Thursday, April 14, 2011

From Desborough to Wilbarston via Pipewell

You left me in Desborough, exulting over another tin tabernacle.

After that I walked to Pipewell (pronounced Pipwell). I last made this journey at least 30 years ago, but I can remember planning the route to pass what used to be an ironstone quarry in the innocent hope that there might still be traces of its railway system to be seen. That quarry turned out to have become a tip full of stinking rubbish and squawking gulls.

On Saturday I could not remember exactly where that quarry had been, but I suspect it was under one of the new estates of desirable houses being built on the outskirts of Desborough. Given the depressed state of the town centre, as far as it has one, I doubt that the inhabitants will shop there.

Pipewell, some three miles away along a busy back road, was the site of a Cistercian abbey was founded in 1143. The last of the ruins disappeared in the 18th century, but the earthworks in a field beside the road and the ironstone Pipewell Hall nearby give you a good idea where it was and where some of the stone went.

The only church in Pipewell now dates from the end of the 19th century and is pictured above. It is described by a website devoted to fighting proposals for a wind farm:
Pipewell church is reputably the smallest church in the diocese of Peterborough, it was originally the old school house where the teacher had a house and one small classroom.

The house was part of the Hambrough estate and in 1880 Mrs Hambrough who resided in Pipewell hall decided she would like a church in the village and through public subscriptions £600 was raised to convert the house into a church.

The East and West wings were added to the existing building to form the shape of a cross and it was named Pipewell Abbey Church. At a later date the name was changed to its current name of Abbey church of Saint Mary.
Today it looks like a cross between a lodge house and a folly as much as it resembles a church.

I sat on the village green opposite the church and decided where to go next - reaching Pipewell had exhausted my planning. The lane north through a remnant of Rockingham Forest looked inviting, so I took it.

Although stretches of the road were unfenced, for the most part the woods were regularly protected with signs saying "Private Woods Keep Out". How Lord Bonkers' old friends the Elves of Rockingham Forest get by these days, I do not know.

(On reflection, those notices may have been aimed at a particular soldier with a bad reputation in the area.)

Eventually I reached a T junction. I turned left and, after taking in a corner of the old RAF Desborough, I found an old lane that led to Wilbarston and its pub The Fox.

The bus service between Corby and Market Harborough is something of a mystery, but one turned up to take me home exactly as promised by the timetable on the village noticeboard.

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