Bradgate Park is probably the most well-known part of the Leicestershire countryside.
In the summer many visitors come to this beautiful Park with its stunted oak trees, deer, and the attractive brook that runs through its middle. Perhaps it is best known though for Bradgate House which is believed to be the Birth place of Lady Jane Grey the nine day queen. The ruins of this house stand proudly in the midst of this wild and enchanting park.
Near to the park is Beacon Hill and Swithland Woods which equal Bradgate for tree filled beauty and dramatic volcanic rocks. This part of the Leicestershire is not short of amazing countryside for uplifting walks.
Just north of Leicester there are many other lesser known spots, that have wonderful landscape which I think are equal to the places mentioned above. Unfortunately they do not cover as much land as those mentioned above and so only offer the briefest of walks.
Walking near Whitwick
This six-mile walk connects several of these beauty spots together, it is a pleasant walk through some of Leicestershires more characteristic countryside.
It was a warmish Autumn Sunday when a group of five of us decided to walk this route. We started the walk from a lay by just off of the Whitwick road next to a dry stone wall which is a feature around these parts. It was only a short walk down the road before turning left to walk along side some well established woods, the leafy lane was an encouraging start to the walk reassuring us that the walk has good things to offer.
Following the lane brought us to Mount St Bernard Abbey. The Abbey was founded in 1837 and the current building was completed in 1844. I think there are about 20 monks who live there at present and they have just started brewing their own Trappist beer. There is a shop in the grounds so you might be able to buy a bottle! The abbey is worth a short detour to visit the grounds and church.
Almost opposite the entrance to Mount St Bernard there is a pathway that is entered through a gap in the dry-stone wall. The path leads down through more woodland to Blackwood Reservoir which is delightfully situated in a shallow valley with woodland all around. After crossing the bridge we climbed up the bank on the left hand side of the path to the top of the slope where there is a particularly enchanting spot that overlooks the reservoir, you can almost imagine that you are in Scotland.
The path continued up the other side of the valley to the first of two stretches of road. This is a country lane which is generally not too busy, although the walk is along a tarmac road it is still pleasant enough in the Leicestershire rural countryside.
After about a mile there was a path off to the right taking us across some fields towards the scout camp. On the day we walked it the field was full of long-horned cattle. Some of our group were a little nervous walking through the field with such companions, but they were not interested in us at all, they had better things to think about (grass!).
The path then enters into our third patch of woodland. Charnwood Forest is a very ancient woodland that once covered far more of the land then its present state. The Precambrian volcanic rock which the forest is founded upon protrudes through the forest bed in many places, the grey hard rock reminding us that this is a very ancient landscape and that history is all around us.
Eventually the path led us to a driveway which in turn took us to the Whitwick road. Walking along this section of the road is the least enjoyable part of the whole walk. The road is fairly busy and the traffic is fast so great care was required, and I was glad when we reached the point after about three-quarters of a mile where we could turn off onto our last footpath.
This part of the walk made a great finish to our round trip. It is a slight ridge walk which offers large views mainly to the north, while walking through a landscape with large rock formations, mixed with bracken, wind berry bushes and the occasional tree stubbornly standing out against the skyline.
This path took us back to our car. This is an ancient landscape which breaths with history and the slow movement of time, its beauty lies in its rugged gentleness and unassuming self satisfaction. There are many spots where the timelessness of the rocks cohabits with the greatness of grandfatherly trees. It is a reassuring and inspiring landscape that beckons some more exploration on Sunday afternoon walks.