10 lonely walks in Northants
Day 1 of self-isolation and already climbing the walls? You can still get out in the fresh air and let the Mudlets run amok. Here's our roundup of the best walks in and around Northants.
Here in landlocked Northamptonshire we can’t boast miles of rugged coastline, National Parks or AONB status, but our secret is our superpower in these days of social distancing. “Northants? Where’s that near Southampton?” Ask the uninitiated. Eyeroll. Did you know that most visitors to our hallowed shire pass through on the M1 motorway without ever stopping?
We are hidden away in plain sight and one of the most unspoilt rural counties with nearly a thousand square miles of rolling countryside to ourselves. As pretty as the Cotswolds but without the price tag or coach loads of tourists. There are literally thousands of miles of gorgeous walks out there and you can frolic away without seeing another living soul, apart from the odd sheep, horse, badger, etc. Perfect for getting some fresh air and exercise while social distancing and/or doing some hands-on homeschooling with your kiddos. Just remember to keep away from busier settlements and at least 2 metres from anyone outside your own household. It’s also essential to keep on top of your hand hygiene, especially when climbing over stiles and opening gates, so don’t forget your hand gel.
Maintained by the Woodland Trust, the ancient woods at Everdon Stubbs are rich in native wildlife, you can barely walk ten steps here without rubbing shoulders with Fox and Badger, the bluebells are just about to burst into bud and there are rare wild daffs to be seen. As a Northants native, this was our go-to woodland for bluebells growing up. Sadly, the rope swings dotted around the place, hanging from some of the huge oaks and sweet chestnut trees are probably best avoided in the current situation and it might not be easy to convince the tiddlers of that wisdom.
300 acres of coniferous woodlands close to Princess Diana’s childhood home at Althorp, these small but perfectly formed woods make quite a refreshing change from the deciduous woods we tend to be used to in Northants. the woodland tracks are easily navigable and quite doable with rugged type of pushchair. The only downside here is that you are quite close to the edge of Northampton so chances are you will encounter (gasp!) other people, so do be extra wary.
Bucknell Woods and Hazelborough Forest
These two neighbouring woodlands at the edge of Silverstone are a wonderful place to lose yourself and forget the madness going on in the world. There are a broad range of pathways, from narrow, winding footpaths to broad tracks, some of which are ideal for cycling and horse riding. Bucknell and Hazelborough have both deciduous and coniferous areas of planting, and fallow deer can often be spotted hopping through the clearings.
This family friendly 14-mile cycle trail meanders through the countryside from Northampton to Market Harborough via a dismantled railway line which goes through the rather spooky Oxenden tunnel where you will need your bike lights!
Once an ironstone quarry, these 200 acres of woodland will allow you to keep others at a safe distance. There are marked trails with hard paths that are ideal for buggies and wheelchairs. If you’re lucky you may spot the resident muntjac deer, stoats and hedgehogs.
We love the undulating landscape in Badby Woods on the Fawsley Estate, which are marked as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, having stood here for over a thousand years and abundant with flora and fauna. The crumbling grandeur of the old gatehouse and the entrance to the woods makes a picturesque scene. Rough footpaths, so not one for the buggy or wheelchair.
The Knightley Way starts off here. A 12 mile waymarked path from Badby to Greens Norton, doable in a day for most adventurous adults, but quite a stretch for the smaller Mudlets. The good news is there are some lovely shorter segments to pick from along the way, in particular the route from Badby to Fawsley, with bluebells just about to come into flower in Badby Woods and the glorious Fawsley Hall to feast your eyes on. There and back should take couple of hours and if the weather is kind there are some pretty picnic spots too.
The fantastic cafe might be closed for now (boo hoo), but don’t despair, there are many endless miles of walking to enjoy in this medieval royal hunting forest just outside Hartwell. See if you can find the ancient oaks, known as The Druids, which are more than 600 years old.
Set on the outskirts of Daventry and with a decent path circumnavigating the reservoir, Daventry Country Park is perfect for pootling around with the kids on their bikes and spotting swans, ducks, geese and moorhens.
Brixworth Country Park and Pitsford Water
There’s a 7.5 mile path around Pitsford Water that can be done on foot or by bike as well three shorter waymarked routes, ranging between 15 minutes and an hour, through the park. Enjoy the grassland, woodland and meadows with an abundance of wildlife to spot including little egrets, great northern divers and even grass snakes.
Summer Leys near Wollaston is seriously a hidden gem. This pretty wetland area is a former gravel pit covering nearly 50 hectares and it’s been transformed into an idyllic nature reserve that is a haven for wildlife, in particular breeding and wading birds, including oystercatchers, plovers and redshanks. If you’re extra quiet and still you might even be lucky enough to see otters, which have been regularly sighted here. Now is a great time of year to visit if you’re careful not to disturb nesting sites. There are hides dotted around the lake, and most fitties could manage the walk in an hour, but it will take longer if you are wildlife spotting or just daydreaming along the way. The site is wheelchair friendly with hard paths, and dogs are welcome on a lead.