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Paul and Midge

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Staying local

With The Missus away on holiday it was upt to Midge and I to look after the place so we could only walk locally today. I usually only write about our big walks but I thought I would show you one of our favorite walks that we do locally. Saturday looked like being the best day of the weekend so we decided do it then.

This walk goes from our home down to Braunston in Rutland, over to Belton in Rutland (they add the Rutland bit just so you know you are in this titchy county) then on to Tilton on the Hill (stating the obvious there) over to Burrough on the hill (the leicestershire people are ones for the obvious) and then home. I am not sur how far this is as I never bother measuring it - I only measure local mileage if The Missus is with us or she gets upset.

So here we are looking back to our village

We live just behind the church.

We headed over to Cold Overton across the fields. Midge does his collie out run to the junctions of fields and hedges and lies in wait to ambush me and get me to throw his ball.

Ready to ambush

The route follows a bridle path but there were no horses today. In fact we rarely see anyone when we are out - oops - spoke too soon. This was to be a very busy day (for around here).

Being a collie Midge is of course OCD, manic, a bit ADHD as all collies are. One reaching the top of the first hill ready forthe descent to the bottom before the next hill up to Cold Overton he went through one of his obsessive behaviours. We often turn around at  the bottom of the hill and then I take him for a swim. Midge loves to swim so started to stop half way up the hill and try and get me to turn around so we could go swimming sooner. He still does this and hangs around waiting trying to get me to come back. Then, when he sees me dissapear into the trees at the bottom of the hill he panics and rushes to catch up with me.

Can you spot the collie?

We progressed into Cold Overton, a lovely village which is separate from the rather large garden centre on the outskirts of the place.

Cold Overton Church

This area has a lot of very pretty churches - there will be more later. I don't attend church but I have a soft spot for them in the countryside and our village church is virtually in our garden - or we are virtually in the graveyard.

We cut over the fields to avoid  the road. In fact this whole route, which I suppose must be about 20 miles has very little road walking - probably less than 2 miles in total and then it is on lanes where you are pretty unlikely to meet a car, more likely a horse or bike.

The route goes across cultivated fields as we head to the telecoms mast above Oakham with views of Rutland Water.

Crossing the border into Rutland

Over looking Rutland Water and Oakham

As I said I usually do these walks alone and see no one on my travels. This area, although very lovely does not attract walkers much. I can go 20 miles or more and see no one or perhaps just a couple of people on horseback. However, today the DOE kids were out in force and I met my first group, 6 lads, at this point.

The way follows a ridge with lovely views of the countryside and then descends into Braunston in Rutland. This are is made up of shallow valleys and we going from one ot the next. Almost on the top of this ridge there is a pond which is full of clear water all year round, I suppose it is fed by a spring, and it gives Midge the opportunity for a swim- he loves swimming.

First swim of the day

The descent into Braunston goes down a leafy bridle lane which it stacked high with dog roses at this time of year and with blackberries in the autumn.

A view towards Braunston

Leafy lane

There are two pubs in Braunston but we were far too early for a beer, and I tend not to stop or eat or drink on local walks, there is no need really. The church is has the oddest clock which is far too big for the tower. I think the diocese must have got a job lot of clocks in the 19C the same blue dials are on most of them around here but the one on the church here just does not fit.

Braunston church
Of interest in the churchyard here is Sheilagh-na-gig a pre-christian statue  see the link if you want to look at her.

She is a rough looking lass, scantily clad with big breasts, a big belly and a big mouth. Her descendents can be seen any Friday or Saturday night in Melton.

We headed south along the road out of Braunston and Midge hopped into the stream that flows through this quaint place for his second swim of the day. We crossed through a field of cattle on our way to Priors Coppice and Leigh Lodge who started to take and interest in Midge and banded together. Isent Midge to the stile out of the way and the cattle crowded round at the point he crossed over. It was then that half a doze DOE-ers, all girls appeared. They were all scared of the inquisitive cattle and refused to go into the field. I assured them they were OK and eventually, as I promised to keep and eye on the cattle for them, they nervously crossed over. I have seen kids out in the fields get hopelessly lost because they won't got into fields with cattle. On one occasion a group preferred to walk a mile along a very busy and narrow road in pouring rain and lousy visibility rather than go into a field with some very placid cattle that Midge and I had just left. They had been told to avoid fields with cattle. Madness!

We skirted around Priors Coppice without stopping to look at the wildflowers, this is now a nature reserve because of the woodland flowers, and continued on to Leigh Lodge which was a hunting lodge once owned by Henry VIII - allegedly. It is now a very grand looking 16/17th C building owned by someone with so much money he only keeps it and the vast acreage around it for partridge shooting. This does mean that the landscape is well managed for other wildlife. It also means the bridleways and footpaths are well marked. It is usually very quiet and a peaceful place out of shooting season.

The broad rides on the Leigh Lodge estate

The shallow valley were were travelling in leads to the beautiful Launde Abbey,  once a monastic settlement dating from the 11thC and now a conference centre and retreat set in a peaceful valley which rarely ever sees trafffic. I was intending to head there but the weather was so nice I thought we would extend the walk to Belton in Rutland so we headed up the hill seen in the picture; well, after Midge had a swim in the river.

Tranquil countryside

Another swim

Looking to Belton in Rutland and Eyebrook Resevoir

We saw no one en route to Belton although I could see another group of DOE-ers in the distance.
I cut back West just before the village and headed over to Tilton on the hill. There is a short section of road here below Robin a Tiptoe hill which was very busy today - what is it about today? We were passed by about 10 cyclists on a club race and a group of 5 classic motorbikes. Had it not been for these organised events we would have seen our usual tally of nil.
According to local legend Robin-a-Tiptoe hill is so called because it used to be the site of the local gallows and on one occasion a chap was hung there for sheepstealing but he was so tall he could stand on tiptoe in the noose and refused to be hung so they had no choice but to let him go.

Following another shallow valley leads to Tilton on the Hill the second highest village in Leicestershire (yes we have returned from the wilds of Rutland) Halstead just to the East is 10 metres higher. At just around 200m above sea-level you might think this nothing, but consider that, depending on which way you are looking, there is nothing higher going east until you hit Russia, Poland or Germany and when the wind comes in from Siberia we really know about it. In the 9yrs I have lived here  we have had frost in every month except July and August. Today though, was hot and sunny and Midge had not had a swim for about 4 miles and there was no stream so he had to improvise.

When there is no river a dog has to improvise!

Tilton church looks like any other of the pretty churches in this area but it has the rudest gargoyle I have ever seen.
Tilton church hides a rude secret

If you look up and to the right above the porch you will see this Gargoyle - OK you purists I know it is a grotesque not a gargoyle!

If you look closely it is a man stark naked, bare-arsed with his hands grasping the back of his knees looking between his legs with his dangly bits very obviously - well dangling! I doubt you would get this past the bishop today - in the 14thC they had a sense of humour with their religion and a different idea of what was spiritual and profane. If you know of a ruder gargoyle in the UK let me know.

We now headed out of Tilton aiming for Burrough on the hill.

Burrough hill in the distance
and another bunch of DOE!

I love the view returning to Burrough and Somerby from Tilton and the photo does not really do it justice. There are couple of options here, either right to Red Lodge and straight to Somerby and cut the route short or straight on down the old coach road (apparently this was the road to London from Melton until the 18thC) and on to Burrough via other bridle paths.

Down the old coach road

A bridle path leads to the gated road between Owston and Burrough but we crossed over it and kept to the footpaths through a field of ladies and their calves with a big old bull. Cows, Calves, Bull and DOG!!! Too many people panic about this. Midge is fine with cattle. I never have him on a lead and if the cattle become a problem I can direct Midge to a gate and over it or anywhere I wish - the advantage of having a sheepdog.

The ladies and their younsters take an interest in us.

We had already ignored the pub at Tilton and we did the same to the pub in Burrough, even though it has its own brewery, and is worth a visit, and kept on along the road - this time passed by 4 or 5 cars - it is a busy road for this area, and went through the gate leading to Burrough Hill fort.

First view of the hillfort.
Until I came to live in this area I thought hillforts were ten a penny but Burrough is the one of few examples in the East Midlands and no one knows why they were not built in greater numbers in this area. This makes Burrough Hill fort one of archeological interest and indeed the University of Leicester Archeology dept were about to start excavating it. I have a polytunnel nearby and they were going to use this for shelter and to process finds so perhaps I will find out what they come up with.

The ramparts were constructed of stone not just earth and so have been robbed out over the years for building and for road construction so it would have been more impressive in the past. It was lived in pretty much continuously between 500BC and 500AD the bloke from the archeology dept said it was likely to have been an important site well before that.

By the hill fort I saw a mast with microwave receivers and transmitters and a satelite dish. I was impressed with the kit these archeologists had. Apparently it was the police. The topography of this area is very complex. It is in effect a plateau with a series of wide shallow valleys cutting into it and almost impossible to get a direct line of sight needed for communications, as we all know around here because our mobile phones don't work very well if at all. We are not really that remote but signal strength is dreadful. It does mean the conbination of weak signal and the ironstone construction of the local pub means no one can use their phone there - a peaceful pub. The best reception near the pub is by standing on the grit box on the corner of the street. The police cannot speak to each other from one side of the county to the other and they were looking to see if a mast near the hill might rectify the problem. I understand there has recently been a tragic accident because of the poor communications systems. A policeman died when he was strangled by the string connecting the two baked bean tins.

Entrance to the hill fort

Trig point on the ramparts

The views from up here are extensive and it is a great place to watch the sun set in summer. The archeologists were setting out and measuring ready for the dig and one are already had the turf stripped back. You can also see my village from here - where we started from.

My village just visible above the excavations.

The raparts on the north east side

There are a number of green roads running to and around the hillfort and these are the same date as the fort (500BC) or most likely predate it. It has been suggested that the roads linking the villages on the high plateau are probably built on neolithic trackways. We descended the ramparts on the north east side and took one of these through the woods towards Little Dalby.

Looking back towards the hillfort

Ancient track - young collie

After leaving the woods we took a sharp right back towards Somerby with another view of our village. There are no paths directly there so we went into Somerby village and took a sharp left almost back on ourselves home.

Looking to wards home - again.
Church tower on the right
As we came into the village a few drops of rain fell - the only  ones all day.

This area is excellent for undemanding attractive walks. It is so quiet that I feel cramped and rushed in the noisy bustle of the Wales, the Peak or the Lake District; I am just not used to that many people on my walks - well outside of DOE season. I moved here 9 years ago and was concerned that I had never lived this far south having spent most of my life in the north and northwest. When some one asked me what it was like living around here I thought of the stone villages, thatched pubs, cricket teams, fox hunts and said it was the first time I had lived in what most people would recognise as England.