A stiff climb takes the Hereward Way out of Stamford, after which it levels off as it heads through Burghley Park. It spends the next three miles following the course of the old roman road, Ermine Street, to Southorpe. After Southorpe you have a choice to get to the Nene near Wansford; the original route followed a road south for a couple of miles, whilst a new longer and quieter alternative route curves across fields to the west via Sacrelodge Farm.
2 hours 40 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 a footbridge called George Bridge over the River Welland in Stamford at SK028068. Cross the footbridge and head past a car park on the right to reach Station Road at a complex junction. Head straight across the road to join Wothorpe Road. Follow Wothorpe Road uphill; it crosses a railway line on a bridge before it ends at the A16 Kettering Road.
Carefully cross the A16 and go through a gap in metal railings ahead; keep a hedge on the left and after five yards turn left through a wooden clappergate into a field. Cross this field, aiming for another clappergate in the far right-hand corner. Go through this second clappegate and turn left to go through a very rough, overgrown area. It reaches a plank footbridge and another wooden clappergate; go through this and continue on uphill along a footpath with a hedge and fence on the left. Pass a little wooden hut on the right to reach a stile in the upper left-hand corner of the field that leads onto a road called First Drift.
Turn left and follow First Drift eastwards for a short distance until it ends at the B1081 road. Carefully cross the main road to reach the pavement on the other side, and then turn right to continue uphill for a third of a mile with a large stone wall on the left. When a gateway leading into a golf course is reached turn left through it. Follow the trail along a surfaced track across a golf course through Burghley Park; the route is easy to follow and is well waymarked.
After half a mile it reaches a large stone gateway on the left. Ignore the tracks going off on either side and continue along the track as it curves to the left. Just before a cattle grid turn right over a stile and head on, keeping a hedge and some scrub woodland to the right. The path across the Burghley estate is usefully marked by a series of wooden posts with yellow blazes at the top. Cross a stile over an electric fence and turn half-left, still following the posts. It should be noted that the fence and hedge lines in the estate may change at any time.
At the end of this field continue straight on along a track that heads through a patch of woodland. It emerges from the trees into a long field with a hedge on the left. At the end of this field squeeze through a hedge and continue straight on for a short distance across the middle of a third field, aiming for the top right-hand corner. Here the path squeezes through a gap in a fence to reach a bend in a road at TF066044.
Carefully cross this road and skirt the left-hand side of a triangular junction before heading straight on southeastwards along another road for a third of a mile. When it curves to the right continue straight on through two sets of white gates to join a track. Initially this heads southeastwards with a wall on the left. Go through a gate just before the wall ends and continue straight on along the broad track across a field. It skirts a little wall that guards some woodland on the right to reach another gate. It continues on with a wall on the left.
The wall on the left ends and the path continues on for about fifty yards across the field to reach another gate. Go through this and continue on with a fence on the left. Go through another pedestrian gate at the end of this field and head on across the middle of the field, aiming to meet a wall on the right. Follow this wall down to a gate that leads onto the road in the little hamlet of Southorpe at TF080026.
Turn right to continue along the road; it immediately curves to the left past Grange Farm. Here the Hereward way splits. The new route turns right through a clappergate beside a cattle grid to join a track that heads past Grange Farm on the right. When the track ends at Keeper's Cottage continue on across a field that curves slightly to the right to head between two trees to reach another clappergate. Continue on with a hedge on the right and a fence on the left. When the hedge on the right ends, go through a gap in another hedge; the path curves slightly to the left to angle towards some woodland on the right. Again the new route is marked with posts topped with yellow blazes.
The path enters some woodland and heads downhill to reach a footbridge over a stream called White Water Brook. On the other side go through a gate and head straight on, aiming for another gate. Continue on diagonally across this field aiming for a gap in the hedge ahead. Go through this and turn right up a rough track, keeping the hedge to the left. After about thirty yards turn left down a concrete track that leads towards Sacrewell Lodge Farm. The track forks just before the farm; take the right-hand fork to remain on the concrete track. This immediately joins another track that passes a barn on the left.
The concrete track curves to the left to reach a surfaced road. Turn left down this road and follow it as it immediately swings to the right, becoming a concrete track once more. It passes the main farm house on the left and continues on with a hedge on the left. It heads south for a sixth of a mile before curving to the left to head southeastwards towards Sacrewell Farm. It crosses a cattle grid to approach a complex junction. Take the left-hand branch that heads along a surfaced track that runs around the edge of the farm, crossing a bridge over a stream and curving to the right to leave the farm. The track swings to the right and then the left to head south before reaching the A47(T) at TF080996.
Wansford is about half a mile to the west; the A47 will take you across the A1(T), after which the A6118 can be used to reach the centre of the village. There is no pavement on the A47, but the verges are wide and easy to follow.
The old route follows the road south-southeastwards from Grange Farm in Southorpe, soon crossing an old railway bridge. When a road junction comes in from the left the road curves to the right and then the left. After a couple of miles it ends at a junction with the busy A47(T) road at TL090995. Turn right and careful follow the A47(T) as it heads westwards, immediately passing over a bridge over an old railway line before heading slightly downhill. Enter a lay-by on the left after a sixth of a mile and turn left across a stile to join a footpath that heads southeastwards to join the northern bank of the River Nene.
Places of interest
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
Burghley House and the horse trials
Burghley House is a magnificent Elizabethan manor located about a mile to the southeast of Stamford. It was originally built by Sir William Cecil, Elizabeth I's chief advisor. The house is one of the best examples of Elizabethan architecture still extant, and unusually still remains in the hands of Cecil's ancestors.
The parkland surrounding the house was set out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the famous eighteenth century landscape gardener. This land is now home to the Burghley Horse Trials, a world-famous eventing competition that first started in 1961. The park is open to the public year-round, whilst the house is open to the public most weekdays during late spring and summer. Both are well worth a visit.
location UID #268
RAF Wittering is a large RAF base situated just to the south of Stamford. It was formed as part of the Royal Flying Corps in 1916, but unlike many World War One bases it remained in use afterwards, becoming a fighter base in time for the Second World War. During the war it was extended by merging the runways with that of the adjacent RAF Collyweston, and the resultant long runways enabled it to be used by V-Bombers after the war.
For many years it was the spiritual home of the RAF Harrier force. Sadly all of the RAF and Royal Navy's Harriers were withdrawn in 2010, but the base was lucky enough to survive the SDSR in 2010 and continues to support the RAF in various ways. It now (2019) houses units of the Royal Engineers (who moved there from nearby Waterbeach), flying training units and engineering and logistics units.
location UID #269
Wansford (properly known as Wansford-in-England) is a small village situated right beside the A1 to the west of Peterborough. Like many villages in the area, the buildings are mostly of local limestone and topped with roofs of Collyweston slate or thatch. The village arose as a coaching stop beside the ancient bridge over the River Nene - some arches of the current bridge date back as far as 1571, although they have been much altered over time.
One of the hotels in the town, The Haycock, is based on a seventeenth-Century coaching inn. There is also a pub, the Cross Keys.
location UID #270
Delaine buses service 205 runs between Stamford and Peterborough five times a day (no services at weekends), calling at Wansford on the way.
You could also join this leg with the next one between Wansford and Peterborough, allowing you to use the Peterborough to Stamford railway service. See the National Rail website for more information.