Walk 7 – Anstey, Walking the Bounds
A tour of four historic bridges over Rothley Brook
This is a circular walk from Anstey, following the Rothley Brook dipping in and out of the Regional Park; around the edges of Cropston and Thurcaston and passing through Castle Hill Country Park, harbouring much wildlife, particularly kingfishers. The source of the brook is in Bagworth and it flows through Glenfield to Anstey and on to Rothley near where it joins the River Soar; a distance of 18 miles. It forms the southern boundary of Charnwood Forest.
The walk is on solid surfaces but with some field crossing in Castle Hill Country Park and around the two distant bridges. However, if hard surfaces are required use can be made of the roads with care, in place of the footpaths although it will make the walk longer. The walk as described should take around 1½ hours.
Anstey can be reached by bus to the village centre, called The Nook, or by car, using The Nook (free) car park.
From the car park take the passageway exit on the left-hand side of the public conveniences to reach The Nook. Cross the road to the Coach and Horses public house and follow Leicester Road round the side of the pub.
In a short distance at Ned Ludd Close cross over Leicester Road to the first bridge, Anstey Packhorse Bridge.
Built c.16-17th century, it is composed on slate and granite rubble stone and red brick coping to the parapet. There are five rounded arches with side embankments. Pointed cutwaters rise to form niches in the parapet. It is a Grade II listed monument.
The old Anstey Enclosure map of 1762 indicates a rectangular pool in the vicinity, probably for livestock. In heavy rains, the area around the bridge becomes widely flooded.
Follow Centenary Walk over the bridge until it rejoins Leicester Road. Cross with care and turn right with Castle Hill Country Park on your left. Follow the pavement as it bends left around the woods, into Gorse Hill, until you come to an access to the country park.
Turn in and continue straight ahead under the power lines forking left beyond them and pass through the community orchard. Follow this path, which runs parallel with the power line and with Rothley Brook on your left.
The path will end at a gate alongside the next bridge, King William's Bridge.
Restored in 2008, King William's Bridge, a small rubble stone bridge, has two pointed cutwaters on its upstream side.
The bridge is medieval, originally from the early 16th century but was widened in more recent times. It is named after King William III who visited the nearby residence of Lord Gray in 1696.
Early maps and records refer to it as 'Damgate'. There are groundworks that indicate there was once a sheepwash alongside.
Go through the gate and turn right, over the A46 and then left the other side. Continue on this path, bending to the right to an open space.
Here, turn left through a gate and spot the 300 year old Great Oak on your left.
Pause to read the notice board giving the history of this Early-Medieval Royal Deer Park.
Continue past the tree and follow the footpath up hill to the second bridge over the A46 (not under the A46) where there is a yellow post directing users.
Turn left over the A46 and along the footpath around the edge of the fields and riding school to the road, Anstey Lane. Cross straight over, with care, and take the bridle path ahead, down to the Brook and bridge.
Little is known of this historic bridge which served the inhabitants of local villages and may have been installed by Leicester Abbey who owned properties in this vicinity. It is of similar construction to Sandham Bridge.
After exploring the bridge and water edge, return up the bridleway to the hedge and take the footpath diagonally left across the field towards the church. Continue along the path up to the road. Turn left, past All Saints church and turn left along the footpath the other side. This leads to Sandham Bridge.
All Saints Church has been much altered and extended over the centuries. Pre-1066, an Anglo-Saxon building occupied the site. There are many notable features in the current building, including one of the oldest surviving screens in England. A historical guide is available for sale in the church.
Sandham Packhorse Bridge is of similar construction to the bridge in Anstey with 2 rounded arches and cutwater niches on both the up and down stream sides. Located beside it is a marker stone, maybe associated with Leicester Abbey as they owned property in this area. Note the cobbled path still in existence and the splayed embankments. This bridge is believed to be a coffin bridge serving inhabitants of Cropston as they had no church of their own.
Return back to the road, where you need to go right, back to the footpath you came on. Return along the footpath by the riding school but instead of going over the A46 bridge, turn right before it. Follow the footpath down to the end, bending right away from the main road half way down.
Take the gate on your left back into Castle Hill CP and immediately turn right into the meadows. Follow the path and Rothley Brook back to King William Bridge. This time go over the bridge and along Sheepwash Walk to Cropston Road. Turn left along the road back to The Nook.
The Luddites were a group of textile workers in the early 19th century who broke into factories and smashed machinery as a form of protest. They reputedly took their name from a young Anstey apprentice by the name of Ned Ludd who, in a fit of rage in 1779, wrecked two stocking frames.
Castle Hill Country Park covers some 250 acres of grassland, plantation and broad-leaved woodland , divided in two by the A46 Leicester Western Bypass. The northern section, bordering Anstey, comprises mainly of flat meadow land near Rothley Brook with its abundant birdlife. The park takes its name from the dramatic medieval Castle Hill earthworks which lie within the park, believed to be a Knights Hospitaller monastic grange or sheet farm .