From a timeless village to an age-old house.
Distance 4 miles (6.4km)
Minimum time 2hrs
Ascent/gradient 427ft (130m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Meadows, lanes, woodland, 8 stiles
Landscape Low rolling hills north of Chipping Norton
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL45 The Cotswolds
Start/finish SP 241271
Dog friendliness Some road walking; not permitted in Chastleton House
Parking Car park (donations) beside village hall, Adlestrop
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 From the car park in Adlestrop turn left on to the road and left again up a broad track, signposted 'Macmillan Way'. Climb a stile by a gate and enter a meadow. Bear left (yellow waymarker). Walk up the field, with Fern Farm up to your right. Cross a stile in the top left corner and continue up the fence. Soon cross a stile to your left and continue up the same line, passing a bulging oak tree on your right. Cross another stile and continue straight ahead up the field. The hill gets steeper.
2 Cross a stile by a wooden gate and walk up through the line of trees. Continue straight across the next field. Go over the crest of the hill and through an iron gate, into the Chastleton Estate. Continue straight ahead up an avenue of trees. Go through two gates to reach the road.
3 Turn right and walk along the road, passing Chastleton House on your left, then St Mary's Church. Pass the arcaded dovecote on the right. Stay on the road, which bends up right, and pass a car park on your right.
4 Where the road bends sharply right, turn left into a private road. Cross a cattle grid and immediately turn right. Go through a gate and take the bridleway diagonally left up the field, parallel with the road. On a level with Barrow House farm, go through a small gate, cross the drive and take the left of two gates opposite. Go through two more gates to enter the tree circle of Chastleton Barrow.
5 When you have seen the barrow, retrace your route to the drive and turn left. At the road turn left. After a short distance turn right across a stile. Walk ahead through the trees and follow the path, which leads diagonally left across the field, with views to Stow-on-the-Wold. Keep straight on down, passing some barns to your left. Cross a track and walk ahead down the edge of woodland. At the bottom corner bear right into the woods. Follow the winding path, cross a stile and emerge at a field.
6 Turn left along the track. Turn right before you reach the gateway, and walk down the edge of the field. Go through a gate into the Long Drive. Follow this path through the trees and emerge on to the road. Cross over, go through a gateway on the other side and soon turn right along a narrow footpath. Follow this through the trees; cross a stile and turn left along the road. Take the first turning left and walk through Adlestrop village, keeping right to return to the car park and the start of the walk.
The walk starts in the sleepy village of Adlestrop. It was not always so quiet, for trains used to stop here. The poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) wrote a wistful little verse in which he recalled stopping here unexpectedly on the express train, apparently in the middle of nowhere, and listening to the birdsong. Set in deep, lush countryside, Adlestrop still feels well off the beaten track. Its houses are a pleasing harmony of old and new, stone roofs alternating with thatch, and cottage gardens to die for.
One of the finest Jacobean mansions in England, Chastleton House stands on the hillside above its village, aloof and self-contained. The house has a magical stillness about it. It was built between 1603 and 1618 by a local wool merchant, Walter Jones, on land purchased from Robert Catesby, one of the Gunpowder plotters. Unusually, the house was to be occupied for the next 400 years by the same family.
Its handsome grey stone frontage, with its tall windows and symmetrical gables and staircase towers, is seen clearly from the road. If you want to see inside, however, you are urged to book ahead, for opening hours and numbers are strictly limited. Chastleton is no grand showplace and, since its recent acquisition, the National Trust has been careful to conserve it in its peaceful, time-worn perfection, rather than attempt to restore it to some former glory. There is a panelled hall, an ornate great chamber and a vast long gallery with plastered ceiling on the top floor looks out over the gardens. Much of the furniture is original, and chambers are richly furnished with embroideries, quilts and tapestries.
Chastleton may have led a quiet life, but hardly a dull one. A secret room above the parlour was used to hide a fugitive in the Civil War. Arthur Jones was a Royalist, and had fought for the King - and lost - at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. He fled to his father's house at Chastleton and was forced into the hiding place when a party of soldiers arrived in hot pursuit. Arthur's wife, Sarah, was obliged to put them up for the night. This resourceful woman laced their ale with laudanum and, while his pursuers snored, Arthur made his escape. He was able to return at the Restoration and planted an oak in the grounds to celebrate his narrow escape.
The formal gardens at Chastleton are contemporary with the house, its lawns studded with dark topiary. It is sometimes claimed that croquet was invented here. In fact, the game had been around for centuries, but was only introduced to England in 1852. The rules of the game were set out for the first time here at Chastleton in 1865.
The walk offers excellent views across to the busy market town of Stow-on-the-Wold, reached along the A436. Perched on the very edge of the Wolds, it is known to catch any blast of wind, and can be icy in winter - hence the local saying, 'Stow-on-the-Wold, where the wind blows cold.' This is antique-hunter's heaven, however, and there's a steady flow of visitors to explore the shops whatever the season.
Walking into the green ring of Chastleton Barrow is an eerie experience. Surrounded by a bank or rampart planted with trees, it clearly functioned once as a defensive site, most probably in the Iron Age. An ancient track linked the camp with the Rollright Stones. This wide grassy amphitheatre on the hilltop is now used to hold cattle.
The venerable villages of Lower Oddington and Upper Oddington offer an appealing diversion on your way to Stow-on-the-Wold and are served by two good pubs. The Fox at Lower Oddington is set opposite a beautiful little manor house. Continue through the villages to reach the Horse and Groom at Upper Oddington, which describes itself as village inn and has the bonus of a big car park behind.