I walked this, the eighth stage of the Hit The North expedition, in July 2013.
Part 1 – in which I wander through Melton Mowbray thinking of pies and eventually find the ‘country park’
I arrived at Melton Mowbray (the “Rural Capital of Food“) mid-morning, it was market day and the town was humming with activity.
I spotted stalls selling the famous pies and the good people of Melton eating those famous pies. I, however, already had a Cornish pastie and other such goodies tucked away in my rucksack and didn’t want to add to my already weighty load.
Still, I should really have planned it better…the pies did look good.
After some time faffing about in the suburbs I found Melton country park from where I could join the Jubilee Way which in turn would eventually lead me to the village of Stathern. My wild camp for the night was to be just beyond Stathern in the woods of the Vale of Belvoir.
The country park was a delight. Lush meadows, shady paths through woods, the humming and buzzing of bees, heavy summer smells from the blooming flowers. I whistled a happy tune and headed on northwards.
Part 2 – in which I take shelter in a church porch, find a trig point and arrive at wild camp wood.
By the time I reached Scalford the sun was high in the sky and I was parched and sweaty. ‘The Church is cold‘ I remember William Blake saying and headed for the porch of the Church of Saint Egelwin where I sat for a while, drinking from my water bottle and listening to choir practice.
I stopped to talk to a chap in a wheelchair just outside the church, he asked me where I was walking:
- chap: Where are you walking to on a hot day like this?
- me: Grantham!
- chap: Why on earth would you want to go there?
- me: um… (pondering question) …because I can, because it’s there!
And why not? At that moment walking to Grantham felt like the only logical, rational thing to be doing on that day, it was the only thing that actually made any sense. He wished me well and I went on my way.
I passed summer pastures bright with red and yellow flowers…
I greeted dozing sheep with my customary hiking greeting for animals (in Spanish, of course!):
“Hola ovejas! Vayan ustedes con dios!!” (Trans: “Hello Sheep! May you go with God!!”)
This greeting was the second sentence I learnt in Spanish, I’m not a Christian but nevertheless, it remains my hiking greeting for animals.
Not far from Stathern, on Harby Hill, I came across an Ordnance Survey triangulation (or ‘trig’) point at the heady height of 158 metres .
Now this may not be a big deal for all you hearty walkers in the Peaks, Lakes, Wales and Scotland but for a boy living in the Fens this is a BIG deal.
It is the first trig point I’ve come across in all my lowland walking, a historic occasion indeed.
From the trig point I could see my wild camp wood on the horizon, perched just above the village of Stathern.
Here’s another view of the wild camp wood. Stathern is to the bottom left, my camp location is the tent icon.
Part 3 – in which I eventually find a wild camp pitch, make a fire, drink some good red and don’t sleep much.
After buying another bottle of water in Stathern (not enough water as it would turn out) I made my way to the nearby woods.
I faffed about for an hour or so until I finally found my pitch, just on the edge of the wood, looking out on to a field. Unforunately my stupid camera decided to act up and 90% of the wild camp photos I took are unusable.
These two just about past muster…
I had my trusty IKEA hobo stove and stainless steel mug (that’s enough kit talk) with me and quickly had a brew on the way.
A Cornish pastie for dinner, washed down with half a bottle of decent red wine and I was in bed at around 10.30pm.
I didn’t sleep that well, three or four hours perhaps. It’s not about comfort, or worry or similar. It’s about sleeping out in the open, my mind still isn’t convinced about the whole idea. I’ll have to keep on working at this, I need a good rest while wild camping as not sleeping well can make the morning walk extra hard work, as we’ll see.
I made a cuppa tea and broke camp. This was the view at 6am, looking north over Leicestershire. Magnificent!
Part 4 – in which I join the Grantham Canal, feel tired, dehydrate and long for water.
I began the two mile walk to join up with the Grantham canal. On the way I found an excellent STALAG (see ‘Hiking Poles versus Sticks That Are Lying About On The Ground (STALAG)‘ post) and had some fun skinning and whittling it to make a handy hiking pole (photo further down).
And suddenly, there I was, Bridge 51 (near the village of Barkestone) at the Grantham Canal!
The canal looked gorgeous in the early morning sunlight.
I started off in the direction of Grantham, 10 miles away to the east with Nottingham (‘The Trent’) 23 and a bit miles the other way.
I started off feeling energetic but after an hour began to tire, the lack of a good night’s sleep starting to tell. It was getting hot and I was on the last of my water, rationing each drop.
I found a lovely bench along the towpath and stopped for a while. You can see my hiking stick next to the rucksack.
As I sat on the bench a family of swans paddled on by…
To the south was Belvoir castle.
But oh I was was worn-out and each step was hard work. My water ran out and the heat became oppressive.
And then I reached Woolsthorpe Lock, which, wonderfully, had a campsite and a drinking water tap!
I hobbled over to the tap and drank a litre, then I poured another litre over my head. Oh boy, did that feel good!
I asked a passing person to take a snapshot to celebrate my dramatic survival in the Midlands wilderness.
The canal is navigable at this point. Below is the Three Shires narrowboat belonging to the Grantham Canal Society, who we have to thank for leading the restoration of this wonderful canal.
Tired but happy I walked the last few miles to Grantham, somewhere just beyond the hill in the picture below.
I was too tired to look around Grantham, that will have to wait for another day. I found the station, bought myself a coffee and hopped on the train back to Ely with minutes to spare.
A fine weekend’s hike and wild camp in the glorious Midlands of England. What more could a wandering boy ask for?
9 thoughts on “Hit the North! – Stage 8 : Melton Mowbray to Grantham via the Grantham Canal (with thrilling wild camp!)”
When I was young we lived for several years in a village and went to school in Stamford. The land to the west of Stamford – Oakham and Uppingham – seemed vaguely exotic but Melton Mowbray conjured all sorts of images that, even at that tender age, might have ended towards the forbidden. It’s a long time ago but I don’t remember the countryside being quite so alluring as that portrayed in your excellent photographs.
The comment on wild camping was interesting. A couple of weeks ago, at the height of the heatwave, I made my own wild camp just outside of Ilminster in south Somerset. I even took a camera to take some pictures which I was going to stick on Twitter to impress you but alas, it was too dark.
But I really didn’t plan the wild camp well. I was late arriving in Ilminster and in the long walk from Castle Neroche I’d promised myself a curry. By the time I’d eaten it was getting dark so I had to settle for the first suitable field. Like you, I didn’t sleep well but that might have been due to the heat as much as the proximity to a road. I’d borrowed a bivi bag and with my sleeping bag inside I really was too hot. The next day I walked to Somerton but I was struggling by the time I arrived; I also passed some sites that would have been perfect for a wild camp. The upshot is that I’m thinking of buying a tent for my next expedition though I’m keeping a close eye on the weather.
By the way, I’m sure the sheep are impressed at being addressed with a formal ‘ustedes’! I’m sure everyone else uses the second person plural – ‘vosotoros’!
But then again, they’re just sheep.
Hi Sian, thanks for dropping by. Wild camping is a tricky thing, it appeals so strongly to my romantic inclinations but the reality can often be more tricky. I’ve now wild camped on 5 occasions and have not once had a decent night’s sleep but I’m determined to learn how to do it. In these days of hyper-capital and monetarism colonising every aspect of our lives, wild camping is a refuge. Oh, I should write more on this!
You have a big future as a travel writer . fascinating descriptions and pics Martin andninteresting to getnyour feelings whilst the journey. Woolsthorpe conjures up Isaac Newtons Manor house of course . Worth a visit not only for the House but the replicated experiments with which to play. he went to school in Gratham
Hi Bob, thanks for the comment. I wasn’t aware of the Issac Newton connection, will have to go back and visit on day.
Hi Martin .. since you were kind enough to call by my blog, I thought I’d call by yours .. what a great adventure .. sleeping wild is tricky … I’ve only ever come up with one solution, which 7/10 works: a good dram or two of single malt the night before and plenty of coffee the morning after. Of course it helps if the weather’s kind as well. I look forward to reading more of your posts .. Inge
Hi Inge, thanks for dropping by. I always take a little something to drink when wild camping, usually a scotch but this time wine, it certainly helps and makes the occasion even more special. Looking forwarding to reading more of your posts as well.
Really enjoyed reading about this trek. Your photos are getting better and better and really do justice to the lovely scenery. Agree with Bob about your travel writing and hope you will keep it up.
Glad you enjoyed the post mum : )