Walk 140: Barton Seagrave & Wicksteed Park

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Roughly 3 miles with wandering (4.83 km) 

Time to walk: Roughly 1 hour, but it could take you all day depending on stops for feeding the ducks, the swings, picnics & generally just walking round the beautiful grounds

Difficulty: This walk is perfect for when the ground is muddy & wet. There are no stiles, &, apart from a short walk across the meadow this is all on hard paths. Please be aware that at several times of the year there will be livestock present in Castle Field – Points 3-5 so please keep your dogs on the lead in this area

Parking: Near to the church & the village green in St Botolph’s Road

Public toilets: Wicksteed Park when open

Map of the route:

This walk starts in the village of Barton Seagrave & then passes into Wicksteed Park. Barton Seagrave still has a real village feel about it with its green, old cottages & a church dating back to Norman times

The magnificent Hall was originally built in 1550 by the Humphrey family. Over the years it passed through several hands until being bought by Charles Wicksteed in 1904. He laid out Wicksteed Park within its boundaries. On his death, the house & the park passed to the Wicksteed Village Trust. It was a hotel for a while, then a nursing home for the elderly. For a while it housed part of the NHS on the ground floor, before becoming an arts centre. The first floor and stables accommodated the artists & designers. It is now home to the Barton Hall Hotel

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk starts close to the church & village green in St Botolph’s Road…

St Botolph’s church is one of the oldest churches in Kettering, parts of which date from 1120-1130 AD, when the monks of Kenilworth were responsible for building it. Much of the rest of the building is 13th century. St Botolps’s is known locally known as ‘St Bots’. There are memorials to Jane Floyde (died 1616) wife of Hugh Floyde, rector, who is depicted at a prayer desk attended by five children, & also to three John Bridges (died 1712), the county historian (died 1724)

There’s also another memorial in the church which commemorates a way of life when people rarely moved from their place of birth, & a trip to Northampton was a big adventure! The inscription on it says…

“Here was she born and bred
Here she was married
Here did she live and die
Thus was she buried
This brass can say no more”

2. Cross over the village green & the road so you are facing the delightful thatched cottages, the Old Forge & the Workman’s cottage…

Look left for the footpath sign that leads into Wicksteed Park Nature reserve: Castle Mound

3. Castle Field is part of a 14.2 hectare nature reserve which, together with Wicksteed Water Meadows, form part of the Wicksteed Park nature reserve managed by the Wildlife Trust.

I have been advised by the Livestock Officer from the Wildlife Trust BCN that livestock are present here at certain times of the year – they will try to signpost when they are present. They have suffered several dog attacks before, so please keep your dogs on leads whilst walking through the nature reserve

Look out for flora, including Great Burnet & Marsh Marigold. Plus there are grass snakes

Here is the site of Barton Seagrave Castle, built in the early part of the 14th century by Nicholas Segrave the younger, but became ruined after 1433. The site is often termed a ‘castle’ but the remains suggest that there was never much more than two simple moated enclosures, one of which held a manor house

The two moated enclosures were linked by a water channel & associated fishponds & water channels. To the north east of one of the moats lies part of the remains of the shrunken medieval village of Barton Seagrave

It was a bit muddy on the other side of the gate, but I did the whole walk in trainers after a morning of rain

4. Walk across the field where there are lots of mounds to explore…

5. At the end of the field pass through the gate…

…& then turn almost immediately left & go to the side of this gate

6. Walk the slope until you reach the top and then right, you are now at a pedestrian entrance to Wicksteed Park…

Wicksteed Park opened in 1921, making it the oldest theme park on the UK mainland. Its founder, Charles Wicksteed purchased the land in 1913. His initial goal was to create a model village for the local community, however following World War I & housing reforms, Charles looked to develop a park for people to spend their leisure time. He set up a charitable trust in 1916 & went on to build a number of prefabricated houses, some of which still exist & are within the park grounds

The large lake, a significant feature of the park, was dug by hand & steam ploughs in 1916-17. The railway, always a favourite with visitors, was opened in 1931

As an inventor & engineer Charles designed & built play equipment, often using bits & pieces from his engineering business. He created swings & slides to thrill young & old alike. This business grew, eventually exporting play equipment to over 80 countries around the world

In June 2020 it entered administration, because of the loss of revenue due to Covid, but in October 2020 it was given £247,000 from the Covid Recovery fund with the hope it can reopen in spring 2021

7. Walk down the path that leads into a small arboretum…

Turn left here. There’s plenty to explore in this area, but follow the path round to the left…

8. Cross a footbridge & the miniature railway line. On reaching the gravel track, turn left…

You’re now on the Lakeside walk. Here you can take all the time you want, but head clockwise round the lake…

9. There are plenty of duck feeding & photo opportunities along here. Keep walking clockwise round the lake & take in the great views…

10. You can see one of the attractions over to your left…

Go through the gate, passing the boating lake

11. Once past the boating lake, you can see the full extent of the grounds here. Take time to explore, the Carousel café is open from 10.30am (Nov 2020) so is worth a visit

Here’s a map if you want to explore further, you can download it by clicking on this link

12. There were lots of geese out on the grass today…

Pass the ferry & cross the bridge & the railway line…

13. The exit gate is currently padlocked due to ongoing maintenance so turn right at the Arboretum sign & follow the path with the allotments on the right

At the top take the path through the nature reserve straight in front of you & re-trace your steps back to your car

This is a great little walk the takes in Barton Seagrave & also visits the famous Wicksteed Park. It’s even better when it’s quiet & the attractions aren’t open

Go Walk!