I'd been anxiously scanning the weather forecast, and the morning of New Year's Day was due to be sunny. "Right," I said, "Family trip to Bradgate Park. You can drop me off at Groby Pool."
So far, so good. Groby Pool was very pretty in the morning sunlight. I headed south to cross the A50. Fortunately there was very little traffic, as there wasn't a proper crossing at this point, and it would normally be a busy dual carriageway.
I worked my way through an estate of neat bungalows in Groby. One had a garden full of frogs!
At the end of Woodland Lane I found the path from Martinshaw Wood, and I was back on the National Forest Way. This took me back down to the A50 (there was a pedestrian crossing here, but I didn't need it).
|joining the NFW
A track took me into the pleasant Lady Hay Wood. There was still a lot of water around. At this rate I feel like I'm going to be walking in wellies until June! We have had so much rain this winter.
Apart from the mud, the going was easy and the paths were all clear. Quite a few other people were enjoying this first day of the new year.
|view across to Bradgate Park
Then I got to Newtown Linford. It was packed. The main Bradgate Park car park was full, and cars were queuing and hooting on the road. I dodged through the traffic and on to the main path in Bradgate Park. A complete contrast to my previous walks, where I'd hardly seen another person. There were kids on bikes, kids in pushchairs, kids on scooters. Couples walking hand in hand, family groups chatting, parents persuading reluctant teenagers.
|Newtown Linford church
|main path at Bradgate
Weaving through the throng, I passed the ruins of Bradgate House, where the NFW (and Leicestershire Round) turned left to go up to Old John Tower. I continued on to the visitor centre, though, to meet Graham, Toby and Theo.
"Did you manage to park in the main car park?" I asked.
"Don't talk to me about parking!" said Graham.
They'd spent an hour trying to find somewhere to leave the car, and eventually stopped on a muddy verge at the other end of the park. Oh dear. I knew Bradgate Park would be busy, but I hadn't realised it would be quite this bad.
Still, we were all together now, and we set off for the walk up to Old John Tower. Ahead of us, two vapour trails formed a large X in the blue sky.
|Old John Tower ahead
At the tower, we stopped for a bite of lunch and to admire the view. It was clouding over now, but still impressive.
We dropped down the other side of the hill to the Hunts Hill entrance to Bradgate Park. At this point I'd been expecting to turn left and follow the public footpath along the western edge of the park, back to Newton Linford. But our car was in the opposite direction.
So we continued along the NFW, on a footpath just outside the north boundary of the park. It started off well, but then turned into a stream. The boys only had shoes on; they got rather wet. When we got to a track leading out to the road, we took that, and left the National Forest Way at the point where it entered Swithland Wood.
From there we followed the road back to the car. Fortunately it came off the muddy verge more easily than it had gone on. And I'd completed the second-to-last section of the NFW - one more walk to go!
11.7 km / 7.3 miles