A walk linking two intriguing villages on the D'Arcy Dalton Way.
Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Minimum time 2hrs 30min
Ascent/gradient 459ft (140m)
Level of difficulty Medium
Paths Open farmland, village lanes, quiet roads, 12 stiles
Landscape Broad, open valley once used by a railway line
Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL45 The Cotswolds
Start/finish SP 270270
Dog friendliness Some road walking, otherwise good
Parking Lay-by beside phone box at Cornwell
Public toilets None on route
© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
1 Turn left and walk down and up through Cornwell. Pass a farm, right, and turn right, signposted 'D'Arcy Dalton Way'. Where the track veers left, keep ahead, by a fingerpost. Walk down an orchard and bear left. Go right at the corner through the hedge. Soon go through a gate on your left. Turn right and walk downhill. Cross a stile, right; follow the path down towards St Peter's Church.
2 Go through a gate into the churchyard. Pass the church, and leave via a squeeze gate. Walk straight ahead down the hill, cross the bridge at the bottom and go up to the gate. Turn right along the drive, passing Cornwell Glebe. Bear left along the road. Pass a turning to Salford.
3 Turn right along a bridleway, signed 'Kingham'. Follow this for ½ mile (800m), then cross a stile on the left and walk ahead down the field edge. Cross a footbridge and follow the path diagonally right. Cross another footbridge and bear right along the stream. Soon bear left and cross a stile. Cross the track. Cross a footbridge opposite, and bear diagonally right up the field. Cross a footbridge in a hedge and continue on this line through another hedge.
4 Cross a stile into the woods. Follow the path down, over a footbridge and right up the other side. Go through a gate and ahead towards Churchill. Cross a stile, then bear right beside a house. Cross a stile and turn left up the road. Pass a post-box and turn right along a path. At the next road turn left. At the top turn right.
5 Turn right again before you reach the church and follow the path round the back of the old pub. Cross a stile, pass a barn and maintain your direction into a field. Soon turn right over a stile and walk down a lane. When you get to the road turn left; turn right at the next junction, then left at the end. Follow this road out of the village, passing the old chapel. Continue through Sarsden Halt.
6 Follow the road right, then keep straight ahead along the green lane. After ½ mile (800m) climb the stile on your left and bear diagonally up the field. Walk up the hedge and turn right along the road.
7 Continue walking straight ahead through Kingham Hill Farm. Pass through a gate at the other side and carry on straight across two fields. Cross a stile, then a footbridge and stile and keep straight on. Pass an old gate and continue up the field. Cross another stile and continue, bearing slightly left over the hill crest. Take the gate to the left of the main gate and turn left up the road to return to your car and the start of the walk.
There's a slightly theatrical air about Cornwell, as if this neat and charming village were poised and waiting for the next act, or a film camera to roll. It huddles on one side of a small valley, smugly holding on to its secrets, for, as part of the Cornwell Manor Estate, it is private and inaccessible. You may look, but not touch. The manor itself, where owner Peter Ward and his family live today, is carefully screened from prying eyes, except for the lovely stone front, which boldly faces up to the road from behind its high, wrought-iron gate.
Cornwell's best known secret is that it was thoroughly remodelled just before the Second World War by the architect-cum-salvage king, Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978). Born in Northamptonshire, Williams-Ellis developed an eclectic design style that mixed architectural details in a particularly flamboyant way. By the time he was working on Cornwell, his own pet project at Portmeirion in North Wales - what he called his home for fallen buildings - was already well established. The then owner of Cornwell, Mrs Anthony Gillson, employed Williams-Ellis to modernise the village, but also to create the magnificent terraced gardens at the manor, along with other alterations including the addition of a ballroom. His influence may be clearly seen on the village hall (originally the school), with its bowed end and eccentric chimney stack-cum-bellcote.
The little Church of St Peter remained untouched at this time, though the handsome wooden candelabras are attributed to the style of Clough Williams-Ellis. It dates back to Norman times, and its position away from the village, in fact on the opposite side of the manor, is curious. It is believed that a village once surrounded the church, but disappeared during the ravages of the plague years.
In direct contrast to Cornwell, the attractions of Churchill are both up-front and open to view. The tower of All Saints' Church dominates the skyline for miles around and, if it looks strangely familiar to you, that's probably because it's a scaled-down model of the tower of Magdalene College, Oxford. As the choristers of that famous establishment sing from their tower to greet the dawn every May Day morning, so local choristers gather at the top of All Saints' to do the same. The church was built in 1826 by James Langston, a mover and shaker in the village, and it is he who is affectionately remembered with the large and elaborate fountain next door.
Churchill boasts two famous sons. The first is Warren Hastings (1732-1818), a colourful figure who rose to become Governor-General of India, and lost his fortune in successfully defending himself against a charge of cruelty and corruption. The second is William Smith (1769-1839), who produced the first geological map of England.
The hamlet of Sarsden Halt was once a stop on the railway line - hence the appearance and railway theme of some of its buildings. The line ran along the valley floor, linking Chipping Norton in the east with the main line at Kingham Station to the west. Its route is crossed twice in the course of the walk.
The pub in Churchill was closed at the time of writing. It's therefore worth making your way westwards to Bledington, where the venerable King's Head Inn looks out on the huge village green, with its streams and tiny bridges. In a beautiful setting, the pub is a free house, offering restaurant food and accommodation, with plenty of tables to sit at outside. A children's play area is near by.
Chipping Norton is the highest town in Oxfordshire, its wealth built on the wool trade. It centres on a large market square, with a little town hall dating from 1835 and some handsome Georgian frontages. There are lots of opportunities for shopping and eating out. The distinctive Bliss Valley Tweed Mill with its tall Tuscan-style chimney, on the north side of town, has been converted to flats.