east herts ramblers

National Forest

Holiday weekend 2nd - 7th May 2013. A coal mining area near Ashby de la Zouch may not sound the most promising location for our Spring holiday, but the mines are long closed and much restoration of the landscape has occurred, giving the opportunity for extensive planting of new woodland: the National Forest. A focal point of this is the modern purpose-built youth hostel near Moira, the base for 13 of us whilst Pam and Dorothy stayed in a B&B nearby. A far cry from the old days, this had en-suite two or four bedded rooms and a ‘bistro’ type café where we enjoyed simple but (to the writer’s mind) appetising and filling breakfasts and evening meals.


Tea at the Hostel
Moira Furnace
Moira Furnace

Meeting up at 4pm on the Thursday, we just had time for Maggie’s walk along the short length of the Ashby Canal to the restored ‘Moira Furnace’, opened specially for our visit. After our ‘bangers and mash’ we enjoyed a mix of country dancing organised by Dorothy.

Friday saw us striding along the ‘Ivanhoe Way’ across the fields to Ashby for coffee and a chance to admire the Platinum Award winning public toilets with their proud attendant! Nigel then led a circular walk via the pleasant villages of Blackfordby and Smisby (with pub for lunch) back to Ashby where there was time to visit the dramatic ruins of the castle, setting for Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’, and the local shops before grabbing our free bus ride home. In the evening a scratch ‘East Herts Ramblers Choir’ enjoyed a bit of singing, words being provided for a number of popular ditties.

For David’s walk on the Saturday we took a minibus to Whitwick, climbing through some wind and light rain to Cademan wood, interesting for its rocky outcrops and potential views. The route then took us past a derelict mine and a pub for lunch (where we had fun identifying the pictures of 1950s film stars) to the village of Osgathorpe where the church was opened for our benefit. Continuing to the ruins of Grace Dieu Priory we returned through the woods to Thringstone for tea and our pickup. Dolores provided the evening’s entertainment with a well-selected quiz: interestingly the three teams were finely matched with only a few points between them.

Grace Dieu Priory
Grace Dieu Priory
In Calke Park
In the Grounds of Calke Abbey

Another minibus journey on Sunday took us to the village of Ticknall, whence Julie took us through the fields to the visitor centre at Staunton Harold reservoir for coffee overlooking the lake. Following part of the shore we progressed to Calke Abbey for lunch and time for a visit to the house or gardens and stables with their intriguing collection of bygones from a house in decline! Our route then took us past the deer park to the Ticknall Pools nature reserve where we relaxed in warm sunshine, returning to the village via a tramway tunnel for a welcome drink at the local hostelry. In the evening we viewed a slide show in celebration of Pam’s holidays with us, which revived many happy memories before she leaves for her new home in Kent.


Deer in Calke Abbey Grounds
Bathing Deer in the Grounds of Calke Abbey
Sence Valley Park
Sence Valley Park

Starting from Coalville Gill’s walk took us first to the tiny church at Snibston, then past some rather fine redbrick Georgian hospital buildings at Ravenstone through pleasant countryside to the village of Normanton-le-Heath and newly planted woodland to the Sence Valley Forest Park for lunch. This landscaped former open-cast mining area with lakes and woods showed what can be done! Returning via open fields and another nature reserve we arrived back at the Manor house in time for a detailed (free!) tour and refreshments in the tearoom.

It was a very enjoyable five days and particular thanks are due to Julie (with some assistance from Maggie’s local knowledge) for all of her work in organising the holiday. Well done also walk leaders, those who provided entertainment and transport, and the YHA for their hospitality.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019