Aug 202011

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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In the car park of the Pig In Muck at Claybrooke Magna I found a carload of cheerful chaps packing clinking bags of booze into a pink minibus. Whither away? ‘To Birmingham – it’s my stag night tonight. Go-karting, and then the dogs!’

I wished them good luck, and set out into the bright, breezy day. If you’re looking for a walk in the heart of rural Middle England, Leicestershire’s hard to beat, and Claybrooke Magna’s pretty typical of the county’s villages – red brick, neat, friendly, set in low-lying countryside that’s half pasture and half arable, rich in handsome houses and horse paddocks.

Claybrooke Hall stood solid and brick-faced on the outskirts of Claybrooke Parva among parkland lime trees, their trailing skirts of leaves raised to head height by the nibbling teeth of generations of cattle and horses. St Peter’s Church, on ancient foundations, is built of pale sandstone so soft that the fearsome scowls of its gargoyles have weathered to expressions of mild enquiry. ‘JST’ carved his initials into the east wall on a summer’s day in 1883, one among hundreds of graffiti.

I turned north through fields hump-backed with medieval ridge-and-furrow, butterfly-haunted hay meadows and cornfields flushed with poppies. An old biplane with a gracefully rounded snout went grunting across a blue sky puffed with giant white cumulus clouds. Fields of rye-grass flattened by big winds and rains; fields of dry-rustling oats enclosing dark ranks of potato plants. The horses at high-perched Hill Farm stared me through. Nearing Frolesworth I paused to admire a flock of pink-snouted Charmoise Hill sheep buddied up with some chubby Polled Dorsets – whose wool ‘goes to make coffins’, a notice enigmatically informed me.

A long westward path, sinuating like a dark snake through the corn, and I was walking the bushy tracks of Fosse Meadows nature reserve among Lammas meadows full of flowers, bird chatter and the cries of little kids let off the leash. The hedges were hung with brilliant purple flowers of bittersweet, the long yellow stamens protruding like woodpecker bills. From a hide I watched swallows over a pond, banking after midges in tight curves like fighter aces.

At Claybrooke Lodge I turned along a stretch of the Fosse Way, a broad stony track between thick old hedges. History rang at every footfall along this ancient British trackway that the Romans appropriated to forge a ruler-straight highway from Exeter to Lincoln. A field of bright blue linseed, a sky full of larks, and a pair of young lovers playfully smacking each other as they preceded me down the bridleway to Claybrooke.

Start & finish: Pig In Muck PH, Claybrooke Magna, NE Hinckley, Leics, POSTCODE (OS ref SP489889)

Bus – Centrebus ( Service 58, Mkt Harborough-Hinckley.
Road – A5 (Lutterworth-Hinckley; at High Cross, right to Claybrooke Magna. Park near Pig in Muck PH.

WALK (6 miles, easy grade, OS Explorer 233):
From Pig in Muck PH, left along Main Road. Pass village hall; in 200 m, left along Back Lane (492886). In 200 m, right along Holly Tree Walk (‘Leicestershire Round’/LR). Follow LR and yellow-topped posts/YP through fields to Claythorpe Parva. At road, left (496880), right through churchyard, left along lane to road (498879). Cross bend; left along bridleway (‘Claybrooke Mill’). Follow YPs and blue arrows/BAs for ¾ mile to mill (499891). Cross yard, up bank, cross mill leat. Fork left (LR circular symbol) across field beyond. Cross Frolesworth Lane (499893); follow LR/YP for nearly 1 mile to road in Frolesworth (502907). Left for 50 m; on right bend, keep ahead through Manor Farm yard (‘Sharnford 2’). Follow yellow arrows/YA and YP west for ¾ mile to cross Foss Way (491911). YA points ahead over field; cross River Soar; ahead on path through Fosse Meadows reserve. In 150 m at meeting of gates, keep straight ahead through kissing gate (489912) onto duckboard trail. In 150 m, bear right through kissing gate; ahead across field with hedge on your right; through kissing gate to rejoin LR (487911). Diagonally left over field to YP. Follow LR and YPs to Fosse Way (486905) at gate of Claybrooke Lodge Farm. Right along stony Fosse Way for over ½ mile. At gate across track, left (481897; YP, BA) across field to YP. Follow YP/BA to road. Left to Pig In Muck PH.

LUNCH: Pig in Muck PH, Claybrooke Magna (01455-209524); friendly local.

ACCOMMODATION: Greyhound Inn, Lutterworth (01455-553307;; family-run and full of character.

INFO: Hinckley TIC, Hinckley Library (01455-635106);
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