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Ivinghoe to Oakham: 88.49 Miles.

Ivinghoe to Oakham

2nd to 6th June 2019: 5 days

Introduction

Having started the planning some time ago I was strangely apprehensive ahead of today’s start. We both slept badly and got up early for Kym’s taxi that was taking her to the airport for her flight to Milan and cycle, with the Bowdon Biker Chicks, from Parma to Bologna.

The Journey

I walked to Altrincham Metro station. My boots, which I had repaired with bits of plastic, super glue and chewing gum, held up well. I was puffing by the time I reached the Stamford pub less than a mile from home on account of my 10 kg pack.

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I picked up my train tickets at Manchester Piccadilly and then my usual coffee and almond croissant from Carluccios. I took my reserved seat on the train to Crewe where I changed for Nuneaton. The trains and stations were all thronging with Liverpool supporters returning from their Champions League victory in Madrid. This delayed our train but made no difference to me as I had an hour’s wait at Nuneaton station.

The delay on the train to Milton Keynes was, however, of concern as my app told me I would miss my connection to Tring. Fortunately the Tring train was also delayed so, after sprinting across the footbridge I made it with time to spare.

I got off the train at Tring and met Glyn, my taxi driver, who took me the ten minutes to the foot of Ivinghoe Beacon, charging me £15 for the pleasure.

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2nd June 2019 – Ivinghoe Beacon to Heath and Reach: 12.83 miles

Day 53

I gingerly climbed the very steep and very slippery chalk path up to the beacon, photographed the Ridgeway plaque and trig point then retraced my steps down the hill to cross the busy road.

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The start of my walk, Ivinghoe Beacon

I followed the footpath through fields full of lambs and on to the road to Ivinghoe Aston: a scruffy little place. There I turned right, off the road and debated which of two adjacent drives to take. I made the right choice second time and walked past pleasant properties, across fields and the former moat of Butlers Manor before arriving at another lovely property: South End. I walked along a path between isolated properties, across a lane and then stopped to photograph a red kite perched on a tree. I had already seen beautiful small red and blue butterflies and a brown dragonfly.

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The Whipsnade Lion behind Edlesborough church

The path to Stapton had been ploughed and planted so I used my OS map app to follow its course.

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Holy Cross church, Slapton

Cheerful, but unhelpful, signpost

I chose then to divert from my planned route to visit Holy Cross church in Slapton. The cream-washed church was unfortunately locked, so I sat on a bench in the churchyard and ate a cereal bar. It was quiet apart from significant air traffic above. I walked into the village and took another footpath past the community centre. I then doubled back to an attractive thatched pub: The Carpenters Arms.

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The Carpenters Arms, Slapton

I picked up the path opposite the pub. It had been re-routed through a new housing development and round a childrens’ playground. This took me towards the Grand Union Canal but I chose the wrong path through a field and had to double back to find the bridge by which I crossed the canal to the towpath on its western bank. A herd of skittish cattle scattered as I made for the bridge.

The canal towpath was relatively empty, apart from the odd sleek gull and heron. I came across a couple of ducks with a brood of ducklings. A family cycled by, then a couple of heavily pierced girls and a topless bloke, who warned me that the wide boat ahead was moored to a tree with a rope that stretched right across the towpath. I negotiated it then saw several strange craft moored, including a large ship’s lifeboat and several ‘doer uper’ wrecks.

I saw more people as I approached Leighton Buzzard but few of them said hello. I crossed to the east side of the canal and photographed a goose, gander and several goslings in a field and a little farther on, a swan fighting off a coot who strayed too close to her cygnet.

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         New life on the Grand Union canal

I walked past Peace park and past places that looked vaguely familiar from our Solomon Island reunion narrowboat trip. I passed beneath the busy, noisy, A4146, with the trains on the west coast main line adding to the din. Eventually I arrived in Leighton Buzzard and after passing under the main street stopped at Tesco to buy a tube of superglue with which to mend my headphones. I also bought an apple, which I munched along the way.

The drizzle wasn’t particularly wetting. The towpath through town was quite busy. I noticed I was on the Greensand Ridge path and followed this along the canal to an adjacent pub which definitely looked familiar from our narrowboat trip. I left the canal here and descended to the meandering stream that flowed through the meadows, in the shadow of an interesting looking farm and a large house set on a ridge.

Ascending the path to the ridge I saw a woman planting, what looked like, lavender in a large sloping field. At the top of the ridge I turned left, past her house, to follow the Greensand Ridge trail through beech woods full of squirrels. I came across across a recent fire and pile of litter from someone’s ‘night out in the country’: a young foreign couple skulked guiltily nearby. As I approached the road the path turned right and continued over a spongy carpet of many years’ beech nuts.

The path descended to a crossroads at Rushmere. There then followed a difficult uphill stretch, dodging 4WDs, along the road towards Heath and Reach. I eventually came to a housing estate and a welcome footpath so I could get off the road. I took the footpath to the top of the road then continued along a dusty private access road between houses. This gave onto a wide path which took me to the Heath Inn, which ached at 17:00.

I checked in at the bar, starving having not eaten since my morning croissant at Manchester Piccadilly, to be told that the kitchen closed at 17:00! A member of staff showed me to a good double bedroom where I unpacked, WhatsApped the family, showered and wrote my journal. I Googled local takeaway options and arranged delivery with an Indian in Leighton Buzzard. The meal arrived at 19:15 and I washed it down with a pint taken up to my room from the bar. It was a decent meal but far too much. I relaxed in front of Sunday night TV.

Day 54

3rd June 2019 – Heath and Reach to Astwood: 19.17 miles

Two maps today thanks to Bedfordshire County Council severing the footpath over the A421 and the M1. This gap will form the final part of the round the country walk in a celebratory one mile 'link up'.

I had a reasonable sleep after I got used to the loud snoring of the chap in the next room. My vegetarian breakfast was ok. I bandaged my toe and set off at 08:30 feeling a little sore.

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The Heath Inn, Heath & Reach

I crossed the road and took a lane up and out of Heath and Reach that passed through a forest. Passing the car park for Stockgrove Country Park I headed across a dog walking area where I was jumped upon by one of said animals. The Ordnance Survey app was useful in following the paths across Rammamere Heath, eventually emerging at Rammamere Farm. Here I took photos of the buildings and horses then took directions to the next two stiles.

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Rammamere Farm

A grassy paddock edge led up to the busy A5: Watling Street.

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Watling Street

I crossed over and climbed the far bank to emerge into barley fields. The first field had been bisected with a broad, mown, walking strip but I struggled to find a way through the second field as I sang ‘Fields of Gold’ to myself.

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Fields of gold

I reached a lane then took a left turn along a trail beside Nun Wood and then through Buttermilk Wood. I was now on the Milton Keynes Circular Walk. After a few hundred yards I stopped, sitting on a felled log for a breather and a quick game of solitaire on my phone. I found it hard to get going again but needs must! I found an orange whistle.

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        Buttermilk Wood – easy to navigate!

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I ploughed on through the peaceful forest before arriving at the ‘Marquis’ course at Woburn Golf Club. A ‘Kidney Research’ charity golf day was in progress. I walked across the course seeing a chap filling a trench with a digger. I came to a road that divided the courses and followed a trail past the clubhouse. I discovered, far too late, that this was not the route I had planned on taking. Having covered some distance since going wrong I decided to carry on and did a quick re-route.

My revised route took me across the ‘Duke’ and the ‘Duchess’ courses on which labored many grounds staff on a variety of very noisy machines. I walked to the end of the course and down a lane to the attractive All Saints Church above Bow Brickle.

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All Saints Church, Bow Brickle

I took another break at the church and added more lamb’s wool padding to my toe. I set off past the church, which was closed, seeing an unusual number of graves of still born babies.

Once again I took the wrong road downhill so I had to climb back up to the church, pass though the churchyard and double back along the lane until I found the correct trail heading north east.  I followed this trail through lightly forested, sandy, heath.

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Bow Brickhill Park

The path emerged at some allotments above the town of Woburn Sands. I walked through the houses down to the main street, along to the station and then followed the line of the railway to leave the town to the north.

I left the road to circle the Wavendon Estate. The public footpath entered a disused golf course where I really struggled to find its course. After a few laps of the golf course I found my way into a paddock beside some houses. There, to the sound of an unfuriatingly yappy hound, I tried to find my way back onto the path proper. This necessitated climbing a barbed wire fence on which I ripped my walking trousers. When finally I made it back onto the path it took me in front of Wavendon Manor and its ornamental lake. It appeared to have been converted into a collection of attractive departments.

The drive from the property ran alongside a stream and a series of ponds on which I saw ducks and ducklings and a coot’s nest with eggs.

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Wildlife, Wavendon Estate

At the end of the drive I turned right onto the lane and then a left onto Cranfield Road. I was ready for lunch and had the smell of the pub at Salford, half a mile distant, in my nostrils.

I ignored the many ‘Road closed’ signs, assuming that they applied to vehicular traffic and not walkers: how wrong I was. When I got to the road bridge by which Cranfield Road crossed first the A421 and then, immediately after, the M1, I found that the whole bridge had been demolished.

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The missing bridge

I made polite enquiries of a foreign worker as to how one might traverse the two major highways that lay ahead, but he didn’t understand me so called for his boss. The large, ‘jobsworth’ boss and another chap came over but when I explained that I was walking around the country and needed to get the 200 yards or so to the other side of the roads they said they were unable to help me. The boss became quite aggressive and steadfastly refused to allow me to walk over the temporary bridge that had been erected to carry utilities over the roads.

I had no option but to retrace my steps down the lane, intending to take the footpath that my OS map showed went east to an underpass beneath the roads. I got to the stile but it had been barred and a closure notice appended.

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Helpful footpath closure notice

I checked my map again and there was no other was across the road and motorway other than by the next road bridges, which would necessitate detours of five miles north west and south east respectively. This was not in my plan, tired as I already was from a hard morning’s walking.

I took note of the phone number on the closure notice and phoned Bedfordshire Highways Department. I spoke to a chap who kept trying to put me through to his colleagues without success. I did eventually manage to speak to the ‘Rights of Way’ officer, Michelle. I mistakenly assumed that her job title gave some clue as to the knowledge required for her particular role, but I was wrong. She couldn’t tell me where I might cross the roads and said that I was remiss not to have checked the Milton Keynes Circular Walk website before setting off this morning. She pointed out, helpfully, that notices had been placed on all affected public footpaths several weeks before the works started and was unmoved when I explained that I lived in Cheshire and hadn’t noticed these. It was clear that my plight was particularly low on Michelle’s list of priorities that day so I advised her that I would be ‘taking this further’ and hung up.

I was then, for the first time on my series of walks to date, completely flummoxed. I couldn’t decide whether to make a five mile detour or phone a taxi company to take me to Salford so I wandered aimlessly down Crabtree Lane trying to come up with a plan but really putting my fate in the hands of the Gods! My prayers were answered as I rounded a bend and saw a small van belonging to the road contractors. I thought that they might have an idea of where I might cut across the obstacles in my way so knocked on the window of the van, scaring the occupant half to death as he relaxed after his lunch.

Mick rolled down the window and confirmed, in answer to my question, that the only way to cross the roads involved a very long detour to the next road bridge. Mick then said that he was going that way and suggested that I hop in with him, which offer I gratefully accepted. We chatted as he drove to Apsley Guise, a very pretty village and then crossed the M1 at junction 13. The interchange between the A421, the A507 and over the M1 was horrendous. Mick rounded it then dropped me on the Salford Road. I was elated, assuming that Salford and my pub lunch was just around the corner, but on checking my map saw that I had at least a mile to walk on this busy dangerous B road without a footpath.

I walked along, passing a farms and a small observatory, until finally reaching Salford and its very attractive pub, The Swan. I bought myself a pint and a melon and celeriac salad, which I polished off outside whilst reading the paper. It was a good little stop but had taken me nearly two hours to reach from a point not half a mile away.

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The Swan, Salford

My toe was giving me a lot of grief as I left The Swan at 15:00 and negotiated another busy road, then a series of bridleways running alongside wheat fields. I caught glimpses of Milton Keynes Bowl then crossed a field of barley to Leys Farm and its magnificent topiary chicken.

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Leys Farm

I walked down the farm drive to yet another busy road and after a right turn, a very long uphill stretch to another lane. Cranfield Airport appeared on the right. The bridleways seemed to go on for ever so I took another breather before I hit the next lane. With my pack off, I lay down on my back and relaxed, looking up at the clouds.

I crossed the very busy lane and took the track past Ringtail Farm before following another bridleway that came to an old moated settlement at East End. I was too tired to make the short diversion to see this. Instead I crossed the lane and took more grassy paths followed by a series of tracks cut into cereal fields where I saw a hare. I then caught my first glimpse of Astwood church, which was disturbingly far away.

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Meadows outside Astwood

My body and especially my toe, ached as I walked one track after another until reaching the road into Astwood. I walked past the houses to the pub but realized that I didn’t have the address of my B&B. Fortunately the owner, Laura and her husband were watching out for me and shouted to me from across the road. They welcomed me into their lovely property and showed me to a nice annex room where I had a shower and a coffee.

Laura brought me a great chicken sandwich, sponge cake and one of her husband’s beers, which I consumed whilst watching England lose to Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. I wrote my journal whilst watching ‘Springwatch’.

Day 55

4th June 2019 – Astwood to Wellingborough: 19.64 miles

I slept ok and was showered and dressed when Laura brought me a great breakfast of fruit, muesli, toast and croissant, which I wrapped and packed for ‘elevenses’.

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B&B, Astwood

I said cheerio to my excellent hosts and headed through the village to the main road, which I crossed by a derelict house. I followed the lane, which was being used as a rat run by rush hour traffic, so made slow progress. There were some nice wildlife areas by the side of the road.

I left the road at Gorwelle and followed the footpath alongside yet more wheat and barley fields. A hare ran straight at me up the path and I managed to get a photograph before it saw me and fled.

I passed by a couple of woods and up a hill to a quaint cottage where I joined a private road. The road passed over a railway by way of a substantial bridge. My attention was then drawn to a large derelict manor house behind Turvey Cottage which caused me to miss the path I had planned to take down to Turvey. It wasn’t a problem as the lane ran parallel to the path down the hill, coming out on the A428 where I turned left to cross the River Ouse.

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River Ouse, Turvey

The river had an attractive split stream at the point it was crossed. I saw a couple of swans and a couple of classical statues in the grounds of a converted watermill. I followed the A428 past a sign celebrating ‘Milton Keynes’ 50th Anniversary’ then up the hill into Cold Brayfield. I found a bench in the village on which to sit and eat my croissant just as the drizzle started. A chap drove off from the house opposite which I sat in an old Aston Martin.

I limped off across the road and up the track between farmhouses. As I walked along another path past cereal fields I stopped to loosen my boots in an attempt to relieve my aching little right toe. On re-starting I had another ‘hare experience’, this time managing to freeze and get off some great camera shots as he sat on the path ahead of me

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A lovely crop of flowers on a mound of old rubbish lifted my spirits further.

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Nature reclaims a rubbish dump

My next encounter with nature in tooth and claw was a red kite that circled a wood where other birds screeched their warnings. As I passed through the pine wood I noticed that it contained a pheasant farm. I emerged from the wood to briefly follow a lane before taking the path in a north westerly direction past Harrold Lodge farm and a lady who was strimming a huge paddock. I made a long detour around a large wheatfield then walked up the hill and past Nun Wood before taking the bridleway to The Slipe. At this point I diverted from my planned route deciding, instead, to walk to Bozeat, which had a pub for lunch.

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Endles barley fields

I followed the path past White House Farm and then down across horse paddocks to a housing estate. I made my way past uninspiring houses and down to the Red Lion. Salivating as I entered the barmaid looked up from her paper and said “we don’t do food on a Tuesday”…aagghh! I went across the road to the village store and to greetings of “Hello young man”, which always winds me up, from the young shopkeeper, picked up a pasty, ham roll, bag of crisps and a Lucozade drink. I consumed the pasty whilst sitting on a scruffy seat overlooking an equally scruffy park. It started raining so I made my way across to a nearby bus shelter where I ate the crisps. My presence in the shelter was very confusing to the drivers of passing buses, all of whom assumed I wished to use their services.

I picked up the footpath out of town heading for the A509 and taking the opportunity to ‘ease’ my stomach before crossing the road and taking the path on the far side. I opted for the straighter of two paths to Grendon. The final section was uphill but worth it for Grendon was a beautiful, honey coloured, village with a fine church.

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Grendon

I was astonished to find St Marys open so I popped in and marveled at the Norman columns and arches.

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St Marys, Gendon

I left Grendon on a path that ran by the graveyard and descended to fields full of sheep. I stopped for a rest under a large oak tree as the heavens opened. This was more than a passing shower so I donned my coat and overtrousers and ate my ham roll before moving on. I made for some electricity pylons then took the wrong path so had to walk a little way down the main road before entering the Summer Leys Nature Reserve. It was raining too hard to be able to see much on the extensive water system. I left the reserve and crossed the River Nene on an interesting iron bridge beneath which a swan swam.

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River Nene, Great Dedington

I followed the path uphill to Great Deddington, another attractive village, where I started a long trudge by road to the crossing over the A45. My route then took me through Wellingborough’s suburban streets to my accommodation at the Columbia Hotel. I was shown to my, fairly basic, room with its single bed and overlooking a car park full of white vans. I showered then replaced my boots to limp slowly down to the ‘Best Italian in the wider area!’ I phoned Mum on the way there.

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The meal was poor but nevertheless the owner/chef flounced into the restaurant to receive the plaudits of a group of flatulent German businessmen at the table next to mine. I limped home, stopping at Waitrose for pressure pads for my feet and to restock my dwindling supply of Ibuprofen. I lay on my bed watching ‘Planets’ and drifted off to sleep.

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Day 56

5th June 2019 – Wellingborough to Caldecott: 23.74 miles

I slept ok but woke early as usual and listened to the radio. I had slept with my boots beneath the castors of my bed to try to squash and soften them a little. I would find out later if that had worked. I had cereal then mushrooms, beans, tomatoes and toast for breakfast. It was prepared by a very pleasant lady of Indian extraction who was fascinated by my walk and told me of a large international group of walkers who had stopped at her hotel recently. She also said that her eleven year old daughter was a keen walker!

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Ready for the off, Columbia Hotel, Wellingborough

I padded my toes and set off but was still in agony as I retraced my route to last night’s restaurant in the centre of town. A chap commented to me that it was strange for Weatherspoons to be open at 07:30! I picked my way through the town, which wasn’t that attractive other than a few honey coloured buildings in the old centre. I realized how bad my feet were when I noticed that schoolchildren and office workers were all walking a lot faster than me.

I descended the hill to the cement works and followed Google Maps out to the edge of town and an industrial estate, where I was surprised to find an escape route: a large footbridge over the railway lines that took me down to a path that followed the far side of the tracks before veering away to the right.

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My escape route from Wellingborough

I checked Strava and saw that my average speed was painfully slow, on account of my exceptionally sore toe. I stopped by an aluminium gate and decided on drastic action. The pressure pads I had bought last night and used this morning were making things worse so, whilst standing on my right boot with my left, I removed the pads and taped my little toe to its neighbour, thinking that if that didn’t work I was going to have to call a taxi. I gingerly replaced my boot and took a few steps. Joy! It worked and I was able to walk relatively pain free again.

I crossed an open field seeing several East Midlands trains pass by.

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I then came to what looked like a farm buildings but which were actually an industrial estate. One unit was a pallet manufacturer, using Swedish timber that lay, with the pallets, in huge stockpiles. Many of the vehicles using the access road to the estate completely ignored my presence. It was very annoying to have to dive off the road and into the verge several times.

I followed the lane to Burton Latimer, which had sprawled away from its original pleasant centre. I spotted a decent looking coffee shop and took a seat in the window where I was served a large coffee and a pecan slice. I was asked if I would like a loyalty card: the owner probably misunderstood my sentiment when I replied that I would never be back here as I didn’t even know which town I was in!

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Burton Latimer

I left and surveyed the lovely honey coloured buildings and the church: distracted to the extent that I missed my planned route out of the town. Instead, I took a lane out to the A6 roundabout and then crossed the A14 via a footbridge, at both ends of which were horse mounting blocks.

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The path less travelled

I picked up a path that took me, eventually, out of earshot of the busy main roads. I took photographs of the lovely wildflowers, particularly the red poppies, poking their heads out of the cereal and rape crops.

I walked up to a lonely, derelict building then joined the path I had planned to be on for a few hundred yards before a major re-route to try to lessen today’s mileage.

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The Grange, Barton Seagrave

This proved to be a good move as it took me through the beautiful villages of Warkton and Weekley. In the latter I chatted to a thatcher who was busy re-roofing a large cottage. He confirmed that he had no shortage of work in these parts.

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Thatcher, Weekley

I stopped at the picturesque St Mary the Virgin church in Weekley, which lay just beyond some old almshouses. After a quick look inside I had a snack on a bench in the churchyard and reflected on what a wonderful resource for stopping and resting our churches are.

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Alms Houses and Church, Weekley

I photographed the cricket ground adjacent to the church and progressed through the gates to Boughton Estate before realizing that I should have taken the path beside the church. This unpromising path led me to the most amazing view across its formal parkland to Boughton House: ‘England’s Versailles’. I took photos of inquisitive deer and a herd of white deer.

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Boughton House, Weekley

I had no option but to follow the busy A4300 along the estate perimeter wall. Fortunately, the path was well segregated from the traffic but a disgraceful amount of rubbish had been thrown from cars. Approaching Geddington I Googled ‘pubs’ and made for The Star. This required a river crossing using an ancient bridge adjacent to the ford. As I approached the pub I saw an amazing tall stone cross.

I ordered a beer and a ploughman’s then took a seat outside where a couple of cyclists were talking to a walker. I sat down and after the bikers cycled off, struck up a conversation with Chris Hawkins. He was walking the route taken by Edward I as he returned the body of his queen, Eleanor, to London. Chris explained that Edward had ordered that a magnificent stone cross be erected at every place they stopped the night on their journey. The Geddington Cross was the best preserved of the three that remain. We chatted and swapped walking stories until 14:00 when we said farewell. Chris had jotted down my round England route in his journal and took photos and videos of me: an amazing chap.

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Chris Hawkins by Geddington Cross

I pressed on through the lovely village and left the lane to walk across fields: things were going well. I caught sight of Corby but then lost the trail and found myself waist deep in ripe rape. I tried to follow a tractor track, which was tough, but then had to veer into the crop itself.

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Oily rape

This was incredibly hard going and covered my trousers in thick rape oil leading me to think that they might now be more waterproof! I finally found the path but it was still hard going all the way down to the A43.

The OS map showed an underpass but when I got there I found nothing, just public footpath signs facing each other on either side of the busy four lane highway.

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The missing underpass, A43

I climbed the fence, bashed through a hedge and ran the gauntlet across the road. The other side was just the same: I negotiated the hedge and the fence but at least found an underpass beneath the railway line. I was annoyed so missed the path to Great Oakley, instead following the lane into this pleasant village, which was the southern extent of Corby.

I picked my way along the main roads to cross the southern suburbs of Corby, eventually emerging to cross the A6003 and my first sign to Oakham and journey’s end! I crossed the A6003 again to the east of Corby and took a path through cereal fields with views of twin concrete water towers. The path wasn’t exactly where the map said it should be and I had to pick my way to a wood and then across more fields.

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My little used public footpath

 I WhatsApped Joe before crossing the A427, at a mushroom farm. I followed a path adjacent to the road. This route differed from my plan but did allow me a very pleasant entry to the lovely village of Cottingham. I stopped at St Mary Magdelene Church above the village and finished my cheese and my apple.

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Cottingham

My walk through the village was marred only by a boring looking pub. I turned down the hill then right at the bottom of the hill to pick up the lane to Great Easton. I passed a pen full of a wide variety of sheep then crossed a bridge over the river. The next bridge crossed a disused railway line. The old line was very overgrown but led directly to my accommodation for the night, so I decided to attempt it.

I followed the course of the line in an adjacent field until I found an access pint to the track bed. It wasn’t a well used trail but I ploughed on. I had good views of Rockingham Castle on the hill to the right.

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Rockingham Castle

 I passed between a plantation of light green leaved trees before finally ‘hitting the buffers’ at a lane where I turned left to pick up the road. I passed a strange collection of large ‘footballer’ type houses that looked totally out of place here.

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I followed the road for nearly a mile, which made me wonder if the disused track had been a good idea. I passed signs for the Eyebrook Fishery and entered the county of Rutland. The Castle Hotel was on the busy A6003 that I had crossed on leaving Corby several hours ago. I checked in with a gormless foreign speaking owner and let myself into the accommodation block that was reminiscent of student digs. I unpacked, showered then returned to the pub for a mediocre meal of olives (yuck) and a passable lamb shank. I wrote my journal whilst nursing a pint then returned to my room.

Day 57

6th June 2019 – Caldecott to Oakham: 13.11 miles

I slept quite well but woke at 04:30 then dozed until 05:30 when I started getting ready quietly. With no breakfast on offer I headed off just after 06:00 into a beautiful cool clear morning.

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The Castle Hotel, Caldecott

I headed into Caldecott, which was probably an attractive village before the A6003 went through it. I followed the road out of the village for a mile or so, dodging early morning commuters. Turning right onto a footpath I stopped to re-splint my toes as they were hurting again.

I headed across fields giving cows with calves a wide berth. I even forded a stream rather than use a bridge on which a cow and her calf were camped. The path came out at a farm and then onto the main street through Lyddington. I had come this way as my planned route via the Eyebrook Reservoir was restricted for private fishing. I realized that Lyddington was the pretty village where we had stayed on my birthday a few years ago. I stopped opposite the White Hart pub in which we had stayed and took photos.

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The White Hart, Lyddington

I pressed on down the beautiful main street, munching an energy bar. I took  a path to the left just out of the village and followed it uphill, attracting a herd of inquisitive young cattle. Crossing over the road I passed by the playing fields of Uppingham School and followed the path uphill into Uppingham itself.

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Uppingham

I had found a coffee shop on Google but it was shut, so I took the advice of a woman crossing the road to go to an Irish/Italian place. Here I enjoyed a nice coffee and scone at a table outside overlooking the market square. It was chilly out of the sun so I donned an extra layer. I politely asked a lady, who had parked up next to my table some minutes earlier, to turn her engine off, which she did willingly. I was about to head off so didn’t risk asking the swarthy gentleman who was vaping and playing loud music on his phone to desist from either of these activities.

I cracked on through town to a roundabout, where I took the steep hill up to the quaint hamlet of Ayston.

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Ayston

The road then descended steeply to cross a stream before ascending again to Bancroft Lodge. I passed a small, skinny, Eastern European looking girl on the road, smoking as she passed by on her way to God knows where. I followed a bridleway to the left but was unable to take the further path that cut the corner to Ridlington as it was overgrown with rape and I didn’t wish to ruin another pair of pants. When the bridleway reached the road I followed it through the hamlet. I turned left down the lane which descended and ascended twice before arriving at the beautiful tiny village of Brooke. I visited the church, which had featured in the film version of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Judi Dench.

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St Peter's Church, Brooke

I left Brooke and climbed yet another hill, turning left along the ridge. When I emerged onto the lane, I got my first view of Rutland Water and then of Oakham and journey’s end.

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Oakham

I followed the road down through the suburbs, waited at a crossing for a train to pass and then made a final push down a familiar street to emerge at Oakham Library. I asked a lady on a bike to take a photo of me and she kindly obliged. I looked a right sight on her photo so did a ‘selfie’!

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Journey's end: Oakham Library

Afterward

Afterward

I wandered into town and bought highlighter pens so that I could mark up on my map the many diversions I had taken from my planned route. I made for the Admiral Hornblower but they didn’t start food until 12:00 and my train was booked for 12:19. I found, instead, a pleasant garden café between the church and the castle where I enjoyed a quick mango smoothie and ploughman’s lunch.

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Celebratory lunch, The Yard, Oakham

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I walked down to the station and caught the 12:19 to Nuneaton. That train became the Birmingham train so I remained on board, changing for Manchester at New Street. I got off at Stockport and had a coffee on the platform whilst waiting for the train to Hale. I bumped into John and Bev as I walked the two miles home from the station.

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