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Around Dumbleton Hill

Several centuries of church-building can be seen around Dumbleton Hill.

Distance 8 miles (12.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 427ft (130m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Mostly good paths, field tracks and village roads, 6 stiles

Landscape Gentle farmland and quiet villages

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL45 The Cotswolds

Start/finish SP 039363

Dog friendliness Mixed farming area, so off lead with discretion

Parking On street near church in Wormington

Public toilets None on route

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1 Walk westwards, on the road, to some power lines. Just after these take the footpath on the left. Pass through a gate, maintaining this line for a further 450yds (412m).

2 Turn away from Mill Farm (view the water wheel first), to cross the River Isbourne. Cross a narrow field, noting the mill's weir to your right. Go diagonally across another field, under power lines again, turning right beside a fence that soon becomes hedgerow. In about 120yds (110m) turn left through a gate to walk along the right-hand field edge. Within 200yds (183m) turn right.

3 Follow this mud track - later a green lane and finally tarmac - for nearly 1¼ miles (2km), to a road junction. Turn right, passing the unwelcoming entrance to Toddington Manor, to a junction.

4 Here a sign points to Toddington's church. Visit the church and view the ruin of Toddington House. Retrace your steps, then walk through Toddington village. Now turn right. Just after the pavement gives out (before the piggy Buttermilk Farm), cross over to a fingerpost and stile. Walk behind a screen of trees for 760yds (695m). The ground here is being reinstated after laying water pipelines.

5 Re-cross the road to take the minor road past Orchard Industrial Estate. At the T-junction turn right. Go left, before the farm shop, up the driveway, passing the incongruous, black-and-white effect farmhouse called 'Evergreen'. At the next T-junction turn left along a pitted, grassy tarmac way, contouring the hill. Reach a single, broken tree just before the track bends left to Frampton Farm.

6 Go ahead for about 30 paces, then turn hard right, uphill, heading for a gate near trees. Once through this, the way soon steepens. On the brow join a stony track coming in from the right. There are good views back. Now on the level, continue for about 600yds (549m) to signposts at a junction of tracks. Follow 'Public Bridleway Dumbleton 1¼ miles', soon into a big, open field. A good track now leads all the way down to a minor road, then the driveway to Dumbleton Hall (a hotel).

7 Cross to the crucifix-style war memorial and turn left. Visit the church. About 30yds (27m) beyond Dairy Lane on the left, turn right along a residential cul-de-sac and then enter a field to skirt two field edges. Cross the B4078 and, when the drive to Lane Farm Cottages bends left, go forward to find a field path, crossing two fields. Cross the service road to College Farm. Go over the small River Isbourne on a concrete bridge with corrugated iron sides. Pass under power lines and over a stile into pasture, then walk to the end of a breeze block barn wall. Turn right to a gate, rejoining the road in Wormington.

Wormington sits quietly away from the B4078, perhaps less busy now than in its first recorded mention in 1297. Today a hexagonal bench, ringing a splendid specimen tree, invites you to sit whilst donning your walking boots. Tucked behind this tiny green stands St Katherine's Church, a small, almost petite, building of 14th-century origin. It boasts a 9th-century stone crucifix, dug up in nearby Wormington Grange and said to have been salvaged from Winchcombe Abbey, and a stunning, 400-year-old brass depicting a mother and child in the lady's bed chamber.

Whereas St Katherine's is spire-less, having just a short bell-turret, the 200ft (61m) Victorian Gothic spire of St Andrew's Church in Toddington is visible from afar. On an ancient site amongst yew trees, the honey-stone building is largely the work of masons in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, funded by the Tracy family. The Tracy family also built the 17th-century Toddington House, all but demolished in living memory. The 2nd Baron Sudeley gave his name to the side chapel; this is his last resting place, with his wife, in a marble tomb. An inscription shows that the 6th Baron Sudeley was killed in action in 1941.

What remains of Toddington House is part of the gatehouse, and that is little more than a façade. You can see the remnants over the churchyard wall, to the left. Walk a little further round for sight of the magnificent Toddington Manor. Something approaching a 'cloak of secrecy' hangs over it at present - a sometime college for foreign students, it is owned by a Middle Eastern family that is never seen. Beside the road at Toddington you may still see evidence of 21st-century pipe laying - this is to carry water from Tewkesbury to Stanton.

Dumbleton's history goes back to Saxon times, although the oldest features apparent today are at St Peter's Church, primarily its arched north doorway. The church has undergone several additions and changes; some have suggested that the purpose of the 15th-century south aisle was to provide a place for masses for the victims of the Black Death. Also of note in the church are two piscinas (stone basins), over 600 years old. A hall was first built in Dumbleton in the 16th century. However, that was demolished and the present-day Dumbleton Hall is the 1830 creation of G S Repton. He was commissioned by Edward Holland, the owner of the estate and founder of the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. Dumbleton Hall has a landscaped lake and, from the footpath, a variety of trees seemingly worthy of a small arboretum. The hall is now a 42-bedroomed hotel.

What to look for

Early in the walk, at Mill Farm, only a few paces off-route, are the remnants of an overshot watermill on the River Isbourne. The water still flows over the mill race on to fragments of the wheel, spokes of wood and rims and paddles of metal. The mill was in active use, grinding corn, well into the 20th century.

Where to eat and drink

The only source of refreshments on the route is the village store in Dumbleton (closed all-day Sunday, Saturday and Monday afternoons). At Toddington is the Pheasant Inn, and at the station the Flag & Whistle Tearoom is open when the steam railway is operating.

While you're there

At Toddington's Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway you'll see not just steam trains but assorted rolling stock and lovingly preserved diesels too. The station yard seems to be a magnet for old vehicles in general - there are several fire engines, ambulances and buses on display as well. Trains currently run for 6½ miles (10.4km), to the west of Gotherington, extending another 3 miles (4.8km) to Cheltenham racecourse station in 2003. On the same site is the North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway, which operates a more limited timetable.

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