Tag Archives: Bilsthorpe Moor

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

21 Feb

 

As the winter draws towards its end I thought I would write about my local walks in this and past winters. This one has been the coldest one for a decade and the first proper winter since then. We’ve had the odd cold snap since but this winter has had more sustained sub-zero days and nights.


This cold spell has been enjoyable for me as I like walking or running in snow. Even when there isn’t any snow I prefer frozen ground to the mud that has prevailed for most recent winters. This winter began in similar fashion with plenty of rain making the ground pretty sodden, although the autumn wasn’t as wet as 2019. The colder weather started just after Christmas but as the year turned we entered a more sustained chilly spell.

We had a few separate snowfalls, although none brought huge quantities. The heaviest snow was on the 14th January when we had two or three inches. It snowed most of the day but stopped in the afternoon. This gave me a window for a run before it got too dark, although the snow make things a bit lighter in the gathering gloom. I set out at 4.30 when the snow in Farnsfield was already a bit slushy. However, once out of the village the fresh snow was still intact and lovely to run on. I had decided to go to Bilsthorpe, just over two miles away, and had deliberately chosen a route across Bilsthorpe Moor (see Walk 7) to recreate a run in the snow from many years earlier when I had got lost, although this time I wanted to avoid that outcome.
The previous time had been when I wasn’t very familiar with the way across the Moor. I had gone out in the early evening when the snow was still falling lightly. I had crossed the A617 to reach the large field on the Bilsthorpe side which rises sharply. Ahead of me it was pure white and I didn’t know where the field ended and the sky began. I totally lost my bearings and started running in a circle. As it was getting dark I decided to return home.


This time I knew the way across the Moor better and made it to Bilsthorpe safely. After a loop round the village where I saw the children returning with their sledges l headed towards the old railway track to return home. By now it was getting dark and in the field I fell over when tripping on a furrow. The path up to the railway track goes under a bridge but in the half light I could see a large puddle so had to claw my way up the steep bank to reach the track. A thaw was already beginning and pools of water forming under the trees. I tried to stay in the snow which guided my way in what was now almost darkness. It is a very straight track so I couldn’t go far wrong if I kept my eyes on the white strip stretching ahead of me and got home in total gloom.

Some of my favourite walks and runs have been in the early evening when it has stopped snowing. In 2018 the Beast From The East arrived.  It snowed until the middle of the afternoon but when it stopped I went out in the fresh snow.  I went along Greaves Lane and did a loop round Combs Wood.  As I was going back down towards Greaves Lane in the twilight I saw a barn owl flying across the fields.  This was the first and still the only time I have seen a barn owl in the wild.

My most memorable winter excursion came many years ago on yet another day when the snow stopped in the early evening after depositing a few inches.  I ran from Farnsfield all the way along Greaves Lane up to the top near Oxton and to Robin Hood Hill.  There was a full moon illuminating a beautiful snowscape on what is always one of my favourite viewpoints in the county.  A truly magical experience. 

This year in the time between snowfalls there was plenty of rain and this combined with the snow melt made things really wet underfoot.  I went to Kirklington where it was as wet as I can ever remember it.  On the way home I stopped at the large pond and as I stood on the bridge I could feel it vibrating with the force of the water leaving the pond.  The last field before the railway track on the way home has been very muddy all winter and people have been walking round the edge in preference.  The farmer has put up a rope to stop this.  I can understand why but on the two occasions I went round the edge the grass was in good condition.  People weren’t walking on any crops and appeared to me to be doing less damage than they would by going straight across the field.

When the cold weather returned we had some nice crisp, sunny days and I walked from Rainworth to Farnsfield using the first part of my Walk 24 .  I haven’t been that way since I did that walk and I was reminded what a nice one it is.  The first part where you come off the Rainworth by-pass and immediately reach a nice bit of heathland before a nice track through a wood is a lovely surprise and well worth a look.

On another sunny day I went via Hexgreave and over the top to Eakring.  The day was so clear that Lincoln Cathedral was easily visible on the skyline to the east from the top of the hill.  I went to the pond at Eakring Flash (see Walk 37) which was still mostly frozen but had swans, mallards, coots and a heron.  The ground was hard rather than muddy in most places which made things easier.  Hopefully the worst of the wet weather is now behind us and the fields which I have been mostly avoiding due to the mud will be nice to walk on again.

Walk 7:Farnsfield to Bilsthorpe via Bilsthorpe Moor

20 May

Farnsfield to Bilsthorpe via Bilsthorpe Moor

Distance: 4.5 miles

I have already described a longer walk to Bilsthorpe taking in the hill near Eakring. This is a shorter way of getting to Bilsthorpe, again returning by the railway track. This way doesn’t appear to be well used but the views  are quite good, although there is a road crossing and a little navigation involved.

One path I have found a problem occasionally has been the one across Bilsthorpe Moor.  There should be a clear footpath going across the Moor through the field to the south of Bilsthorpe on the route from Farnsfield.  Sometimes there has been no clear path  This is hard to get through and also hides the ruts in the field.  After wet weather the plants get wet and retain the moisture so that you socks and feet are likely to get soaked as mine did.

You never quite know what’s going to be growing in this field or if there will be a clear path.  My most recent visit was in April 2020 where the field had a rather patchy planting of oil-seed rape with some clear areas and some parts which were already slightly overgrown.  Rape is the worst plant to get through and I suspect this path will be hard to negotiate until the crop is harvested in July.

Start:Farnsfield Co-op – note that car parking is limited to one hour in the Co-op.

Follow this route described in the walk to Hexgreave as far as the end of  the lane.

Starting again at the Co-op in the centre of Farnsfield (see walk 1 for details). At the junction of Tippings Lane and the Main Street near the entrance to the Co-op. Cross the Main Street to the front of a grocery store with a post box outside it. Turn left along the Main Street and walk for one hundred yards along the pavement until you reach the bottom of New Hill just after the greengrocer’s.

Turn right up New Hill. On the opposite side of the road as you ascend the hill are the village centre,library and chip shop. At the top of the hill cross Chapel Lane and continue for another 100 yards,passing the tennis club on the other side of the road, as the road becomes Broomfield Lane. Carry straight on crossing Far Back Lane and continue going straight for another 300 yards. Here the road you are on reaches a dip where the disused railway formerly crossed it. This railway line is now a pleasant path to walk along. However, our route continues straight ahead.

Rising out of the dip you reach the end of the village and ahead of you see a long, straight road. Walk along this between fields of crops passing South Lodge and the sign marking the entrance to Hexgreave after 200 yards.  The grass verge beside the road widens at this point and you may prefer to walk on this rather than the road, although there is little traffic.

Go all the way to the end of the road where it forms a junction.

Where the Hexgreave walk turns right at the junction, this one goes into the field straight ahead. Look for a stile ahead of you just to the left of the junction. Go over the stile into a large field. The path goes ahead up the hill bearing to the left at an angle of roughly 45 degrees towards the hedge at the left hand side of the field. If you can, follow the path which has often been quite well-defined recently, particularly when the crops have been growing. As you reach the hedge on the left carry on ahead uphill following the hedge until you come to the large gap in the hedge at the end of the field.  Looking ahead to the top of the hill you should be able to see a post with a yellow top marking the footpath. Carry on alongside the hedge up the hill towards this post at the top.

On reaching the top of the hill the views are quite good. Behind you to the south you can see Farnsfield and the ridge beyond. Ahead of you to the north is Bilsthorpe and to the north-east and east you can see quite far to the higher ground in the distance. To your left at the top of the ridge is a clump of woodland. Our way ahead is to go towards the road at the bottom of the ridge (the A617). The route is straight down following the line you have walked up the hill although a few yards to the right. Sometimes the path is clear to see, on other occasions you may have to look hard, and sometimes there is no path at all. Just head on down the hill straight ahead looking for a small footpath sign by the road as a guide if necessary.

After 400 yards you arrive at a small ditch just before the road. If you aren’t at the footpath sign walk along the field edge until you reach the sign and cross the ditch. The road is quite busy so you may have to wait for a little while to cross. Take care in doing so and go straight across. There is another small ditch on the other side which you should be able to step over to reach a large field. Ahead of you the ground rises and Bilsthorpe has disappeared behind the slope. The walk goes straight on. Often the field has no obvious path so just aim straight ahead until you start to climb the slope. As you get to the top you will be able to get your bearings again. I once came this way when it was snowing and totally lost my way because of the snow covered slope and eventually had to retrace my steps using my own footprints. You shouldn’t have similar problems and from the top of the slope aim for the right hand end of the thick hedge about 400 yards in front of you. This is a tall, substantial hedge compared to the ones which border the field to your right.

The point you should reach is the end of the hedge. At this point ahead of you is an unofficial path along the field edge which goes straight on to the road going down the hill from Bilthorpe. Ignore this and turn left along the proper footpath which goes alongside the tall hedge which separates the field from a garden. Follow this path with the hedge on your right for 100 yards until you reach the road going from Bilsthorpe to the A617 (Farnsfield Road).  As you leave the field turn right and cross the road onto the pavement on the other side. After fifty yards or so look for a footpath on the left between houses. Turn down this footpath for fifty yards to reach a field and then bear left alongside a ditch. Walk for 200 yards until you reach the embankment for the old railway line. If you don’t wish to try and climb the embankment go through the tunnel under the railway and almost immediately turn left up some steps to reach the railway line.

At the top of the steps turn right and follow the railway line back to Farnsfield as I described in an earlier walk.

After 500 yards you pass under a bridge and find yourself with large banks on either side as you enter a cutting. Until this point you have had trees by the track but as you round the next bend the banks become higher and the ground more sandy. The trees become less common and instead there is  gorse on the banks. The path here is in good condition and firm as it drains well.

Railway track between Bilsthorpe and Farnsfield.

Another half mile rings you under the A617 bridge and 400 yards past that is another bridge.  Beyond this bridge the banks of the cutting gradually decline until they disappear and you are again surrounded by trees on both sides.  The path is still a good one though after very heavy rain it can have a few muddy patches. These can be stepped around with a little delicate footwork. After a mile and a half of mostly straight walking the track starts to bend to the left and a little later meets another branch of the track near the old Farnsfield station.

As an alternative to the route I have described returning to the village via Broomfield Lane here is a different way. As you reach the junction of the railway track with the line from Farnsfield station look ahead for a black, metal kissing gate in front of the houses. Go through this gate and for twenty yards along a path taking you to a small parking area. Go across this and leave by the exit at the opposite corner.  You find yourself at the end of a long road. walk along this on the right hand pavement for 150 yards until you are opposite the entrance to Abbotts Crescent. On your right you can see a pathway between houses. Go down this for fifty yards to reach Station Lane almost opposite the cricket club.

Turn left alongthe pavement on  Station Lane until you are just past the cricket field on then look for a small wooden gateway on the opposite side of the road. Cross the road and go through this onto the playing field. Go straight across the field bearing slightly left aiming just to the right of the basketball court. You reach the top of some steps. Go down these and the path past the old village jail onto Mansfield Road. Cross the road to the pavement on the other side and turn left for 150 yards until you reach the green. This is a small triangle with a tree on it in the middle of the road. Cross to the green and then to the bus stop.  Turn left here and walk along the Main Street past the church until you come to Tippings Lane and the Co-op.