This leg of the Hereward Way follows paths through a series of attractive small villages stuffed to the gills with stone buildings. It features one of the few climbs of the entire trail from the Welland Valley up to Easton-on-the-Hill; even this is far from strenuous. On the way into Ketton it passes the large cement and limestone works at Ketton, where the route is liable to change. It is well worth allowing an extra twenty minutes in each village to have a look around.
3 hours 32 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts off at the church in Empingham at TL950048. Head uphill to pass the church on the right, and then immediately turn right up Crocket Lane. Follow this eastwards; it passes a grassy area on the left and then curves to the left.
As it does so continue straight on along a narrow lane that runs between beautiful thatched stone cottages. When this ends continue straight on along a surfaced path with a hedge on the left; this emerges out through a metal clapper gate onto Willoughby Drive. Turn right along the road, keeping to the left of a little traffic island with trees on it. At its far (southern) end turn left to head east-northeastwards along a road. As this curves to the left take a road to the right and follow it eastwards for a short distance past houses on either side.
At the end of the road turn left along a surfaced path. After five yards it curves to the right to cross a stile into a field. Head slightly south of east across the field, crossing a footbridge over a stream and heading across some scrubland to reach a stile that leads onto Mill Lane at SK957086. Turn right to follow the road south for a couple of hundred yards; cross a cattle grid and pass a house on the right. As the road curves to the left turn right, keeping the house on the right, and continue south across a field for about twenty yards to reach a metal footbridge across a stream. On the other side of the footbridge turn left and then immediately right to head south up a slight hill with a hedge on the left. This eventually reaches the A606 road once more at SK957078.
Carefully cross the A606 and head straight on through a wooden pedestrian gate to join a bridleway. Keep a hedge on the left as you head along the field. At the end of this field go through a pedestrian gate through a hedge, keeping a copse on the left; the copse soon ends and is replaced with a hedge. Half a mile after the A606 the bridleway goes through another pedestrian gate to reach a road at SK956070. Turn left along the road for a couple of yards and then turn left across a stile beside a double metal gate into another field. The path heads southeastwards across a field, skirting a hedge guarding the eastern end of a farm. It continues on towards the northeastern corner of New Wood, heading through a gap in the hedge to reach a stile.
Cross the stile and head straight on across the field. At the end of the next field cross a stile through the hedge and continue on with the hedge on the left. As the hedge curves to the left turn right, leaving the hedge to head straight on across about fifty yards of the field to reach a stile in another hedge. Cross this and a green track on the other side to reach another stile, on the other side of which is the western extremity of the quarry. The route from here to Ketton may change over time due to quarrying works; the route given here is correct as of 2011.
After crossing the second stile turn right and follow the path around the southwestern corner of the quarry. It soon curves to the left to head in an east-southeasterly direction. When this reaches a gate, go through this and take the left-hand fork which heads back to the edge of the quarry. Rather worryingly the path descends along a ridge left in the quarry to reach a large metal bridge over a haul road. On the other side a stony track slowly rises to reach the eastern edge of the quarry.
The path reaches a summit and starts to descend, leaving the quarry well behind. It soon goes through a metal gate across the track; continue on for about twenty yards until you approach a metal gate on the left. Here turn right to reach a stile at SK977048, and cross this into a field. A footpath now heads diagonally across the field, but if there are crops it may be easier to turn left and follow the edge of the field, keeping a hedge on the left. This curves right, then left, and finally right again before joining the proper course of the path beside a metal pedestrian gate.
Go through the gate and turn left to join a rough track. After twenty yards turn right down a footpath with a wall on the left. Go past some metal barriers to join a dead-end road. Take the first road to the left past bollards to reach the A6121 in Ketton at SK980043.
Turn left to follow the A6121 northwards for a short distance to reach a pedestrian crossing. Use this to cross the road and then turn right past the village cross to enter Redmile's Lane. Shortly after the lane curves to the left, turn right down Chapel Lane which in turn ends at a T-junction with Church Road beside the Railway Inn. Turn left along this road, passing Ketton Church on the left (the graveyard's boundary with the road being marked by a line of old gravestones) and cross the River Chater using a wooden footbridge alongside the road bridge.
Take the first road to the left, Aldgate, and almost immediately turn right past a gate to join a footpath that climbs up a slight slope. It crosses a driveway and continues on as an unsurfaced path between fences. It crosses an access road and heads on between hedges, climbing four steps on the way. After a sixth of a mile it reaches a footbridge that carries the footpath over a railway line.
Cross the bridge and continue southeastwards along the path; it ends at a driveway that in turn ends after twenty yards at Geeston Road at SK986040. Turn right to head southwestwards along the road for a couple of hundred yards until it ends at a T-junction with another road. Continue straight on and follow this road as it curves to the left and descends to reach Collyweston Bridge over the River Welland after nearly half a mile.
On the other side of the bridge the road curves to the right; ignore a track coming in from the left and immediately afterwards turn left through a hedge to enter a field. The path crosses a small plank footbridge and turns half-right to head east-northeastwards uphill diagonally across the field. Go through a couple of hedges as the path continues to climb. At the top of the hill cross another stile to join a track called Ketton Drift at TF000040. Turn right and follow this track eastwards; initially it is a green lane, but after half a mile it becomes a public road called West Fields that leads into Easton on the Hill.
Continue along this road as it crosses West Street and becomes High Street. Pass the Blue Bell Inn on the left, and at the war memorial turn left up Church Street. After a third of a mile it reaches the Easton on the Hill church on the left; continue along the track immediately beyond the church, passing a car park on the right, and then turn right through a gap in the wall to join another footpath. This soon crosses the access road to another car park to reach a stile in a hedge.
On the other side the footpath cuts diagonally across a field before reaching another stile through a hedge; it continues northeastwards across other fields, slowly heading downhill. After the second field continue on northeastwards with a hedge on the left; the path takes a slightly more direct route than that shown on the map. It passes through a narrow patch of woodland to enter another field; at the northern end of this it descends into some boggy land to cross a stream on a footbridge. On the other side of the bridge it climbs up some wooden steps to reach the East Coast Main Railway Line.
Go through a gate and carefully cross the railway line to reach a gate on the other side. The path immediately crosses a footbridge over a stream and then descends down steps to enter a field. Head northeastwards across this for a short distance to reach the A1(T), and pass under this using a tunnel. Head northeastwards across the floodplain on the other (eastern) side of the main road, with a stream of the river on the left; after a quarter of a mile a green footbridge (Broadeng Bridge) over the stream is reached at TF021061.
Cross this bridge, and on the other side turn half-right to continue northeastwards across the floodplain. The path skirts a tributary of the river on the right before passing through a hedge into a grassed area. Continue on across this to reach a track; turn right to head south for a few yards along a surfaced path to reach another footbridge (George Bridge) over the river at SK028068.
If you wish to reach the centre of Stamford, then turn left to head across the floodplain to a footbridge over another tributary. If you wish to reach the railway station, then cross George Bridge and head straight on uphill along Wothorpe Road; just before a bridge over a railway is reached, turn right down some steps and follow a narrow path with a railway line on the left until Stamford station is reached.
Places of interest
Rutland may be Britain's smallest county, but it is jam-packed with picturesque villages. Empingham is no exception; the small village sits on the A606 immediately to the east of the dam that contains Rutland Water. It is dominated by the 13th Century St Peter's Church, which seems perfectly formed from the outside with a tall spire. Unfortunately like many churches it got renovated in Victorian times, a process that all too often destroyed period features and made churches simulacrums of each other. Perhaps this is being unfair to this particular church which still has maintained a lofty, spiritual air. The village has a pub and a shop.
location UID #262
Ketton and Geeston
Ketton and Geeston are two villages separated by the Peterborough and Leicester railway line. The main heart of the settlement lies in Ketton to the northwest; this has a fine church, St Mary's, whose graveyard is separated from the road by a line of old gravestones. Many of the houses are made of the local Ketton limestone, which is quarried near to the village. The combined villages have two pubs, the Northwick Arms and The Railway, as well as a small shop.
location UID #263
Easton on the Hill and the Priests House
As the name suggests Easton on the Hill is situated on top of a hill to the southwest of Stamford. Like most of the local villages, many of the houses are built from the superb Ketton Limestone. The Norman All Saints' church is situated on the northern edge of the village, a short distance away from the National Trust-owned Priest's House, a delightfully small pre-Reformation building.
Although the stone and cement industries dominate the local landscape, at one time Easton had a small ironstone industry, with a tramway that led down the hillside to the railway line. Traces of the incline can still be seen.
location UID #264
The A1 is perhaps the most famous road in the land. It links the capitals of England and Scotland and is still busy to this day, even after alternative motorways were built.
Although people would have been walking a similar route for millennia, it was the Romans who built the first official road, Ermine Street, which stretched between London and York. The route of this had to avoid the boggy Fens to the east and find fordable locations over the many rivers that blocked the route.
Transport to the north became more difficult once the Romans left, as can be seen by the journey Queen Eleanor's body took on its journey from York to London after her death. Her husband, King Edward I, was so distraught that he had crosses built at every point her body rested at night during the journey; these are the Eleanor Crosses, the most famous of which is Charing Cross in London. The funeral procession had to divert as far west as Dunstable to negotiate flooded rivers.
Obviously this situation was a major barrier to trade, and over time a turnpike route suitable for coaches was created, and this became known as the Great North Road. The coaching inns on the route bought trade to the local area, and many of the small towns on the route owe their existence to the road, even if they have now been bypassed. The first coach made its way to York in 1658, with much of the route following the old Ermine Street. By 1787 it had been extended all the way to Edinburgh.
The trade that ran along the road made it a popular haunt for highwaymen. Dick Turpin came to fame during this period, especially for his alleged 15-hour ride from London to York on his horse, Black Bess.
The Great North Road was designated the A1 in 1921. Since then many deviations have been made from the original route as towns have been bypassed or stretches converted into motorways such as the A1(M). In places the arrow-straight route of the old Roman Road can be seen echoed in the modern motorways.
location UID #265
Stamford calls itself 'the finest stone town in England', and it is not hard to see why - it is a superb place, with many buildings made of Jurassic limestone similar to Cotswold limestone. The centre of the town is filled with rosy-stoned buildings that gleam in the sunshine; many other buildings are half-timbered.
The town was built near the point where the Romans forded Ermine Street over the River Welland. They built a bridge slightly downstream and this later became the Great North Road, the main route from London to Scotland. Coaching stops developed around this, the lowest crossing of the Welland, and by Georgian times it was an important town.
This story was repeated in many places in the country. So why is Stamford so unspoilt? By early Victorian times the day of the stagecoach being the preeminent form of travel was coming to an end, with railways bringing transport to the masses. Unfortunately for Stamford, the Great Northern Railway chose to take their line to York well to the east of the town. Railways bought prosperity, and whilst nearby Peterborough grew massively, Stamford became a backwater. Things did not noticeably improve when a station was finally opened on the Peterborough to Leicester line. Their loss is our gain, and Stamford's lack of growth over the Victorian period has left us with a largely unspoilt Georgian town.
location UID #266
Stamford Castle was a royal castle; it was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and it is likely that William I built it as part of his attempts to placate the north. Stamford would have been an important strategic location, situated on Ermine Street and the lowest fording point of the River Welland, and the castle could have helped protect that crossing.
In 1070 the Abbot of Peterborough took refuge in the castle with 160 knights as Hereward the Wake attacked Peterborough Abbey. It is therefore fitting that the Hereward Way travels so close to the town and castle.
The castle was never particularly important and slowly declined, eventually falling into disuse before being demolished in the late 15th Century. Sadly little now remains of the castle aside from a mound beside the river; the only extant piece is a small stretch of curtain wall near to the river.
location UID #267
Centrebus service 9 runs roughly hourly during the week between Oakham and Stamford, calling at Empingham on the way.
You could also join this leg with the next one to Stamford, from where trains run regularly back to Oakham. See the National Rail website for more information.
You could also join this leg with the previous one between Oakham and Empingham, allowing you to use the Stamford to Oakham railway service. See the National Rail website for more information.