First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Another chance to walk with our artist friend Carry Akroyd through the Northamptonshire countryside that inspires her. A beautiful day of soft autumn light showed off these understated fields and woods in all the colour and detail she catches so strikingly in her East Anglian landscapes.
We left the pale limestone walls and thatched roofs of Wadenhoe, climbing gently from the valley of the River Nene into pastures of medieval ridge-and-furrow cropped by fat ginger-coated bullocks. A pair of red kites circled overhead, and Carry let out a perfect imitation of a kite’s shrill whistle to bring them lower. Along an old trackway we fingered the pink leaves of blackthorn bushes whose sloes hung in thick dark clusters, ripe for the gin bottle.
Through Lilford Wood on a speckled carpet of brown-and-yellow elm leaves, to a view at the far end across a ploughed field to the stone shell of Lyveden New Bield, Sir Thomas Tresham’s never-completed dream of a country lodge. Tresham, a staunch and devout Catholic, died in 1605, shortly before his son Francis became embroiled in the Gunpowder Plot. Disgrace and financial ruin followed for the family, and the unfinished lodge (a mansion in all but name) and its adjacent pleasure gardens were left to fall into decay.
Lyveden New Bield has been preserved and its grounds restored by the National Trust. We explored the eerie hollow skeleton of the lodge with its fine carvings of discreetly placed Catholic symbols, and climbed the moated mound behind for a view over the whole fantasy landscape. Then we took the homeward path through Lady Wood where the oak trees held up a canopy of quince-coloured leaves with wonderfully distorted limbs.
Long-tailed tits and siskins thronged the trees down by the River Nene, feasting among the seed cones of alders. Carry spotted a marsh tit, a rare sighting that made her exclaim with delight. And in the recesses of Wadenhoe’s box-backed church I found an old friend of ours – the Green Man, carved by some anonymous medieval mason, hiding in the shadows with a secret smile seven centuries old.
Start: Village hall car park, Wadenhoe, Northants, PE8 5ST (OS ref TL 011833)
Getting there: Wadenhoe is signed off A605 between Thrapston and Oundle
Walk (8½ miles, easy field and woodland paths, OS Explorer 224): Walk back up village street (‘Lyveden Way’/LW). Left at top (LW); in 30m, left through gate (LW). Aim a little right of church; in 200m, further right to kissing gate (009835, LW). Aim ahead through trees and across next field to far left corner to cross road (008836, LW). Cross next field to far left corner; right along road.
In 150m, left down track (006838, ‘Wadenhoe Lodge’). In ½ mile pass Wadenhoe Lodge; continue following LW. In another 500m pass track on left (994845, ‘No Footpath’); in100 m, left through gate, across 2 fields to path into Lilford Wood (992847, LW). Follow LW through wood, across fields to Lyveden New Bield (984853).
Returning from house, retrace steps to edge of field; right (LW) on path which curves to meet Lady Wood (980850). Right (LW); in 100m, left into wood, past picnic tables, across 2 duckboard footbridges and on south along path. In 300m, right at cross-path to observation tower (978848). Left down ride to bottom of wood (978844); left along LW. In 250m bear left (981843, LW); in 300m, at wood edge, right at T-junction (984842, LW).
In ½ mile, leave trees (989835) and continue on field path (LW). In 650m pass a brambly, iron-fenced pond on your left (993930); through next kissing gate (LW); on across next field to go through kissing gate (996827). LW goes left here; but turn right along green lane. In 300m, just past gate across lane, left (994825) along field edges with ditch on left. In 4th field, angle slightly right, following line of trees to cross stile to right of house (002821).
Ahead to Cross Lane; left to road in Aldwincle (004820). Right; in 200m, at junction, left (‘Nene Way’ fingerpost) across paddock and down path. In 200m, left at field edge (007820), and follow waymarked Nene Way for 1 mile to Wadenhoe.
Conditions: Lyveden Way signs are badly faded, but visible as white rectangles.
Lunch: NT café at Lyveden New Bield, or King’s Head PH, Wadenhoe (01832-720024, wadenhoekingshead.co.uk)
Accommodation: Talbot Hotel, Oundle PE8 4EA (01832-273621, thetalbot-oundle.com) – comfortable, long-established hotel.
Lyveden New Bield: 01832-205358, nationaltrust.org.uk/lyveden
Carry Akroyd: carryakroyd.co.uk
*’The Times Britain’s Best Walks’ by Christopher Somerville (Harper Collins) – 200 walks from the ‘A Good Walk’ column – published 6 October.