History pervades Hallaton. In recent years the area has yielded some spectacular finds, including a Roman cavalry helmet. During the Middle Ages, the village was a bustling place, hosting weekly markets.
Now Hallaton is best known for its Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking, which attracts thousands of visitors every Easter. The event dates back to the 18th century and is played against the neighbouring settlement of Medbourne. It starts with a parade, then a scramble for a piece of pie (now made from beef), followed by an almighty struggle to get the bottles (small barrels) across two streams by any means possible. If the scrambling and kicking gets a bit much, this gentle walk from the village should provide the perfect tonic.
The walk begins and ends at The Bewicke Arms, a friendly pub with good food. Across the road is a conical stone buttercross, where villagers in medieval times would meet to sell fresh produce. It is also where the winner of the bottle-kicking festival sits aloft, victorious.
Motte and bailey
Walk past St Michael’s Church, through two fields, and you will see a hill on your left. This is Castle Hill, the remains of a Norman motte and bailey dating from the late 11th or early 12th century.
After several miles walking across farmland, you will reach a muddy track that passes Keythorpe Lodge and leads down the hill to Keythorpe Farm. This ancient byway will give you an idea of the state of country roads back in the 18th and 19th centuries. To the right of the track lies the deserted medieval village of Keythorpe, although little can be seen from ground level. It was deserted between 1450-1700 owing to Enclosure, which ended the traditional rights to mow meadows for hay or keep livestock on common land in an open field system. It led to a period of abject poverty and later revolt.
After enjoying breathtaking views across the Leicestershire countryside along a bridleway back to Hallaton, you will see a field full of humps and troughs. This ridge and furrow topography is a result of a ploughing method used during the Middle Ages. Once you’re back in Hallaton, enjoy a pint or cup of tea at the pub on the green.