Burrough Hill

The late Bronze Age early Iron Age Hill Fort of Burrough Hill.  World War Two Heroes,  Edward the VIII and Mrs Simpson.
All in one Walk !

T02353_10

This interesting circular walk starts from the little village of Burrough on the Hill in East Leicestershire.  From there it crosses over low hills and fields to the charming old Ironstone village of Somerby, to work its way back via the ancient Bronze Age hill fort of Burrough Hill the largest hillfort of this type in the county.
The walk is about four and a half miles long and takes you through some lovely pastoral north midland countryside in a part of Leicestershire that’s not often visited.

Nearly all of the walk is off-road following Footpaths, Green Lanes, Bridle Tracks and woodland Rides apart from a short section on road taking you through the village of Somerby.

Park opposite the church of St Mary the Virgin in the village of Burrough on the Hill.  OS Explorer Map 245.  Loughborough, Melton Mowbray and Syston,
SK 757 107.

Within the text, Y’F’M’ indicates a yellow footpath marker.

Food and Drink.

There’s a small News Agent near the church of All Saints in Somerby that sells fruit snacks and pretty good home-made sandwiches, though if you want something more substantial The Stilton Cheese pub does meals.


The walk.

After parking carefully, leave your car and walk northeastwards along Somerby road, follow the pavement by-passing the red telephone box on the other side of the road until on the right you come to Peal Farm Cottage.  Just after the cottage you will see a Y’F’P/Footpath post,  take this narrow footpath, enclosed with Ivy covered fencing panels down to a wicket Gate.

Go through the gate and head diagonally leftward across the arable field aiming for a lone electricity pole, carry on past this to the right-hand end of a small copse where you will find a metal wicket gate in the hedge, Y’F’M’.  Enter the copse to walk steeply uphill through the young Plantation to find a wicket gate at the top edge of the wood, Y’F’M’.

DSC02390

Go through the gate and walk steeply up on short turf to a metal wicket’ situated close to the top left-hand corner of the small meadow, Y’F’M’.

Pass through and climb the steps to walk in a slightly diagonal direction heading for the left-hand end of the hedge that lies in front of you.  Walk around the elbow of the hedge, to immediately find on the right in its continuation a metal five/bar gate, Y’F’M’ to the rear of the gate post.

After awkwardly negotiating the gate, turn left and follow the hedge line taking in the fine views down the lovely Gorse covered open valley to your right until on the left you come to a metal five/bar gate.  By-pass this and walk on down a few metres to a double stemmed Ash tree, stile and Y’F’M’  in the fence just to the left of a metal five/bar gate.

DSC02400

Climb over and walk along the sheep walk at the head of the valley and sticking to the left-hand fence/hedge line you will find a metal wicket’, Y’F’M’.
Go through to cross diagonally straight over the muddy arable field, {west}, aiming for its far right-hand corner and the distant spire of All Saints Church in the village of Somerby.

DSC02416

If you have the time to spare, it’s well worth spending some of it having a look around the village of Somerby, with its fine old ochre/red ironstone buildings and the ancient part
Norman church of All Saints.

DSC02432-001

The village has a very sad claim to fame.  In 1943 during World War Two, five hundred and eighty-two men of the 10th Parachute Regiment were billeted in and around the village in preparation for the failed 1944 mission Operation Market Garden.  An attempt to capture from the Germans the bridge over the river Rhine at Arnhem in the Netherlands, portrayed in the film A Bridge Too Far.  This proved to be a disaster and sadly only twenty-eight of the men returned from the battle !

Leave the Field and turn right onto the Burrough road towards Somerby, walk down the road for 30 metres or so and take a lane called The Field that comes in diagonally from the left.  Follow this rough un-adopted lane to a junction with West View Road, turn left and wander on past the Stilton Cheese Pub towards the centre of Somerby.

DSC02421-001

Keep plodding on through the lovely warm red ironstone buildings of the village until on the right you see the entrance to manor lane, opposite the lane on the left, you will see a sign for the Leicestershire Round Footpath.  Follow this between the buildings on an enclosed footpath to pass through two-wicket gates, carry on to a third gate and Y’F’M’ standing under a grove of fine old English Oaks, walk through these and out into a small meadow.
Cross over the pasture to a metal wicket gate Y’F’M’, go through this to enter a large arable field, walk up this keeping to the right-hand hedge/fence-line and heading for a distant Y’F’M’ post and a wicket gate standing under a group of large Scots Pine trees.

DSC02439

Pass through to walk under the pines and keeping to the left-hand hedge-line walk down towards a stand of tall Poplar trees domineering the woodland in front of you.  In the left-hand corner of the meadow you will find a gap and a metal gate in the hedge to your left, go through the break to walk under a group of old Larch trees.
From here, down to the right, you will see some wooden steps dropping steeply down to a bridge over a small stream, Y’F’M’.

DSC02449

Climb down the steps and walk on through the Thorn and Ash coppice to come out onto a small scrubby meadow with a Y’F’M’ standing on its far side.

DSC02458

Carry on up to a wicket’ Y’F’M’, go through and cross over the arable field towards a large Y-shaped broken topped Ash tree on its far side.  Plod on past this and keeping the old Blackthorn hedge to your left, head for a Y’F’M’ standing under another large old Ash tree.  Carry on as the track curves first to the left Y’F’M’ then back to the right, keep on following the hedge-line downhill as it curves back left until eventually the hedge-line and track leads you uphill to the southern edge of a mixed conifer wood.

DSC02461

Turn right and walk along the side of the wood for about 150 metres until on the left you see a metal wicket gate, Y’F’M’. Enter the forest and climb steeply down the wooden steps through the woodland to a metal wicket’ and a commemorative bench sitting to the left of the path, Y’F’M’.

DSC02468

At this point, you are about halfway around the walk and this is a beautiful spot to sit, eat sandwiches and enjoy the lovely views down the valley over the woodlands of Buttermilk Hill Spinney, the Beeches wood and on up to Little Dalby Hall with the little church of St James standing out.

DSC02474

Follow the path down through the meadow towards a Y’F’M’.  Wander on past it ignoring the line of Y’F’M’s leading down the valley to the right.  Carry on up the right-hand side of Punch Bowl Covert, {north}, to a five/bar gate with a metal wicket’ to its left Y’F’M’, this leads through into Buttermilk Hill Spinney.  Follow the path through the spinney under a stand of fine tall Oaks Y’F’M’, to leave the copse on its far side, in front of you is a five/bar gate, {Leicestershire Round Footpath sign}.  Ignore this, turn left and follow the wide ride under the northern edge of Punch Bowl Coppice.  {West}.

Keep on under the hill following the edge of the forest until the woodland ends and the hillside develops into an area of open rough grassland that eventually opens out on to a wide meadow leading up to the edge of the woodland again.  Bear diagonally left {south west} up the pasture towards the edge of the wood, pass through the gap in its boundary hedge to where you will find an old metal cattle trough.  Wicket gate and Y’F’M’ to its right.  Enter the young Beech woodland {commemorative bench to its right}.  Walk along the ride for about a third of a mile through the now pleasantly mixed forest, marked with the occasional Y’F’M’.

DSC02482

This lovely section of the walk is part of the Jubilee Way.  A twenty-one mile trail starting near the village of Burrough on the Hill and finishing ten miles to the north of Melton Mowbray at Woolsthorpe by Belvoir in Lincolnshire.

Leave the forest via the wicket and out onto the sparsely wooded open hillside of Rise Hill Spinneys.

DSC02483

Keep plodding on under the hill {west}, through the thorn bushes, by-passing a couple of Y’F’P’s, until up to your left you will see the top of Burrough Hill with the rampart mound of the Bronze age hill fort crowning its summit.  From here bear slightly left to a post and rail fence, Y’F’M’ and a wicket gate.  Take the wicket’ and head down the cattle poached muddy track through the Gorse onto the side of the hill, carry on to a lone Y’F’M’.  From here grind your way up the steep hillside aiming for a small Ash tree enclosed in a rickety post and rail fence.  Pass to its left through a low point in the hill forts rampart/mound that surrounds the summit of the hill.

DSC02500

The hillfort is thought to date back to the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age period and is the largest site of this type in Leicestershire, covering an area of twelve acres or so.  In 2014 after a five-year project by Leicester University’s School of Archeology a student unearthed the iron and bronze remains of a highly decorated 2,200-year-old Celtic Chariot, that’s thought to have been placed in a wooden box and burnt in a ritual ceremony.  Amongst some of the other items found are what appear to be equine tools/implements.  In the Iron Age, Burrough Hill must have been a strategically important place, standing as it does 690 ft above sea level and domineering most of the surrounding countryside.  The Romans must have thought so too and the remains of some of their artefacts have also been found.

In the 16th c’, every Monday after Whit Sunday the villagers of Burrough on the hill would gather on and around the summit of the hill for horse racing, shooting, wrestling, running and dancing.  The sport seems to have been revived again in the 18th c’.

After completing the walk and back at my car, as I was sitting in the car boot taking my boots off an old local passed by and asked me where I’d been walking.  Turns out he was the churchwarden of St Mary the Virgin and had lived since he was born,  Ninety-Seven Years Ago! In either Burrough or Somerby.  He was friendly and easy to talk to, turns out we had quite a bit in common.  Like me, he too had been a woodsman/estate worker for all of his working life and had worked in most of the woodlands, estates and farms in the Burrough area, including the ones adjacent to the hillfort.  We got to talking about the fort and its past, particularly about more recent times.
He told me that when he was a boy, almost ninety years ago he would join the young lads of the village to race one another around the rim of the fort on their bikes !  He seemed to relish the memory of it judging by the twinkle in his eye.  Proto Mountain Bikers !

The thing he regretted most though, was that after the war there was a mania for grubbing out the old hedgerows and ploughing up the ancient sheep walks, along with the destruction of the wonderful wildflower meadows that used to surround the hill, only to be replaced by an arable desert.
An interesting thing for me was his dialect.  We both come from Leicestershire and were born and bred in the county and though we only live as the crow flies twenty miles apart he spoke, as did the lady in the newsagent in Somerby with a slight East Anglian dialect {missing the t’s out of his words} whereas I speak with a South Derbyshire accent.  Me Duck ! 

DSC02498

Over the far side of the hill fort and poking up on the rim of its south-west perimeter you can see a round, orientation table.  Either head straight over to it or alternatively, {better} imagine you’re on a bike, turn to your right and follow the rim of the plateau/mound all the way round until you come to it.

After absorbing the wonderful and extensive views to be had from the table, way out to the west over the farmland and countryside of this lovely part of Leicestershire keep on following the mound {eastwards} until you arrive at a triangulation point.

DSC02497

From here down below you {south}, you will see two Y’F’M’s.  Scramble down the bank to these, then bear right {west}, to take a rough and again cattle poached muddy track through a defile into the Gorse bushes.  This will lead you down and around the base of the hill on its west side to pass under the orientation table, Y’F’M’.  Eighty metres past this on the left is a five/bar gate with a metal wicket’ to its right.

Pass through to find immediately on the right a second five/bar gate and wicket’ standing in the post and rail fence, Y’F’M’.  Go through and follow down the right-hand edge/ track of the large arable field {north for 15m’, then west}, to arrive at an old dried up and overgrown Dewpond sitting just to the left of the track, just after this stands a {Y’F’M’}.  Turn sharp left at this {south} and cross directly over the middle of the arable field aiming for a break in the far hedgerow just left of two large Ash trees Y’F’M’.

DSC02510

Walk on through the break and head in a slightly diagonal direction leftward to a wide opening in the hedge-line opposite Y’F’M’, enter the field and walk straight over the stubble towards a second gap.  Plod on over the next field to pass through the overgrown hedge opposite and walk across the little brook/ ditch via a small wooden bridge, Y’F’M’.  Turn left and pass through an opening at the end of the hedgerow leading up to the right, Y’F’M’.  From here head diagonally up the middle of the arable field towards the end of an old Green Lane jutting out into its centre, Y’F’M’.  Enter the lane and hemmed in with Blackthorn hedges and small trees make your way steeply up, as it gradually curves to the right, eventually bringing you out on to the Somerby Road at the north-eastern edge of Burrough’, Wicket’ and Y’F’M’.  Turn to the right and walk the last few hundred metres or so back to your car.

The Edward the Viii and Mrs Simpson connection.

If you drive south-west out of the village on the Twyford road for about half a mile you pass by the site of the former Burrough Court.
 In the 1930s, Burrough Court was owned by the 1st Viscount Furness and was used as a rendezvous and hunting box/lodge by the Quarn Hunt from nearby Melton Mowbray, along with the county set of Leicestershire.  In the autumn of 1930, Thelma Viscount Furness held a house party and hunt at the court and this turned out to be a pretty portentous occasion.  On the guest list, there were two names that six years later on December the 11th 1936 would shake the British establishment.  Wallace Simpson and Edward Prince of Wales later to become Edward the Viii, a king for just one year, met each other for the first time.

0015
Burrough Court in The 1930s.

The house its self is no longer standing.  It was used by the military during the war and it’s rumoured that it was burnt down by Canadian soldiers using explosives to get into a sealed up wine cellar !  Only the outhouses and stables survived the fire, these have recently been restored and the site is now used as a conference centre.

T02353_10It all happens at Burrough O’ the Hill !
Tally Ho !

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s