Section 3 – Ashby de la Zouch to Heath End
History, shopping, entertainment … Ashby-de-la-Zouch has all three and then some! The third stretch of the Ivanhoe Way is only 3.5 miles long so you’ve plenty of time to explore this busy market town before you start.
Begin with the castle.
Although a ruin, it has plenty to interest. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here before her ill-fated trip to Fotheringhay and Sir Walter Scott used it for the tournament scenes of Ivanhoe, the book which gives its name to the walk.
In the town, one of the first things you will notice is the proliferation of pubs! Yes Ashby people are a thirsty lot and with good reason! Many serve a delicious range of home cooked meals and fine ales and for the more energetic, there’s always the disco dance floor. Mind you behave yourself, though, the White Hart keeps a bear in its cellar! Fortunately it is stuffed, but the tale goes that in former times the creature was much more lively and the landlord often let it lose on unruly drinkers!
If shopping is more your thing, look for the award winning Mill Lane Mews. It’s situated between David’s delicatessen and Owen Jones chemist. This ally of Victorian shops brings you out onto North Street where we pick up the third section of the Way.
A short tramp behind the houses brings you to the quaintly named Feather bed lane. This climbs steadily up to Old Parks and rewards with fine views of sleek barley fields, and perhaps a field of early hay baking in the June sunshine.
A gradual descent skirts South wood which in spring and summer is carpeted with blue-bells and blousy rhododendrons. Keep your eye open for animals too. We are now in deer country with red, fallow and tiny muntjac all being common to the area around Heath End.
Once upon a time there used to be a pub here called the Saracen’s Head, or Norman’s as it was known locally. A real old fashioned hostelry that served ale from a jug brought up from the cellar by Norman himself. Sadly Norman has passed on and the pub de-licensed.
Refreshment now entails an extra half mile to Staunton Harold nurseries but that’s O.K., choose between the courtyard and nursery tea-rooms, both excellent. Decisions, decisions!