This week, our walk takes place around Irchester Country Park, on a route that is just over a mile in length.
Irchester Country Park used to be an Ironstone Quarry and this industry has left an indelible mark on the landscape, covering 83 hectares.
Softened by the addition of a quarter of a million trees providing mixed woodland on top of ravines and valleys though not deep still provide the impression of the paths being high above you Wild West style.
Eyes can be watching you from the trees. As soon as we get there the children disappear, running up one of the steep slopes while we sort the pay and display money – £2.50. Our plans for a long walk on the longer black trail Ironstone Trail ( two miles) are thwarted by my brother suddenly announcing a surprise visit so instead we follow the red arrows (not the flying aces) 1.3 miles (2.25 kms).
The path starts at the visitor centre and passes the play area and Jungle Parc. The route is on well surfaced paths. Each marker post is numbered and has an educational wildlife question. Since all those who are in full time education are running about in the woods, trying to find sticks and avoiding their parents, we feebly attempt to answer them.
With one person following the arrowed route it is very safe for everyone else to grovel about in the undergrowth playing whatever game suits. After the trail nearly reaches the lay-by on the A45, it turns away from the noisy road plunging back into the park.
Some of the paths are muddy, indeed, one of the footbridges is missing all together making an exciting descent but the drought of 2011 has taken its toll on Big Foot Pond which has completely dried up.
The density of the planting means that even in winter it is easy to feel far from the madding crowd. The path leads downwards and eventually to some steps that spit you out onto the main meadow in front of the loos and visitor centre.
Time for a trip to the Quarryman’s Rest and a well earned cup of tea while the children continue their running around on the fantastically equipped play area, taking their snacks and drinks with them.
Contributed by Alison Bagley