• Laura Purkess

Cold Overton Park, Rutland

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Location: Braunston, Rutland

Nearest town: Oakham

Peak: 197 metres above sea level

Rank: 40/48

Difficulty: ★★

Date climbed: 8 August 2020


Geography


Multum in Parvo. Much in Little. That’s the latin motto of the landlocked East Midlands county of Rutland. By area, Rutland ranks 45th out of England’s 48 ceremonial counties, beaten in small-ness by the Isle of Wight, Bristol and the City of London. It ranks 47th in population and is home to fewer than 40,000 residents. Its only classified towns are Uppingham and Oakham, the latter of which serves as the county town and is home to the county's only railway station!


Unsurprisingly, the City of London ranks last in both - 8,000 hardy souls crammed in among the skyscrapers, a world away from village life in the rural heart of England.

Rutland is little in height, too. Its highest point stands just 197 metres above sea level on a hill peculiarly named Cold Overton Park, which sits to the western edge of the county and boasts panoramic views across rolling green hills.

The summit is marked by a radio relay mast at Glebe Farm, which acted as a guiding beacon for us as we climbed in the cooler late afternoon on a hot day in early August. Having parked in the quiet village of Braunston, southwest of Oakham, we followed a straightforward route along overgrown bridleways and across pastoral fields, gradually ascending 70 metres to reach the nondescript plateau that marked the county’s high point.



Three buzzards circled above, gliding on the wind, their piercing cry the only sound to be heard in this little-roamed corner of the county. Off to the east, marked by the impressive 14th-century gothic spire of All Saints’ Church and the glistening blue of a large body of water, stood Oakham and Rutland Water - Rutland’s two undisputed landmarks.



Earlier in the day, we visited both sites, starting with Rutland Water, which is the largest reservoir in England (by surface area) and one of the largest man-made lakes in the whole of Europe. It forms a peculiar U-shape around Hambleton peninsular, which is home to just 140 people.


Jutting out from the lake's eastern shore is the spectacularly situated St. Matthew's Church of Normanton. It was spared from the sorry fate met by the rest of the village, which was submerged below the waterline when the area was flooded in the 1970s.


The lake is a site of special scientific interest and contains a limnological tower for monitoring its water quality (incidentally, Rutland Water's tower is the example photo for the Wikipedia page about limnological towers). Apparently, the lake is stocked with brown and rainbow trout, but is now home to a wider range of fish including eels and carp that have been fed in from nearby rivers. Osprey can be spotted throughout the summer skimming the lake's surface in search of those fish, but we were not lucky enough - or patient enough - to catch a glimpse this time around.



Next, we drove a few short miles to the beautiful county town of Oakham, which is home to less than 15,000 residents. The town has an olde-worlde feel with cobbled streets and thatched roofs, and the main market square is home to a medieval buttercross, which still contains stocks from the 17th Century!

The great hall of a Norman castle dating back to 1180 still stands just off the high street inside grounds that are open to the public. For over 500 years, royalty and peerage who have passed through the town have left payment in the form of a horseshoe. 230 horseshoes now decorate the walls of Oakham Castle, including from King Edward IV and, more recently, Prince Charles and Princess Alexandra. Fittingly, Rutland's county flag bears the image of a yellow horseshoe, surrounded by acorns on a vivid green background.

In half a day we saw half of Rutland. But already we're eager to go back and see the rest, so spectacular was this small pocket of England.



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