Our Walks Around Kings Cliffe

After settling in and getting ourselves organized, it was time to explore. We were supposed to quarantine for 14 days, but after the non-existent briefing at the airport, and with everyone else in lockdown, along with us being out in the countryside, with little chance of meeting too many people in close proximity, we decided to get out.

There were many walks in the village itself but we decided to take the longer walks around the village. Our first walk was along a disused railway line which sat high on an embankment and wound its way along the north end of the village. We passed black sheep grazing in the meadow and saw many rabbit and fox holes in the banks, as we slid on the muddy, leaf strewn path. The trail took us over a bridge and turned along a field and back up through the town. A short walk of about 3.5 miles, just a taste of things to come.

Our second walk was also short, along a gravel roadway which is part of the ‘Jurassic Way’, an 88 mile long walkway following the limestone ridge of the Jurassic era through Lincolnsire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshhire and Rutland. A walk that would be lovely to do for a few days in the summer. We shared the road with some beautiful horses and met a few locals along the way, just greeting each other with a nod of the head and a ‘mornin’.

We decided to take a walk to the next village, Blatherwyke, via the public footpath across the fields. The weather was beautiful, blue skies, a fresh breeze and the bright warm sun, hung low in the sky. We followed the map and managed to climb the numerous stiles across the fields, passing through a few kissing gates too. There were muddy tracks along the brook but after walking in the long grassy fields for a while, our boots were soon clean again. We came upon the lake at Blatherwyke and were overjoyed to see a large number of swans gliding across the water. I would estimate at least 30, all preening and honking, with several of them flying across the water, landing elegantly and gracefully on the pond. We entered the very small village with its pretty cottages, crossed the bridge and headed out the other side with a climb up across the fields and into the woods that we had walked through previously. We passed several properties that looked very impressive with large ponds and gardens, steep roofs with many chimneys and we guessed they were gatehouses and priories of past estates. We came across woolly sheep and three friendly black pigs, grunting at us as we passed by. The scenery was breathtaking with miles of green rolling fields, dry stone walls criss-crossing the landscape and autumnal leaves clinging with all their might to the branches of trees until it was their time to flutter to the ground. It was a good  7 mile walk we were happy to be back at Partridge barn and ready for a hot cup of tea.

The next day we embarked on a shorter walk to Apehtorpe village, again across the fields and through woods, so much more interesting than the roadway. The sun was shining and the temperature a little warmer, so only padded jackets needed. The trail was narrow in places and quite muddy, so we had to watch our footing. We passed horses and more sheep, skirted a few outlying cottages and passed a few more locals on the way. There were many pheasants in the woods and we could hear them calling out as we passed, scaring a few of them that were close to us. They are really fast on their feet, and when they fly, their wings make a powerful thumping sound, taking them quickly from the ground up into the air. Luckily there were no shoots going on, so we were safe from any pot shots!

The village of Apethorpe was very picturesque, a lovely church, chocolate box cottages and a very inviting pub. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the lockdown, but we thought that might have been a good thing, otherwise we may have stayed there for a heavy lunch, and then have to stagger back through the fields.  Apethorpe Palace, a large country estate owned by a French Count, which is open to the public for two months of the year is one of the attractions to the village. We were able to peer through the gates, wondering if the count was home, imagining him sitting in front of a roaring fire with his hounds at his feet, whiskey in hand, contemplating his next hunt. We headed back via a different route and decided to take the longer way around one of the fields to take in more of the scenery. After a while it seemed that we were headed away from Kings Cliffe, which we could see in the distance, and the trail was obviously one that was less traveled, with brambles on one side and barbed wire on the other. We were being snagged by the brambles and thought that we may have taken a wrong turn. It was 2.30pm and the sun was losing its heat and so it seemed much later in the day, and we hoped we would make it back home before dusk set in at around 4.30pm. We finally made a turn at the end of a field, which seemed more or less in the right direction and after a while the trail widened and we saw the footpath signs again. After crossing Willowbrook, the lovely little stream that passes through the village, and back up through the main street, we were back at Partridge Barn, after completing 7.5 miles! So much for our short walk…

We enjoyed a walk along the River Nene, just a few miles away from where we were staying. The area had been designated a ‘Green Wheel’ area. This is an area specifically for walking, boating, cycling and any other non-motor recreation. There were a couple of man-made lakes where sailing and all types of water sports could be accessed, and we followed the river for a while, crossing the Nene Valley Railway line, which is open in the summer and where you can actually ride on ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’. The path along the river was extremely muddy and we slipped and slid, boots clogging with mud and becoming heavier by the minute. We were about to turn back when we saw a sign for a footpath across a field and decided to take that route, although we were not sure where it would take us. The day was much colder, in fact possibly the coldest day so far at around 46 degrees. The wind was cool and we hunkered behind our scarves and eventually put on our gloves. As we walked across the field, wiping our boots on thick tufts of grass as we went, we sniffed the air and could smell the lovely strong scent of onions. The farmer was harvesting the onions in the next field and my mouth watered as I imagined sinking my teeth into a fresh brown seeded roll, slathered in butter and filled with sharp cheddar cheese and crisp fresh onion slices…mmmmm. We climbed a stile, and crossed a bridge and walked past some beautiful, dewy-eyed cows, munching intently on the fresh green grass. We crossed another bridge and came upon a lock which allowed boats to continue along the River Nene by diverting the water past a weir. We crossed the weir and looked down on the powerful water cascading through it. Into the village of Alwalton and we passed the old post office, Alwalton Hall and the church, bringing back memories for Marcel as he was raised in this area and as a boy had cycled across all these fields and bridges, undoubtedly up to no good! We passed more thatched cottages and quaint little houses, which I’m sure are steeped in history. We returned to the river and followed it along the other bank, back towards the car, stopping to eat our sandwiches and drink our hot tea to warm us up. Not the cheddar and onion that I had imagined earlier, but the chicken and tomato chutney on brown bread was very welcome. Back through the recreation area and over the stone bridge, where Marcel used to hide underneath, in the ‘dungeon’ as a kid, and the clouds started to hang heavy in the air, like old dusty grey chandeliers. We headed up the hill towards the car with one last look over the river and fields, took another deep breath of fresh country air and headed home. A very nice 6 mile walk down ‘memory lane’.

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