Green Lane Guide.
A guide to driving some of the Northamptonshire lanes. Reproduced by kind permission of Land Rover World Magazine.
Last summer I took a look at a selection of Byways (B.O.A.T.) and Unclassified Country Road’s (U.C.R.’s) in Northamptonshire, linked by minor roads to form a 25 mile circuit incorporating pretty villages and proper country pubs. The weather had been particuary good all week so I chose to do a recce on the bike. As luck would have it, it pissed it down on the Friday I had free and I got the bike stuck several times and finally got home drenched and knackered, but with the makings of a good route.
The route I found has the huge advantage of being on the doorstep for any Midland based green lane enthusiasts. My pal, Dave Tilton and I, spent a day at the end of the summer driving this circular route. Dave in his ex military 88 inch and me in my 109 inch Carawagon. The weather had been pretty dry, so there was plenty of grip, but by the time you read this it could all be very different. The ruts will be very muddy, but the foliage will be less dense. Northamptonshire County Council have a team of helpful Rights of Way officers, who confirmed that the routes detailed are open to all traffic, but at the beginning of many sections they issue a notice that states, ‘in the case of damage the track will be closed’. The message is clear. Mess up these lanes and we won’t be able to drive them again.
Dave and I started our day at the village of Naseby where, in 1645, King Charles’s Royalist Army suffered a bloody defeat from Oliver Comwell’s Parliamentarians at The Battle of Naseby. There are several memorials to the great battle dotted around the area and we chose the Obelisk, half a mile northeast of Naseby as our start/finish point at OS map reference SP694785. Planning the route on O.S. Explorer map 223 and highlighting our intended route beforehand was well worth the effort.
From the Obelisk, head north, over the A14, then turn sharp right following a rough tarmac track past New House Farm. The track then goes back under the A14 and on to some barns at SP714792. This is the start of the first Byway which heads back south past the delightfully named, Tallyho Covert. There are some deep ruts here that will present a challenge in the winter months. Once past the Covert the track has a gravel base offering better grip all the way south to Haselbech at SP710776. Turn left and left again, following signs to Kelmarsh, but at SP729781 keep right and head east to the A508. Cross the main road to join the start of the next Byway at SP741780. This is a greasy little blighter so watch you don’t slide into the hedge! You emerge to a splendid view of gently rolling fields and follow the Byway signs south again, towards Maidwell with the hedge to your right and the field to your left. The first half of this section is just grass so take care not to cut it up in wet weather. Entering Maidwell it becomes tarmac.
Follow the road through Maidwell and back to the A508, where you cross and join another U.C.R. at SP746769. Keep to the left on this tarmac track, even though it has a No Through Road sign. You enter some woods and take a left fork at SP740766 to Blueberry Lodge, a farm at SP733755. From here the track reverts to compressed earth and could be treacherous in winter. There is some danger of scratching from the blueberry hedge. Further south at Blueberry Grange, SP 724745, you join the Macmillan Way, an ancient route linking Boston in Lincolnshire with Abbotsbury in Dorset. This particular section is open to all traffic and has a firm gravel base. The track emerges through a busy farm yard back onto a minor road a mile to the east of Cottesbrooke at SP720734. From here, head west into Cottesbrooke past the entrance to Cottesbrooke Hall, then south towards Creaton to SP708731 where the appropriately named Green Lane disappears into the undergrowth through a tight chicane of posts to keep out wider vehicles. These posts were partially concealed by foliage in summer, but will be clearly visible in winter. They required careful negotiation to avoid damage. Once through this obstacle you are rewarded with a flat, but rutted track that will, inevitably become very muddy in the winter. The track is about a mile long and evidence suggests there have been failed attempts to drive it in the past with many parallel ruts visible. There are further posts to negotiate at the other end where you join the A5199 at SP695731.
Following this is the only section of main road in the whole circuit. Take the A5199 south for two miles to Creaton, turning sharp right to Hollowell just north of Creaton at SP704719. Drive into Hollowell then on through Guilsborough, doing a dog leg to the right and left, to join the Cold Ashby road. Two miles before Cold Ashby at SP665752, turn left off the road at a post box following the sign, West Haddon Gated Field Road. Though predominantly tarmac this U.C.R. winds through delightful Northamptonshire countryside before becoming more rutted and muddy at the western end.
Rejoining tarmac head north towards Cold Ashby for 2 miles to SP648756, then turn left through a gate onto a B.O.A.T. that is quite narrow through hedges and a risk of scratching, before opening out to reveal a great view to the north. Descend steeply to a Byway junction at SP631746 and fork right towards Winwick Lodge and, after 3 more miles, Elkington, where the track ends and you could return by road to Naseby and complete the circuit.
Total distance: 25 miles including of 11 miles of green lanes.
Time to drive: Four hours in summer.
Start and finish: Naseby in Northamptonshire at OS reference SP694785. N 52 23 58 W 00 58 56.
Nearest towns: Northampton 8 miles southeast, Market Harborough 8 miles northeast.
Nearest Hospitals: Market Harborough & District Hospital, Coventry Road, Market Harborough LE16 9DD Tel. 01858 410500, or Northampton General Hospital,
Cliftonville, Northampton, NN1 5BD Tel. 01604 634 700
Best pubs: Most of the villages you will pass through have a good local. We had a huge BLT baguette at The Ward Arms in Guilsborough.
Map to take: O.S. Explorer 223, Northampton and Market Harborough.
Campsites: There are no campsites in the immeadiate vacinity.
Accomodation: Nearby Welford on the Grand Union Canal has a few pubs and restaurants. For B&B try West End Farm B&B, 5 West End,Welford NN6 6HJ, Tel. 01858 575 226
Local Attractions: Neseby has a museum dedicated to The Battle of Naseby. At Cottesbrooke there is Cottesbrooke Hall and gardens, open from May to September. Slightly further away is Althorp House, home of the Spencer family. Hollowell is famous for it’s Steam Fair held the first weekend in July. Pitsford resevior is nearby where you can hire cycles to ride around the resevior. A total distance of 12 miles.
For the latest info on all of these routes contact:
GPS Systen used: Garmin 128
How hard: Medium in summer.
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