Ashby St. Ledgers Path and Canal Towpath Walk.
This walk of 17kms/11 miles from Ashby St. Ledgers includes walking along The Jurassic Way, goes via Braunston and then The Grand Union and Leicester Canals towpaths to Norton Jc and returns to Ashby St. Ledgers.
Ashby St. Ledgers is a small Northamptonshire village which is located north-east of Braunston and is probably most famous as the place where the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was hatched - one of the ringleaders being a staunch Catholic called Robert Catesby who owned the Manor House. The village has quite a few really old and interesting buildings including quite a few
picturesque thatched cottages and barns.
The Manor House has some particularly nice walls and buildings which you can see between the trees and is adjacent to the equally nice old church of the Virgin Mary and St Leodegarius. There is parking around the church area but you do need to avoid blocking the various exits from peoples drives.
Head directly away from the church walking through the main village street - soon passing the Olde Coach House Public House on the left - and eventually reaching the A361 Ashby Road.
Cross straight over this sometimes busy road and take the Jurassic Way opposite. Follow this trail as it goes along the side of the field until it reaches another road - turn right and then shortly take the Jurassic Way which is signed
on the left. This goes on down the field and after going through a gate turns itself into a grassy track which you follow all the way to reach a road on the edge of Braunston. Continue straight ahead along the road to reach a main road
junction. Turn left and almost immediately as you go round the bend look for and take a marked path on the right - this takes you across more fields - you soon get good views of the Grand Union Canal and some of it's old restored buildings.
Continue on down to the canal and cross over the bridge onto the towpath. Go left along the towpath following it along and passing several locks, some shops and a public house until you eventually reach Braunston Tunnel. This last few 100 metres to the tunnel is often very muddy, wet and slippery underfoot - it's been this way for a long time unfortunately.
There is no towpath inside the tunnel - to continue take the steps on the right which climbs up and then onto a wide grassy hedge-lined path - this generally follows the tunnel and you will see two air ventilating shafts on the way. Eventually you reach Ashby Road which you cross and continue straight ahead on a track - you will see a third tunnel ventilating shaft on the right - where the track goes left leave it and take a grassy path going straight ahead.
This path can be a little wet/muddy and is often quite overgrown however to the left of the path you will find a field and it may be drier to wander along the edge of this instead.
The path drops down to reach the other end of Braunston Tunnel, continue along the towpath which is often now in a deep cutting - again the towpath can be quite muddy and is in a particularly messy state when you get near to Norton Junction.
At the junction either cross over Bridge 10 and then a
little way further cross over Bridge 1 - turn left onto the towpath of The Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal or
along the Grand Union's towpath the fairly short distance to Buckby Top Lock where there is a pub and somewhere to sit if you want a relax and perhaps feed some of the ever-hungry ducks. If you do this small diversion then to continue the walk you should cross Bridge 11 and return back along the other side of the canal to Norton Junction where you go right onto the Leicester Canal's towpath near to the canal's Bridge 1..
The towpath is for once is in quite good condition underfoot for both cyclists and walkers and continues along through really nice open countryside. Around two miles along the tow path you reach some really interesting locks - four of the Watford Lock Flight are quite rare Staircase Locks -
locks 3 4 5 and 6). Watford Locks raise the canal up to it's summit at 412 feet - the single locks allow boats through one way at a time and canal boats normally have to find the lock keeper to book passage - and be assisted - through them.
Having looked around go back to Lock 2 and cross the footbridge (the path is signposted as The Jurassic Way) and follow this path to a road. Cross the road and go left a short distance to find the continuation of the path which
goes half right across a field towards a railway embankment - aim for the railway bridge. Once you have walked under the railway bridge follow the marked path - when we walked this the fields had been ploughed and several of the path signs had been tossed into the hedgerow.
The way is to follow the ditch on the right until you are more or less opposite a lonely farm barn which you can see a little to the left - from here the path branches left across the field and then continues round the edge of the field.
It's worth mentioning that when we walked this route because of the lack of footpath markers let alone any visible sign of the footpath itself (which had been ploughed up) we simply went sort of half left across the field heading towards some oak trees and the visible Manor House and church at Ashby St Ledgers. (Although not a path you could
also walk round to the right of the field following the field edge that way - this brings you to a large lake - if you just keep going round the edge you also arrive at the stiles which
will then bring you back into the village.)
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