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National Forest Way: Ashby to Normanton le Heath

It's a beautiful drive along country roads to Ashby de la Zouch. Especially on a sunny Monday morning, with a good walk beckoning ahead. This next section of hiking took me south of Ashby, through a couple of pretty villages, and past some very unexpected animals. 

 

I dropped Theo off at school, enjoyed my drive to Ashby, and parked in a side street near Station Road, boots on and ready to go by 9:30am. A short section of a road took me to a footpath across some fields. I scrumped an apple from a tree next to the stile, and munched it as I walked.

Me by the apple tree


 There was a footbridge to cross the busy A42, then an easy bridle track to Packington. The church was open, so I stuck my head in, but didn't like to trample over too much of the clean red carpet with my walking boots on.

crossing the A42

Packington church

From Packington the Way mostly crossed unremarkable fields to reach Normanton le Heath. There was a small section of woodland known as Plummer's Wood. 


view from Normanton le Heath

Normanton is a tiny village perched on top of a hill, giving good views back to Ashby. The church here was closed and no one seemed to be about. I had a snack on a bench in the graveyard, and admired the gargoyles on the church tower.

flowers by Normanton church

main street of Normanton le Heath


At this point I left the NFW to head back to Ashby. First I crossed a few fields, where I was amused by this sign above a miniature pony. 


Then I crossed Springfield Wood. The trees were simply dripping with red berries - hawthorn, rowan, and probably some others as well.

Coming out onto a track, I was surprised to see a herd of deer in a field. That was unusual enough, I thought, but then I passed another field with alpacas in, and another containing... bison? Yes, they were. There was a sign explaining that they are classed as dangerous wild animals, and can move remarkably fast.


bison bison


Hill Farm had a cafe, which was tempting, but I pressed on. I failed to spot the footpath I was looking out for, so the last portion of the walk was all on roads. I got to see a little more of Packington village, crossed the A42 again, and passed the castle in Ashby de la Zouch. We've visited a couple of times as a family and it's well worth it; not every ruined castle has a tower to climb and an underground passage to explore.

Lock-up in Packington
 

I passed the NFW sign where I'd finished my walk last time, and continued down the high street. Tucked away in a courtyard is the Rose Cottage Tea Rooms, where I treated myself to a scone and a coffee. "We make the scones first thing every morning," said the man behind the counter; whereupon his wife stuck her head out of the kitchen and said, "I don't know about we. I make the scones every morning!" 

 

The last landmark before I reached the car was the Loudoun memorial, erected in memory of the Countess of Loudoun. She "regularly entertained local children", says the accompanying sign, "and was well-known for visiting local miners who had suffered accidents at the pit." She died in 1874.

Once again, doing a loop added interest to the official NFW route - I would have completely missed the bison, Springfield Woods, and most of Packington village. It was a pleasant 8-mile walk through an area I hadn't been to before.

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