

There’s some beautiful properties in this village…

3. At the junction take the left fork towards Fawsley

The road starts to climb & then begins to bear left. Opposite the impressive Farthing House look for a half-hidden footpath sign & gap in the hedge on the right…

4. This is the first of many stiles to be negotiated on this walk…

Once safely across, bear immediately left & follow the hedge line up the hill…

5. Whenever we walk, one of our sayings is always “Don’t forget to stop & look behind you!” You’re only 5 minutes into this walk, but this is one of the things to do at this point as the view is quite magnificent…

6. The path to Fawsley is really easy to follow as it’s dead straight so no deviations please! Still with the hedge on your left cross the stile out of this first field…

…& there the path is straight across the next one. If the field has been ploughed, you’re looking towards the first large tree from the hedge on the right (as below)

7. On reaching the hedge guess what there is? No…wrong just a gap through to the next field this time…

…but once again it’s a dead straight route

8. You’re now standing on Everdon Hill, 610 feet, or 186 metres tall &, in hill-terms, known as a “tump”. Look across the stunning hills & dales to your left, where you can just make out Preston Capes church, part of this route…

It also gives you an idea of some of the hills you’ll be walking up & down!

9. On reaching the hedge please be careful. There’s a gate but the fence is also electrified…

Once safely across, the path remains straight along the ridge – go on…it just makes you want to smile!

10. At the next hedge is even more of an obstacle. This time it’s a gate & a stile &, yes…an electric fence too!

Finally clear, walk straight across the next field. This is the last part of the ridge you’ll walk upon before beginning the descent towards Fawsley

To the left’s an old farm building…

11. On reaching the gap…Stop!

Just stop & take in the view that spreads out before you. This is Northamptonshire in all its glory. Straight ahead you can see Fawsley Hall & Church &, to the left is Preston Capes. How good does this make you feel & also proud of our wonderful County…

12. Time to move on, so continue towards the tower on the horizon…

There’s another stile to negotiate as you start to descend. There were lots of sheep in this field

13. Pass the farm on the right…

…& finally exit the field through a gate onto the lane

14. Cross straight over the lane & through the gate into another sheep-filled field. This is the last hill you’ll climb before arriving in Fawsley. Keep straight ahead as before, noting the grand oak tree…

The gate should be open so enter the next field & now, across to the left you’ll see the lakes of the Fawsley Estate, known as “The Canal” & “Big Water”. You’ll pass close to these shortly

15. Continue down the hill & exit the field onto the road – the trees were just starting to put on their autumn display…

Welcome to the Fawsley Estate! Fawsley is a very small hamlet & the population in 2011 census the population was less than 100

The Knightley family of Fawsley Hall developed the sheep farming at the expense of their peasant tenants, who were all evicted by the turn of the 15th century. The Hall & the Church are now all that remain of Fawsley

16. And there around the corner of the road, ahead of you is Fawsley Church…

Pass through the gate towards the Church. For the next few miles you’re going to be following the Knightley Way, Northamptonshire’s first County Path. It’s a 12 mile route which passes through attractive countryside formerly owned by the Knightley family of Fawsley Hall. The walk starts at the village of Badby & finishes at Greens Norton near to Towcester

17. Standing isolated on a grassy knoll & surrounded by a ha-ha, St Mary’s Church contains the Knightley family tombs including effigies of the 16th century Sir Richard Knightley & his wife Jane. Dating to the early 13th century, the church has many fine features such as carved poppy heads

Sadly the church was closed when I visited due to Covid-19. What many visitors come to see is the stained glass window containing the shields of the Washington family

The Washington shields are originals & were previously installed in Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire, the home of George Washington’s ancestors. It’s said that the coat of arms of The Washington family provided the inspiration for the Stars & Stripes of the American flag

18. Across to the right stands the glorious Fawsley Hall

Fawsley Hall & landscape park was created by the Knightley family. Richard Knightley, a well-to-do Staffordshire lawyer, bought the manor of Fawsley in 1416. His grandson Richard, knighted by Henry VII built the first wing of the present house

Sir Richard’s son, Sir Edmund Knightley, was a commissioner concerned with the confiscation of monastic lands after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. King Henry VIII granted the manors of Badby & Newnham in 1542 to Sir Edmund Knightley & his wife Ursula & their heirs in exchange for Alderton & Stoke. Sir Edmund ordered the building of the Elizabethan hall, which was visited by Elizabeth I in 1575, after it had passed to Edmund’s nephew, Richard Knightley, a prominent Puritan. He ran a secret printing press at the house on which were printed Puritan pamphlets & for which he was briefly imprisoned

The estate descended in the wider Knightley family, many of them Members of Parliament, to Lucy Knightley, who inherited in 1754 & built the Georgian wing of Fawsley Hall. When Sir Charles Valentine, 5th Baronet died in 1932 & his brother, Sir Henry Francis, 6th & last Baronet, died in 1938, the estate passed to the Gage family of Firle Place, Sussex, by virtue of an earlier marriage of Sir Rainald’s sister, Sophia, to Viscount Gage. The Gage family still own the former Knightley lands

Fawsley Hall is now a country house hotel & spa

19. Follow the track round to the left of the Church, passing a footpath marker & the lake, to a gate & stile at the bottom of the hill…

Now…this where I went slightly wrong! If you look at the track it heads straight up the hill – this isn’t the exact direction. Look at the direction of the arrow on the signpost. You need to walk slightly diagonally left &, when you reach the top of the rise, you’ll see the marker post in the picture below…

20. Follow the arrow down to the hedge & ditch on the left, crossing the bridge beside the big tree…

21. An arrow shows you the direction towards the top right corner of the next field. However, as it had been ploughed I had to walk around the edge, keeping the hedge on my right past the barn. Do not turn down the track past the barn…

22. On reaching the top right corner of the field there’s another marker telling you to cross the track into the next field…

Again the path is across the field up the hill in the direction of the arrow – diagonally right

23. It’s quite steep, so have a rest halfway up the hill & turn round to see another magnificent view of the Fawsley Estate & Hall…

But it’s nothing compared to the view ahead at the top of the hill towards Preston Capes Church

24. Walk down the hill across the bridge & through the next field…

Across another stile & that’s the end of the muddy fields. Until now you’ve been walking straight at the church, but now head for the far left corner. There were both sheep & cows in this field, but they weren’t interested in me

25. Climb the stile onto the road, turn right & walk up the hill to arrive in Preston Capes…

If you wish to see the village continue up the hill. If you wish to visit the Church turn right along Church Way

The Village website tells us that…”According to the Domesday Survey the land at Preston held from the King was divided into several estates. One of these, an unnamed manor, but believed to be at Preston was held by Hugh from Walter the Fleming. Here there was land for 4 ploughs with 2 acres of spinney, worked by 13 men which was worth 40 shillings

Soon after the Norman conquest, Hugh de Leycester built a castle on the summit of a spur of land to the north-east of the village & in 1090 founded a cluniac priory next to his castle. You’ll see the site of this shortly. However the priory was moved to Daventry in 1108

After Hugh de Capes acquired the manor or Great Preston he obtained permission from the Prior to build a manorial chapel there provided that the rights of the church were safeguarded. The manors subsequently descended through the families of the de Lyons & the Earls of Warwick until in 1558 they were all owned by William Butler, son of Thomas Butler of Bewsey in Lancashire

The descendants of William Butler sold the estate to Edward Knightley in whose family it remained until the death of Sir Charles Knightly in 1932, after which the lands & cottages were sold to individual owners in sales which took place in 1932 and 1937″

26. Our route though is as you enter the village, turning left up the driveway to Castle Hill…

Turn right through the large metal gate on the right of the drive into the pasture & then carry on, keeping the fence & then hedge on your left – there is a small marker post

27. Ready for another view? Well how’s about this one, where you can see all the way across to the hill near Harpole. There’s also a stile that you don’t have to climb, but I chose to sit on it for 10 minutes to take it all in. I was also lucky to chat to a local who filled me in with local information

To your left is where the motte & bailey, mentioned earlier, once stood

28. Walk down the paddock & cross the stile into the next field, where cattle were present…

The arrow on the directional sign has disappeared so you need to head for the gap in the hedge ahead, which lies to the right of the large tree in the picture below

29. Walk straight ahead to reach the small road…

…& then turn left. The next part of this walk follows the road all the way to Mantles Wood

The hill in the picture above is steep so take your time – you’re still walking on the Knightley Way

30. At the top of the hill walk past the barn & look for two footpath signs on the left. It’s time now to say goodbye to the Knightley Way which heads off to the right

Our route is the path to the left which goes down the hill back to Everdon. But just stop at the gate for a moment & take in the view once more…

31. Walk through the gate & the path is straight ahead all the way down to the farm. However…what lots of people do here is this, & you have to as well & post your videos!

32. I would suggest you stop rolling by the time you reach the first gate…it appears though that the sheep have seen it all before…

33. Continue across the next pastures & through the gate to arrive at Snorscombe Farm…

The hamlet of Snorscombe was once a thriving community. The medieval residents would have worked for the local Lord under the manorial system & cultivated the surrounding land. The Manor at Snorscombe was held by a Philip Lovell at the time of King John. By 1534 it had passed to the Knightley family

The Manor House was a farmhouse by the early 18th century & all that was left of the village was this farm, a watermill & a cottage

34. Continue on the track past the farm…

…as it bends round & exits through a gate

35. Now follow the lane past the impressive converted mill I mentioned earlier…

Eventually the lane arrives at two metal gates. Our route is through the one on the left

36. Cross the small stream & turn right at the footpath sign towards the wooden bridge in the hedge…

37. Again it’s now a straight line back to Everdon so continue across 3 more small paddocks & bridges to arrive at the cricket ground with a fine view of the Church…

The exit from the cricket ground lies in the right hand corner by the tree…

38. Walk across the bridge to arrive at the lake in the grounds of Everdon Manor House!

Follow the lake edge to the right. Don’t pass through the gate, but turn right down the narrow alley to the gate at the bottom…

Once through the gate, turn left up the lane to arrive back in Everdon

39. Turn left & enjoy a walk through beautiful Everdon, looking out for those house names to get a feel of how the village may have looked all those years ago…

40. The road bends to the left & ahead’s the Church of St Mary, which dates from the 14th century. It has been suggested that an earlier structure may have sat at this site prior to the current building. The list of incumbents reveals that a rector, Eias Capellinus de Everdone, was appointed in 1218 & the font certainly predates the current church

Local ironstone was used in the construction of the church, & it’s believed that the Bernay Monks were involved in the work, importing their own stonemason from France to complete the work. The parts of the building still visible, which date from the 14th century, include the north doorway, the north aisle & east windows

Some say that it was the churchyard of St Mary’s, & not St Giles of Stoke Poges that was the inspiration for Thomas Gray‘s famous elegy “In an English Churchyard”. This theory suggested by Rev. H. Cavalier, the rector of Great Brington in 1926, is based on observations comparing the two churchyards & the lines in the poem

41. You’re almost at the end of this walk, so if you fancy some refreshments, to the left of the Church is The Plough Inn…

Continue past the church to arrive back at the Green & the start of this walk…

So that’s it…the end of a stunning, hilly walk that shows a different side to Northamptonshire. Aren’t we lucky to live in such a beautiful County

Go Walk!