Walk 90: Weedon Bec Village Walk: Did Napoleon leave a bomb?

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3 miles (4.83km)

Time to walk: About an hour & a quarter although Granny’s Cafe is worth a stop for a cuppa or, if you fancy a pint, we’ll be passing a few of the current pubs & also reminiscing about ones long gone

Difficulty: Mainly on hard surfaces apart from the stretch along ‘Puddlebank’ which can be slightly muddy & slippy in wet conditions

Parking: Free parking in Bridge Street at Weedon Dons football ground

Public toilets: Cafe & pubs

Map of the route: @ Weedon Bec Walks

map

We found a fantastic leaflet that Weedon Bec had produced based around the history of the village & surrounding area & have tried to amalgamate two of the walks in there into this one

Weedon Bec (more commonly just called Weedon) is located about 6 miles south east of Daventry & 7 miles west of Northampton at the crossroads of the A5 & A45 main roads. The Grand Union Canal & the West Coast Main Line both pass through the village & it therefore once occupied a significant position. The A5 is a Roman Road called Watling Street which ran from London to Holyhead

The village also has strong links with the Napoleonic Wars as we’ll see shortly

The name comes from Anglo Saxon “Weoh” meaning a shrine, & “Dun” meaning Hill. The Bec part comes from the name of a village in Normandy which had an important Abbey. After the Norman Conquest the Manor of Weedon was given to the Abbey of Bec & the Abbey became Lord  of the Manor

We were surprised at what we found in Weedon & the history behind it. We’d always passed through it on one of the major roads, but there’s so much more to see so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Today’s walk round the centre of the village starts at the free car park in Bridge Street & the good news is there’s no timescale so no need to watch the clock

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This is also the home of the local football club, Weedon Dons

2. Turn right out of the car park & walk towards the junction, heading for the building with the white tower…

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On the left side of the road’s a very attractive village sign which was built to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee…

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3. At the junction bear left up Harmans Way…

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The building on the left is part of a site that is of major importance to the village & is part of Northamptonshire’s rich heritage. This is the former Royal Ordnance Depot which covered an area of 53 acres that were purchased by the Government in 1803/4. It was eventually expanded to 150 acres with an arm of the nearby canal running through it. At each end was a moveable portcullis, the eastern one still being intact

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Although the notice at the entrance says “Private” ignore it & walk in to have a look around. A barracks was built for a troop of the Horse Artillery & after World War I the site became home to the Army School of Equitation which later closed at the start of World War II

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At each end of the site is a Lodge which contained the portcullis. In the eastern one is a clock which has been working since 1814. It has only one face, facing the interior of the depot. The three bells have been chiming the quarters & hours ever since & the clock keeps excellent time

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The site was also of importance in another conflict. Some of the storehouses were built to store weapons & ammunitions when Napoleon’s army threatened to invade. The reason Weedon was chosen was because of its central location in the country. It was felt that keeping them in the south would have been too risky

It was rather icy!

It was rather icy!

Over time the site has also seen a prison & weapons storage over two World Wars. It was eventually closed in 1965, but many of the buildings were given Grade II status signifying their national importance

4. Continue up Harmans Way as it bends up the hill…

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…& upon reaching Equestrian Way, turn into the close towards the rather strange looking posts which are known as ‘Stonehenge’ by the locals

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These posts are a remnant of the School of Equitation. They were tethering posts for the military horses – how great that the parish council has maintained them

5. Follow the road until it reaches the busy A45 junction where we carefully cross over & turn right down the hill towards the crossroads…

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Given its location in the country, this area once had many coaching inns as we’ll see shortly. Cross the railway line – this is the main west coast line & frequency of high speed trains along it is quite frightening

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Next door is the canal bridge…

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6. The old railway station was in the yard on the right. The first building used to be the Black Horse pub…

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& the one next to it has a familiar architectural structure – it was once the Northampton Union Bank & later was a branch of Nat West

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7. The large pub/hotel on the left’s called the Heart of England, although was once known as the New Inn. It can be dated back to 1740 when it was a farmhouse

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Not too sure about the Chinese Takeaway though…

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There were more pubs & inns down the hill, including the White Horse & the Horseshoe Inn which was serving travellers in 1775. Many of the buildings along here have now been taken over by antique businesses & some are well worth a browse – we can recommend The Village which is a maze of rooms full of treasures

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8. A few pubs have survived…on the right’s The Wheatsheaf…

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…although the one of the village’s largest landmarks, the Globe Hotel has recently disappeared & is now a Tesco Extra

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9. The Weedon crossroads is a really busy junction. The traffic lights hold another secret…below them once stood the White Hart which was serving its ales back in 1796

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Directly opposite’s the well-known Crossroads Hotel which originally a cafe known as Jan’s Folly which became the present building in the 1960s. The cottage. which is part of the hotel, was originally the tollhouse for the turnpike

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10. Turn right along the A5 & then take the first right back into the village…

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The Bull Inn stood on the corner down here & was considered the most important coaching inn in the village. The road on the left, Bull Inn Close, indicates its whereabouts…

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The area was also used for keeping cattle that may have been passing through the village

11. Ahead’s the tunnel under the canal, which we need to pass through…

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…but if you fancy a look at the canal first, climb the steps on the right of the tunnel. There is the opportunity to do the next part of the walk along the canal if you wish. If you take that option then leave it at Church Street

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One of the notices on the lamp-post along here caught our eye. It was a Parish Council notice saying they’d like to return a collection of World War II military artefacts to their rightful owner which had been found in a children’s play park. The notice goes on to say that the collection includes knives, ammunition & “UNEXPLODED BOMBS”!! It does however stipulate that the bombs can’t be returned as “we had to blow them up, sorry”

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12. Pass under the canal & look for a footpath on the left which is known as Puddlebank. It’s thought that this might have been because clay was taken from here to line the canal

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This is the short stretch of the walk that could be slightly muddy in wet weather so mind your step. Pass by the pocket park & the allotments that are sandwiched between the canal & the railway…

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13. At the end of Puddlebank’s the church…

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…so exit onto Church Street & turn right towards the viaduct. St Peter & St Pauls is referred to in the Domesday Book, but the tower is the only part that dates back to medieval times.

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14. Pass under the magnificent viaduct…

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There were more pubs along here…the original Bull Inn stood just near the viaduct & the Fox & Hounds was a bit further on, but it burnt down in 1892

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Further along was the Admiral Nelson which was known locally as the Blood Tub due to the number of fights that occurred there

15. As Church Street bends right, straight ahead’s the United Reform Church which has a date stone beneath the eaves showing it was built in 1792

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We’re now entering one of the most attractive parts of the village…

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The old properties straight ahead date from the 15th & 16th centuries & if you look closely at the glass in the windows you’ll see they’re warped showing they are still the originals

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16. Fancy cuppa or something to eat? On the right’s Granny’s Cafe – really good home food at great prices

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Walk straight ahead to the crossroads, where there’s a current pub, the Plume of Feathers which was originally thatched

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17. Walk straight over the crossroads & up West Street which contained many more pubs – Weedon must have been one heck of a place to have a ‘pub crawl’ in its day! No. 4 was once the Royal Oak…

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…& No. 10 used to be the Sun Inn. We loved that the owners of the cottage had given a nod towards its past by calling it Sun Cottage. It actually began life as the Boot & Slipper

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18. There’s only one pub remaining in West Street these days, the Maltsters Arms which also originally was thatched, but was replaced by slate in the early 1900s

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Continue up West Street to the attractive thatched cottage on the right. Yes, you’ve guessed it, this was also once a pub called the Garden Gate until 1954

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19. Pass the primary school on the left…

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…& then the village hall, following the road as it bends left into Croft Way which rises steadily up the hill

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20. At the junction at the top of the hill turn left into Croft Way which is an undulating residential street that will take us all the way back to New Street. The locals around here make you feel very welcome…

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On reaching New Street, turn left down to the Plume of Feathers crossroads again

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21. There’s some attractive cottages along New Street…

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…& obviously some “interesting” characters living in some of them!

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22. Cross straight over the crossroads & the bridge to arrive back at the carpark & the start of our walk

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So that’s a stroll around a village we’ve lived close to for many years, but until we did this walk, realise that we knew little about it!

Firstly we didn’t know any of the history that surrounds the place, especially the barracks area & the part Weedon Bec has played in the history of this country. Secondly, we’ve always just driven through on either the A5 or the A45 & therefore hadn’t seen what a beautiful place it is

You could easily spend a half day here, doing this walk & pottering round the antique shops so…

Go Walk!