Walk 51: Whittlebury Circular: Golf balls & fast cars…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 4 miles (6.43km)

Time to walk: A leisurely 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Mostly off road & across fields. When we walked it in January 2015 it was very muddy in places. There are a few climbs, but nothing too demanding

Parking: We parked on road in Whittlebury. The walk starts from The Fox & Hounds Pub which also has a car park

Public toilets: Pub at the start, although it’s only open limited hours & nothing else until you get back, but it’s only a short walk

Map of the route: cc South Northants Gov (you won’t really need one though)

So what can we tell you about this short walk…

Well it starts in the South Northamptonshire village of Whittlebury

Little is known of Whittlebury’s past, but in May 2000, an Iron Age hillfort was discovered in the vicinity of St Mary’s Church & churchyard

Archaeology also revealed evidence of Roman, Anglo-Saxon & medieval occupation of Whittlebury. Most famously it was witness to the visit of Kate the Great, a Baroness in the early 17th Century

Throughout the Middle Ages & up until the early 19th Century Whittlebury’s development was interlinked with the Whittlewood Forest of which it was a part & the Honour of Grafton. In 1855, the 5th Duke of Grafton sold land in Whittlebury & Silverstone to the 3rd Baron Southampton who developed Whittlebury Lodge

Whittlebury was very much a ‘gentry village’ & hunting was a significant activity. The village was associated with the Grafton Hunt, the Duke of Grafton having a seat at nearby Wakefield Lodge. Nearby Sholebroke Lodge was built as the residence of the Deputy Ranger of Whittlewood Forest.

In the 18th Century John Wesley was a regular visitor to Whittlebury, describing the village in 1781 as, “This is still the loveliest congregation as well as the liveliest society in the circuit.”

Well that’s not a bad recommendation is it!!

So are you ready?

Then Let’s Walk!!

1. This walk starts outside Whittlebury’s Pub…The Fox & Hounds

We have to say that, peeping through the windows, this looks a very nice dining establishment. Check out this link for details, menus etc…

2. It was closed when we arrived, but we need to crack on so head south towards Whittlebury Hall…

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…& then turn down the drive towards the complex…

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3. We’re walking through Whittlebury Golf Course here so need to be vigilant re errant golf balls! Great views across the courses though…

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4. As we move further down the road we see our first view of Whittlebury Hall Hotel & Spa…

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…but on the right’s a very impressive property with an even more impressive Lebanese Cedar tree outside…

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5. We head straight through what appears to be an unused checkpoint…

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…on the left’s a view of the two-tiered, Japanese Golf Driving Range…

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…& then, when the road bends left, head straight ahead through the open gate down the marked bridleway…

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6. The area on the right is one of the campsites for the Silverstone Circuit which is just next door as we’ll see shortly…

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As the path ends we pass through the narrow gate on the left below & head down the narrow track round the back of Whittlebury Hall Hotel

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It’s also the route to Becketts…which is one of the tracks famous corners…

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7. It was really quite muddy along here so be careful, but just keep following the path until it reaches a gate…

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Tidy squirrel drey

Tidy squirrel drey

IMG_6706…where we turn left & then almost immediately right to arrive at The Orangery…

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8. The Orangery is a classy wedding venue…

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Orange

We need to head past the front door (have a peep in at the chandelier) & then up the steps past the small pond…

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…& out onto the road

9. Our route now lies diagonally left across the lawn towards the gap in the hedge…

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It was at this point that we realised just how much rain had fallen the previous day…

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…& were pleased to reach the hard track through the gap where we turn right heading towards the Silverstone circuit – where we can now see one of the grandstands…

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10. The exit from the Whittlebury grounds & into Silverstone Circuit is through the gate below…

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…& right through the kissing gate…

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11. And…welcome to Silverstone Circuit, home of the British Grand Prix – well one of the car parks! Actually we’re pretty close to the track (which wasn’t being used today)…

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Silverstone Circuit is home to the British Grand Prix which it first hosted in 1948

It was built on the site of a World War II Royal Air Force bomber station, & the airfield’s three runways, in classic WWII triangle format, lie within the outline of the present track

Silverstone was first used for motorsport by an ad hoc group of friends who set up an impromptu race in September 1947. One of their members, Maurice Geoghegan, lived in nearby Silverstone village & he & 11 other drivers raced over a 2 mile circuit, during the course of which Geoghegan himself ran over a sheep that had wandered onto the airfield. The sheep was killed, the car written off, & in the aftermath of this event the informal race became known as the Mutton Grand Prix

The next year the Royal Automobile Club took a lease on the airfield & set about redesigning a more formal racing circuit. The track underwent a major redesign between the 1990 & 1991 races, transforming the ultra-fast circuit into a more technical one. The reshaped track’s first F1 race was memorable, with Nigel Mansell winning in front of his home crowd

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The new pit building, the Silverstone Wing, was completed in time for the 2011 race

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12. Anyway…time to crack on! So we follow the hard path/road along & round the corner…

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Told you it had been raining...

Told you it had been raining…

13. There’s about another 100 yard stretch along the road now until the road bends left where we head straight on down the grass path…

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Some of the pupils from Stowe School on a bike ride!

Some of the pupils from Stowe School on a bike ride!

Straight on to the gate

Straight on to the gate

More grandstands on the left

More grandstands on the left

14. On reaching the gate we pass through & turn left & through another one into a field…

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…where the path’s unmarked now, but simply follow the hedge on the left alongside the grandstands & eventually we come to a gravel track…

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…which we follow to a gate out of the field. On the left’s the new Silverstone University Technical College

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Silverstone UTC, which opened in September 2013, is a brand new centre of excellence for young people wanting to break into the specialist fields of High Performance Engineering & Business & Technical Events Management

Our final view of the circuit

Our final view of the circuit

And here's our gate out of the field...

And here’s our gate out of the field…

15. There’s now a short stroll down the lane & up the hill until we reach the second 5 mph road sign opposite the farm…

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…where there’s a footpath sign on the right showing the way through a gate down a bridleway…

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…& pass a pond on the left…

IMG_676116. After the bridleway bends left we arrive at a gate leading out into the fields again & boy is it muddy with lots more standing water…

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Having skirted towards some higher ground, we now need to head right & straight up the hill…

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The busy (& noisy) A43 is on our left as we pass over the small stone bridge & head up to the top left corner of the next meadow…

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17. We’ve not encountered any stiles so far on this walk so here’s a double one to get across into the next field…

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…& once safely over turn immediately right &, keeping the hedge on our right, we’re now heading straight back towards Whittlebury…

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18. Until now this walk’s been pretty flat, but this last stretch offers the chance of a bit more stile climbing & a couple of hills, so best foot forward for a bit of cardio!

The next stile’s at the corner of this field into one with some friendly sheep…

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Move please ladies!

Move please ladies!

…so after moving them out of the way there’s one more stile into what today was a very wet ploughed field!!! Well at least the path’s still marked (by all the slipping footprints)…

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19. Again, it’s just a case of keep heading towards Whittlebury in the distance, climbing to the brow of the field & then down to the small bridge leading into the next one…

How the heck did that cone get there?

How the heck did that cone get there?

The heavy going doesn't make it easy

The heavy going doesn’t make it easy

They're gonna take some cleaning

They’re gonna take some cleaning

20. After passing through the gap we would suggest walking on the small strip of grass between the left edge of the field & the ditch next to the hedge. At least this gave an opportunity to get some of the mud off the boots, but just be careful not to nearly slip in the ditch like we nearly did…

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There must have been about 8 Yellowhammers in the hedge along here, but every time we tried to get a photo they flew off – here’s what it should have looked like!

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21. At the gate at the end of the field there’s a stile on the left – ignore this & head straight up the next hill keeping the hedge on the left…

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…until we reach the corner where there’s a kissing gate through into our final meadow…

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22. Now we simply head across the meadow to exit onto the road…

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…& turn right to follow the road back to where we left the car…

So that’s the end of our interesting little walk, which takes you close to one of Northamptonshire’s main attractions & income generators – Silverstone Circuit

We’d imagine that if you were walking this close when the racing was on it would be pretty deafening but, as this is a public footpath, you would be able to walk it on Grand Prix Day – now there’s a thought!!

It’s also another good walk to take in a pub at the end, or walk off a lunch

Just one final tip though – wait for summer when there won’t be any mud around!

Go Walk!

 

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