Walk 5 – From Anstey to Bradgate Direct
This circular walk takes you on one of the best approaches to Bradgate Park, the ancestral home of the 9 Days Queen, and still a wonderful deer park with much of interest for all visitors. You will experience some of the characteristic landscapes of the Charnwood Forest with granite outcrops, dry-stone walls, and acid-heath grassland. This walk has been very muddy during recent winters and wellingtons are advised at these times. There is a bus stop for the 74 service from Leicester opposite the start and finish point (Bradgate Road). The walk will take about an hour plus whatever time you wish to devote to exploring Bradgate Park.
Walk to Link Road and find the footpath between numbers 273 and 275. Once at the back of the houses the view of the Charnwood Hills begins to reveal itself. You need to head broadly towards the high point in the distance and follow the well marked path for a kilometre across 4 fields. At the double gate you'll find one of the best views of Bradgate Park in front of you, with Bradgate House in the middle distance, Old John and the memorial to the Leicestershire Regiment in the background, the grounds of Bradgate wrapping round the scene and with any luck the odd herd of deer in the foreground.
Go through the pedestrian gate in the wall and enjoy the Park and its scenery and facilities (which include cafes and toilets). When you're ready to proceed with your walk, or if you're not stopping, turn right inside the wall and walk about 100 metres to exit through another pedestrian gate. This path takes you across two meadows and then you skirt a large field on your right with Cropston Reservoir on your left.
When you reach the high point at the far corner of the field, turn right onto the
bridleway and enjoy the views from this high ground as you head back towards Anstey. As you approach Anstey, the bridleway passes to the right of the Anstey Martin Academy on an enclosed route with the school fence on your left. When you reach the railings you can either go straight on to Link Rd along a path or turn right along the bridleway back to your starting point.
Bradgate Park was bought by local industrialist Charles Bennion in 1928 and given 'to be preserved in its natural state for the quiet enjoyment of the people of Leicestershire'.
It has long been held that Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen lived in Bradgate House. What is known is that Edward Grey's son Sir John Grey of Groby married Elizabeth Woodville, who after John's death married King Edward IV. Their son Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset prepared for building Bradgate House in the late fifteenth century but died before he was able to begin. It was his son Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset who built Bradgate House, the likely completion date was believed to be 1520. However, there is now some uncertainty over this completion date, as an older house has been revealed by recent archaeological work by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services under this house and findings have suggested that Lady Jane Grey who wasn't born until 1537 may have lived in the older house (see https://le.ac.uk/archaeology/research/people-and-places/bradgate-park-fieldschool for reports of the excavation).
Bradgate Park is also internationally important for its geology and palaeontology. The Precambrian outcrops include four 'type-members' of the Charnian Supergroup, formed some 560 million years ago. Bradgate is one of the few areas of Britain where these ancient basement rocks can be seen at the surface. The oldest of the Charnian rocks within Bradgate Park are the rocks nearest the Old John and memorial summits.
The fossils at Bradgate and in other nearby Charnian rocks are the only known Precambrian fossils in Western Europe. Until 1957 it had been thought that complex life forms and perhaps life itself began with the Cambrian Period and that all rocks older than this developed in a world without plants or animals. The 1957 discoveries by Roger Mason, subsequently named in his honour as Charnia masoni, required a re-evaluation of when complex life began. The fossils had been found the year before by Tina Negus but her teachers did not take any notice of the schoolgirl.
It also resulted in the re-classification of other rocks in Southern Australia and Newfoundland, which have similar fossil marks. At Bradgate Park there are some 50 known examples. They mainly take the form of two-dimensional impressions of fronds and disks and have at various times been described as seaweed, jelly fish, corals or sea anemones. They are now described as belonging to the Ediacara biota, and the latest research suggests that they are animal and most similar to corals.
Bradgate Park is also important ecologically and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated as one of the finest remaining examples of ancient parkland in Leicestershire and contains some of the last remaining fragments of wet heathland in the county.
Fauna that can be seen, in addition to the captive herds of Red and Fallow Deer include Rabbits, Hares and Foxes. Birds include Green Woodpecker, Little Owl, Stonechat, Common Buzzard and Yellowhammer.