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Villages of the Wreake

A gentle wander through North Leicestershire's little-known Wreake Valley.

Distance 3.7 miles (6km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 150ft (40m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Pasture, ploughed fields heavy if wet, around 20 stiles

Landscape Gentle, open river valley of fields and woodland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 246 Loughborough

Start/finish SK 694176

Dog friendliness Under close control around livestock, heavy stile count

Parking Roadside parking on Main Street or Water Street, Frisby

Public toilets None on route (nearest in Melton Mowbray)


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1 Walk eastwards along Frisby's Main Street, past the shop and post office, and turn left into Mill Lane. After 50yds (46m) turn right between houses on a public footpath (denoted by a fingerpost bearing a footprint). Walk out across an open field, dropping slightly downhill, then go over a double stile and ahead through the second field.

2 Ignore the turning down to the railway (left) but instead continue across further wide fields, with Ash Tree Farm away to your right. Despite the lack of a well-walked path the route is clearly indicated by a succession of yellow-topped signposts, until finally you arrive at a road.

3 Go across and continue through two smaller fields, the second in which horses are usually kept, and via the kissing gate in the corner to reach the houses of Kirby Bellars. Turn left and walk down the lane to the church.

4 Continue down the narrowing lane, which twists left and then right, past a nursery. The track emerges into an open field where you should turn left and walk beside the top fence. Where the fence juts out before The Hollies go right, across the pasture, and over a stile by a lifebuoy for a leafy path along the causeway across Priory Water, former gravel pits now run as a nature reserve. At the end go ahead over more stiles, as the path veers left and follows the bank of the River Wreake. It then winds its way through a copse to end at the road bridge into Asfordby.

5 If you want to visit Asfordby turn right and take the surfaced pathway off to the right on the far side of the bridge. Otherwise cross the road (but not the bridge) for the path opposite, which initially shadows the river then strikes out diagonally left across two fields. Aim for the far corner of the second, with the spire of Frisby church just in view above the treetops ahead of you.

6 Turn right and walk along a narrow, grassy field parallel with the railway, then negotiate the railway via the pedestrian crossing (make sure you 'stop, look and listen' before you cross, as the sign directs). Follow the lane on the far side until it bends left. Here go right into Carrfields Lane, then left via a short alleyway and another quiet back street to reach Church Lane. Turn left and follow this back to the Main Street. The entrance to the church is via the side of the old school building on Church Street.

The valley of the Wreake, west of Melton Mowbray, is a broad, low affair, whose rather meandering and dilatory river reflects the quiet and unhurried villages that line its route. Indeed, the name Wreake is believed to derive from an Old Norse word meaning twisted, probably given to it by early Danish settlers. Likewise Frisby's equally engaging village name has nothing to do with wacky playthings from your childhood days but instead is derived from the Frisians, who came from the other side of the North Sea to make their way up the Trent and Soar rivers before setting up camp in the Wreake Valley.

Frisby is a charming and handsome place, with a collection of fascinating period buildings including thatch and brick (and painted brick), as well as a little traditional ironstone, most notably the church. It's as pleasant on the eye as the well-kept pint of Abbot Ale in the Blue Bell Inn is on the palate.

The old and rather battered-looking stone cross at the junction of Main Street and Water Street was originally a preaching cross, used by the Cistercian monks from nearby Launde Abbey, and later became a market cross. Latterly it's been moved back from the roadside after a few close calls with today's uncompromising traffic. Just along from here is Zion House, a thatched building dating from 1725, and once the home of a well-known highwayman. But he robbed one mail coach too many, and was hanged at Birstall, near Leicester, in 1797.

The most notorious vicar of Frisby's Church of St Thomas of Canterbury was Revd William Wragge. In the 1700s he turned Frisby into a short-lived Gretna Green by marrying couples without bothering to read the banns, and when he was finally apprehended and sentenced to transportation he pleaded old age and was let off scot-free.

St Thomas's neat and well-tended graveyard is matched by that of St Peter's at Kirby Bellars, further along the route, whose now sealed-up vaults were once the final resting place of various local knights. The village name partly derives from lord of the manor Roger de Beler, who founded a chapel in the church for priests, and in 1319 was granted permission to build an adjacent Augustinian priory. But this created local conflict and Roger was murdered by feuding family members a short time later. Dissolution in the 16th century meant the end of the priory, and all that remains today are some rough earthworks in a field north of the church. Fourteenth-century effigies of the murdered Roger de Beler and his wife can be seen in the south aisle of the church.

Where to eat and drink

The handsome Blue Bell Inn in Frisby dates from 1759, and serves food daily, while the Flying Childers at Kirby Bellars (located just outside the village on the A607) is a more mainstream venue which is open all day and has an indoor adventure playground for children. Asfordby also has a couple of pubs, plus a fish and chip shop.

While you're there

Three miles (4.8km) to the east of Frisby is the Leicestershire market town of Melton Mowbray, well-known for its quality pork pies. They have been produced for over 150 years by Dickinson & Morris in their Nottingham Street shop, where traditional hand-raising techniques are still demonstrated. Also look out for their famous Hunt Cake, a rich fruit cake spiced with Jamaican rum, which - like the pork pies - was originally developed as a snack carried by the local huntsmen.

What to look for

This part of Leicestershire is hunting country, and the first annual meeting of the well-known Quorn Hunt traditionally meets at Kirby Gate near Kirby Bellars. But back in the 1840s they were clashing not with hunt sabateurs but with railway developers, who were planning today's Syston-Peterborough line through the Wreake Valley. Scuffles even broke out on Lord Haborough's estate at Stapleford Park, as hunt supporters tried to disrupt the surveyors' work.


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