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Rutland Round: January-November 2011

The Rutland Round is a circular walk of about 65 miles round the county of Rutland. The route follows near the perimeter of the county but deliberate diversions are made to visit Rutland Water and the county town of Oakham.

The walk was devised by John Williams, the rights of way officer for C.P.R.E. Rutland, with the co-operation of Rutland County Council. A lottery grant was awarded to assist with waymarking.

The group tackled the route as a series of 6 day walks starting in January 2011. The starting point was Braunstone-in-Rutland and 13 intrepid souls turned up on a dry but misty morning. The route took us through some pleasant rural scenery before a break at Belton-in-Rutland. The next section was very undulating and went up through Wardley Wood to lunch at Uppingham, one of only two towns in the county. Many of the finest buildings in Uppingham belong to the famous public school which has a strong emphasis on sport, possessing a greater area of sportsfields than any school in England. Jonathan Agnew and James Whitaker, 2 Leicestershire cricketers, studied here. It also has high musical standards and Harry Judd of McFly, who recently won Strictly Come Dancing, is an old Uppinghamian. The walk ended with some great views over Eyebrook Reservoir as we dropped down to finish below Stoke Dry.

In February, seven of us started out from Eyebrook Reservoir which is a very good site for birdwatching. The reservoir opened in 1940 to supply water for Corby steelworks. The RAF’s 617 squadron practiced here with bouncing bombs later used in the Dambuster raids of World War 2. After a break amongst the lovely stone buildings of Lyddington we walked up through Seaton which gave good views of the railway viaduct which crosses the Welland valley. It took 3,000 navies to build the 82 arches between 1876 – 1878. The rain caught up with us for the last half hour but we soon dried out at the end in the Exeter Arms, Barrowdon.

Round 3 in March saw six of us set off from the attractive village of Barrowdon with its village pond. A superb walk along the banks of the River Welland to Duddington on the Northamptonshire border was accompanied by a Red Kite which flew slowly in two adjacent fields. After lunch outside the church in Ketton we walked through the limestone quarries which supply the materials for the nearby cement works. Whilst not pretty this is a fascinating area and the land is being reshaped and landscaped as the quarrying progresses. A sunny afternoon finished at Rutland Water with a welcome cup of tea at the café.

In April there were nine of us setting off from Edith Weston to walk along the shores of Rutland Water and over the dam to Empingham. We continued to Tickencote where we stopped to look at the church, which has a magnificent Norman chancel-arch built around 1140. It has six semi circular orders each with a different pattern. After lunch at ‘The Plough’ in Great Casterton we walked through some very rural countryside before negotiating another limestone quarry at Clipsham. There were five buzzards circling over the quarry.

After a summer break, eight of us started walk 5 at Clipsham in October. The morning walk was rather flat and dull as it passed to the north of Cottesmore airfield, but it improved considerably in the afternoon with fine views across to Burley House. At one point we reached the meeting place of three counties, Rutland, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. This is where bare knuckle fights took place, hugely popular but illegal. In 1811 Tom Cribb beat an American, Thomas Molyneux in the heavyweight championship of the world. There was a crowd of 15,000 for the event. The site was chosen so that if a magistrate appeared from one county people could escape into another.

The final walk started at Whissendine in November when seven of us walked in the mist towards Langham. The church bells of Langham could be heard through the mist before we could see the village and sounded quite atmospheric. By 12.00 the sun was out and the autumn colours were showing well at Barleythorpe. We had a lunch break at Oakham which gave us a chance to admire its fine buildings. In the afternoon we briefly stopped at the bird watching centre at Egleton before returning to where it all started at Braunstone and a well earned drink in the Blue Ball Inn.

Mick, Matt and John S completed the whole walk but several others are hoping to fill in the gaps. It has definitely given us an extensive view of England’s smallest county.

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