Stage 2: Holcot to Sywell

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.5 miles (10.46km)

Time to walk: About 2.5 hours with a stop for a snack on the bench outside Mears Ashby Church

Difficulty: A real mixture – fields (& some pastures are long grass) to hard roads. This is an extremely varied stretch. There’s also quite a few hills

Parking: If you wanted to walk as a linear then park on road in Holcot & finish at Sywell Country Park

Public toilets: None really until you get to Sywell Country Park

Map of the route: @ Ten Foot Club

Map

1. See the previous leg to see the history of Holcot. We’re continuing ‘The Round’ from Holcot’s library…

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2. Let’s Walk!

Opposite the ‘Library’s’ an alley which is the start of our route out of Holcot…

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It doesn’t look much from here, but there’s some lovely properties along this alley…

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3. At the bottom of the alley turn left & follow the lane round the right to the T-Junction…

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4. At the T-Junction turn right & then we encounter some pretty imposing gates with birds on the posts…

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5. We need to pass by these gates & there’s a stone stile on the left side…

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…into what is a field that can only be described as ‘what the hell is….?’

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6. Our guide tells us to “pass by the eclectic mix & turn sharp left across the meadow up the hill”

What it doesn’t say is why are 20 frisky bullocks that were laying down when we entered the field now standing up & starting to follow us?

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Yes…we’ve been told they’re only inquisitive, but the quicker we walked, the quicker they walked…the quicker we ran, the quicker they ran…

Just head up the field & jump over the fence where you can. We recently had a chat with a farmer who said they were just inquisitive & wanted to play. Then after you’d run & jumped over the fence, they’d all stand & high 5 because it’s a job well done.

We can believe it, hence the lack of photos & time spent wiping boots covered in cow poo before continuing…

7. Well…we’re now not sure whether we’re on the right path or not, but for the next couple of miles we need to head in a straight line across meadowland…

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Where the heck are we? Don’t know but just keep going straight…

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8. Just over the brow of the hill we encounter what could have been a scene out of Mad Max…

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9. The instructions for ‘The Round’ are pretty vague again here – come on Northamptonshire Council get some proper footpath sign posts up please – & they’ll be more of this along this stage

However, cross over the ditch & then turn immediately right into the meadow rather than follow the new track above…

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…& head straight across to the next gate…

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10. If you walk this in early summer, most of the fields are grown for hay & the length is nearly around our knees which is hard going…

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11. We’re still unsure if we’re on the right path but, after passing round the fence above, cross the next field…

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…heading towards the large tree on the right…

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…& cross over the bridge into a field of beautiful golden buttercups…

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12. But rather than crossing it turn sharp right through one gate & then another into a new field…

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13. A cracking little field this one – part orchard / part meadow. Keep the hedge on the left & follow the field to the boundary, passing through the gap into the next pasture…still long grass & hard going

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14. We’ll eventually find out that we’re slightly off the path, but hey there’s no-one around!

Pass through the gap & in the next field there’s some ‘exploration’ / development going on, but continue past the large pile towards the hedge again…

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15. The path’s somewhere near the bottom right of this field, but we couldn’t find it, so climbed the fence & continued along the boundary…

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The rape always looks good against the clear skies…

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16. At the end of this field we come to a bridleway which is a chance to find out exactly where we are…

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17. Turn right up the hill & after about 100 yards we come across the path marker! We were that close…

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…& now it’s clear where we need to go, turning left…

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18. After about 300 yards the track meets another bridleway where we need to turn right & follow it to the busy main road…

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19. Cross the A43 into the lay by & turn left towards the end of it, looking for a gate & path on the right…

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Pass through into the field…

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…& now it all gets a little bit lost…

20. The sign at the gate points diagonally left, but you can’t go there as the crops are too high, so follow the field edge round to the right & then turn left along the next hedge to end up where we should have been…

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21. Ignore the footpath post through the gap & continue to the track, then turn right…

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…following it down to the end of the field & then turning right…

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It was just here that we were treated to a display by one of Sywell Airport’s stars – a de Havilland Vampire – beautiful…click on the link to have a look although we didn’t catch too much

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The de Havilland DH.100 Vampire was a British jet fighter developed & manufactured by de Havilland. Having been developed during the Second World War to harness the newly developed jet engine, the Vampire entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1945. It was the second jet fighter, after the Gloster Meteor, operated by the RAF & its first to be powered by a single jet engine

The RAF used the Vampire as a front line fighter until 1953 before it assumed secondary roles such as pilot training. It was retired by the RAF in 1966, replaced by the Hawker Hunter & Gloster Javelin

How fabulous to see & hear it…

22. Carry on for about 100 yards & turn left through the gap in the hedges & then straight right again…

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23. At the end of this field on the left’s a ‘point-to-point’ course. Turn left to follow it, ignoring the gate with the signs straight ahead…

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…to pass through the one at the end of the ‘course’ below…

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24. We’re now in a larger field & heading right towards the next gate…

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…where it’s a left turn up another field…it really is a bit of a slog along here…

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25. Through another gate then & stick to the woodland on the right as the path’s not marked at all – are we on it?

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Just round the above corner we met a farmer & his wife driving round their fields. They stopped for a chat & confirmed we were on the right track. Interesting though that his wife said he needed to mark the path correctly rather than just ‘mow the grass’…

26. So carry on round the farm’s boundary past the farm itself…

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…& then out onto the road – be careful

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27. We’re glad to get a long slog over the fields done, especially as it was unmarked & confusing. The route’s now left along the road, but let’s turn right & have a look at Sywell Airport first…

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28. Right…crack on! turn left & walk along the road, but be careful as this is a dangerous spot…

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…& at the top of the hill turn right at the Beckworth Emporium junction…

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29. Beckworth Emporium‘s a very nice, if expensive, place so go have a look. Apparently the Afternoon Tea’s are very good…

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Pass the entrance & then pound the road towards Mears Ashby – be careful though as it’s narrow & cars aren’t very considerate…

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30. On the right’s Christmas Farm Trees although, as it’s only late May, that’s a bit early to start thinking about the unmentionable…

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This whole stretch of road’s a gardener’s delight. Next on the right’s Brittons…

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…& then on the left Perky Plants…

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31. So eventually we arrive in Mears Ashby.

According to Westwood & Simpson in their book, The Lore of the Land, Northamptonshire in general & Mears Ashby in particular has a long tradition of witchcraft & accusations of witchcraft. In their book they recall that in 1785 a local inhabitant, Sarah Bradshaw was accused

The Northampton Mercury on 1 August 1785 states: “Thursday last, a poor woman, named Sarah Bradshaw of Mears Ashby…who was accused by some of her neighbours of being a witch, in order to prove her innocence, submitted to the ignominy of being dipped (on a ducking-stool); when she immediately sunk to the bottom of the pond; which was deemed an incontestable proof that she was no witch!”

Well if anyone’s seen Monty Python & the Holy Grail they’ll know…

 

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…& turn left down Glebe Road…

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…& then first right into Manor Road…

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32. The route takes us straight through the village past the impressive Manor House on the left…

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…& just past it turn left down the narrow alley leading to the church…

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33. Climb the hill & steps up to All Saints Church…

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Good place for lunch

Good place for lunch

34. Pass through the churchyard & out the gate at the back into Lady’s Lane…

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…passing the village hall on the right…

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35. At the end turn right & then right again into Wilby Road…

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There’s another good pub here…The Griffin’s Head

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36. Follow the road down the hill past the very impressive Mears Ashby Hall

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Have a look at the link – you can stay here & it’s very impressive!

At the corner look for a signpost heading into a field – there was a new property being built when we were there…

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37. Keep the hedge on the left & head up the hill…

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Turning right at the gate without passing through…

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…& continue up the hill to the stile into the next field…

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38. The kind farmer’s done a good job here…

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Follow it to exit onto the road…

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…turning left, but be careful as it’s busy along here…

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39. After about 100 yards the path heads right across another field…

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Across to the right’s a view of Sywell Country Park Reservoir…

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40. Eventually we emerge across another stile into the road…

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…turning right to arrive at Sywell Country Park to complete Stage 2 of The Northamptonshire Round…

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In places that was hard going & the path wasn’t always well marked, but we got there in the end

Probably wouldn’t walk that route again, but move on to Stage 3

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