Canons Ashby parkland walk
A short family-friendly walk around Canon Ashby's ancient parkland. Take care as there may be livestock in some of the fields on this route. Dogs are welcome, but please keep them on a lead.
Canons Ashby car park, grid ref: SP577506
Start from the car park entrance, turn right and go through the gate into the field, where you will see the large fenced oak. This oak is at least 500 years old and its hollow contains a huge mix of wildlife. Turn left heading towards the lakes.
The large split in the oak's trunk suggests it has been weakened by a lightning strike, so we've added this fence to protect people from falling branches. In Victorian times there were so many gatherings held under its leafy branches that it was known as 'the party oak'.
Make your way down to the lakes' edge. These lakes were dug for the Augustinian Canons over 800 years ago, so that they could keep fish to eat on holy days when they were forbidden to eat meat. As you walk along the lakes' edge, look to your right to see the ridge and furrow.
The ridge and furrow were created many years ago by medieval ploughs. The Domesday Book tells us that in 1086 there were three ploughs led by oxen working on this arable land. There were also pigs, sheep and chickens. On your left keep an eye out for the strip of land beyond the fence which splits the lake in two. This dam is now an historic monument and would have housed a medieval mill.
Continue to follow the edge of the parkland, keeping the poplar grove on your left. Your first sighting of the mound should soon come into view. Towards the centre of the parkland you can also see the zig-zag avenues of Oak, Hornbeam and Lime. These were planted to mark the edges of the medieval fields.
Head towards the mound. Don't forget to walk along the fallen tree on the way! In the field to the right you will see a small 19th century 'byre', identical to the one in the paddock near the house. A byre was used as a shelter for cows and is now home to barn owls and bats.
Bats at Canons Ashby
Five bat species can be found at Canons Ashby. Long-eared bats live in the animal byre on the paddock and Daubentons bats roost in the oak trees around the park.
Once you reach the mound, turn right. This mound is a bit of a mystery; archaeological digs have found evidence of many different time periods so we are not sure of its origins. It could be prehistoric, or a Norman motte-and-bailey (fortified castle), or even the dumping ground for Sir Henry Dryden's many archaeological digs! You'll also see the ground littered with pine cones from Giant Redwoods, a tree first seen in England in the 1850's.
The Giant Redwood
Living for thousands of years, the giant redwood cones contain hundreds of winged seeds. Wind and wildlife can scatter these seeds up to 180m (590ft) from the parent tree. Fallen pine cones make great fire-lighters or Christmas tree decorations.
After turning right, head towards the gate on your left. On your way there is a well-trodden path. Follow it and you will pass a beech grove on the left. The roots are vulnerable and exposed due to the heavy footfall of cattle. We will need to protect it, if it's to survive for another 200 years.
There is a medieval village in the next field. Go through the gate, making sure to close it behind you and turn left up the road. Walk for a short distance until you see a gate into the field on your right. Go through the gate and immediately on your left, you'll see an ancient pond which is a favourite spot of great crested newts.
Turn right on entering the field. Towards the centre you'll see lots of bumps in the earth either side of a long hollow way. This is the remains of the medieval village of Ashby's high street and the bumps on either side are medieval houses and yards. Most of the inhabitants of this ancient village either died or deserted the place during the outbreak of the 'black death' or plague.
Follow the medieval high street towards the end of the field. On the way, you may want to see how many house platforms you can you count and which one you would like to live in. How about gathering the whole family to see how many people it takes to hug each tree and try counting the rings on the stumps to age them.
Go through the kissing gate in the right hand corner of this field and take care when crossing the road. This will take you back to the House, and Coach House reception. Next door is our Stables tea room where you can enjoy a refreshing cuppa and slice of cake before seeing our medieval priory. National Trust members can get their cards scanned at the Coach House to help us look after this local historical landscape.
From the courtyard begin to follow the path towards the car park. Turn left and take the path through the paddock. Go through the wooden gate and cross the road to the church. This was once a medieval priory, until its destruction during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.
The paddock's wildflower meadow
Depending on the season, you can spot snowdrop, field geranium, campion or yellow rattle in the paddock's wildflower meadow. Hares and butterflies such as fritillary, orange-tip, peacock and holly blue make their home here too.
Canons Ashby car park, grid ref: SP577506
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