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National Forest Way: Normanton le Heath to Ellistown

This 9-mile walk took me through the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Woods and Sence Valley Forest Park, and into the heavily-quarried countryside south of Coalville (no prizes for guessing what was mined there!) I originally planned to walk from Normanton le Heath to Donington le Heath, which had a pleasing symmetry. But I decided to go a bit further, to the hamlet of Ellistown.


It was a cold morning. I'd been in shorts the previous weekend, but today there was a frost. I added a flask of coffee, a scarf and gloves to my kit, and set off.

For a small village, Normanton le Heath has a surprisingly wide road. I parked there rather than using the car park for the Jubilee Woods. That meant I was at my starting point straight away. I followed a road past some rather nice houses, crossed a field, and entered the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Woods. The NFW leaflet told me that I was on the route of the Via Devana, a Roman road from Colchester to Chester. There isn't much left of it.

a mosaic, but not Roman

 I had to cross a couple of fields which were newly sown with winter wheat. The blades glowed in the sun, and I felt bad trampling across them. Still, I was glad the fields hadn't been freshly ploughed. That would have been very hard work!


After a short section on a road, a byway took me across the Sence Valley to the Forest Park. I dutifully followed the Way to the car park there to view the Noon Column, the second that I'd encountered. (The first was at Jackson's Bank.) There are six all together; tall columns with a slot cut into them, positioned so that the sun will shine through the slot at true noon on Midsummer's and Midwinter's Days. It's a nice idea, but that's a rather short timeframe in which to be interesting.

Noon Column

On the next byway I met two ladies on white horses. I crossed a large field with only a faint trace of footpath, then splashed through a very boggy section next to the River Sence. My feet got wet.

over this bridge was the wet bit!

Fortunately I was soon back on hard surfaces and coming into Donington le Heath. I perched on a bench for a quick cup of coffee. It was only a few more minutes' walk to Ellistown, so I decided to keep going. That gave me a good route for my loop back. 

The Donington Arms

There was a surprisingly nice footpath sandwiched between a road and a quarry. It brought me out at the landscaped entrance to Ibstock Brick; I then followed the road to the outskirts of Ibstock. Google Maps was more useful than the OS map for showing me that there was a route through a housing estate back to Sence Valley Forest Park.

Several families were enjoying the gravelled paths past the lakes in the Forest Park. I realised it must be half term in Leicestershire - somehow the county has different school holidays to the rest of England. A cormorant flew over as I settled down to my lunch. The bench I sat on was dedicated to Connie Porter, "who would have enjoyed this seat and your company". Isn't that lovely? That one phrase gives such a nice picture of her.

lunch view


I said goodbye to Connie Porter and cut across to the village of Heather. A ginger cat barred my way, I met Goofy in a telephone box, and encountered heaps of pumpkins. These "ghost" pumpkins have become very popular.


Soon I was back in the Jubilee Wood, and then climbing up the hill to Normanton church. It's a very pretty building.

Previous sections:

Ashby - Normanton le Heath

Calke Abbey - Ashby de la Zouch

Hartshorne, Foremark, Calke Abbey

Overseal - Hartshorne

Rosliston - Overseal

Rangemore - Rosliston

National Memorial Arboretum - Rangemore


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