Round Leicestershire on a bike
After about 13 hours in the saddle covering about 140 mile around the boundary of the county, I can truly say I now know my Aston Flamville from my Long Clawson. I now know what Leicestershire is for - it’s for cycling!
Leicestershire’s Cycle Routes
The main long distance routes through Leicestershire are the South Midlands National Route (6), Grantham to Market Harborough (64) and Burton/Trent to Peterborough including the Bosworth Trail (63) and the Ivanhoe Trail (52).
The cycle routes used in our round Leicestershire trail are rather like our canals which glide you across England leaving one oblivious of traffic, shopping centres and all the clutter of modern living. The time spent crossing towns and motorways is passed in seconds by contrast to the hours of varying countryside.
The Round Leicestershire Route
The difference between this route and the National Cycle Routes is really its purpose to reproduce the famous Leicestershire Round walking route by bike and ‘beat the bounds’ of Leicestershire in the process. The route creates a magnificent picture of the county passing through large towns of Loughborough, Market Harborough, Hinckley, and Coalville. It skims the borders of Nottingham at Hathern and Hoton, of Lincolnshire at Belvoir and Sewstern, of Rutland at Stapleford, of Northants at Welham, of Warwickshire at High Cross and of Derbyshire near Tonge.
It also passes through six of the seven districts of Leicestershire, as you will see.
At 9am on Saturday 22nd April 2006, we rode out of Loughborough through Cotes, past Prestwold Hall, Hoton and Wymeswold. At Six Hills we passed into the Borough of Melton, though Old Dalby, Nether Broughton and the Stilton Cheese centre of Long Clawson. Taking the low road in the lee of the escarpment through Hose and Harby we reached Belvoir Castle high on the ridge overlooking the magnificent flat plain of the vale of Belvoir.
From Belvoir the countryside undergoes a dramatic change. No longer the flat easy riding of the vale, but the undulating landscape of east Leicestershire through the beautiful villages of Knipton, Croxton Kerrial, Saltby, and Sproxton to Buckminster, where we stopped for a lunch break at the Tollemache Arms.
From here we are in High Leicestershire! Riding through Sewstern and Wymondham, crossing the Melton to Peterborough railway line on the edge of the Stapleford Hall estate, up and down past Leesthorpe, Pickwell, within sight of the hill fort at Burrough Hill, at 690 feet one of the highest points in the county.
Through Somerby, into the Harborough district to Owston and across the A47 to Tugby, the scenery is fine, if only hills weren’t so unrelenting. At Hallaton we pass the site of the annual Easter ‘bottle kicking’ contest which Leicester Tigers celebrate in the modern game of rugby. Slawston, and gently down to Welham, Thorpe Langton, following the mainline railway to Great Bowden, finishing the ride in Market Harborough – looking as fine as ever. I am referring to the town not the riders!
Leaving Market Harborough on St George’s Day, through Great Bowden we reach the top of Foxton Locks the amazing flight of 10 successive locks on the Grand Union Canal. Almost as remarkable is the pioneering Foxton Inclined Plane boat lift was opened in July 1900. Taking only 12 minutes to ascend, unlike the locks, the inclined plane was also suitable for wide-beam vessels which made the canal a little more competitive against the newly opened railways.
There is still a High Leicestershire feel to the route as we ascend to Gumley with its allotments in the centre of the village, on to Smeeton Westerby, and Saddington. We ride to the outskirts of Bruntingthorpe past the huge aircraft hanger where a Vulcan bomber is being refurbished for historic purposes. Through pretty Peatling Parva, to Ashby Magna, we begin to hear the rumble of the M1 which we cross to Dunton Bassett. The countryside is changing now. Past Leire, Ashby Parva, Ullesthorpe, Claybrooke Parva, and Claybrooke Magna
At High Cross, we pass into Blaby District. This is the crossroads of the Roman roads of Watling Street and Fosse Way. Choosing a safe place to cross the A5 (Watling Street) the route proceeds to the villages of Sharnford, and Aston Flamville, before passing over the M69 to Burbage for a lunch break.
We are now into Hinckley & Bosworth. We pass through Hinckley and straight into the history to Stoke Golding, so called birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty where Henry had his camp before the Battle of Bosworth, then to Dadlington, and the memorial to the fallen Richard III. From here we climb towards Shenton seeing the battlefield on Ambion Hill to our right. The road levels out now as we pass watery meadows and hump back bridges of the canal which carefully follows the contours. We pass through Congerstone and Shackerstone,
From now on we are in North West Leicestershire. http://www.leicestershirevillages.com/northwestleicestershire/
For the moment, apart from the plantations of young trees and the National Forest road signs, the countryside has not changed as we pass through Newton Burgoland and Swepstone, but at Heather we enter the Leicestershire coalfield. The smell of traditional coal fires will tell you even if the reclaimed landscapes don’t tell you. A stop at the Queens Head in Heather provides a welcome cup of tea. Then through Ravenstone above Coalville, down into Swannington and up to Peggs Green continuing into Griffydam. We ride a stretch of open countryside now, above Worthington and looking north to Breedon-on-the-hill. Seeing the Airport control tower in the near distance we prepare for the final stretch to Diseworth, over the A42 and under the M1 through Long Whatton to the cross roads near Zouch, and back into Charnwood at Hathern. We cycle past Dishley Grange, the site of Robert Bakewell’s agricultural experiments in genetics and arrive in Loughborough, finishing the ride on a circuit of triumph down Epinal Way, past the University and into the Town Centre.
|Thanks to John Cawrey, Chris Johnson, Tony Jones, Rob Nelder, Jim Oswald, Ian Sharpe, Charles Soothill, David Taylor, Bob Norton, Ben Faust, David Thorne for their support and to Bryan Woodward for devising the route.|