First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A cool morning above the Leicestershire Wolds, and neighbourly conversations developing over the garden fences of Hoby. The village, perched on a ridge overlooking the valley of the River Wreake, trails its mellow red brick buildings along a street as bendy as the snaking meanders of the river through the meadows below.
I followed a path beside the Wreake. A family picnicking by one of the river bends watched their children splashing in the shallows. I passed the handsome square tower of All Saints church at Rotherby, and then the crocketed spire of Brooksby’s Church of St Michael – just two of the dozens of churches on the Leicestershire Wolds built and embellished by medieval wool wealth.
This is long rolling country, with shallow descents to gravelly rivers and gradual climb to the next ridge. The stony track of the Midshires Way ran south past a sand and gravel quarry, the conveyors and elevators dribbling their loads onto ever-growing cones of pinkish diggings. On the opposite side of the track an old quarry flooded for nature conservation showed the other side of the extraction coin with its sailing mallards and reedbeds a-chatter with warblers.
From the ridge we had long views over mile upon mile of cornfields, the farms isolated like cargo ships in these seas of wheat and barley. A patch of sky blue linseed among the green acres made a striking contrast, the delicate five-petalled flowers gently stirring in the wind.
At Gaddesby we detoured to St Luke’s Church, where a line of gurning little faces looked down from the wall, some medieval stone-carver’s humour that spanned the ages. An apple and a bit of chocolate underneath a spreading chestnut tree, and we were heading north over the undulating corn fields on the Leicestershire Round footpath. Skylarks ascended and poured out song, yellowhammers wheezed in the hedges, and little black spiders ran for shelter into the cracks of the sun-baked clay soil.
In Frisby-on-the-Wreake we passed the stump of the old preaching cross and found the homeward path across the ridge and furrow pasture. In the willows by the river cattle sheltered from the hot afternoon sun, and a cream-coloured bull exchanged loving nose-licks with his dappled grey bride-of-the-moment.
How hard is it? 8½ miles; easy; well-marked field paths
Start: Blue Bell Inn, Hoby, Melton Mowbray LE14 3DT (OS ref SK 670175)
Getting there: Bus 128 (Melton Mowbray-Leicester)
Road – Hoby is signed off A607, Melton Mowbray-Leicester
Walk (OS Explorer 246): From Blue Bell, left along village street. In 200m, right (‘Brooksby’); in 50m, left (kissing gate, ‘Rotherby’). Path between cottages and river; cross river (671169); cross railway to road at Rotherby church (675165). Right to Brooksby; left at road (672161). Cross A607 (671359) and on, following Midshires Way (yellow arrows /YAs and yellow topped posts/YTPs). In 1½ miles, approaching Carlton Lodge Farm, right (686141, stile, YTP) across fields to road (689135). Cross into Pasture Lane. In 300m, just beyond Rose Cottage driveway, left through hedge (692135, ‘Frisby on the Wreake’, YTP). Follow Leicestershire Round/LR for 2¾ miles to road in Frisby-on-the-Wreake (694175). Right; fork left to corner of Main Street and Water Lane (694177). Right; follow LR for nearly 1 mile to corner of Rotherby Lane (682171). Fork right off LR, on path aiming for Hoby Church. Cross railway (677133), then river; follow LR into Hoby.
Lunch: Blue Bell Inn, Hoby (01664-434247, sites.google.com/site/bluebellhoby
Accommodation: Star Inn, The Green, Thrussington, LE7 4UH (01664-424220, thestarinn1744.co.uk)
Info: Melton Mowbray TIC (01664-480992)