Walk 159: Wilby Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3.5 miles (5.6 km)

Time to walk: Roughly an hour & a quarter

Difficulty: Mainly on village paths, field edges & across fields. You also have to cross the busy roundabout on the A45, but it was much easier than I expected. This walk has no stiles &, when it was done in November 2020, no livestock

Parking: Park as close to the church as you can, Church Lane is one way traffic & the church is next to the school so is likely to be busy on school days

Public toilets: The Horseshoe in Wilby at the start & end of the walk & The Stag’s Head at Great Doddington when open

Map of the route:

This is another walk where the legwork was done for me Penny Gasson in November 2020

Wilby is a small village right on the town boundary of Wellingborough. It had a population of 624 in 2011

First recorded use being in the Doomsday book as Wilebi, Wilby can be identified as a Danish settlement by its irregular triangular shape & the fact that it is smaller in acreage than a typical Saxon parish; 1100 acres as opposed to 2000 acres or more.  It’s also probable that the area had no owner & had been deserted possibly since the last Romano/British occupation several hundred years before

The name Wilby has its origins in this period.  Many Scandinavian settlements had the suffix ‘by’ which means ‘Farmstead of a man called Willa or Villi (Old Scandanavian).  Not glamorous maybe, but over 1000 years old & virtually unchanged, it’s a small link with history

Between 1933 & 1958 Wilby had a lido, which was built as an alternative to swimming in the River Nene. The site is now a mobile home park…

1. This walk starts at the church of St Mary the Virgin. The church is built with local pale limestone & deep brown ironstone. It stands within a lovely churchyard…

From the general survey of 1085, the Doomsday Book states that “Wilby” was in the hands of Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror. Provision was made in the 14th century for the building of a new, more permanent church probably on the site of a previous wooden building, built in this originally Danish settlement

The tower & spire, in the “Decorated Style” is said to be one of the most attractive in Northamptonshire.  The tower is square at the base, then octagonal with a spire & a parapet of quatrefoils with corner pinnacles & miniature flying buttresses. There are some good gargoyles & corbels, though very weathered

2. With your back to the church, walk ahead down Church lane until you reach the main road…

3. Cross over & turn left, passing the Manor House…

The property Grade 2 listed & was built in the mid 18th century 

4. Soon after passing the Manor House you’ll see a footpath sign pointing right…

Follow lane in the direction of the signpost to arrive at a gate

5. Pass through the gate & walk down the hill…

…crossing the footbridge in the picture below

6. Walk up the steep hill. This really is a lovely field

Once you reach the top of the hill, look behind you for fabulous views across Wilby…

7. Head diagonally right towards a marked gate in the hedge…

When I did this walk the field was bare & there was therefore no clear path. The correct direction is diagonally left to the top, left corner of the field…

On reaching the corner, turn round once more to see the fabulous views back to Wilby…

8. Walk up the track, keeping the hedge to your left…

Soon you’ll reach a concrete track & will hear the A45….

9. Turn right & cross the bridge over the road…

Once over the bridge you’ll find there are two paths – take the right hand one

10. Follow this path to the end & you’ll arrive in Wilby Lane in Great Doddington

Great Doddington has already been covered in Dave’s wonderful Walk 71, but we walk in a part of the village not covered previously. When you reach this junction go straight on towards the main road…

11. Walk on the left hand pavement & look out for the footpath sign on the left…

Follow this path up to the church & through the churchyard

St Nicholas’ church was founded in the early 12th century, as a nave, with north transept, chancel & west tower.  The tower’s height was increased late in the 12th century.  Early in the 13th century, the chancel was rebuilt, probably with an increase to its length.  The chancel’s length was again extended, by 8 feet, between 1290 & 1300.  Early in the 14th century the aisles appear, leaving only the upper walls of the nave, above the arcading, a scalloped capital near the south door & the lower part of the tower, from the original 12th century church

The Vicarage used to be the Manor of the village

12. Continue to follow the footpath, which soon comes to a lane with the school opposite…

Turn down the lane

13. Walk down the road for a short distance & look out for a narrow alleyway on the left…

Go up the alley & turn right. Walk across the school car park until you reach the recreation ground, a great facility for the village

14. Continue on the footpath through a couple of gates. Look out for the ponies on the right. They were keeping their distance when I walked past!

The path opens up & then turns right on to the main road

15. If you want to stop for refreshments The Stag’s Head is opposite, otherwise turn left & walk up the Ridge…

When you reach this point, take the footpath & go through the gate

16. Go through another gate (this one was already open) & continue along the field edge…

On passing through the next gate, you’ll see the IBIS hotel & McDonalds getting closer. Continue along the edge of the field & pass to the right of this pole

17. On the left you’ll see a gap in the hedge which you need to carefully walk through…

Walk down to the metal gate on the right. PLEASE BE CAREFUL – this is the main A45…

18. Turn left & carefully cross over the road. You are heading to the left, on the opposite site to the IBIS, so you only have to cross over one carriageway

Head up the slope towards the mobile phone masts

19. As you pass through the gate below, the path is non-existence, but basically it runs parallel to the road & fence, so you can’t go wrong

Further along I met a local couple walking their dogs. They said you can cut into the field at this point on the left & the farmer is happy for people to walk along it, but I carried on through the hidden brambles

20. You’ll know you are going in the right direction as you’ll see Sainsbury’s ahead of you…

Eventually, after a difficult walk through the undergrowth, I exited on to this old travellers pitch

21. Walk round to the left & enter a field. It was here I met the couple who advised I could have entered the field earlier to avoid the brambles…

Continue down the hill along the path to a concrete bridge over a stream. Follow the path behind some houses

You can see how close you are to Wilby…

22. Leave Brook Vale & turn left on to Main Street…

Cross over the road & walk up Main Street. You’ll pass the Horseshoe pub if you want to stop for refreshments…

Charles Tassel was brought from Scotland to Ecton by Sotheby’s of Ecton Hall as a carpenter. He later moved to Wilby where he leased & converted, from Miss West of Ancaster House, three cottages dating back to 1812, into a free house called The Horseshoe Inn

To finish this walk, turn right into Mears Ashby Road & retrace your steps back to your car