Stage 9: Bugbrooke to Nobottle

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 5 miles (8.05km)

Time to walk: A couple of hours maximum depending on the state of the fields

Difficulty: A mixture of field & road walking with a few hills to get the heart going

Parking: A linear walk as part of The Northampton Round, but easy on-road parking in Bugbrooke

Public toilets: Pubs in Bugbrooke. Nothing in the hamlet of Nobottle

Map of the route:

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Stage 9 takes us further north towards our start point. We’ve walked some of the paths near Bugbrooke before, but know little of those around Nobottle

So…lets walk!

1. Bugbrooke was well established by the time of the Doomsday Book & its recorded name of Buckebroc likely means “Brook of the Bucks or Bucca’s Brook” after the man who gave his name to Long Buckby. The present spelling appeared about 1559. The village has been & still is an important centre for non-conformist religion. In the 17th century Quakerism was popular, & many villagers were imprisoned for their belief. The baptist chapel was built in 1808 & flourished for a century & a half

Our stage starts in the centre of the village at the shelter. Turn left along the Kislingbury Road, taking the footpath on the left signposted on the corner

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2. This grass track can be overgrown so take care (especially in shorts!). At the top, as it bends left, there’s a view of Heygates Mill which we’ll pass shortly…

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The track bears left & then right where there are magnificent views over the countryside

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3. We’re heading downhill now towards the Nene Valley. Pass through the gate & then straight down across the field & through the kissing gate into the next one…

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This next field contains some pretty feisty looking bullocks, but luckily they’re across the far side & we have a clear run down to the next gate

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4. Although it can’t be seen, we’re now turning right & following the path of the river through the next few fields – the flour mill’s always in view at this stage

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Walk through the wooded area. emerging onto a gravel road

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5. The first mill on the site was established in 800 AD &, by the time of the Domesday Book, was the third highest rated mill in England. Presumably business carried on as usual for several centuries until the Heygates, a family of Northamptonshire farmers, took it over in the late 19th century. The direct descendants of the first of these millers still run today’s mill, which is the group’s main location, producing the biggest share of the company’s flour output from its three mills. Bugbrooke is also the base for Heygate’s Animal Feed section & many other related industries

Walk through the gate & across the entrance to the mill…

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…exiting through another gate into a field

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6. It’s easy to miss the next sign as it’s somewhat hidden in the hedge. Look for a gap after 50 or so yards & walk through into what looks very much like a scrapyard

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It is pretty much that, as it’s where the flour mill leaves old components – it’s like passing through a futuristic graveyard from a Terminator film

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7. Cross the bridge & then another 2 fields heading towards the noise of the motorway. We’re aiming for the underpass…

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…& go under it. The last time we walked under the M1 was coming out of Salcey Forest so we’re definitely on the home stretch now. Walk up the track on the left for about 100 yards & pass through the gate on the left

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At the far edge of this field it appears they’ve had some unwanted visitors so negotiate the barricades & climb into the next one

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8. Aim for the rough bridge directly ahead, although we’re not going to cross it…

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This is the remains of Harpole Mill. Stand on the bridge & have a look at the old mill race on the left & the mill pond on the right

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9. Instead of crossing the bridge keep the pond on your left & cross a stile through the hedge to arrive at the very busy A45. Please take extreme care crossing the road & look for the footpath sign across a large field heading directly towards Harpole

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If you look closely at the above picture you’ll see a white dot. That’s actually another walker who took delight in telling us to be careful entering the next field as there was a bull & calves in it – a great mix!!

10. So climb the stile & walk quickly diagonally left to exit the field into the village

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Luckily the herd was resting in a far corner. We thought he may have been winding us up, but the sign on the gate suggested otherwise…

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There’s always some confusion whether farmers can keep bulls in fields which have public footpaths crossing them. Here’s the answer…

Q. Can a farmer keep a bull in a field crossed by a public path?

A. A bull of up to ten months old, yes

Bulls over ten months of a recognised dairy breed (Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry) are banned from fields crossed by public paths under all circumstances

All other bulls over ten months are banned unless accompanied by cows or heifers

If any bulls act in a way which endangers the public, an offence may be committed under health and safety legislation and you should report it the police and the Ramblers Association

It is best not to take dogs into fields containing cows with young calves. Stallions, boars and cows with calves should all be treated with caution

11. Walk up the street to the junction & turn left where there’s a very nice bench under the tree on the green to have a quick rest

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So welcome to the beautiful village of Harpole, a village best known these days for its wonderful scarecrow festival which is both inventive & great fun

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12. Rested up continue up towards the church…

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All Saints Harpole dates from about 1150 & was greatly restored in the early 20th century. Apparently it contains one of the best examples of a Norman font

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13. Turn left alongside the church & after 100 yards right down the side of the school…

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…passing through the gates into the grass track leading towards Harpole Hill in the distance

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Hello girls!

Hello girls!

14. Time to push up Harpole Hill which is a steep little climb & marks the start of the hillier western side of the county

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Pass to the right of the copse at the summit & look for a gate in the distance – there’s some fabulous views across to Northampton in the distance from here

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15. Cross the sloping meadow above to arrive at another gate leading across a farm track into a steep field

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If you look ahead you’ll see steps leading up to the wood. The field had been ploughed when we walked it & was extremely hard going. There’s an alternative option (which we found later) where you can follow the farm track right & it will lead you to the same place

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16. After all the field walking the next mile is all along the farm track, although it’s pretty rough & hard on the feet. This is a pretty secluded area & obviously under surveillance!

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Just further along there’s another warning sign which made us quicken the pace somewhat, not wishing to be a target

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17. Continue straight ahead at the junction with the tree & eventually the track arrives at a stile leading back into a field (great views again)

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Go through the stile & follow the hedge, looking for another stile through the gap. Once through now keep the hedge on your left & descend towards the hamlet of Nobottle

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Walk up the lane to the road & welcome to Nobottle – another green & tree to rest under & contemplate Stage 9 which we’ve now completed

Nobottle borders the Althorp estate, which owns much of the property. It used to have a 600 yard rifle range (the only one in Northamptonshire), now shut by the MOD some 20 years ago. A Roman building was excavated here in 1927 & a hoard of 814 coins found, spanning several hundred years

With only 13 houses, about 1/2 a mile long, Nobottle is one of the smallest hamlets in England. However, it gave its name to a Saxon Hundred, & in 1849 the Nobottle Hundred comprised 18 parishes, with 9,000 inhabitants, though the hamlet itself then only had 99 inhabitants. Nobottle is a place name in the north west corner of the map on the front endpapers of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, although it is not known if the author borrowed the unusual name from the Northamptonshire hamlet

So that’s Stage 9 finished & now only 2 more to go. This is a walk that’s good to on its own as it passes through some of our most picturesque scenery as will the final parts

Go Walk!