8-9 August 2015- the Oxfordshire Cotswolds
Me n PG
A weekend of pedestrian adventuring at long last. To Charlbury for dinner to celebrate the birthday of Prof S. It occurs to me that everyone- really everyone (except those under 18)- I know who lives in Oxfordshire is an archaeologist. I wonder what that means, and if anyone has ever mapped archaeologist habitation by county. Would be interesting to see the results.
We stayed at the ancient but newly-refurbished Woodstock Arms. Monkey wallpaper, Winston Churchill and a lacquered ceiling, quirky and good. We’d decided to stay in Woodstock and spend the afternoon walking to Charlbury, about 7 miles. Thus after a quick lunch, we headed off into the park at Blenheim.
Whatever you think about aristocratic country houses (PG not much), Blenheim is undeniably impressive. The scale of the landscape vision is breathtaking. We walked out along the north drive- miles, I think literally, of straight avenue across the park and monument to the house. Enhanced by the slightly odd experience of the house (?fire) alarm sounding in the distance. Felt like the apocalypse and noone left but us and the sheep.
Then we were off along the Oxfordshire Way. Also strangely deserted, not a dog walker in sight. Many massive rolling fields of wheat and burning sunshine: we resigned ourselves to being sweatier on arrival than we intended. The route then headed through Stonesfield, followed by a final slog into Charlbury, this section accompanied by the sounds of the Wilderness festival* on the horizon. We ended at The Bull in the centre of Charlbury for a marvellous dinner.
Fortified by a hearty breakfast, on Sunday we visited the deserted village at Hampton Gay. We parked at Shipton-on-Cherwell and took the footpath over the canal, the Cherwell and under the railway to Hampton Gay. Such a complicated and interesting bit of landscape, so many loops and routeways.
Hampton Gay was fabulous earthworks, extraordinary ruined Elizabethan manor and tiny chapel. And a sad story of a massive train crash in 1874 (34 dead and 69 injured on Christmas Eve) and the manorhouse gutted by fire in 1887.
All that done and not even eleven, we decided to keep going to Hampton Poyle, home to another small church and more earthworks. Then it was a loop back over the Cherwell to follow a track along the river, through a fantastic community woodland where we heard a squirrel cracking nuts and saw some deer in the undergrowth.
An icecream stop at Thrupp Bridge, and back along the canal to Shipton, to tour a third and final small church, this one with colourful windows. Not a very long walk, but really lovely- a bit wild and woolly and a good slice of medieval landscape. Felt like walking two dead ends either side of the canal/ river/ railway and that’s a good thing.
* Discovered that the name of the festival comes from an area of managed landscape on the estate where it’s held. Thus dispelling the Cotswolds= not wild issue that was troubling PG.