Buckminster – Bottesford 17 miles (27 km)
This walk can be based on Melton Mowbray by taking the 9.45 bus 55 towards Grantham which will drop you just fifteen minutes later in Buckminster. There is a service back from Bottesford but check on times. Or a safe leisurely option, start in Bottesford take the 08.30 bus into Melton and walk back to your car.
Buckminster bus shelter built to mark the coronation 1953
I left the bus shelter passing the shop which once supplied petrol and post office services but manages to stay busy attracting locals for their daily papers. Walking along the main street the modern village hall has replaced a tin shed left over from the 1914-18 war. Alongside is the prosperous ‘Buckminster Yard’, former farm buildings converted to offer employment from modern businesses. Hopefully this site now provides additional custom to the Tollemache Arms opposite.
Buckminster the old village hall
The massive brick water tower is a landmark within another attractive block of buildings. Opposite is the start of the Mowbray Way along the tree lined road leading to the church and family mausoleum. The wall on our left marks the grounds of Buckminster Hall built in 1798 and demolished around 1950. The present house, which can be glimpsed through the gates, was built after the demolition.
Good views north across the fields are to be enjoyed, confident of safe footing while still on the tarmac. The final piece of road is avoided by a cross field path which showed signs of reinstatement so should be useable even with a mature crop. Another water tower stands here obscured or screened by the trees depending on your opinion of this modern concrete structure.
I should have said sooner that this walk is again remote. Sewstern Lane or The Drift is an ancient track used long before the linking of towns to form the Great North Road. While travelling humans needs the services offered by the coaching inns of towns such as Grantham and Stamford, animals driven to market along this parallel track needed only the grass on the verge for their overnight sustenance. It is said that at one road crossing stood the Three Queens Inn offering refreshment to the Drovers. Today there are no services until we reach Woolsthorpe.
Ramblers and footpaths have finally been accepted by most landowners so after years of campaigning for walkers rights I struggle to oppose those who use routes with higher status. Heavy use by horses can soon turn a bridleway into a quagmire and speeding cyclists often surprise unwary walkers but if the route allows passage of motorised vehicles should we oppose them? It is unfortunate that many motorised users of green lanes appear primarily to enjoy the mud and challenge of ruts which too often destroys the surface for all other users. It’s hardly surprising that the authorities take steps to discourage this abuse to the detriment of any sympathetic motorised use.
The welcome board at Buckminster Gliding Club could well be inviting those mud loving off roaders when it offers “Passion Freedom Fun” but only for those with a head for heights. When the Viking Way long distance route was created there appeared to be a gap in the highway across the airfield. The curving footpath we use today was created in 1997 to fill the gap but it’s only a footpath so no horses, no bikes, no motorised vehicles. The ancient Drift road has been lost or has it? Saltby airfield was built in 1941 and derequisitioned in 1955. Emergency powers were in place to temporally stop up highways for the war effort but all temporary closures were lifted on 31st December 1958 unless steps were in hand for permanent closure. With no permanent closure the Drift should now be available along the old line, but it’s not. If you want to know why, ask Lincolnshire County Council.
Tank traps protecting the SSSI on The Drift
North of the airfield serious action has been taken to prevent motorised abuse. Tank traps prevent access which is legally controlled by a Traffic Regulation Order. The wide highway is managed by the Wildlife Trust and they have certainly improved it for walking. A scheme to improve the grass land involves taking off the hay each summer and this has been left on site in the form of miniature round bales.
Two things happened while I walked this pleasant stretch. One is fairly common the other very uncommon. A dog walker approached from the opposite direction and one dog suddenly makes a barking bee line for me. The owner attempts to call it to heel but as is often the case the dog ignores the calls. I stand still and the dog becomes more aggressive. Finally the owner is able to get a leash on and I can relax. What was most unusual was the owner accepting full responsibility for the incident and apologising.
The Drift Lincolnshire
After crossing the Melton to Grantham road there are views to the east of sprawling Grantham centred around the impressive tower and spire of St Wulfrums church. I’m now back on a track where motorised vehicles are tolerated and later even accepted with a small sign stating ‘Unclassified County Road’.
I’m not really an animal person, as the dog incident may suggest but when I see a small bird attempting to escape from a tangle around its leg and a twig I go to the rescue. It looked like sheep’s wool which to a small bird was the equivalent of heavy rope for a human.
Grantham canal Longore bridge
I decided to amend the route and head directly for the Grantham canal, no need to tick off Woolsthorpe by Belvoir as it’s in Lincolnshire. This route still takes us past a potential refreshment stop at the Rutland Arms. For forty three years this inn, know as The Dirty Duck, has prospered with Bob Taylor at the helm but after the 2014 annual bonfire party at the age of 74 he was calling it a day. Some say it was retirement others say the Belvoir Estate wanted him out.
Leaving the easy walking of the canal towpath at the traditional brick ‘Longore Bridge’ number 58 the path takes me across Muston Meadow one of the finest lowland meadows left in England, so tread carefully please. Turning right by the 14th century cross the path crosses the River Devon (de-von) and emerges by the church and Old Forge Tea Rooms.
Bottesford is not far away but to follow the border and add another village I cross the A52 then the Nottingham to Grantham rail line. There is an application to close this level pedestrian crossing but it won’t be lost without a fight. The next section is again remote although the distant drone of traffic on the A1 is ever present. There had been more rain on the heavy clay soil so I was relieved that the paths here were on wide grass headlands keeping my boots free of cloying mud.
Beacon Hill Bottesford
The spire of Bottesford church visible as if standing alone atop the hill, not part of the hidden building beyond. As I approach Normanton to the north is another former airfield site. Now an industrial estate but the concrete roadways are used to store cars and vans as far as the eye can see. This is the most northerly village in Leicestershire. A straggling satellite of Bottesford, it is also the furthest point North on the walk.
A fitting finale is the climb over Beacon Hill before passing St Mary’s church and passing over Flemings bridge leading to Church Street and walks end. If you have not been to Bottesford before then a look inside the church is recommended to see the impressive memorials to the Earls of Rutland.
Flemings Bridge over the River Devon at Bottesford
I thought there was little to see along this final section but I appear to have written more than usual. While there was little to attract my attention I had time to think, a pleasure or curse of walking alone.