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All Sorts of Dassetts

A Burton Dassett Hills walk into Fenny Compton and Farnborough.

Distance 7.3 miles (11.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 656ft (200m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field paths and farm tracks, 15 stiles

Landscape Hilly countryside

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 206 Edge Hill & Fenny Compton

Start/finish SP 394523

Dog friendliness Under control at all times

Parking Burton Dassett Hills Country Park car park - small charge

Public toilets At car park

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1 From the car park in the country park descend the footpath to the right of Bonfire Hill into the village of Northend to arrive at Hampden Court.

2 Go right along the main street in the village for 300yds (274m), then right again through a pair of kissing gates. Follow the footpath heading generally eastwards towards Fenny Compton, crossing a mixture of pastureland, cultivated fields and several stiles.

3 Enter Fenny Compton over a stile, then head along Grant's Close into Avon Dassett road. Walk past Duckett Cottage and go through the handgate to the right of the village church. Now bear right and cross over pastureland to a road known as The Slade. Go left along the road past a large farm barn, then right over a footbridge into a large cultivated field. Follow the footpath signs and cross this field to a second footbridge, then walk up the next field, aiming for a marker post in the hedge ahead. Here go left and walk along the field edge - from the top of the hill there is a fine view of the landmark four-sail windmill at Chesterton and the Post Office Communication towers near Daventry. Follow the direction of the waymarkers, climb Windmill Hill, then descend over farm fields and a hedged footpath into the village of Farnborough, emerging on the main street near the Butchers Arms.

4 Head right, along the main street, and bear right past the entrance gates to the National Trust's Farnborough Hall. Continue up the road to the left, past the lake walking along the well-used footpath inside the trees. At the end of the woodland continue along the road for about 500yds (457m), then go right over a stile and across a couple of cultivated fields into pastureland. Descend to the left of a large barn which brings you to the village of Avon Dassett.

5 Go left past the church and in 75yds (69m) go right up a track to the right of the Avon Inn into open countryside. Up to the right is the impressive building of Bitham Hall. The waymarked footpath hugs the top of fields until you arrive in the village of Burton Dassett, passing by its lovely Norman church. Continue up the road to return to the car park near the Beacon viewing point on Magpie Hill (630ft/192m).

This lovely walk takes you from the very top of the Dassett Hills in the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park and through the nearby hamlets and villages of Northend, Fenny Compton, Farnborough, Avon Dassett and Burton Dassett. It's the nearest you will get in Warwickshire to wild country, with its bare hills reminiscent of the Peak District. The 100-acre (40ha) country park was opened in 1971, and is set high above the noisy M40 motorway, which didn't arrive until a couple of decades later. It comprises a dramatic mix of rugged, grassy humps and hills with a quaint, small beacon perched on the highest point. There are a number of quarries around the side of the hills which may date back as far as the Iron Age. Today they are covered in grass and offer welcome shelter for picnicking visitors. The view from the top of the hills is quite outstanding.

Initially the walk descends into Northend hamlet then field paths lead you into the village of Fenny Compton. Fenny is an unusual, but not infrequent, prefix in the Midlands and indicates the presence of wetland. The village lies below the Dassett Hills, which give rise to at least seven springs. It was to harness these, to supply around 40 consumers in the village, that one of England's smallest water supply companies was established in 1866.

You pass by several very attractive cottages to reach the impressive Church of St Peter and St Clare - only two churches in England carry this unusual dedication. When you visit the church take time to read about Elizabeth Croke whose body has lain in the churchyard since 1719.

The walk continues over Windmill Hill offering fine views over the surrounding countryside. You then descend into the peaceful village of Farnborough to be greeted by more old stone cottages and the excellent Butchers Arms Inn. The village also has a fine church and a magnificent hall. At the time of the Domesday survey (1086), the Bishop of Chester owned most of the land around here but, in 1322, it was sold to a John de Rale (Raleigh). Unfortunately the Raleigh family had difficulties during the Civil War and, after the Restoration, the estate was purchased by the Holbech family in 1684. They laid out a terrace walk from Farnborough Hall that stretches along the top of the Dassett Hills. In the landscape style of the day, it is flanked by an Ionic temple and an oval pavilion. Their barn now houses the Edgehill Battle Museum.

The walk continues through the village of Avon Dassett, then ascends into Burton Dassett, passing by the tiny 12th-century Norman All Saints Church. The hills of the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park have been a constant theme throughout this walk and you finish with a flourish on the last of them, Magpie Hill, to enjoy the fine views.

While you're there

Perhaps take the opportunity to visit the National Trust's 18th-century Farnborough Hall which you pass along the walk route. The home of the Holbech family for some 300 years, this is a superb honey-coloured stone building with impressive plasterwork. Its extensive grounds contain charming 18th-century temples and a long terrace walk to an obelisk. There are magnificent views towards Stratford and the Malverns from the grounds.

Where to eat and drink

The walk route passes near to three pubs. The Merrie Lion in Fenny Compton is a popular pub up the road from the village church; the Butchers Arms is a period building with lots of character and lovely gardens in Farnborough; and the Avon Inn has a pleasant outside garden and is situated on the track corner in Avon Dassett.

What to look for

Visit the 13th-century All Saints Church in Burton Dassett. Its imposing tower overlooks the battlefield of Edgehill making it the 'Cathedral of the Hills'. Built on the slope of a hill, the floor climbs from the chancel end with seven groups of steps. Note the elegant wall monument to John Temple who died in 1603 - the tomb has an array of painted shields and a row of roses.

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