Blackbrook Beauty walk
This charming 6.8-mile circular walk encompasses rich history with ancient wooded trails and panoramic views over Charnwood Forest.
Along the way you will discover one of Charnwood’s famed rocky outcrops, visit the glistening waters of Blackbrook Reservoir and immerse yourself in the historical landmarks of the area, as well as catch a glimpse of the many species of birds, insects and reptiles in this nature-rich haven.
This route also passes through the Peter Elderfield Memorial Woodland, planted in 2000, and is partly funded by the National Forest. The site features a mixture of oak-birch woodland, heathland and Charnwood's famed craggy terrain, located on the edge of Whitwick. Shortly before reaching Swannymote Rock, you will also pass through, the ancient National Forest Swannymote Wood, characterized by entangled trees and large rocky outcrops.
PLEASE NOTE: This walk is not currently waymarked and can only be navigated by using the leaflet below.
DirectionsDistance: 6.8 miles (11km)
Time: Allow 3.5 hours
Start at: Mount St Bernard Abbey, Oaks Road, Whitwick LE67 5UL
What3Words: ///liability. dragons.seemingly
OS Grid Ref: SK45816
Use with map OS Explorer 245 The National Forest
Points of Interest
Mount St. Bernard Abbey
This 19th century monastery nestled in the heart of Leicestershire, was founded in 1835 on land provided by Ambrose de Lisle, who was eager to re-introduce monastic life, and was the first to be founded in England. Unlike many other monasteries of today, Mount St. Bernard Abbey is more than a relic of the past and is still a living force today. The once dairy farm is now a brewery and home to England’s first trappist beer ‘Tynt Meadow’, referencing the plot of land in which monastic life was resurrected two centuries ago.
Here, the true beauty of this walk is uncovered, cocooned by the surrounding woodlands, Blackbrook Reservoir was constructed in 1796 in order to feed the long since vanished Charnwood Forest canal, the original dam was an earthworks one, which failed on 20 February 1799, emptying the reservoir within eleven minutes and flooding much of Shepshed and nearby Loughborough. By far the most striking feature here, is the One Barrow Viaduct, a blue brick construction, characterised by three arches and billowing water. The reservoir is also host to a variety of rare flora, some of which are unique to the midlands and found in very few other places.
This is the part of the walk where you will unearth some of the area’s steep history. A Swainmote (also known as Swainmoot, Swannymote or even Swienmote) was a local forest court responsible for judicial and administrative regulation of the forest, this rocky outcrop was believed to have been the Swainmote for the area. Here an open-air forest court of freeholders inquired into all offences against vert (trees) and venison (deer). Charnwood forest was home to three open-air courts Swannymote Rock, Copt Oak and Swains Hill, one of the most important of the forest hills.
Grace Dieu Priory
Although a little off the beaten track, Grace Dieu Priory really is an encounter not to be missed. Grace Dieu priory or ‘Grace of God’ as the French name translates was founded by a small Augustinian nunnery in the 13th century and was once home to 16 nuns until 1538 when it was closed during the dissolution of the monasteries and converted into a Tudor house.
Today the ruins stand in a valley bottom encircled by a small brook on the edge of Charnwood Forest, the standing ruins include the east end of the 13th-century church, parts of the east range, and the exterior wall of the south range, and by far the most impressive features are the chapter house, entered via a sturdy stone arch and a number of Tudor fireplaces. The priory is believed to have been home to various mysterious sightings of spirits from the past, over the years. The most infamous reportedly being the White Lady ghost.