Walk 86: East Haddon Circular: Get away from it all…

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5.5 miles (8.85km)

Time to walk: Between 2 – 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Mostly across field so may be muddy. There are also quite a few inclines so good for the cardio

Parking: Carefully on the road in East Haddon or, if you’re partaking of refreshments, in the Red Lion car park

Public toilets: The Red Lion in East Haddon at the start & end of this walk

Map of the route: 

This is a lovely walk mainly across open farmland with spectacular views. If you hear a sound it’s likely to be a shrill call from a buzzard, but apart from that it’s so peaceful

In winter months it may get boggy, but we walked in March & most of the route was fine & only need a bit of ‘boot-banging’ at the end

We start in the lovely village of East Haddon. East Haddon’s probably most famous as home to the show gardens of Haddonstone, a company formed & based in the village since 1971. The gardens have been featured in books by gardening writers Peter Coates & Timothy Mowl

Shall we go & explore?

Let’s Walk!

1. Our walk begins outside The Red Lion, the only pub in the village, but it’s the restaurant & cookery school that it’s best known for. We’ve eaten there several times & can really recommend it. The restaurant specialises on sourcing its ingredients as locally as possible



2. Facing the pub turn right & walk along the road passing an old chapel which has been beautiful converted into a private dwelling. They’ve even retained the stained glass windows…


Exit the village saying hi to some rather lovely ladies


3. Be careful when the path ends as the Holdenby Road’s quite narrow & traffic moves quickly along. After about 100 yards look for a turning up a grassy track on the left


There’s a fingerpost showing two directions. Our one is over the stile on the right…



4. The signpost doesn’t really give an indication which way the path is, but it’s straight in the direction the stile’s pointing. Shortly you’ll arrive at another stile (there’s lots of them on this walk…


The next field’s an arable one &, again it’s tricky to see where we should be heading, but walk towards the high oak trees in the hedge


This really is classic Northamptonshire countryside walking with views far & wide across a rolling landscape…only the birds disturbing the peace


5. Just past the oak tree pass through the gap…

Follow the hedge on the right across this field & into the next one where there’s a very interesting bird scarer…


Continue along the edge down to the farm at the bottom of the hill


6. On reaching the fence it now really is “climbing time”, actually it’s more like the ‘Stile Grand National’! So climb the first fence into the paddock…


Successfully all over we canter down towards the barn & clear fence two…


Turn sharp right at ‘Barn Turn’ & cross the farmyard to the next fence…


Over that one & we’re into the next paddock, but probably the trickiest fence is now ahead on the right, the double stiler which needs particular attention, especially at our age…



7. We’re now on an old friend, The Macmillan Way. Drop down the hill & up again to….yes you’ve guessed it, another stile


Turn immediately left down the hill towards the next fence (& stile). This is really lovely parkland walking that forms part of the Holdenby estate. The sheep were quite friendly too



8. The path to Holdenby is well imprinted in the grass so cross one more stile & head up to the road we walked up out of East Haddon…



9. Exit through the gate above & that’s the end of our ‘Grand National’. So…welcome to Holdenby & if you want to have a look at the main entrance to the house turn right along the road to the driveway


Holdenby House is well hidden from the road. The house was completed in 1583 by the Elizabethan Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton, who refused to sleep a night in the mansion until Queen Elizabeth I had slept there. It was one of the largest prodigy houses of the Tudor period, rivalling in size both Audley End & Theobald. The cost of building Holdenby bankrupted Hatton, who died in 1591. Here’s what it looks like when you can see it


In 1607 the mansion was bought by Elizabeth’s successor James I & in February 1647, after the First English Civil War, Charles I was brought to Holdenby by the Scots & handed over to the English Long Parliament. He remained a prisoner there until June 1647 when Cornet George Joyce seized him & took him to Newmarket in the name of the New Model Army. Parliament later sold the estate to Captain Adam Baynes, who demolished the house almost entirely except for a small domestic wing

In 1709, Holdenby was bought by the Marlborough family who in turn sold it to their kin the Clifden family whose descendants still own the property today. The Clifdens had a new house built in the style of the older mansion, incorporating the older mansion’s remains

Mention must also be made about Icarus Falconry Centre which we’ve spent time with & is superb

10. Back to the walk. Come back to where we exited the field & cross over past Holdenby Lodge House…



This is a charming area with old estate workers houses surrounding the green. Pass Home Farm House & the Schools Centre…



…following the road down to the bottom of the hill

11. At the bottom turn right at the sign towards the historic church & follow the bridleway…


Peeping through the trees, there’s some very old estate houses in there…


Spring has definitely sprung here in Northamptonshire


12. If you wish to visit the church turn right at the signpost. We haven’t time today so are continuing straight ahead down the hill


Once again we’re in glorious rolling countryside. At this point a buzzard soared overhead & all hell broke loose at the Falconry Centre. The final couple of miles is all on farm tracks

13. The track turns sharp right & follows the hedge round the field, keeping it on your left. This is a large field so it’s head down & then cross over the gap into the next one…


…which is full of thatching reeds



14. Eventually we arrive at a fingerpost showing several routes – this part of the walk’s really well marked…


Our route is right towards East Haddon again


Pass through the gap in the hedge & continue keeping the hedge & ditch on the left. Unfortunately this field was still soaking from the recent rains & therefore it was muddy boots time again!


15. Continue through the next gap & look for the footpath sign on the right leading up the steep hill…


Cardiac exercise time & this ones quite a drag so head down & plough on. We’re climbing quickly now & the views are pretty special all the way back to Northampton


The deserted farmhouse on the left’s Rowell Leyes


16. Made it successfully to the top of the hill, turn round & admire the view. We need to skirt round the next field so on passing through the gap turn right & then left round the edge, towards the farm buildings. Before reaching them turn left up the hill. following the line of telegraph poles



17. At the top pass through the gate & keep the hedge on the right


This is our last field before entering East Haddon again. Pass through the gap at the end into the recreation ground


Go behind the pavilion & through the gates, following the path…


18. Go through the last gate & continue in the same direction to the road…

Walk down the steps & cross the road to follow the path up to the church…

19. St Mary’s Church was built in the 12th century & restored in the 14th. The four bells were installed in 1621 & the fifth was added in 1731. The first ever recorded peal on five bells was rung on New Year’s Day 1756, lasting over three hours with 5,040 changes (we’re a mind of information)

Also in the churchyard’s the war memorial…

20. Pass the entrance to East Haddon Hall on the left…

East Haddon Hall originates from 1790, & was built by Henry Sawbridge. His descendants lived there until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1919 large parts of the estate, mainly agricultural land & farms, were auctioned off

21. The road bends sharp right, but our route’s straight on…

…passing the fabulous village pump…

And finally we’re back at The Red Lion once more


So that’s the end of this charming little walk. The best thing about it is the peacefulness – we didn’t see a soul the whole time & only had the noise of the birds & sheep to keep us company. The views are also superb & you won’t be disappointed so…

Go Walk!