The West Leake and Gotham Woodlands Walk.

A leisurely six-mile walk around the hills farmland and woodlands surrounding The villages of West Leake and Gotham in the county of Nottinghamshire.

This engaging walk takes you on a ramble around the gently rolling hills woods and
mixed farmlands, full of history and ancient legends in a surprisingly interesting part of the north midlands.


It starts in the charming old estate village of West Leake and from there works its way northwards through the wide arable fields leading up towards the West Leake Hills, then winds its way steeply up through Leake New Wood to the top of Court Hill by-passing Cuckoo Bush Wood and its 3000-year old Neolithic Burial Mound.  From the top of Court Hill, it drops steeply down to take you through the centre of the village of Gotham.  Leaving the village behind it then continues northwards to Gotham Hill itself, passing en route through the small Gotham Sand Banks Nature Reserve, a triple SSI, to eventually bring you out onto the short sheep cropped turf on the open hillside above it.   From here you contour around the hillside to walk up a small steep wide valley towards the top of Gotham Hill, by/passing the ancient Wheldon Spring.
The walk from the spring following the sheep walk westwards along the top of Gotham Hill with its views both to the north and south is a delight, as is the sheltered section alongside Gotham Hill Wood that leads you on a wide grass ride past Cottagers Hill Wood and Spinney Wood to come out onto the hard bridle track,
{locally known as Soldiers Lane}.

At this point, you are just over half-way round and from here the walk heads off southwards down Soldiers Lane towards the West Leak Hills, crossing over the Kegworth Road before rising steeply up Wood Lane to pass between Crown End Wood and the western end of New Leake Wood.  Here you drop down to the southern edge of the woodlands to pick up, a long farm track {Wossock Lane}, this takes you back through wide arable farmland to pick up a road {Dark Lane} and eventually via a short pleasant footpath, take you back to the village.

Start by parking on the side of the road on Main Street next to the village hall in the centre of West Leake.
Unfortunately, the walk falls between two maps
OS Explorer Map  N’s 246/260.  SK 529 265.

Food, Drink and Pubs.
The Star Inn 1/4 of a mile south of West Leake does food and there are three pubs in Gotham that also do food.  The Cuckoo Bush, The Star Inn and The Sun.
There’s a Spar/Post Office in Gotham, on the Nottingham road.

 Within the text {Y’F’M’} indicates a Yellow Footpath Marker}.

The Walk.

Leave your car and walk westwards along Main Street for about 500m until you see to your left the lovely little church of St Hellens.  Opposite the church you will see a wooden footpath sign above a set of wooden steps leading up onto a narrow path enclosed between tall fencing panels, walk along this metre wide path to a stile.


Cross over into the meadow and walk straight across the paddock, passing just to the right of a large old Sycamore tree and aiming for a stile with two yellow-topped posts on either side of it.  Pass over onto a wide grass footpath, Y’F’M’.


Turn right and follow alongside the hedgerow, until after about 150 metres or so you pass through a wide gap in the hedgerow just to the left of a large old Ash Tree, Y’F’M’.  Go left at this and wander along keeping the hedge to your left to by/pass an old dried up Dew Pond that sits under a stand of aged old Crack Willows.  Just past this at an overgrown copse left of the hedgerow, the track bends to the right, keep going for about 80 meters to where it turns sharply left through a gap in the hedge, Y’F’M’.


Walk gently downhill through the wide arable fields on a deeply rutted grassy farm track, while enjoying the expansive views over to the West Leake hills and their woodlands.  On reaching the distant hedgerow the track curves to the right, then back left taking you through a wide break in the hedge, pass through and keeping the hedge to your left continue along to a gap in the corner of the field.


Walk through onto a wide stone ride {broken down Y’F’M’ post lying beside the hedge}.  Turn right and walk along the track until you come to a large old metal animal feed hopper, Y’F’M’.  Turn to the left at this at and walk between a couple of concrete hard standing areas,  this site is marked as Grange farm on the map.  Carry on along the grass ride, {can be muddy} keep following the hedge-line under the wood, gently curving around until you come to a Y’F’M’.
Leading up northwards into the woodland on your right is a wide grass clearing, walk steeply up this ride/break to enter the lovely old mixed woodlands of East Leake New Wood.


Where the break narrows at the top of the hill, at its right-hand edge and leading into the forest you will find a narrow stone footpath.  Walk on along this under a line of fine mature Oaks and with a woodland drain on your right.  The woodland on the left is unusual, a mixture of thoughtfully planted Oaks and mature Yews, not often seen and they must make a haven for wildlife, particularly so in the winter.


Carry on along under this shady atmospheric grove to where the woodland drain ends and the forest to your right, develops into a pure conifer plantation containing a mixture of imposing specimens of Douglas Fir, Corsican and Scots Pine.  Keep plodding along the ride {can be muddy in the winter} under the dark shadowed canopy of the conifers and with the musky smell of the forest invading your nostrils until the edge of the wood comes into view.  When you arrive at the hedgerow turn right at a white/blue finger-post and walk 40 metres along the side of the wood to a Y’F’M’.


Turn left, enter the field and walk up the side of the hedgerow to reach a wide stone bridle track with a wicket gate on its far side.  {wooden footpath sign next to it}.  The conifer wood left of the wicket is called the Cuckoo Bush Wood.
The wood gets its name from a local legend that in the middle ages the villagers of Gotham got it into their heads that if they built a fence around the mound that sits within the wood and managed to trap a Cuckoo inside it, as long as the Cuckoo kept singing the summer could be extended indefinitely ! Mmm, Nottinghamshire folk !  In actual fact, the mound is a 3000-year-old Neolithic burial mound.


If you would like to visit the mound turn left and walk along the track for 20 metres to a gap in the post and rail fence surrounding the wood and follow the bark chip path through the pines leading up to it.  After you’ve had your fill of communing with the ancestors, retrace your steps to the wicket and pass through into the meadow.


The hill that you are standing on is called Court Hill and from here the views north over Beeston and on past it to Nottingham are extensive and if you fancy taking the weight off your feet and spending a little time taking in the scene, 50 metres along the fence-line to your right you’ll find a commemorative bench.
After you’ve had enough of looking down on to Nottingham, continue walking down the edge of the wood, {north} for 50 metres where you will find a notice board explaining the history of the mound and its connection with Gotham.  Keep on down sticking close to the wood and by-passing a small second bench to pass through a gap in the old hedge-line that leads off to the right.  Carry on steeply down towards Gotham to where, below at the bottom of the hill you will see a wicket gate.


Go through the gate and walk along the bridle track between tall old Hawthorn hedges to meet a wicket-taking you out onto a road, {Gypsum Way}.  Carefully cross the road and walk on towards Gotham on a wide metalled drive, {Hill Road}, pass under a couple of power lines then cut through a row of concrete bollards to join an un-adopted section of the road.  Stroll on past a row of houses on the left to join the main carriageway, {Leake Road}.  Turn left and walk along the pavement towards the church and centre of the village.


Walk on past the lovely ancient church of St Lawrence.  The church is often locked, though when I last did the walk it was open and if you have the time and it’s unlocked, it’s worth stopping off to have a look around the interior.


Pass-by the village green and shortly after it the Cuckoo Bush Pub, cross over the junction of Kegworth Road coming in from the left and continue along Nottingham Road, by-passing the Spar/Post Office to where the road curves round to the right.  On the bend and leading off to the left is a wide bridle track {bridle track sign}.  To its right stands a colourful, tall metal weathervane/ statue sporting on its summit a Golden Running Hare towing a bag of money.  Another Gotham legend !  Does make you wonder about the Gothamites of old !


Walk on up the bridle track passing a metal farm gate on its left and follow the well-made ride to an overhead power line.  On the left you will see a metal wicket gate, this leads into the Gotham Sand Banks Nature Reserve a Site Of Special Scientific Interest, awarded for its alkaline flora.  The reserve is maintained by the local community.


Go through the gate into the reserve and wind your way along the narrow path hemmed in with earthen banks and tall old Hawthorns.  The reserve appears to be an area of earthen hummocks and shallow depressions populated with Thorn and Sycamore coppice along with the occasional vegetated open grassy area.  In places, you can find lumps of Gypsum lying above ground and I assume that the undulations in the reserve are the result of past efforts to mine it.  My last visit was in late autumn and most of the vegetation was pretty well over and dormant, so a trip next spring’s on the cards just to see what actually does grow there.


Eventually, you will come to a Wicket gate taking you out onto the open hill-side. Head diagonally right-wards rising steeply up the meadow on a vague narrow path for about 50 meters to join a wide grass ride that contours round to the right, follow this to drop down into a small wide valley and head towards a large red metal farm gate, ignore the gate and follow the wide ride up to the left on stock cropped turf, rising steeply up towards an electricity pole at the head of the valley.


To the right of the pole in a small shallow overgrown depression is the site of the ancient Wheldon Spring.  {Now dried up}.  This used to be the only source of clean water apart from rainwater for the villagers of Gotham and water had to be transported down to the village from here, until in 1862 a supply was piped in from the village of Rushcliffe.


From the spring head up and rightward following the hedge-line to a white metal wicket gate standing just to the left of an electricity pole.  Go through the gate to follow the fence line west-wards along the top of Gotham Hill towards Gotham Hill Wood, while enjoying the firm sheep cropped turf underfoot and taking in the first-rate views to the north and to the south over Gotham village back towards the West Leake Hills.


About half-way between the white gate and the start of Gotham Hill Wood you come to an information board informing you of what it’s possible to see on sharp clear days up to the north, far past Long Eaton and Beeston and carrying on all the way up over the Trent Valley towards the limestone hills of the southern Peak District.


Keep following the sheep walk by-passing a couple of dilapidated wicket gates to curve round left-wards to the beginning of Gotham Hill Wood and a large {Black} metal wicket gate.  Go through the gate onto the bridle track and if you’re feeling like a break, 100m just past it on the edge of the wood you will come across a bench and as you’re just about halfway around the walk at this point it makes for a good spot to sit and eat any food that you’ve brought along with you.  especially so as it sits on the sheltered south side of the wood and gets all the sun that’s going.


From here walk along the wide grass bridle track for about half a mile close to the wood, by-passing two large arable fields and passing midway through the hedge that divides them.  At the end of the ride go through the gap in the hedge-line at the corner of the field to join a lane coming in from the left. {South. Green footpath sign}.  This lane/bridle track is known locally as Soldiers Lane.

Turn left and march on down Soldiers lane for about a third of a mile leaving Cottagers Hill Spinney and Stonepit Wood behind you,  by-passing about halfway down and just inside the field on your left a brick second world war Pill Box, the remaining one of a pair built around 1940.


Apparently, the Pill Box was bombed at some point during the conflict, when the Nazis tried to extinguish an adjacent searchlight that was helping to protect Nottingham from their bombers.
{large hole in the concrete roof} !

Shortly after the road steepens, taking you down to the Kegworth/Gotham road, cross straight over to the start of  Wood Lane, {wooden bridle track sign}.  Carry on up the metalled lane passing a pleasant mature Ash, wood on your right, {confusingly also known as Gotham Wood} to by-pass Bungalows Farm on the left and Hillside Farm on the right.  From here the drive ceases to be metalled and becomes a wide stone ride.  Tramp on up this for some way passing through a metal farm gate, {usually open} and shortly after it a smart black wrought iron bench with a commemorative plaque attached to it {views over the hedge towards Gotham}.  Plonk on up the bridle’ by-passing on the right a small farm-house and barns until you arrive at a fork in the track.  {Wooden bridle track sign}.

Take the right fork to a metal farm gate with a wicket’ to its right, pass through and walk towards a tall conifer wood standing to the right of the ride, {Crown End Wood}, with the pleasantly mixed broad-leaved woodland of {New Leake Wood} to its left.  Meander along the ride between the woods to come out onto a  wide clearing, from here head off down the steep grassy hillside, passing between the superb mixed deciduous forest on either side of you to meet a well-made farm track.  Y’F’M’.


Follow this hard track between bleak flat arable fields and hedges, until after a 1/4 of a mile a footpath Y’F’M’ comes in from the left, this would take you back to the animal feed silo that you walked past near the start of the walk.  Ignore this and carry on along the bridle track until after a good 1/2 mile you come to a broad junction with a wide stone ride coming in diagonally from the left, {Wossock Lane}, Y’F’M’.  Swing right and follow the stone ride for about 1/4 of a mile to join Dark Lane


Turn left and walk down Dark lane for a 1/4 of a mile or so until you see a break in the left-hand hedge-line; broken down footpath sign hidden in the hedge to its left.  Pass through and squeeze around the end of a large Oak trunk guarding the entrance into the footpath.  Wander along this pleasant green path until on your right you come to the Y’F’M’ and stile with the yellow-topped posts that you climbed over at the beginning of the walk.


Cross over and retrace your steps back over the meadow to pass under the large old Sycamore again and on to the stile, {yellow marks}, that leads over onto the fenced-in footpath and the wooden steps taking you out onto Main Street, turn left and walk eastwards along the road and the last few hundred metres back to the village hall.


St Hellens Church West Leake.

2 thoughts on “The West Leake and Gotham Woodlands Walk.

  1. cjhw001

    Hi john, I’ve had a quick look – lovely pics and well done 👍

    I noticed (after proof reading Lindy’s thesis I’m more aware) there are the odd spelling etc – wonder instead of wander; triple SSI – this probably should be written in full the first time and the correct abbreviation is SSSI.

    Thanks Charlotte



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