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|
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.
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.