The Leighfield Way is a combined bridleway and footpath that runs north/south for 7-8 miles between the village of Belton-in-Rutland and the town of Oakham. The walk was constructed in 1994 to celebrate the centennial of the Parish Council.
My plan was to start in Belton, and follow the Leighfield Way for a while, before cutting across eastwards to join the Rutland Water circuit.
Belton-in-Rutland is a pretty village of warm stone.
It was once named plain ‘Belton’, but changed its name in 1982 to distinguish itself from several other villages called Belton (there’s one in Leicestershire and two in Lincolnshire).
I start my walk when my husband drops me outside the ramshackle pub. I walk past the church and the village’s memorial cross, continuing onwards until I find the lane that marks the beginning of Leighfield Way.
There is no Leighfield Way sign, only a fingerpost pointing to Lambley Lodge.
This seems to be one of those multipurpose trails, as my map tells me I’m not only on the Leighfield Way, but also on the Macmillan Way and the Rutland Round.
The little lane provides a lovely walk, taking me down a gentle hill and up the other side. It’s the first of several rolling ridges of hills.
At the top of the hill is a staggered crossroads. I turn first left and then right, by the barns, continuing in a northerly direction.
It’s a virtually, traffic free route, with only a few farm vehicles passing along the lane. I met a smattering of walkers. Ahead the lane dips again, and at the bottom lies Leigh Lodge.
I cross a bridge over a series of water-courses and lakes. Just in time to see a swan landing.
At Leigh Lodge, the path bifurcates. The left fork is both the Leighfield Way footpath and the Rutland Round trail, while the Leighfield Way bridleway and the Macmillan Way continue straight ahead.
Because of the incessant rain this winter, the ground remains saturated, and I decide to stick to the bridleway rather than risk the footpath.
Up the hill, past some cottages and a little public car park, I continue until the bridleway meet a narrow country lane. I turn right. A sign warns of flooding, although luckily the road is clear today.
At the next crossroads, the Leighfield Way turns left and follows the B road into the village of Brooke. But I keep straight ahead, following the Macmillan Way along a deteriorating farm track, and heading eastwards towards Rutland Water.
I’ve walked this route before, but in the opposite direction, and I know I’m coming to the highlight of the walk – the remains of the medieval village of Martinsthorpe. You can still see the evidence of ridge-and-furrow farming.
Later, the ruins of the deserted village were overbuilt by a grand house, which itself fell into ruin. All that remains are some dilapidated and uninhabited farm cottages, built from the remains of the grand house’s stable block.
Across the valley is another grand house, not in ruins, on the edge of the tiny village of Gunthorpe. I always admire this view. I think you can walk along the track and past the house, but it’s not marked as a footpath and I’ve never tried it.
I leave the ruins of Martinsthorpe behind and meet a father and son. You can see the clear evidence of the ridge-and-furrow system of farming in the photo below.
Now I follow a very muddy track towards Manton. Down the hill is Rutland Water. From Manton, I’m going to join the Rutland Water cycle track, following it through Egleton and up to the Hambleton Peninsula, which is the far rise of land visible across the water.
When I reach Manton, it begins to rain, so I stow my camera in my rucksack. The rest of the trail is straightforward and somewhat boring. I reach Hambleton by 1pm, just in time for an excellent lunch at the Finch’s Arms.
You can download a very old-fashioned PDF leaflet of the Leighfield Way here.
My route is marked on this map in red, with the Leighfield Way in dark green where the bridleway continues. The alternative Leighfield Way footpath is shown in pale green. (All routes are approximate.)