Walk 170: Tiffield, Shutlanger, Alderton, Heathencote, Towcester & Caldecote Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 12.5 miles (20.1 km)

Time to walk: 5 hours

Difficulty: Easy, flat walking on a mixture of fields. There are lots & lots of stiles so this is not a big dog-friendly walk. The walk crosses the busy A43 twice so care is required

Parking: Considerately on the street in Tiffield

Public toilets: The George in Tiffield, The Plough in Shutlanger & various in Towcester

Map of the route:

Thanks go to Richard Parkes for doing the legwork on this long walk. If you time it right then it can be combined with a lunch stop in Towcester

Starting in Tiffield, this walk visits a number of other Northamptonshire towns & villages, including Shutlanger, Alderton, Heathencote, Towcester & Caldecote. We’ll look at each as we come to them so…

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts outside the George public house in the small village of Tiffield, which name probably means “open land with, or near, a meeting place”. There is evidence of Roman occupation with a villa having been uncovered nearby. Between 1875 – 1882 iron ore was mined just to the south of the village. A new quarry, closer to the village, was mined from 1908 – 1920

Tiffield’s population is around 350 people & it has one of the smallest primary schools in the country. The village has an excellent pocket park, which we don’t visit on this walk, but can be found on others

Tiffield was formerly the home of the famous Fossett’s Circus, & there were a number of circus animals, including elephants, that had their winter quarters at Upper Farm

2. Facing the pub, turn left & walk down the High Street to arrive at the Church of John the Baptist…

The current limestone church dates from the 13th century & is by far the oldest building in the village. It quite possibly replaced a wooden Saxon church which existed on the site when the Domesday Book was written in 1086. The church still uses the stone Norman font which was probably installed in the original wooden Saxon church. See if you can find the rather sad grave & tombstone to Samuel Kenworthy with the inscription “Died 1880 aged 15 years. Erected by his schoolfellows of Tiffield Reformatory”

Whilst at the Church, have a look at the ‘Reading Room’ next door

3. The next stop’s Shutlanger, so walk through the churchyard, crossing the stile & continuing diagonally right

Cross the road & enter the next field (there was no bull around!). Keep heading diagonally right up the hill

4. Cross a couple more stiles & then continue slightly down hill with the trees on your right…

The next stile is where I stopped for my “model shot” of the Northamptonshire Hoodies…

5. Keep walking through the abandoned karting track on the grass path. Head around the next field with the trees on your right towards the busy A43 & cross another stile

6. Now you have to cross busy A43. It goes without saying to be careful, only cross when it’s absolutely clear & just stop in the central reservation before looking again for traffic from the left. BE CAREFUL!

Safely over, cross the stile into what’s a beautiful field. Continue straight ahead towards the tall trees in the distance…

7. Pass over the next stile into another field keeping the hedgerow on your left. On reaching the gap in the picture below, turn right & continue with a hedge on your left

8. At the next corner head diagonally right across the field towards the gap in the hedge in the picture below…

Keep heading diagonally across the next field following the footpaths. This is “Big Sky” walking

9. Head towards the corner of the tree line on the left, beside the road…

Turn left onto the road & follow it into Shutlanger…

The village name means ‘Wooded slope where shuttles or wooden bars are obtained’

There was once a great medieval house here called the Monastery, but it was just a house & not a monastery in the normal sense. The village is close to Stoke Park Pavilions & originally part of the Stoke Park estate with the first palladian style English country house

Famous residents includes ancestors of the Richardson gang, an English crime gang, based in South London in the 1960s. Also known as the “Torture Gang”, they had a reputation as some of London’s most sadistic gangsters. Their alleged specialities included pulling teeth out using pliers, cutting off toes using bolt cutters & nailing victims to floors using 6-inch nails

10. Follow the road down the hill past the play park to the junction. Turn left along the High Street until you reach the ‘Reading Room’…

…& then turn right down Bakers Lane. Continue down the road & up the next hill to the top

11. Ignore the footpath sign & keep following road round to the right…

…to arrive at the main road. We can highly recommend The Plough (on the right) if you fancy some refreshments & a toilet stop

12. Cross the road down Water Lane, continuing on the bridleway ignoring the footpath on the left. At the very bottom of the bridleway is a gate (see below)

13. Turn left through the smaller gate & continue straight to the little bridge in the distance…

14. Walk over the bridge & turn immediately left, following the field edge & the stream as it winds itself around this beautiful part of Northamptonshire…

This next stretch down to Alderton is quite a long one. See the map below for additional reassurance – just follow the red dotted footpath direction with the directions below

15. So…pass through the gap below…

…& after the water ends, continue pushing forward keeping the trees on the left at all times

16. Pass through the makeshift gate (if its still there when you walk) & then ignore the gates & paths on the left. Go through the gate at the very bottom of the field to the right of the tree & cross the bridge behind it

17. Now head diagonally right across the field towards the lone tree in the distance…

…& go through the gate, over the bridge & continue up the track. As the roads bends to the right, continue over the field left towards the paddock

18. Keep the paddock fence on your left & walk up the bridleway with the playing fields on the left, ignoring the paths on the right all the way into the Alderton

The name Alderton comes from “an estate associated with a man called Ealdhere” & there’s evidence of a settlement dating back to the Iron Age. The Roman built A5 passes very close so they were definitely here. These were followed by the Saxons & Normans 

In 1605 Queen Anne of Denmark stayed at Alderton Manor. By the early 18th century the village was a thriving agricultural community. The Manor House was demolished & its site was occupied by a substantial farm, known as Manor Farm, which you’ve just passed

19. At the grass triangle, take the left fork…

Pass some impressive properties & keep following the lane through the village until reaching the mount on the left & the church on the right. Go & have a look at the mount

20. The Mount at Alderton is one of seven ringworks which survive in
Northamptonshire & has an unusual sub-rectangular shape. The monument is
largely undisturbed

This is the remains of a ringwork castle which is now overgrown with trees. The ditch is 5 metres deep in parts & the internal area of the castle has some slightly raised areas interpreted as building platforms

The castle & Manor of Alderton were sold by Thomas le Sauvage to Pagan de Chaworth during the reign of Edward I. During the first English Civil War there were a number of engagements in the vicinity, most notably the siege & eventual destruction of Grafton Manor House in 1644. Parliamentarian forces involved in this action passed through Alderton. There is little evidence of any significant use of the castle at this time, however. Some civil war musket balls have been discovered, but may be associated with musket practice. Certainly it is documented that during the 18th century the site was used as a gentlemen’s rifling range

21. Directly opposite’s Saint Margaret’s church of which parts date back to 1522, but it was virtually totally rebuilt in 1848. The Church was once famous for its beautiful images of the Saints

Among the small number of monuments in the church is a rare oak effigy of a cross-legged knight believed to be Sir William de Combemartyn, who died in 1318. He is thought to be either a very successful wool exporter in the reign of Edward I or Payn de Charworth, Crusader & Edward I’s Captain of the English troops in his Welsh border wars, as well as rebuilder of the inner ward of Kidwelly Castle in Carmarthenshire

Photo @stmargaretschurch

There’s so much to see in Alderton, but this is a long walk so we have little time!! 

22. Turn right at the junction & follow the lane again until reaching the row of cottages. Turn right again & head back down Spring Lane, crossing the junction & back onto the bridleway you came up on…

Remember the path we said to ignore earlier? Well now take it to the left & cross over the little bridge…

…following the path between the fences

23. At the end of the path, keep straight across the field & over the bridge, tucked slightly right, towards the farm

Cross the little road & head through the trees (the path’s not very well marked) into the next field & carry straight on in the direction of the marker post…

24. Walk over the bridge & keep straight, following the path towards the pylon…

When we did this walk it was like passing through a jungle, but you can still see the pylon…

25. They like bridges on this walk! So cross the next one, turn left & follow the field edge & fence to the gap where we turn right, keeping the hedgerow on the right

26. At end of the field don’t walk through the gap. Instead continue walking to the left with the hedge on your right until you reach a small gap by the big tree just before the start of the incline…

Pass through the gap & walk diagonally left towards the farm

27. At end of field, cross the lane & continue up the track, As the track runs out keep heading in the same direction on the field edge with the trees on your right…

On arriving at the corner of the field go through the gate &  continue to the paddock. Walk through it & climb over the stile before exiting the paddock through the large gate

28. In front of you now’s a small gate. Walk through into the road & the small hamlet of Heathencote. The hamlet used to be a much larger settlement which was split into two parts. Back in the late 1700’s there were more properties around the entrance to Towcester racecourse

Apparently, back in 1180, there was a chapel in the hamlet, but no-one knows exactly where it was!

29. Continue to the footpath on the opposite side of the road, just to the right & diagonally left where we exit the field via the stile…

This is the A5, which in Roman times this was known as Watling Street

30. Turn right & follow the road all the way into Towcester, passing the impressive entrance to the racecourse & greyhound track

On the left’s The Folly restaurant, with an option for a drink & toilet break, but you will be spoilt for choice in a few minutes when arrive in Towcester…

31. If you’re feeling up to it, you could now walk the Towcester Town Trail Walk 23 (please also see the link for full history etc)

As you enter the main shopping area, turn right down Chantry Lane, or indeed stop for lunch as the choice is endless and I will be honest I’ve never really been here before I always seem to be driving through. If you have time stop & get a drink & enjoy this wonderful market town

32. Walk past St Lawrence’s Church

The church can be dated back to Norman times, but there was probably an earlier one on the site in Saxon times. Amongst its possessions it has a ‘Treacle Bible’

33. Turn left up Moat Lane & continue around towards Bury Mount & climb the steps to the top

Bury Mound is the remains of an earthwork motte & bailey fortification, or ancient castle & has been designated a scheduled ancient monument. The Motte probably dates back to the 11th Century when it was a Norman fortification. It fell into disrepair, but the council has recently undertaken a restoration project

Cross the top & go down the steps & over the river

34. Turn left at the bottom. Welcome to the water meadows, which cover 60 acres & were originally part of the Eaton Neston Estate. Today they’re owned by the public &, although their design is predominantly early 19th century, they have older parts that date back to 1700. They’ve recently announced a major project too

Follow the path heading left out on to Northampton road. On the right is a nice circular route around the meadow which takes about 1/2 hour if you fancy adding this on

35. Cross the Northampton Road & enter the pocket park. At the junction in the picture below take the left fork…

Cross the second bridge & the right hand path heading up the hill

36. At the road turn right & head up the hill past Tesco & the Porsche showroom. Your path is on the left in front of Phipps & Co…

Follow this up & over the bridge

37. Cross the A43 once more. Remember to be careful & after such a long walk we are getting tired

Follow the bridleway to the road & turn left, looking for a footpath on the left which leads into the kennels

38. Go into the carpark & through the gate in the corner. Walk straight through the woodland area & over the very unsafe stile…

Head left into the open space & keep going forward to cross another stile. Now continue in the same direction, keeping the trees on your right

39. Cross the double stile at the end of the field & head towards the farm buildings…

There’s one more stile to negotiate before following the path into the village of Caldecote

40. The name Caldecote means “cold or inhospitable cottages” or “shelters for travellers”. It’s an extremely small hamlet, mainly all in a straight line, with some nice houses on either side

41. Pass through the hamlet & ignore the footpath on the left. Instead take the path on the right through which is a delightful couple of hundred yards, but feels like we in someone’s back garden!

42. There is no other way to give directions for the next stage of this walk, than to say “Continue in the same direction across numerous stiles”- see the green dotted map line below

Finally take the gates  on the left in the picture below…

…& finally…climb over the last stile to reach the road in the map above

43. Turn left along the quiet country road to return to Tiffield

At the junction turn left, back into the High Street once more to arrive back at The George & the start of this walk

So that’s it…15 miles, including some lovely villages, but…..so many stiles!! It’s a great walk, but please be careful crossing the A43

Go Walk!