Walk 173: Delapre Abbey Signposted Walk

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 1.87 miles (3 km)

Time to walk: There’s no real time limit on this walk as you may wish to stop off at many of the places on the way

Difficulty: Flat & easy. A mixture of tracks & grass

Parking: Car parks at the Abbey

Public toilets: Several

Map of the route:

I was honoured to have been involved with the opening of a new signposted walk at one of my favourite Northamptonshire venues…Delapre Abbey

The 3km route takes walkers past the historic battlefield site of the 1460 Battle of Northampton, Delapre Abbey, Delapre Woods, the lake & the golf course. There’s also ample opportunity to explore the Walled Garden, the Inner Gardens, plus the cafes

The new signposted route is the product of months of research carried out by the University of Northampton, Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust & Northamptonshire Sport. The project investigated if a signposted route with maps & arrows could increase walking there & improve the physical activity & wellbeing of people in the community through public surveys & observing how walkers currently use Delapre Park

The project will continue to run for two years & footfall along the route will be monitored during that time to compare with the data collected by the University between March & August 2021, in addition to footfall within two other parks in Northampton

Users of the route are able to feedback their experiences by completing an online questionnaire that can be accessed by scanning the QR code, or entering the website address displayed on the new signs within Delapre Park

The existing Walk 107 explores the inner grounds, so this is an excellent addition to look at the wider parts of the Park & its history

Shall we have a look then?

Let’s Walk!

1. There are a couple of places that this walk can start. If you’re walking down the main avenue from London Road there’s a large sign, but the traditional point is by entrance to the Abbey… 

Look out for the excellent signage all the way around this walk, which does exactly what this walk intends

There’s also a large reminder of the historical importance of this place & we’ll cover that in more detail as we walk around it

2. Facing the Abbey the sign points you in the right direction…

…so follow it around to the right side of the building & walk along

3. The Abbey was founded by an Anglo-Norman Earl of two counties, Simon de Senlis, during the reign of King Stephen & later benefited from its paying for a Royal Charter granted by King Edward III

Delapre was one of two Cluniac nunneries in England (the other being Arthington Priory in Yorkshire). The Cluniac congregation was initially a reform movement of Benedictine life. Monasteries in the congregation were supervised directly by the great Abbey at Cluny. Typically a dozen to twenty nuns resided at any one time

From its first foundation, the Abbey gave 21s. 8d. yearly to the poor distributed by the parish church in money, bread, & fish, & a further 5s. yearly from later benefactions

As with others, the Abbey was surrendered to the Crown as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, closing in 1538. After much later use & alteration as a private residence & in World War II service, the house & its cluster of outbuildings which replaced the abbey in phased building works spanning the 16th to 18th centuries served as the Northamptonshire Record Office & the library of the related records society

One of three remaining Eleanor Crosses of the twelve erected, is at the south-west of the meadows & tree-lined grounds. The body of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, rested at the Abbey on its journey from Lincoln to London. The king erected the crosses to mark the passage

Following the success of a Heritage Lottery Fund application in 2013, a £6.3 million restoration project began in 2016. The Abbey opened to the public for the first time in 900 years on the 17 March 2018

There are about 500 acres of parkland & 8 acres of more formal gardens

4. Continue past the excellent new & very popular cafe…

This is ‘The Orangery’ which is open daily from 9.30am. Please see the link for details / menus etc. Wonder who snook in the photo!!

Next door’s ‘Hibiscus’, Northamptonshire’s dining venue of the year, which is situated in the stunning Billiard Room. It’s an AA rosette-awarded restaurant that showcases the very best seasonal & locally sourced produce…

5. Continue ahead, passing the entrance to the magnificent Walled Garden, one of my favourite places in Northamptonshire. Please see Walk 107 for fuller details, but this is a place well worth exploring at the end of this walk

6. The next sign is ahead, directing you left through the magnificent gardens, again another place well worth exploring at all times of the year…

The path through this part of the grounds is particularly stunning. The two posts that you pass through are monitoring the activity on the walk & you’ll see several of them as you go around

7. As the path bends to the right, pop through the gap in the bushes to see the magnificent walled border…

8. Turn left at the next sign at the junction…

…& walk to the gate to exit this part of the garden

9. The sign by the gate points you to the right, along one of the most beautiful parts of the grounds…the tree-lined avenue that leads to the lake

It’s really amazing that so many people visit Delapre each year & lots of them still don’t know the lake exists, so it’s excellent that this signposted walk will show them where it is

10. Just before the lake’s a couple more monitoring posts…

And there we are. Delapre Lake is one of the oldest in the Nene valley & hence contains some of the oldest carp. Originally a gravel pit, today it’s also home to water sports, including water skiing etc

11. It’s possible to walk around the lake, but this route bears right as indicated in the above picture

Continue to follow the track, passing under a wonderful old willow

12. As the path bears left at a junction, there’s the next sign telling you to take the right fork…

The next stretch of this walk runs parallel to Delapre Golf Course, initially passing through a copse…

…before emerging into the open. The environment here is more meadow-like

13. What’s really great about this walk is the frequency of the signs when they’re really needed such as the next area where paths go off in several directions…

14. Pass through another monitor…

…& then bear left, as indicated at the junction

15. Continue straight ahead into the trees once more…

The walk’s now entering another amazing part of the grounds with lots of huge, very old trees to explore…

16. The path continues straight ahead…

What beautiful walking this is. Look out for the massive redwoods

17. Continue straight ahead across the open space in front of the Abbey…

…with views across to the right

18. Pass through the gap into the open park…

…& continue to follow the signs

19. Basically, this stage of the walk follows the perimeter of the parkland. You’re now walking on the actual site of The Battle of Northampton

Imagine yourself here on the 10th July 1460…you certainly wouldn’t be having a peaceful walk!  It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, his Queen Margaret of Anjou & their seven-year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales on one side, & the army of Edward, Earl of March & Warwick the Kingmaker on the other. The battle was the first in which artillery was used in England

The King’s forces took up a defensive position at Northampton, in the grounds of Delapre Abbey, with their backs to the River Nene & a water-filled ditch in front of them, topped with stakes. The defending army was around 5,000 strong, consisting mainly of men-at-arms

While approaching, Warwick sent a delegate to negotiate with the King on his behalf. The Lancastrian commander, the Duke of Buckingham, replied “The Earl of Warwick shall not come to the King’s presence & if he comes he shall die.” During Warwick’s advance to Northampton he was twice more denied access to the King’s person. Once in position, he sent a message that read “At 2 o’clock I will speak with the King or I will die”

At two o’clock the Yorkists advanced. The men were in column, but the hard rain blowing in their faces somewhat hindered them. As they closed with the Lancastrians, Warwick was met by a fierce hail of arrows, but the rain had rendered the Lancastrian collection of cannon quite useless

When Warwick reached the Lancastrian left flank, commanded by Lord Grey of Ruthin, treachery ensued. Grey had his men lay down their weapons & simply allow the Yorkists to have easy access into the camp beyond. This treachery was the result of a secret message from Lord Grey to March saying that he would change sides if the Yorkists would back him in a property dispute with Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter (his maternal cousin) Certainly Warwick had ordered his men not to lay violent hands on ordinary soldiers, especially those wearing the black ragged staff of Lord Grey’s men. There may also have been inducements & promises of high office by Warwick. Grey became Treasurer of England in 1463

After this, the battle lasted a mere thirty minutes. The defenders were unable to manoeuvre inside the fortifications, & fled the field as their line was rolled up by attacking Yorkists

The Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Egremont, & Lord Beaumont all died trying to save Henry from the Yorkists closing on his tent. Three hundred other Lancastrians were slain in the battle. King Henry VI was captured by an archer, Henry Mountfort

20. Continue around the perimeter of the park & up to the signpost in the top left corner…

Henry was found in his tent by Warwick, March, & Fauconberg. Showing him proper respect they escorted him to Delapre Abbey where he was tended by the nuns. Then he was taken into Northampton, & finally London, where the tower garrison surrendered soon after

21. Walk along the far edge of the park passing the small lake…

…to the signpost close to the driveway which tells you to bear right

22. The trail now picks up the hard surfaced path beside the road as it heads back towards the Abbey…

…passing the large sign referring to the walk which I mentioned at the start. For pedestrians entering the park this would be a good starting point

23. Bear right through the car park towards the Abbey once more…

passing through the two guards at the gate

A few yards on is the place where the walk started

So that’s it & what a great, varied little trail this is, taking in many different aspects of the park & also giving visitors a great opportunity for orientation

Well done to all involved in putting this together. Now…don’t forget to scan that QR Code & give your feedback!

Go Walk!