I found out about this interesting sounding walk from the Ramblers’ website under the Leicester group. Having completed the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks a few times I really wanted to add the Leicestershire Three Peaks to my list of been there and done it. The meeting point stated was the centre of Leicester but I could get instructions on the actual starting point by phoning the leader. This I did and it was just 30 minutes or so from where I live. The starting point was a lay-by on the A511 close to the village of Bardon. At 8.37am the walk commenced and following the A511 towards Bardon was the first part of the walk. In a few hundred metres at the point where the main road crosses a small stream a path takes a sharp turn into the woods.
This woodland section was a pleasant start and soon you arrive at an interesting hamlet comprising of Old Hall and Brook Farms and a building surrounded by a moat.
A path meets the Ivanhoe Way and this route is used to get to Bardon Hill.
Bardon Hill 278 metres
In 1 hour 1 minute the summit of Bardon Hill was attained and I was standing on the highest point in Leicestershire at 278 metres (912 feet) above sea level. This was the first time I had been here and it felt as if I was floating in mid air as almost all round me was a massive quarry. Looking past this even in the haze there were impressive views as I scanned the horizon. The triangulation pillar appears pretty close to the quarry edge but there are fences and warning signs which halt progress into a dangerous arena. Descending the Ivanhoe Way was used again but in a different direction to the way up and as this route headed north we went roughly east to get to Kellam’s Farm. This is no longer a farm but appears to be used as offices by Bardon Quarry for it’s operations in this area. This turned out to be a wrong move as we had difficulty in finding the route out even after extensive reconnoitering. However, by observation a way was eventually found which followed a sign posted Right of Way around a small quarry pool which then followed National Grid power line at 45 degrees and went past an Earthwork. When the power line headed due north at rounded quarry pond the path continued around a field then alongside a strip of wood to a barrier fence close by the road we needed. The only thing to do was climb over carefully. Once on the other side of this fence we saw the diversion map!
The way we followed was the recognised temporary route until October 2014 and is the one featured in the Charnwood Peaks Walk (CPWG) guide published by the National Forest  and the line of the Right of Way on OS Digital Maps! The original Right of Way, as indicated on older OS maps, started at Kellam’s Farm and went in a straight line NNE towards the minor road. This is now permanently closed due to the quarry company’s activities. The ‘new’ temporary route goes west of Kellam’s Farm and is accessed off the Ivanhoe Way as it heads north from Bardon Hill. Now back on route we headed out on a lane which went into Burrow Wood which is part of Charley Woods Nature Reserve. The track continues past a set of buildings collectively marked on the map as Rock Farm.
Continuing along this lane for a short distance a junction was reached and we turned right to go under the M1. The original route just follows a minor road through Bawdon Lodge but there is now an alternative which is featured in the CPWG . This takes a path which follows the M1 south into Wetton Wood.
The start of this path wasn’t sign posted but is listed as a permitted path in the CPWG . Following this path was like an exploration as there is little evidence that this is used regularly. We needed to turn sharp left along another permitted path after going over a small planked bridge. The first route selected looked promising but went into a thicket. Following our tracks back to the M1 we continued for short distance to another promising path heading in the direction required. This turned out to be the correct line as within a few hundred metres we passed a yellow topped marker post to eventually come to a junction with the B591. Crossing over this road a footpath takes you diagonally across a field. This turned out not to be the option as there was an extremely large bull in the field and it was decided to follow the outside edge to join another Right of Way heading east. After walking a reasonable distance we could see Beacon Hill ridge running parallel to our direction. Checking our location we found we heading towards Bawdon Castle Farm not our intended route. Backtracking we found the footpath we needed which ran north-east passing Cattens Rough, a walled copse, to a minor road. This we crossed and picked up a well established route to the top of Beacon Hill but before gaining the summit we noticed a bench virtually on the skyline which we used as a venue for our lunch stop. After completing lunch it was a short walk to the triangulation pillar.
Beacon Hill 248 metres
It took 5 hours 16 minutes before the second of the summits was ascended, that of Beacon Hill at the height of 248 metres (813.6 feet) and the second highest point in Leicestershire. Thankfully, this top was in a country park and felt part of the surrounding landscape. Even though I live close to this area this was only the third time I had been here. The first was during an orienteering competition in the late 1970’s and the second time more recently on a Rushcliffe Ramblers’ Group walk in 2013. Not far from the triangulation pillar is a toposcope erected by the Automobile Association with a height stated as 802 feet providing information on what one can see on a clear day. After taking in all the views surrounding Beacon Hill we descended to the car park and toilets area where conveniently an ice cream van was located. Making a purchase, well it was a warm day, we continued along a minor road to a footpath which ran alongside a strip of wood to reach Ulverscroft Lodge. The footpath continues over a foot bridge through Ulverscroft Nature Reserve onto Copt Oak Farm. Crossing a minor road the footpath continues to the village of Copt Oak passing the church and onto the Copt Oak to the pub.
Another stop and a pint of lemonade with ice and lemon was much needed liquid refreshment on what was still a warm day. The B591 was again our route and this time we crossed the M1 over a bridge. Just at the end of this bridge the map indicates a footpath going to Old Rise Rocks but this was closed due to the Bardon Quarry extension so it was decided to keep on this road and head towards the junction with the A511. Crossing over with care this was followed west. Our point to access the Billa Barra Local Nature Reserve was where the Ivanhoe Way left the A511 heading north on the other side of the road. When this was reached a stile marked the place to enter Billa Barra Local Nature Reserve and going over the second stile a map was conveniently located providing information on a route to the summit.
Billa Barra Hill 235 metres
The final top was gained after 7 hours 26 minutes into the walk, this being Billa Barra Hill and the third highest point in Leicestershire. The spot height on the Ordnance Survey map denotes 235 metres (770.9 feet) but you need to walk around a bit to ensure you achieved the high point as it is almost flat. This top was located in a wooded area which was once part of a quarry but now overgrown and offering no trace evidence of it’s former use. Now a nature reserve it is worth exploring in detail and features a car park in it’s south-east corner to allow access. A path heads downhill to gain a small road. This is followed in a westerly direction and as the road heads north we continued on a path that was once a railway line from the time when Billa Barra was a quarry. This is followed until a minor road is reached. This road goes to the junction of the B585 close by a roundabout on the A511. Cross this road and the dual carriage way carefully to arrive at the lay-by where the walk started from. On reaching my car I pressed the stop watch to record a time of 7 hours 47 minutes. One of the group informed me that according to his Garmin GPS receiver we had walked 16.85 miles. After giving my thanks to the walk leader and other team members I prepared for the trip back home.
 Charnwood Peaks 15 mile walk guide published by the National Forest Company: https://www.nationalforest.org/document/visitor/charnwood_peaks.pdf
Note: The leader informed me that the inspiration for this walk came from Sheila Dixon blog: http://peacockmedia.blogspot.co.uk/2006/11/shielas-leicestershire-3-peaks.html
Header image Billa Barra