Top 10 winter strolls
26th November 2020
As the days shorten, we still want to get out for some fresh air but probably not tramp across muddy fields. Here we pick our favourite 10 strolls that can all be done within an hour or so, generally along park, forest or reservoir tracks with good surfaces, which means they are more suitable for less-able/younger walkers. Check for Covid restrictions if you plan to visit any of the cafes.
1. Market Harborough, Canal Walk
A reminder of Market Harborough’s industrial past, a delightfully rural route where you can get away from it all.
• Parking: Park at Union Wharf (LE16 7UW)
• Route: Follow the path as it goes around the left-hand edge of the wharf and onto the towpath. Follow for approximately 1 mile to a footbridge, cross then turn right to follow the path, then the road and walkway back to the starting point.
• Distance: 1.5 miles (2.5km)
• Time required: 30–40 minutes
• Pub/refreshments: The Waterfront (waterfrontharborough.co.uk), a converted wharf side building with waterside patio looking onto the boats.
2. East Carlton Countryside Park, Corby
East Carlton Countryside Park is situated on the edge of the Welland Valley. There are country walks throughout the park, through fine mature woodland and grasslands.
• Parking: East Carlton Countryside Park (LE16 8YF)
• Route: As you please for this one.
• Opening Hours: Winter, every day, 10am–3.30pm
• Facilities: Play area, woodland shop, heritage centre
• Pub/refreshments: Cafe, offering light meals, hot and cold drinks.
3. Hambleton Peninsula, Rutland Water
This is probably my favourite short walk of them all, with a good surface and fabulous views throughout.
• Parking: Main Street, Hambleton (LE15 8TL)
• Route: The track around the peninsula, starting from the road that goes down to the water’s edge from the church.
• Distance: 4.5 miles (7km)
• Time required: 1.75 hours (but you can shorten the walk by walking along the south shore, and then back when you have had enough)
• Pub/refreshments: The Finch’s Arms (finchsarms.co.uk ), a lovely pub with great food.
4. Exton Park, Rutland
It’s hard to put one’s finger on it, but there’s something magical about this short walk – perhaps it’s the mystery of the lake and the Gothic splendour of Fort Henry.
• Parking: The Green, Exton (LE15 8AP)
• Route: Take the northwestern exit from the green, head up and left through Exton Park farm and take the Viking Way. Just after a wood, take the track right (south east), which takes you all the way to Fort Henry lake. Coming home, take the left fork southwest (the right fork was the way you came), which takes you all the way back to the village.
• Distance: 3.75 miles (6km)
• Time required: 1.5 hours
• Pub/refreshments: The Fox & Hounds (thefoxinexton.co.uk ), a fine Georgian building overlooking The Green in Exton.
5. Burghley Park, Stamford
Burghley Park always looks beautiful, whatever the weather. If you go over the festive season you will be competing with many kids in receipt of two-wheeled Christmas presents that they are learning to drive, and deer feeding in the long grass. Look up and see the mistletoe in the tall trees close to the car park, and catch a kiss with your closest.
• Parking: Burghley Park car park (PE9 3JY)
• Route: The Lion Bridge is a good place to aim for; head east past the house, then first left on the tarmac.
• Distance: 1.25 miles (2km)
• Time required: 30 minutes
• Pub/refreshments: Check when still in lockdown, but normally The Orangery Café & Takeaway is open Wed to Sun from 10.30am to 4pm (until 20 December).
6. Wakerley Great Wood
A good spot for a long dog walk, or to get away from it all.
• Parking: Wakerley Great Wood Car Park (NN17 3BA)
• Route: Many options – you can choose the length and time, and there are many well-metalled tracks. There is a map in the car park that can help you decide.
• Pub/refreshments: Exeter Arms, Barrowden (exeterarmsbarrowden.co.uk ), a delightful spot on the village green, a short drive away.
7. Fineshade Wood
Fineshade has good facilities and well-waymarked routes. It’s a really popular place for dog walking, especially in the winter, when the fields are so wet.
• Parking: Visitor Centre, Fineshade (NN17 3BB)
• Route: Many options – you can choose the length and time; there are many well-metalled tracks. There is a map in the car park that can help you decide, or you can work this out online.
• Pub/refreshments: Fineshade Café.
8. Kings Cliffe Disused Railway Line, Northants
The disused railway around the north of the village is a designated Local Wildlife Site. Strenuous efforts by the villagers have made the route passable once again in recent years, and it’s a delight, linking with footpaths to the east and west.
• Parking: Eastern end of Kings Cliffe
• Route: Join the track behind Kings Cliffe Brewery in Kingsmead, PE8 6YH, and head east.
• Distance: 2.5 miles (4km) to the end and back
• Time required: 1 hour
• Pub/refreshments: The Cross Keys (thecrosskeysinnkingscliffe.co.uk ), a very friendly pub. The Kings Cliffe Bakery, a few yards further down, does delicious treats, including a lovely festive range (mince pies and Florentines).
9. Barnwell Country Park
A relatively small area, maybe worth combining with a stroll around Oundle too. Lovely lake, riverside and secluded areas.
• Parking: Barnwell Country Park parking (PE8 5PB)
• Route: There are three waymarked trails; details are on a board at the car park/visitor centre, or online.
• Distance: 0.3 mile to 1 mile (0.5–1.6 km)
• Time required: 15–45 minutes
• Pub/refreshments: The cafe at the Country Park is open daily from 10am to 4pm.
10. Ferry Meadows, Nene Park, Peterborough
Nene Park is quite simply one of the best city parks in the country. It covers a huge expanse and allows almost endless walking opportunities on well made-up paths.
• Parking: Ferry Meadows parking (PE2 5UR)
• Route: Many and various, choose what suits; map at Visitor Centre.
• Pub/refreshments: The Ferry Meadows Café, overlooking Overton. The Lakeside Kitchen and Bar (lakesidekitchenandbar.com ) is situated overlooking Gunwade Lake.