Walk 135: Boughton Circular: Obelisks, Follies, Grottos & Northamptonshire’s most haunted place!! Beware…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.2 miles (10 km). I did go wrong a couple of times as the paths had changed from the OS Map I had but, as always…just follow the pictures & you won’t get lost

Time to walk: Ok…I admit we were dawdling, mainly because the Good Lady Wife couldn’t stop gawping & going “Oh My God!” at all the houses in Boughton. Plus there’s so much to stop & look at, so this walk took us 3.5 hours

Difficulty: Pretty much a flat walk on hard surfaces, tracks, & field edges. There is a stretch along a busy road, but you can easily get on the verge. There are stiles & you would have to lift dogs over as there are very few gaps for them to get through. There are no livestock on this walk

Parking: Beside the Obelisk in Obelisk Rise, Kingsthorpe, Northampton 

Public toilets: The Whyte Melville pub near the beginning & end of the walk

Map of the route: Spot where we went slightly wrong twice

Stunning houses, incredible follies, beautiful Northamptonshire countryside, big skies, a secret grotto, a deserted photogenic & a “haunted” churchyard…

What more could you ask from a walk & where is it?

Yes…right here on your doorstep!

Today’s walk is all about follies. In the 18th century the Boughton Park Estate was owned by the Earls of Strafford. William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford built six follies here. We won’t see them all on this walk as they can’t all be found, but it’ll be fun trying

We begin beside the Obelisk in Kingsthorpe – did you know there was an Obelisk in Kingsthorpe just like Cleopatra’s Needle? I didn’t!

From there we descend to stunning Boughton with its eternal spring, before entering the fields to visit a secluded Grotto & then moving on to Pitsford. Next it’s down towards Moulton with more follies & then an abandoned, haunted church – better do that bit in the daylight!

Shall we go & explore then?

Let’s Walk

1. We parked beside the Obelisk in Obelisk Rise, Kingsthorpe, Northampton…

Who knew that existed! It was built by William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford in 1764 & stands 100 foot high & is built of local, white sandstone. It’s the most prominent of the seven follies built within Boughton Park

It was erected “In memory of His Grace William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire” who became Prime Minister in 1756. The two were schoolboy friends. Sadly Cavendish became the youngest Prime Minister to die, aged just 44

It does look like it needs a bit of attention though…the goods news is that you can see it pretty much all of the way around this walk!

2. From the Obelisk walk straight North across the grass & into Obelisk Spinney Pocket Park (look for the information board)…

The information board tells you that this area, & the surrounding area, was once part of the parkland belonging to Boughton Hall, which we’ll come across shortly. The spinney you’re now entering once marked the boundary between the estates of Boughton & Northampton

3. Keep straight ahead. This is rather a lovely little woodland that’s well maintained by local volunteers…

Eventually the path starts to descend & exits the spinney into the rather elegant ‘Spinney Close’. Welcome to Boughton!

4. Walk down the Close, admiring the lovely properties, but this is simply a taster of what’s to come…

5. Continue to the end of Spinney Close where it joins a road. Look straight across the road to see a footpath sign showing you the way down a narrow alley…

Walk down the alley as it widens out, between back garden fences

6. At the end of the alley, emerge into Humfrey Lane beside the bus stop…

Note the majestic gates of Ashley House over the road, with the gargoyles on the posts. Also have a peep through the gates to see if the skeleton’s still riding his bike!

7. Facing the gates, turn left & walk to the junction – ready for some beautiful properties?

Boughton lies around 4 miles north of Northampton with a population of around 1500.  Many of the older houses were built from the distinctive yellow Northamptonshire sand/ironstone, quarried locally

The name Boughton comes from Bucca or “he-goat” farm.  The earliest reference to the manor of Boughton was in the early 11th century although the settlement is known to pre-date this

8. At the junction, turn right & walk down the hill into the centre of the village…

And just exactly how stunning the centre of this village is! From the tree surrounded by the round wall, to the ‘chocolate box’ cottages, the topiary & the red telephone box ‘library’

9. Boughton Hall lies to the left up a private road. The present  Boughton Hall was constructed in 1844 on the footprint of the original manor. When Wentworth died the estate passed to his sister, Lady Lucy Wentworth. It remained in the family until the 1920s, when it was broken up, but it was never again as splendid as it was during William’s time. The Hall knocked down in 1808, & it’s hard to see the present, Victorian house from where you’re standing

Our route continues down the hill, past the village sign & topiary, along Butcher’s Lane…

10. On the right, in an alcove in the wall, is a spring which apparently has never stopped flowing. This whole area is covered in springs & we’ll mention more as we go…

Continue along Butcher’s Lane, admiring the extremely desirable properties that run its length 

11. Butcher’s Lane eventually ends & the path continues straight ahead down into the trees…

12. At the bottom of the slope, the track opens up…

…& crosses a rather delightful small stream

13. At the the stream are several footpaths going off in different directions…

Walk ahead over the stream & then the path you require is the one on the left across a stile. A word of warning… the stile was quite uneven & slippery. There’s also no gap for dogs to pass through

14. The route now is right, between the two fences up to the hedge & another stile…

After crossing the stile, turn immediately left & walk along the field edge. The small wood you can see on the hill is Grotto Spinney & is where you’re heading…

15. Upon reaching the corner continue straight ahead into the next field – this was the muddiest spot on this walk!

Again follow the edge of the field round & up the hill to arrive at Grotto Spinney. The entrance into the wood is on your left by the post…

16. It’s now time to explore this charming area & see what you can find! It’s not immediately visible, but eventually you’ll come across the amazing Grotto, built around the 1770’s…

The Grotto is also a cover for another spring that rises in it – go inside & have a look. the water was incredibly clear. There are stories that this was once a site of pagan worship. This isn’t one of them…

17. To continue the walk you need to get back to the path on the side you entered the Spinney. So either walk back to where you entered it, or there’s another exit in the corner behind the Grotto…

Once out, continue in the same direction up the field edge towards the large tree

Don’t forget to keep looking behind as there’s some magnificent views back towards Boughton

18. DO NOT pass through the gap near the tree. Instead turn right & continue around the edge of the field. It’s likely you’ll hear some machinery noise as, over to the left’s Pitsford Quarry

Just before the field slopes down towards another gap, look for the way-marker & stile on your left

19. Cross the stile & continue along the grassy track to arrive at the road…

20. On reaching the road turn left. Be careful along this short stretch as you’ll have to stand on the verge as traffic passes. You can’t fail to be impressed by the large property on the right!

A few yards further on & it’s welcome to the village of Pitsford – sadly we’re not going to see much of it on this walk without a diversion

21. Pitsford’s a small village with a population of around 700. It’s probably better known for Pitsford Water that lies to the north-west. Ironstone is quarried at Pitsford & was formerly transported by rail; the railway line is now part of the preserved Northampton & Lamport Railway. From 1925 to 1965 the quarrying was to obtain iron ore. 

It’s also well-known for it’s school which is on the left…

The school was established 1989, & is a co-educational, 3-18 age independent school. Originally called Northamptonshire Grammar School, it changed its name to Pitsford School in September 2011. The main building is the Georgian Pitsford Hall, built in 1764 for Colonel James Money 

22. Continue down the hill to the corner where the road bends left…

If you want to see more of the village then continue down into it. However, the next stage of this walk turns right on the bend at the above houses & school sign & proceeds up the lane through the gate…

23. The narrow path eventually opens up into the fields again…

Follow the edge of the field as it firstly turns right & then left along its long side. This really is glorious walking &, if you look across to the horizon on your right, you’ll see the Obelisk where you started this walk

24. At the bottom corner of the field, IGNORE the footpath going to the right through the gate. Instead turn left & follow the edge of the field round towards the buildings in the distance…

At the bottom of the field cross the stile into the track…

…& then turn immediately right & over the next stile to continue around the field…

25. Walk along the narrow grassy path, passing Moulton College equestrian centre on the left, to arrive at a rather dodgy stile to exit onto a road once more…

Carefully cross the road & continue straight ahead down ‘Spectacle Lane’ – we’ll see where it gets its name from shortly

26. The Lane descends past a farm & around the corner’s the surprise of a lovely ford – there is a bridge to cross. The stream services the old Mill, which is off to the left…

Following the rule of “what goes down, must go up” the Lane now starts to rise out of the river bed once more & passes Moulton Mill Farm…

27. Just around the corner, the latest folly comes into view…

This turreted arch is ‘The Spectacles’ & was built by the 2nd Earl of Strafford in the late 18th century

28. Continue up to the road where, ahead of you is the Gothic style Holly Lodge, a Victorian, stone built country house, with a large adjacent glass winter garden, outbuildings & stone water tower

Holly Lodge was built in 1861 by the chemist Philadelphus Jeyes, whose brother John was the inventor of Jeyes Fluid

Carefully cross the road & have a look at the gates to the left of the Lodge. It’s called the ‘Farm Implement’ Gate’ & is made up of twelve implements. The gate was designed by Jeyes himself 

29. The route back to Boughton is now all road walking, so please be careful! Turn right & walk to the bottom of the dip in the road. In the bottom of the dip, before the fork going to the left, look for a wall on your right. Get off the road & follow the walk up & around to the right…

…to arrive at at the gates of the Church of St John the Baptist

30. A sign tells you that this is consecrated ground & people are still buried in the churchyard. Wander through into the most haunted place in Northamptonshire!

The churchyard & triangle of land outside the gates is where the original village of Boughton once stood. Walk carefully down to explore the ruins, but keep an eye out as you may be being watched…

The 14th century ruins you see before you are the only remains of the medieval village. A church on this site was first mentioned in 1201 & was built on the site of the sacred spring of St John the Baptist. The church fell out of use in the early 16th century

In its time the church had a spire, which was still standing in 1773

31. As I mentioned…you are standing in Northamptonshire’s most haunted place…if you happen to be here on Christmas Eve you may see either a handsome young man, or a beautiful girl…

Legend has it, many hundreds of years ago, a local Boughton girl married her fiance on Christmas Eve. One month after the wedding the groom died from a mystery illness. His bride was so distraught that she returned to the churchyard & committed suicide by his grave. At that time, a person that committed suicide could not be buried on consecrated ground, so she was buried outside the wall

Apparently, if a woman passes here on Christmas Eve, the ghost appears as the bridegroom & demands a kiss & a promise to meet him in the churchyard one month later. The woman fails to come back & dies! Should it be a man that passes the graveyard the ghost will appear as the bride, again demanding a kiss & a promise to meet. The same fate awaits the man…

And then…you might meet ‘Captain Slash’, alias George Catherall…an infamous highwayman who was detained whilst attempting a robbery at Boughton Fayre which was situated on Boughton Green. He was initially held in a stone lock-up on the Green

‘Slash’ was subsequently tried & found guilty of theft & was hanged in Northampton before a large crowd of onlookers on the 21st July 1826. He allegedly kicked off his boots & shouted “My mother always told me I should die in my boots, but I’m going to dish the old girl!” 

Or…you may hear (or see) the sounds of young children laughing & playing in the churchyard. Proof that many were buried here in medieval times

32. As the light was fading, it was probably time to move on…

Come back out of the church gates & turn right along the road. The large triangle of grass to your left was once Boughton Green, famous for its annual Fair granted by Edward II in 1351. Starting on 24th June it lasted 3 days. On the first day wooden ware was traded; the second the local gentry came to watch horse racing & wrestling; the third was given over to the buying & selling of livestock

33. Continue straight ahead to reach Boughton again &, thank goodness, a footpath, so no more road walking. Look across to the left…there’s the Obelisk once more

Once more there’s a large variety of splendid houses along this stretch which eventually descends into the old village once more

34. Follow the road as it bends right down pretty Church Street where you’ll find the other Church of St John the Baptist…

Parts of this church date back to the 14th century, but there have been many additions over the years

35. Next door is the Whyte Melville pub, once a private house, which became the home of a talented, but now obscure writer. George John Whyte-Melville (1821-1878), was an English novelist, educated at Eton who joined the 93rd Highlanders in 1839 & became a captain in the Coldstream Guards in 1846. The following August he married Charlotte Hanbury & they moved here to this classical double fronted Victorian villa

36. You’re now back at the centre of the village, so it’s now a case of simply retracing your steps to the Obelisk. Walk up the hill, turn left into Humfrey Lane & then right up the passage by the bus stop

At the next road cross straight over up Spinney Close & into the wood. Choose any of the paths ahead which will lead you back to the Obelisk & the start of this walk

So…what another magnificent Northamptonshire Walk this has been. Stunning villages, follies, ruined churches, & Northamptonshire’s most haunted place

And don’t forget…if someone asks you for a kiss….

Go Walk!