Walk 177: Cottingham, East Carlton, Wilbarston & Stoke Albany Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 9 miles (14.5km)

Time to walk: Roughly 3.5 hours

Difficulty: Some hills, but nothing too difficult

Parking: Carefully on the street in Cottingham

Public toilets: Pubs in Cottingham, East Carlton & Stoke Albany

Map of the route: 

This walk extends the shorter Walk 62 & includes Stoke Albany & Wilbarston. Thanks to Richard Parkes for doing the legwork for me

In his own words…”Welcome to a wonderful walk. Thankfully Dave has asked me to do some routes around the Corby area & here is my first. It’s a real gem”

We start in lovely Cottingham so why not have a look around the village too as Walk 93 covers it. There’s a quote included in that walk that’s worth repeating again…

“Villages like Cottingham clamber up and down a hillside so steep that often your view across the deep ever-changing valley into the blue distance is over someone’s chimney pots. These are the windswept villages through which a North-Easter will whistle and boom, led straight in from the Fens by the narrowing funnel of the vale of the Welland.

They are bleak in Winter, but in Summer there are few places more inviting to the traveller with lazy hours to spend. Cottingham has a secluded tree-fringed dell where you may sit with old men and watch boys play cricket. There you might believe that the industrial revolution had never come to England and that the more daring of the boys might grow up to captain a clipper, but would certainly never travel by devilish means and at unnatural speeds through the sky.”

Now…if that doesn’t make you want to explore, then nothing will!

Our starting point Cottingham traces back to Anglo Saxon times, with ‘ham’ meaning town or settlement & ‘ing’ denoting a tribal leader’s sons, dependants or followers. Cottingham therefore literally means ‘homestead of Cotta’s people’. Cotta or Cotti was an Anglo Saxon chief

Shall we have a look then?

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts at the village store which is located a No.2 Corby Road, & the postcode’s LE16 8XH…

This is a fabulous community-owned store & cafe, so please call in & support them – you’ll get a great welcome. The shop lay empty for years until a team of community members set up a Co-Op & sold shares to dozens of local families. They’ve got a great little deli with some superb local produce

2. Head down Church Street, which splits the shop & the Spread Eagle pub. We are heading all the way down to the church

At the end of the street, climb the steps to St Mary the Virgin Church, which sits proudly on the hill. Turn right along the path…

3. Don’t go through the gate at the end, but instead head right up the path & continue walking in the same direction to reach the village of Middleton. There’s spectacular views on either side along this footpath

Go through the final gate to arrive in Middleton…

Middleton’s name probably comes from the Danish meaning Middle Farm. The village is also noted for the ‘stone & date’ names on many of the properties which give a clue to their previous uses. There was once three windmills in the village

4. Turn right at the Pump House & admire the views ahead across the Welland Valley as we descend the very steep hill 

5. On reaching main road at the bottom of the hill, cross over & turn right, looking for an alley on the left, just past the house…

6. Continue through a series of gates admiring the views. This was my first time in this part of the County & it’s wonderful. Look for a turn on the left that leads into East Carlton Country Park

7. It’s well worth putting aside some time to look around the park as it has an excellent heritage centre, telling the story of Corby’s involvement in the steel industry. There’s also numerous pieces of machinery etc

Head straight across & up the hill in front of you. Continue until the park opens out & you reach a bench at the very top…

8. Turn right at the bench. There’s many paths going off in every direction, but just carry on straight ahead along the main path, passing the witch!

Upon reaching the dragon, turn right…

9. There’s some amazing views in this park, the large chateau style house that overlooks it being no exception

There’s been several halls here over the years, the current one having been built in 1870. In the early 20th century large deposits of iron ore were found in the area. Stewarts & Lloyds, from Glasgow, set up a steel works in Corby, at the time just a small village. They bought the Hall & park for £5000

As the steel works expanded the directors began a house building programme to accommodate future employees. Part of the grounds of the hall were used to make up a large part of East Carlton as it’s known today. The original village is situated west of the hall grounds

Steel manufacturing in Corby ended in 1979 & the house & grounds were later acquired by Corby Borough Council. The house was sold as a family home, but today sadly stands empty

10. Continue straight ahead for the excellent Visitor Centre which contains all of the history & artefacts. Note also the exhibits outside telling the story of steel manufacturing in Corby. The size of some of these are incredible…

I’m told by Dave they have amazing sausage rolls in the cafe (Dave agrees! 😉 ). I sadly had no time to stop, but the food looked very good

11. On reaching the table tennis tables, take a left into the car park…

…& then turn right out of the main gates – welcome to the ‘Village’

The name of the village means “Free peasants’farm / settlement’. It’s thought that East Carlton was first occupied by the Danes & a number of different families have owned the land & estate here over the years. Until 1660 the settlement of Carlton was divided into two manors, East & West Hall. East Hall is thought to have stood on the site of the present Hall

12. Follow the road round to the right of the Church of St Peter

The Gothic style church was rebuilt in 1788. The original building of worship on this site was a chapel which was built in 1228

13. Continue past the church & the speed limit signs. You’re looking for a footpath on the left after roughly half a mile by the rather beautiful house…

Have a look over the wall on the right to see if one of Santa’s helpers is around – Happy Christmas!

14. On reaching the path, turn left along it & follow it back into the open fields. Continue straight through the middle of a paddock…

…stopping to say hello to the residents

15. At the bottom of the paddock turn left & climb over the stile. Continue along the field edge, keeping the hedgerow on your right. Eventually you arrive at the gate in the picture below…

16. Go through the gate & walk diagonally left up the hill. Pass through the gap & continue up towards the two big trees…

On arriving at the post in the picture below, keep walking forward with the hedgerow now on your LEFT

17. Shortly you’ll arrive at a T-junction. Follow the path down & around the big tree, keeping the hedge on your left. On reaching the woodland continue through & pass out the other side…

On reaching the other side, climb the hill keeping the hedge on your left once more

18. Keep straight ahead past the benches & out of the gate at the end of the field into the village

Stop to read the inscription on the bench, which brought a lump to my throat…

19. After passing through the gate turn right & walk along the path towards the centre of Wilbarston, the name of which means ‘farmstead or settlement of a man named Wilbeorht’. Most of the cottages are made of ironstone…

Dave note: “Wilbarston was best known to me for the music scene at it’s small village since 1990. It’s a renowned venue for rock, blues & R&B music. Among others Jools Holland, Wishbone Ash, Walter Trout, Ian Hunter, Dr Feelgood & many more have played there”

24. Ignore all the roads & paths going off to the left & right & keep going to reach The Fox Inn – time for a drink! The pub dates back to the 18th century…

Turn right at the pub along Church Street, passing the Church of All Saints on your left…

Now follow this fairly quiet, small road all the way into Stoke Albany, a distance of just under a mile. Whilst the road is quiet, it is bendy in parts so please be prepared to step on the verge if necessary

20. Shortly you’ll arrive at Stoke Albany…

21. The village’s name means ‘outlying homestead/settlement’. Although records go back over 1000 years, it’s quite difficult to find any historical facts about the village itself

Continue into the village until reaching the island. Our route lies left up Ashley Road, but before you do, spend a few moments looking around the area on your right which contains the war memorial, village hall & church…

The original Church of St Botolph was established before the Norman Conquest, but the earliest parts of the building you see before you today date back to the 13th century. It was subsequently restored in the 19th…

22. Continue up Ashley Road as it bends round & enters the upper part of the village. The White Horse in the picture below is a sign of things to come…

Note the beautiful Green on the right

23. The lane reaches a junction with the main road. Cross straight ahead & continue up the left side of the White Horse pub (see what I meant!)

The White Horse was originally built as a coaching inn in 1703. It looks a great place to stay if you’re visiting this part of the County

24. Follow the road up the left of the pub & pass under the main road bridge…

Just past the sign for Park Farm, it’s time to leave the village through the gate on the left & start the return journey to Cottingham

25. Walk up the hill & pass through another gate at the top. This is lovely parkland, or maybe someone’s garden…

Keep directly ahead & look for a stile in the fence as per the picture below…

26. Climb the stile & go through the gap, directly across to the woodlands & head down the track opposite 

27. At the bottom, take the SECOND RIGHT path, diagonally right towards the barn. After roughly 50 metres you’re now heading directly towards the hedgerows & the stile below

Here is a copy of the OS Map of that section for reference too

28. Climb the stile & head up the hill towards the big trees in the distance…

On reaching the big trees we are actually standing on the Desborough airport runway – True!!

This is the site of a former Second World War Bomber Comand airfield which opened in 1943 & closed in 1946. It was used by 84 Operational Training Unit until 1945. After the base closed the land was taken over by agriculture

29. So…there’s not many times you can say this but…Turn left on the runway & just keep flying…

Walk past a couple of aircraft hangars &, as the runway bends right, keep following this piece of history

30. At the T junction head left & follow the track for quite some time until you reach the main road…

On finally reaching the gate exit onto the country road & follow this in the same direction…

…until reaching another gate just as the road bends left

31. The path now is straight ahead with no deviations in any other direction…

…until reaching the big tree, where you turn left & keep following the bridleway to the gate in the picture below that leads onto a road

32. IGNORE the bridleway directly over the road. Instead turn right along the road for about 100 yards, looking for another footpath sign & path across the road

Cross the stile into the golf course & continue straight ahead keeping tight against the edge & take care re stray golf balls

33. Continue behind the green down the grassy path which leads to another road. Cross the road & turn left, looking for a path on the right after roughly 100 yards

Go through the gate on the right & along the path. Pass through another gate, cross the stile & turn left towards the big tree on the left

34. Cross over another stile & then go slightly right to another one. What a view there is from here across the Welland Valley…

35. Keep heading slightly right towards the houses. To leave these paddocks cross the final stile onto the roadside

Now cross the road & head back down the hill into the village & back to where you left your car 

Here’s a final glimpse of what was in the paddock as I walked by as I headed back into the village…

So there we go…big skies, the Welland Valley, history, beautiful villages…what’s not to love

Go Walk!