The National Forest Way finishes at Beacon Hill, Leicestershire, with beautiful wide-ranging views in all directions. I'd been hoping for a sunny day, and this one certainly fit the bill. The frosty earth lay under a glorious canopy of shining blue sky.
I parked at Swithland Wood, close to where we finished the previous walk. Finding the waymarker on the first gate was bittersweet - this was the last time I would be following these familiar circles.
Swithland Wood had been acquired by the Rotary Club in 1931, and later passed on to Bradgate Park Trust. The lumpy terrain was due to slate quarrying. I skirted a couple of fenced-off pits. As I left the wood, I passed a lake which I assumed was another flooded quarry, but with an odd little tower next to the water.
I followed a road up a steady hill towards Woodhouse Eaves. Many of the houses were surrounded by walls of the local slate. Woodhouse Eaves was a prosperous-looking village with some nice old buildings.
Crossing the wide open fields of Broombriggs Farm Country Park, I met a couple of other walkers, who remarked on the beautiful weather. Soon I was climbing up the broad gravel path to the top of Beacon Hill.
Wow. This was not a view to rush away from. I stayed and soaked it in for quite some time.
Officially the National Forest Way ends at the car park down the hill, but this was what I had been aiming for: standing in the sunshine on the ancient rocks of Beacon Hill, with the world spread out below me.
The car park was quite a disappointment, anyway. No glowing banner to proclaim, "The walk ends here". Not even one of the regular information signs about the NFW. Oh well.
It did have a cafe, at least, so I treated myself to a latte and an Eccles cake, and warmed up nicely. I had to squeeze on to the end of a bench next to some other ladies, as the place was crowded. "I told you not to say it would be quiet," one waitress said to the other.
I crossed the road and walked past the remains of Woodhouse Eaves windmill. It burned down in 1945, but the stone base still stands, with a more recent viewing platform built on top.
My return route took me along the Leicestershire Round and across Lingdale Golf Course. There were quite a few golfers out. I could see one man getting ready to hit a ball, so I waited until it was safely launched and landed before I scurried across the fairway.
The ground was much drier than it was two weeks ago, and mostly frozen. I'd forgotten how nice it was not to be wading through muddy swamps. It seemed no time until I was back at the entrance to Bradgate Park. There was a handy picnic bench for lunch just inside the gate. After that it was a short walk through the brown fronds of dead bracken, back to the car.
13.7 km / 8.5 miles