Day 6. Southwell to Melton Mowbray.
It was great to start day six by literally walking out of Al & Anna’s front door and almost straight on to a footpath! Southwell it seems is well served by footpaths and bridleways, being surrounded by countryside and eager walkers. I was soon amongst fields of the Brackenhurst Estate, which are managed by Nottingham Trent University and used by the local Brackenhurst College. There were also fields of Miscanthus, a tall grass that is harvested as a biofuel.
We had decided to make a few changes to the original route, so that the day included more ‘off’ than ‘on-road’ sections. With my knees still feeling pretty stiff and achy, the trails seemed preferable to tarmac. I followed a series of paths across more farmland, through a few villages and around low-lying ponds. Staying on the trail was not really a problem, but there were often signs to remind you: do not go off-piste!
Crossing the River Trent at Gunthorpe was a highlight of the day, and then I made my way to the village of Bingham. It wasn’t long after that when a footpath I had been hoping to take was no longer a right of way. I instead started following an old disused railway line, but that too unfortunately was not really passable – thick with brambles and hawthorn trees. Eventually I found the footpath again and then stumbled upon a thick willow coppice. Willow is another bio-fuel grown in Nottinghamshire, capable of producing heat equivalent to 600 litres of fuel oil.
For the rest of the day I picked up the Jubilee Way, a footpath opened in 1977 to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. I met the friendly Alex & Moira at one point on the trail, and then kept moving on to the villages of Goadby Marwood and Scalthorpe, finally arriving in Melton Mowbray just before sunset. Walking through the town centre, I was on the look out for a pie shop – but sadly with tired legs and sore knees after 24 miles, really it was time to drive back to Al & Anna’s for a cold bath & compression socks!