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Leicestershire Walk
Debdale Wharf & Foxton from Smeeton Westerby

County/Area - Leicestershire

Author - Anthony Maries

Length - 7.5 miles / 12.2 km    Ascent - 520 feet / 158 metres

Time - 4 hours 20 minutes    Grade - easy/mod

Start - OS grid reference SP677926
Lat 52.527076 // Long -1.003531
Postcode LE8 0QS (approx. location only)
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Ordnance Survey Explorer 233Sheet Map1:25kBUY
Anquet OS Explorer 233Digital Map1:25kBUY
Ordnance Survey Landranger 141Sheet Map1:50kBUY
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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - Debdale Wharf & Foxton from Smeeton Westerby

This walk explores the very rural and unspoiled area around the Grand Union Canal junction north of Market Harborough. Almost all on footpaths, with a long stretch along the canal towpath on the return.

Start from the allotments in a triangle of country lanes in Smeeton Westerby (SP677926). Walk down the minor road to Gumley for 150 yards, then and take the footpath to the right by the bridge over the brook. Follow the path along the south side of the brook for 400 yards until you reach a hump-backed bridge over the canal. The brook has been partly canalised hereabouts to feed water to the canal.

Follow the path on the south side of the canalised branch for 1000 yards until you reach a post in a field by a miniature sluice gate (Grid ref. SP664915). Bear left here (S) and head straight up the hill, giving views of Saddington reservoir to the west as you get higher. A hardwood bench at the top of the hill commemorates a local walker and the 'Leicestershire Round', a waymarked trail which this walk follows in part. From the top of the hill continue down the other side towards Gumley, forking right at a junction of paths by a stile at the bottom of the hill.

At the top of the next hill you reach a minor road on the outskirts of Gumley. Cross the road and go through the metal gate into the field by the churchyard. Walk down a path under very large yew trees to come out by the front of the church. Walk out of the church yard into the street down the hill. 200 yards down the hill turn down the footpath on your left starting between two red brick cottages, and walk down the hill, forking right at the bottom of the hill. Cross several fields to come out by a footbridge over the canal. Cross the bridge and walk along the canal towpath south to Foxton Locks.

Quite likely, you will have not met anyone else all the way from Smeeton, but now, especially at weekends, the canal banks will be thronged with walkers and narrow boaters. Foxton Locks is well known for the flight of 10 locks taking the Grand Union Canal up the hill so it can cross the elevated land in the north of Northamptonshire on its way to London. The locks also boasts an inclined plane, under long-term restoration, a museum and two pubs, almost always busy.

To return to Smeeton cross the Horseshoe bridge by the pub and follow the canal towpath on the right (E) side of the canal. The canal takes you past Debdale wharf, then five more several brick bridges taking lonely country lanes and paths over the canal. As you walk along the canal after Debdale wharf you may often hear frenzied barking from the farm up on the hill. This is the kennels of the Fernie Hunt.

Thankfully, the canal towpath is never as muddy as the various paths that led you from Smeeton to the locks. Much of Leicestershire is low-lying boulder clay, which is notoriously heavy in wet weather. At an aqueduct which takes the canal over the Saddington Brook (grid ref. SP667922), follow the path which diverges from the brook in a north easterly direction, and walk up a low hill to come out in Westerby Lane, which leads to the allotments where you started the walk.

Pubs: The White Hart (Smeeton Westerby), The Bell (Gumley) and 2 pubs at Foxton Locks - Bridge 61 and the Foxton Locks Inn. This could be a bit of a crawl!

Other walks nearby

Walk 3415 Wistow and Newton Bridge from Fleckney - easy - 6.5 miles/10.6 km

Walk 2084 Grand Union Canal from Great Glen - easy - 3.1 miles/5 km

Walk 1455 Great Glen and Burton Overy - easy - 6.0 miles/9.8 km

Walk 1457 Great Glen, Burton Overy, & Illston - easy/mod - 11.0 miles/17.9 km

Walk 3338 Burton Overy from Great Glen - easy - 3.0 miles/4.9 km

Walk 1456 Carlton Curlieu & Illston on the Hill - easy - 5.0 miles/8.1 km

Walk 3438 The Langtons from Stonton Wyville - easy/mod - 6.8 miles/11 km

Walk 1624 Countesthorpe, Willoughby Waterleys & Bruntingthorpe - easy/mod - 9.2 miles/15 km

Walk 2078 Peatling Magna & Arnesby From Countesthorpe - easy/mod - 6.8 miles/11.1 km

Walk 1685 Peatling Magna from Countesthorpe - easy - 4.1 miles/6.7 km

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