Walk 174: Sulgrave & Culworth Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5 miles (8.05km)

Time to walk: Roughly 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy &, although it’s a mixture of surfaces, it should also be mainly okay in wet weather. There are several stiles so may not be suitable for large dogs

Parking: Considerately on the street near the Church in Sulgrave

Public toilets: The Star in Sulgrave, or The Forge in Culworth

Map of the route:

This is a lovely South Northamptonshire Walk that has a bit of everything, & one that you could spend all day doing

Thanks to Richard Parkes for doing the legwork for me on this one. It’s an area I know quite well & really love, having covered Sulgrave & its history on Town & Village Walk 26

This walk begins in the beautiful village of Sulgrave with its connections to USA history,before heading north to Culworth & then back south-west to the Thorpe Mandeville area

So what can we tell you about Sulgrave? Well the whole of the village is dominated by the connection with the 1st President of the USA forbears. The name itself means ‘Grove near a gully or narrow valley’

There’s been a village here for over 1000 years & today’s street map follows a figure of 8 shape which is easy to walk around. It’s a very peaceful village & the locals are more than happy to have a “chin-wag”. There was also some building going on which really blends in with the older properties. Have a look at this link to their excellent village website which will give you an idea of the community spirit

If you want to have a quick walk around the village itself click on the link to Walk 26

Shall we go & have a look then?

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts outside the Church of St James the Less

There are very few churches with this name. St James the Less’s feast day is May 3rd. The church was built between 1327 & 1377, but the west door of the tower suggests there was a previous Saxon Church on this site

Links to the Washingtons, that this village is so associated with, are present in the remains of the brasses within the Church

2. OK let’s see what else we can find. Facing the church head right down the hill to the main road. Cross over the junction & walk down Little Street, ignoring the footpath sign, keeping to the country road as it loops round the village…

3. Follow the road as it passes the impressive Sulgrave House…

…until it reaches the junction with Manor Road. Turn left & continue to explore the village. On the left’s the property that this village is most famous for & why, in the summer, it attracts many visits from our friend from across ‘The Pond”

4. Sulgrave Manor is a Tudor & Georgian manor house that was built & lived in by the direct ancestors of George Washington, the first President of the USA…

The house dates back to the 16th century & the Washingtons lived in it from 1540 to 1657. Lawrence Washington is widely recognised as the founder of the family who bought it from the Crown in 1538. He married twice & his second wife bore him 11 children. He became a very wealthy man through his wool stapling business & became Mayor of Northampton twice

His two-times great grandson, Colonel John Washington emigrated to America in 1656 & his great-grandson George was born in 1732

5. Pass The Star Inn which dates back over 300 years. Is it too early for a quick one?

Although we resisted, it does look a very friendly pub, who know how to look after their staff

6. Continue straight ahead to the village shop & post office. The village shop is a “not for profit enterprise” run by the locals

Turn right down Stockwell Lane & ignore the footpath sign on the right. Follow the bridleway straight ahead & then turn left…

This next stretch to the road is also shown in the map below…

7. Keep following the path as it gradually climbs the hill, passing the apple orchard on the right…

It continues to rise. Look out for lions on the left 😉

Don’t forget to keep turning round as the views around here are beautiful the higher the path climbs

8. Just after the left bend, pass through the kissing gate on the right…

…& head diagonally left towards the corner (as per the dotted green line on the map above). Note the views across to the right

9. Exit the field by crossing two stiles & carefully cross the road. Once across, the path continues in exactly the same direction. It really is a horse-lovers paradise. Walk alongside the paddock, cross the stile & head straight down the bridleway. There’s paddocks & horses everywhere

10. Cross the stile at the end of the bridleway & head in the same direction. Cross a double stile & then it’s a short walk over the field to the next stile that leads us out onto the road

11. Turn right onto the road & follow it down the hill into Culworth whose name means “Enclosure of a man called Cula.”

The village was once far more important than it is today, with its own market & fair. Charles I stayed here before the Battle of Cropredy Bridge & mounted from ‘King Charles’ Stone’, now built into the old school

It was also home to the “Culworth Gang” who conducted a reign of terror across the south of Northamptonshire & neighbouring parts of Oxfordshire & Warwickshire lasting nearly 20 years. For more details see the local parish website

At the bottom of the hill turn left up Queen Street, passing Culworth House…

…& then the local charity florist

12. Eventually the street reaches the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which dates back mainly to the 12th & 13th centuries & restored in the mid 19th

To the right of the porch is a 1762 gravestone with a wonderful inscription to…

“Charles Bacchus (an African)…he was beloved and lamented by the Family he serv’d, was Grateful and Humane, and gave hopes of proving a Faithful Servant and a Good Man. Aged 16. Here Titles cease, Ambitions o’er, And Slave or Monarch is no more…”

13. Our walk continues immediately to the right after the Church, following the school & footpath sign…but wait! What’s that on the other side of the road? It’s a coffee shop, but this is no ordinary coffee shop, one that’s a little different. I won’t spoil the surprise, but The Forge is a MUST visit…

14. Continue on the path mentioned above next to the Church, passing the site of Culworth Castle on the right. The Castle Ringwork here is one of seven surviving ringworks in Northamptonshire, including those within 5kms of here at Weedon Lois, Canons Ashby & Sulgrave. Photo @Duncan Lilly

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built & occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a substantial ditch & a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, more rarely, a stone wall

15. At the bottom of the track turn left (note the nice allotments on the right). Head back towards the village, ignoring the footpath sign. Walk to the village green & turn right, passing the local family butchers

Just past the butchers is the village pub, The Red Lion. It looks beautiful, but was sadly closed when I passed

16. We do however need to turn left into the pub car park. Our path is to the right side & runs down an alley to emerge into the open fields, where the view is amazing!

The path down to Lower Thorpe, our next village is pretty straight, passing through Culworth Grounds, as shown in the OS Map below

17. Upon reaching the field, turn right & follow the bridleway down to the field edge (do not pass through any gates)…

At the field edge, walk diagonally left down through the fields to the farm in the far distance

18. Cross the bridge & go through the gate, continuing in the same direction towards Culworth Grounds

19. Pass through the metal gate & walk up the farm driveway – be careful as this may be busy with farm machinery moving around. Have a look at this link to their website – this is an impressive organisation & top livery

Continue through the farm on the driveway, not forgetting to say “Hi” to some of the residents

20. As the track bends left, continue straight ahead through the gate. Then turn immediately right & follow the field edge to reach the stile leading into the woodland

21. Cross the stile & follow the woodland track over a bridge & through the gate on your left….

This leads into another paddock. Keeping the woodland on your left, go through the two gates in the corner of the field & emerge carefully onto the road

We are now on the outskirts of Lower Thorpe, although we don’t actually enter the village on this walk.

To continue this walk, take the footpath opposite…

Here’s our route to Magpie Farm…

22. Head around the side of the field on the left towards the brick farm building…

On reaching the farm building turn right & walk up the long hill. Pass through a few gates, always keeping firstly the fence on your left, & then the hedgerows

23. We’re heading towards the farmhouse at the very top of the hill which is Magpie Farm – I was sweating a bit when I got there. The path continues beside the farm house at the end of the fence

Leave the field by climbing the final stile & carefully cross the road to the island. Now turn right & walk along the side of the road back into Sulgrave (the gate exiting the field was locked so be careful)

24. At the village green, turn right into Park Lane, but first have a look what’s under the trees…

This is the site of the Sulgrave Stocks , which still have their original Elizabethan ironwork

25. Continue walking round Park Lane, passing the Castle Green public park. Castle Hill is the remains of another of the ringwork castles we saw in Culworth. The first construction on the site was probably a timber-framed hall & a detached stone & timber building, probably built in the late 10th century

After the Norman conquest in 1066, the original hall was replaced with a stone one. The site appears to have been abandoned about 1140

26. Turn left up Church Street to finish this walk

I loved it & hopefully the new rail project won’t hurt these villages as the history is amazing & well worth the walk alone

Now…don’t forget to look at the Sulgrave Village Walk 26 before you leave!

Go Walk