An airy walk around quiet villages that owe their existence to medieval trading routes.
Distance 5 miles (8km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)
Level of difficulty Easy
Paths Fields (muddy after ploughing), tracks and lanes, no stiles
Landscape Open wold, small valley, broad views and villages
Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 45 The Cotswolds
Start/finish SP 080179
Dog friendliness Off leads over long, empty stretches of land
Parking Hazleton village
Public toilets None on route
1 The walk begins in the southern part of Hazleton, near Priory Farm (the part you will reach first if coming from the A40). Find a signpost to St Andrew's Church and take the lane, which passes to the left of it. It has a Norman doorway and a 13th-century font. Much of the region known as the Cotswolds is associated with a stereotypical picture of England: villages made up of impossibly pretty cottages with roses around the door, sleepy pubs and lazy cricket matches. The picture is not entirely fanciful, but it tends to belie the fact that the area is also characterised by gently undulating hills, or 'wolds', here a Saxon word for open downland.
2 Leave the village and church behind by continuing on this lane, to reach a junction. Cross this to an obvious farm track opposite. Remain on this to pass to the left of a newer farmhouse, crossing a drive and then finding yourself in fields with woodland to your right. Keep going in the same direction, crossing several fields and eventually following the path through woodland that will bring you to a gate at a narrow country lane.
3 The walk continues along the lane to the right, but at this point you can, if you wish, turn left and then very soon right to follow a track to the church, which stands right beside Salperton Park. This is a 17th-century manor house with 19th-century additions. Walk through the churchyard, in which there are several 17th-century table tombs. Once inside the church, its most noticeable aspect (to the right as you enter) is the wall painting featuring a dancing skeleton wielding a scythe. There are also several monuments to the Browne family; they were, presumably, at one time the owners of Salperton. This little village, whose name derives from its proximity to the Salt Way, also lies on the ancient wool-trading trail that linked Chipping Campden, to the north, with the southern Cotswolds.
4 Return to the point where you left the route and continue along the lane, passing a copse on your right. Then, where the hedge on your right comes to an end, about 150yds (137m) before a barn, turn right into a field and walk straight across it to a gate. Go through this and strike half left to another gate leading into the neighbouring field. The fields here are exceptionally stony, even by Cotswold standards. It's easy to understand why medieval farmers favoured rearing sheep to the cultivation of crops.
5 Maintain the same line by going half right, aiming for a gap in the wall about half-way down this large field. Go through and continue in the same direction across another field to meet a wall. Turn left to walk along the side of the field, with the wall on your right-hand side. At the bottom turn right on to a track and walk to the right of a barn. Continue to a gate and down a track close to a fence on your right. Where the field opens up to the right, carry on down to meet a fence, which you keep on your right as it goes a little left to a gate. It is easy now to see the nature of wold country: small, sleek hills that five centuries ago would have been grazed by thousands of sheep producing the wool that was the most highly prized in Europe.
6 Go through into the field and follow its right margin, with a stream running beside you, all the way to a junction of paths and tracks. Pass through a gate and turn right on to a bridleway. Stay on this, eventually passing through a farmyard to join the lane - this will take you back into Hazleton.
Hazleton has a strictly rural feel to it. The village is situated on the route of the ancient Salt Way, which linked the salt workings in Droitwich (between Worcester and Birmingham) with the most convenient, navigable point of the Thames at Lechlade, from where the salt could be transported to London.
Close to the nearby village of Notgrove, about 1½ miles (2.4km) to the north west, is Notgrove Long Barrow. Much of it has been removed over the centuries, but nonetheless there is enough left to gain an impression of what it once was like. A little closer to Bourton is Folly Farm, a conservation centre that specialises in waterfowl, including various species of goose, duck and chicken.
Neither village has a pub but there are two near by. The Puesdown Inn, just south of Hazleton on the A40, is an old coaching inn, with outdoor seating and decent food. The Plough, in the neighbouring village of Cold Aston also serves food but does not welcome dogs.
The stretch of road that you walk along after Salperton forms part of the Gloucestershire Way, which stretches for 100 miles (161km). Beginning over the border in Wales, at Chepstow, it runs eastwards to Stow-on-the-Wold, then north west to Tewkesbury. It takes its theme from a poem by F W Harvey entitled A Song of Gloucestershire.