Another Sunday afternoon walk, walking along the Brampton Valley Way.
We are lucky to have a disused railway line nearby, which has been turned into a linear Country Park. The ‘Brampton Valley Way‘ runs from Northampton to Market Harborough along the old track-bed. With a distance of 14 miles and two tunnels, it is easily covered by bicycle in a few hours and is popular with walkers and cyclists. The many entrance/exits points, make a walk or bike ride as short or as long as you wish.
As the path follows a disused railway, the trackbed is flat and accessible for buggies and wheelchairs too. There are several places where you can join the Brampton Valley Way. Kingsthorpe, Boughton/Windhover pub (P) , Chapel Brampton/Brampton Holt (P), Spratton/Brixworth (P), Brixworth/Cottesbrooke, Hanging Houghton, Lamport, Maidwell/Draughton (P), Kelmarsh/Arthingworth (P), Great Oxendon (P). (Unless (P) for parking, it is foot/cycle access only).
This time we decided to walk, choosing to park at Spratton car park where there is space for about 10 to 12 cars. There is ample green space for picnics and family gatherings. No special footwear is required – trainers are a good choice. We took the path south, in this direction the gradient is very slightly downhill back towards Northampton. It’s quite an enclosed pathway at this point with vegetation and trees on both sides and is a very pleasant green walk. Plenty of cow parsley, other flowers, flowering hawthorn and lots of birds singing in the trees.
After a mile or so, you reach Merry Tom (Lane), that gives walkers and cyclists another access to the path. Once past Merry Tom, the landscape opens out across the Northamptonshire fields. The old railway criss-crosses the little River Nene several times by a series of bridges.
In the summer the river is a pretty sight, bordered by pretty yellow oil-seed rape flowers on its grassy banks. The river winds its way through the valley, and the path eventually meets up with the north end of the ‘Northampton and Lamport Railway’ which shares part of the Brampton Valley Way. The railway runs along one side of the track, separated by a wire safety fence. While on this stretch we saw a red kite flying overhead. These birds used to be so rare 20 years ago, but due to their re-introduction in Rutland (20+ miles north) along with buzzards, they are quite a familiar sight in the skies around Northamptonshire now.
Continue walking and you’ll pass the railway engines, carriages and signals which means the station is not far away. You can carry on down for another mile to the end of the railway line at Boughton crossing. There is a large public car park just down the road from Boughton Crossing and also the Windhover Pub. If you don’t want to continue, you can cross the tracks and either choose the Brampton Halt pub or visit the Heritage Railway during its weekend opening hours.
The railway has a wonderfully eclectic bookshop and a station buffet carriage with hot/cold drinks and snacks. (Only open during weekends opening times, please check the NLR website for opening times.) When the trains are running on Sundays/Bank Holiday Mondays, there will be a track marshal to see you safely across the tracks. At other times, just make sure it is safe to cross before you start.
If you choose a visit to the railway, why not have a ride on the heritage train through the countryside? If that doesn’t appeal, you could buy a platform ticket and have a hot snack and a drink from the buffet on platform 3. Special events often run at weekends, just check out the website at www.nlr.co.uk for more information.
After a welcome cup of tea and coffee and the use of the platform toilets, we made our way back, following the same route. We caught a rare afternoon sight of a barn owl hunting the fields for mice and voles and the sun came out. It is such a pleasant walk that we’ve done it on and off over the years it’s been open. Slow worms have been seen basking in the path and Little Egrets are in the area too.
5 miles from Spratton to the NLR and back.
6.8 miles from Spratton to Boughton and back
(P) =free public car parking – all vary in size. There are no public toilets along the path but plenty of pubs and the Heritage Railway within a short distance.
Have you walked this path? I’d love to hear from you.