includes High Sharpley, Dry Brook and Gunn Hill (not currently in use)
This covers a multitude of owners and it is not always too clear as to who actually owns what. One pocket known as Gracedieu Wood is owned by N W Leicestershire DC. It is one side of Gracedieu Ancient Woodland and was created with help of from the National Forest on what had been an arable field just outside Thringstone. This block is about 10 acres in size and has some rock features. Another block is Spring Barrow Lodge, much the same size and off Turolough Road again planted with financial assistance from the National Forest but in whose name is not clear. Some of the nearby existing woodlands and meadows are owned by Gracedieu School and more by the Gracedieu Estate.
There is evidence of mans activities going back to Mesolithic times. The school in Grace Dieu Manor is set in 120 acres of beautiful rolling countryside and adjoins the woodlands and we have in the past used it as a base for medium sized events but the nearby Cricket Club now affords us a better base.
On 25 July 1833, Ambrose Lisle March Phillipps de Lisle married Laura Mary Clifford and received a settlement of £1200 per annum and the Manor of Grace Dieu made to him by his father Charles March Phillipps of Garendon Park. Grace Dieu received its name from the Priory founded by Roesia de Verdun, c. 1240, and dedicated to Our Lady, ‘de Gratia Dei’, or in the Norman French of the period, Grace Dieu, and it is still so called to the present day. The Priory was dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII, and the picturesque remains are greatly admired.
Grace Dieu Priory was an Augustinian nunnery founded around 1240. In 1377 there were 16 nuns and a hospital for poor people, yet during the Dissolution it was converted into a Tudor mansion. For the last four years, the land has been owned and managed by the Grace Dieu Priory Trust, which was set up to save the ruins. English Heritage has been working closely with the Priory Trust since the work began in 2003, to give archaeological, architectural and general technical advice, along with funding towards the project to ensure that the site is preserved for future generations to enjoy.
During the years 1833 to 1834 Ambrose de Lisle built a splendid manor house at Grace Dieu; it was designed by William Railton in the Tudor-Gothic style. A small chapel was attached. But in 1837 Augustus Welby Pugin visited Grace Dieu; he was very impressed by what he saw, and greatly enlarged the house and chapel. Later, Sir Banister Fletcher, whose grand stair-case still stands, also enlarged the house. Grace Dieu Manor faces south and east. The windows are Perpendicular style, mullioned and transomed with arched lights. Acres of lawns, gardens, trees - the cedars of Lebanon were famous - surrounded the manor house which had a fine view of the rocks and wooded slopes of Charnwood Forest.
The school opened on 1933 when the Rosminian Fathers opened Grace Dieu as a Preparatory School for Ratcliffe College. During the war years the school grew in numbers: Grace Dieu was a safe and desirable place for parents to send their boys in those grim years. Since then Grace Dieu has gone from strength to strength.
The de Lisle family still own much of the Gracedieu Estate and allow us to use the various woodlands for orienteering. We do have to tread sensitively with arrangements for shooting tenants on part of the estate. The de Lisle Arms was a popular inn on the edge of the Whitwick but perhaps a sign of the times; it is now an equally popular restaurant, Out of India.
The overall area is perhaps the best we have in that it covers a large block of land, has many different types of vegetation, and has considerable relief, water features and many dramatic rock formations. We can also normally use it with the otherwise restricted access area of High Sharpley.
Thringstone Wood itself lies north of Warren Lane/Gracedieu Road and adjoining Gracedieu Woods. South of the lane are Broad Hill, Temple Hill, Cademan Woods and High Cademan. In the midst of these is an open area of rough acid grassland, and south of Broad Hill is a granite quarry known as Grimley's Rock.
This fine wooded uphill area to the north of the village of Whitwick contains a number of natural granite tors and bosses, some of which peep above the trees and give good views.
Most of the land around Cademan Wood and Broad Hill is owned by DeLisle but Cademan Wood is treated by the local people as land over which they are free to roam. Parts of Broad Hill are an extension of the parkland across the road in Grace Dieu Wood.
For our purposes Thringstone, Cademan, Gracedieu and High Sharpley are all mapped together.[back to top]
Adjacent to Cademan Woods this is a politically sensitive area with 'history'. It is a towering sharp ridge of miniature pinnacles surrounded by a field of boulders with the jagged summit commanding superb views. The location can realistically claim to be unique in the area and indeed pretty well anywhere. Despite being small it can be very challenging especially when the undergrowth is over head high.
The area is of small crags on and around a rocky ridge which runs from High Sharpley to Gun Hill where there is an old ruin. The rock is very coarse granite (Precambrian porphyroid) and the outcrops lie on the extension of the ridge through Cademan Wood just across the road and are thought to be part of the rim of an ancient volcano.
There is claimed to have been an access route through the site in the past and The Ramblers' Association has sought to reopen it for many years and it has been the scene of mass protests. More recently the RA and LCC sought to have it included in the 'right to roam' under the CRoW Act. Our own maps over the years support the fact that this is 'Mountain, Moor or Heath' as the maps demonstrate tree cover is self regenerating shrub only there because it has not been managed. The decision of the appeal however sided against open access to the ridge area but agreed that much of the rest qualified, but decided that this element had insufficient size to warrant inclusion. The Planning Inspector accepted that historically the public used this land for open recreation until the 1970's but that was outside the scope of the appeal which was to decide land type definition and identifiable boundaries.
As things stand at present the barbed wire, notices, and keepers make this a most unwelcoming location. The area is owned by the DeLisle, Gracedieu Estate and despite the history we have always found them supportive if we make proper arrangements.
There is a shooting syndicate in the High Sharpley part and by agreement with them we only use the area at agreed times of the year and in modest numbers and we have removed the Gun Hill bit from our map. The area is normally used with Thringstone & Cademan Woods and sometimes for larger events, with Gracedieu as well.[back to top]
Drybrook Wood runs down from the road near Mt St Bernard Abbey to the edge of Blackbrook Reservoir and we have mapped it and used it in the past. Current owners are not willing to allow us in and in any event, much of it appears to have become overgrown.
It also links to Gun Hill and then High Sharpley. We no longer use Gun Hill out of consideration of shooting interests so the link to Drybrook no longer exists so the use of the area is no longer on.[back to top]