Section 4: Braunston to Winwick

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Section 4 runs between Braunston & Winwick, a distance of approximately 11 miles (17.7 km). Our walkers on this section were Helen, Sarah & Ann

Time to walk: 4 hours 30 minutes on 18th August 2020, including a quick sit down for lunch & lots & lots of pouring over maps! The ladies used Landranger Ordinance survey maps 140,141,151 & 152

Difficulty: A mixture of fields, tracks & beautiful villages. Again, this is a hilly part of Northamptonshire, but nothing too steep

Parking: As this is a linear walk, the ladies parked their cars in both Braunston & Winwick

Public toilets: Village pubs in Ashby St Ledgers & West Haddon, which also has a village shop

Map of Section 4:

Section 4 of the ladies Jurassic Way challenge continues from beautiful Braunston, a popular canal-side village where the Oxford & Grand Union canals meet. The path today then winds its way through some great Northamptonshire countryside, before ending up in the stunning hamlet of Winwick

Shall we see how they got on?

Let’s Walk!

1. This section of the walk starts in Ashby road in Braunston behind the village hall. As the road leaves the village it becomes a track & eventually a path. It’s very straight forward at this stage & there is even a sign for the Jurassic Way!

2. The path climbs steadily through several fields & is clearly marked all the way…

There are sweeping vistas of the countryside & not at all bad to stop & enjoy as you climb. A great walker’s tip is not to forget to look at the view behind you too, especially when walking up hills

3. The track continues in a straight line, following the hedge…

…& eventually drops down to a small road, which they cross. It then continues through more fields, coming out on the A361. At this point you can see Ashby St Ledgers immediately in front of you. Take the road into the village & enjoy the unspoilt houses & lovely gardens

4. Ashby St Ledgers is simply a stunning village & was first mentioned in the Domesday Book, which gave the place name as Ascebi (“ash tree settlement”). It’s got some really important history attached to it as you’ll see shortly

In the meantime if you’re ready for a drink stop, the Olde Coach House comes highly recommended…

5. Continue through the village. The ladies loved this old door…

Shortly after, on the left are the old gates from the original approach to the Manor

6. Today’s entrance is found by turning left in front of the church & following the wall & impressive it certainly is!

However…what this property is really famous for is through the entrance next to the church. The manor house gatehouse is where the Gunpowder Plot plotters plotted in 1605

The manor at this time belonged to the mother of Robert Catesby, whom Catesby had returned to live with, having had his own lands at Catesby confiscated by the crown for sticking to his Catholic views. This spot is also where Catesby returned to having heard in London that the plot had been uncovered in order to warn his co-conspirators, which was an 80 mile ride

Catesby went on the run refusing to surrender, (can’t think why!) & was eventually shot dead in Staffordshire

The estate is now owned by the Crown & the Manor by the Guest family. It can be rented for events & parties. Have a look at this link for an interesting article

7. To rejoin the path Helen, Sarah & Ann walked past the church (mind the leaning tower!) which is dedicated to St Leodegarius & has some excellent wall paintings showing the Passion of Christ (18 scenes), dating back to roughly 1500, & the flagellation of St Margaret, even earlier around 1325

The Jurassic Way sign is in the corner of the village by some more lovely houses…

8. The sign & stile do seem to suggest going diagonally across the field, however the ladies tell us to stay to the right & follow the bridleway until you reach a small covert…

The path also keeps to the right of the covert. Some of the ladies 11 miles were spent wandering round this field!

Once you pass the covert they tell us that the path disappears altogether. The fields were full of a huge herd of cows & there was electrical fencing everywhere. The path & markers had gone. They knew from the map that they needed to go under the pylons & under the railway line, so they picked our way across, climbing over & under electrified fences & dodging muck

So, in summary…

(i) Follow the main bridleway from Ashby to its end
(ii) Turn left along another track & then take a right path a few yards along – if you look closely you might spot a way marker along the path that leads to the railway
(iii) Keep the dairy farm on your right
(iv) Keep going along here until you pass under the railway line

9. The ladies tell us you now cross a small field before you meet the A5 next to a caravan-selling business. Luckily this part of the A5 is very quiet. The path continues to the left of the caravans & is clearly marked

A short walk through a field takes you to the canal & a set of locks. A lovely little place, especially after the recent noise of the railway & crossing roads…

This section of the canal is part of the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal & was opened in 1814. There are seven locks

Follow the link for more history about the place & the people who built the locks & worked here as well as interesting old photos. https://watfordvillage.weebly.com/watford-locks–canal.html#

10. The path now goes off to the right of the canal. Unfortunately wire had been put across the top of the stile, but luckily it wasn’t electrified! That’s shocking!

Very quickly now you pass under the M1…

After passing under the motorway, in the distance you can now make out the village of Watford…the ladies next target

11. The final field before the village had a herd of cows & the most enormous bull the ladies had ever seen. Thankfully it didn’t seem all that interested in them, but nonetheless they gave it a wide berth. Sarah has now learnt that testicles can be as large as udders, but are not the same thing at all!!!

12. The ladies arrived into the village of Watford on the main road directly opposite two former pubs. Many years ago the ladies would have encountered Roman soldiers in Watford as the important Roman road, “Watling Street” passed by the western side of the village. The Roman settlement of ‘Bannaventa’ (A Gap in the Hills), with defensive earth & timber ramparts & a ditch, was situated about 2 miles south-west of Watford. Today some remains of the settlement such as building platforms, mounds & crop marks are still visible

Today it’s known nationally for its links with to Watford Gap Motorway Service Station. The village was traditionally an important waypoint on the old east-west & north-south coaching routes. This was the point where the main north-south road, rail & canal routes came together at a “gap” in the hills known as Watford Gap

Anyway…enough of the obscure facts! Ann, Helen & Sarah now headed left up the main road & turned left into Church Street, following it to the end. As you come to the end of the street you will see a footpath sign on the right – ignore this. The path is slightly to the left & will lead you along the old Watford park tree lined avenue down to Henley Bridge…

You can still see the old high wall of Watford Court, which is a preserved monument. The old Court itself was demolished in 1975, which is a great shame given the pride the Henley family took in the whole estate.

It was a fine country house built of locally-quarried golden brown stone. It had avenues of trees, one a mile long, criss-crossing the 200 acre estate & the once magnificent 18th century landscape gardens were famous. Although the house has now gone, the remains of the one impressive gardens have now been saved, with recommendation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument

13. The West Coast Mainline passes over the bridge, which was built in 1877 according to the designs of Lord Henley (1825-1989), who allegedly refused to have anything unsightly within the grounds of Watford park. It is also believed that Lord Henley used to catch the train from here to London, as he was MP for Northampton in 1859

The ladies now tell us that once you pass under the Henley Bridge, it all becomes a little tricky!

In 2017 the footpaths in the area were diverted, but this is not signposted from this side of the diversions. There was a temporary path, which guided them through a crop field & up the hill towards the fifth wind turbine. This is correct. Once you are at Turbine number five you will see a small wood (below) – the path runs through the wood on the right hand side contrary to what the ordinance survey maps say. Ann bought her maps in 2020, but they were not up-to-date…

14. After the wood you go through several fields aiming for Silsworth lodge & in the general direction of West Haddon. There were occasional signs…

You should arrive at the crossroads below. The maps will indicate that the path goes round the back of Silsworth Lodge & continues to West Haddon. This is not the case. The Jurassic Way has also moved!

At this point there were copies of the diversions we had gone through!

15. The ladies were chased by a friendly farmer on Silsworth farm who pointed out that the path had moved! They did point out to him that he still had Jurassic way markers on his farm, which served to reassure them they were on the right path! By now they had learnt to ignore most footpaths & look out for our little markers only!

At the crossroads, you should follow the public footpath signs along the farm road to the left for a short while & then turn right across fields to West Haddon. Do not go straight ahead to Silsworth Lodge

16. The Jurassic Way enters West Haddon round the back of the primary school

The fields of across which our ladies are walking were the location for an “enclosure riot” in 1765. An advertisement was made in the county newspaper for a football game that was to be played in those fields. The football game was a means to assemble a mob which tore down fences & burned them, protesting against the laws that were then being enacted that allowed wealthy landowners to lay claim to land that was once public land. Let’s hope the villagers saw Ann, Helen & Sarah arriving without that challenge on their visit!

Once you reach the main road turn right up to the junction & past the village shop & a pizzeria. At the junction turn left & keep going until you reach Crown Lane. There are some pretty houses in West Haddon

17. The Jurassic Way continues at the top of the lane There are quite a few footpaths leading off from the next few fields, but the Jurassic Way is clearly marked. Keep to the hedge along the left hand side of the fields…

18. Soon you’ll be able to see the tunnel that takes you under the West Haddon bypass. What a fabulous photo…

The path was clear to follow as the farmers had cut paths through the fields. It was maize when they passed through. You pass to the left of Glebe Farm & soon you will be able to pick out Winwick church in the distance. As they entered the village there were lamas in a field on the left…

19. Winwick is a hidden, stunning small Northamptonshire village. You really do have to visit to appreciate just how beautiful it is. The Jurassic Way turns right at the beautiful white cottage. Because many more people are visiting the village to start their walks, they’ve signposted a Ramblers parking area…

20. It’s well worth diverting off the Jurassic Way & continuing along the lane past the white cottage to the church & the old Manor House & stables. This is where the annual village fete is held…

Don’t miss the beautiful old school house by the church…

21. Coming back to the white cottage, follow the lane up the hill to the gates of Winwick Hall, where this section of the Jurassic Way ends

This is a truly wonderful place & home to an organisation that does so much good in the community…the Bruce Green Foundation. Over the past few years Bruce has now opened the wonderful Polo Pavilion Tea Room which serves teas in amazing surroundings

So…that’s the end of a rather “eventful” Section 4 for our Jurassic Way ladies. They’ve encountered changed paths, barbed wire on the top of stiles, electric fences &….testicles, not udders

Still what a great time was had &, looking back now, they are laughing along with us reading their exploits. It’s still a great long distance footpath & bring on Section 5 so…

Go Walk!