Market Harborough Town and Country Stroll
3rd August 2021
This walk has just about everything – an ancient village, a thriving town centre packed full of history, a delightful town park and a canal. You will feel you know a great deal more about Market Harborough once you have done this walk, whether you have lived in the town for years or you are just visiting for the day, writes Nicholas Rudd-Jones
Distance: 6 miles
Typical time: 2.5 hours
Map: Explorer 223
Start & finish: Great Bowden Church
Terrain: Flat, easy going; quite a lot on pavements
Red Lion, Great Bowden
Following the successful launch of their garden in 2020, they have created the quadrant, a covered outdoor dining area with a Mediterranean feel.
Hambleton Bakery (Church Street)
There are some great treats for walkers from this local favourite. We love the brownies, with their huge chunks of chocolate, and the little savoury tarts are absolutely excellent.
The Cafe @ Welland Park
This hidden gem is everything you want in a cafe – good coffee, delicious cakes and interesting food (all homemade), plus welcoming staff, a well-designed interior and covered outside seating. The added bonus is the Art Deco building set on park lawns next to the river, right on our route.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Great Bowden is a quintessential English village, with a charming village green and church. The village was included in the Domesday Book, under the name ‘Bugedone’ and was worth 40 shillings per year to the King, who held it. It has Anglo-Saxon origins.
The Old Grammar School stands on wooden stilts. The school room had to be built upon posts to allow the butter market to be held on the ground floor. The School was founded in 1607 and built in 1614, through the generosity of Robert Smyth, a poor native of the town who became Comptroller of the Lord Mayor’s Court of the City of London and member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company.
The subjects taught were Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and many boys were sent to Oxford and Cambridge universities. The most distinguished of these was John Moore, who became Bishop of Norwich in 1691, and William Henry Bragg, Nobel Prize winner.
The Victorian Symington Building, formerly a corset factory, houses the integrated Harborough Museum and Harborough Library in a learning and heritage hub. Downstairs is a very pleasant, popular cafe with lots of comfy seating.
The River Welland, which runs through Welland Park, is 65 miles in length. The river rises in the Hothorpe Hills, at Sibbertoft in Northamptonshire, then flows northeast to Market Harborough, Stamford and Spalding, to reach The Wash near Fosdyke. It’s interesting to note that its width in Market Harborough is only about a third of what it is in Stamford, probably because steep embankments were created on either side to prevent flooding.
Grand Union Canal, Market Harborough Arm, from Foxton Locks to Union Wharf in Market Harborough. Completed in 1809 the original idea was to continue the Arm from Market Harborough on through to Northampton – it never happened. Union Wharf has a place in canal history as the location of the first canal rally in Britain held in 1950, which was fundamental to the preservation of the canal network for prosperity.
1 Park by the church. Walk southwest past the Shoulder of Mutton pub on your left, across the green to the far left-hand side, where you will see a sign indicating ‘Market Harborough one mile’.
2 Skirt along the right edge of the recreation ground, over the railway footbridge, and then in a couple of hundred yards bear left up the hill.
3 This path comes out in The Ridgeway. Turn right, then shortly left, then follow this path, Rutland Walk, all the way down toward town and King’s Road.
4 When you reach Church Street, turn left, down this delightful shopping street renowned for its independent boutiques, to the church. Turn right into the High Street, past the Old Grammar School, into The Square and past the war memorial, and then cross the river by a footbridge with the car park immediately on your right (toilets here if needed).
5 Once over the bridge, turn right, and you will shortly enter Welland Park; follow the river right to the end of the park, until you come out on Farndon Road; turn right and follow this road up to the junction with Coventry Road, then take Logan Street, directly north and opposite; continue into Logan Crescent, and after a few yards you will see a cut-through to the canal.
6 On reaching the canal, turn left (Union Wharf makes an interesting brief detour to the right). Follow the canal for 2 miles, under two road bridges. When you pass under Bridge No.9 (Sedgley’s Bridge), turn immediately right up the bank, joining a path that takes you back to Great Bowden.