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Churchill's Grave at Bladon

Take a walk to the heart of rural Oxfordshire, visiting the final resting place of Britain's most famous statesman.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 15min

Ascent/gradient 90ft (27m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field and woodland paths and tracks, quiet roads, 7 stiles

Landscape Farmland and woodland on east bank of River Evenlode

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 180 Oxford

Start/finish SP 468138

Dog friendliness Under control on farmland and on lead where requested

Parking Limited spaces outside Begbroke church, St Michael's Lane

Public toilets None on route

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1 Keep the church behind you, walk along to Spring Hill Road and turn right. Follow the lane through two sharp bends, passing Hall Farm. Avoid the path on the right and continue ahead to a stile and some galvanised gates. Follow the track up a gentle slope and on to the next stile and a cattle grid. Keep ahead, passing a stone-built house on the left, and then swing right across the field, passing under telegraph wires. Pass into the next field and turn right.

2 Follow the obvious boundary across several fields, eventually turning left in the corner. Continue for about 50yd (46m) and look for a stile and footbridge on the right. Keep ahead in the next field, with the hedge on the left. On reaching the field corner, go forward for a few paces, then turn right through an opening in the hedge into the adjoining field. Maintain the same direction as before, with the boundary on your left. Make for a stile and oak tree in the field corner. Continue ahead across the next field, keeping to the left edge of woodland. With trees hard by you on the right, follow the path towards Burleigh Lodge. Swing left for a few paces to a stile leading out to the road.

3 Turn right by the millennium stone, pass the lodge and walk along the road to a footpath sign on the right for Bladon. Cross the stile and keep the hedge on the left. Make for a footbridge in the field corner, turn left and follow the hedgerow. Look for a hedge running diagonally right, keep it on your left and head towards the rooftops of Bladon. Make for a stile leading out to the road on a bend. Go forward, keep the entrance to the Lamb pub car park on the left, continue to the next junction and cross over to Church Street. Walk along to the Church of St Martin and head through the churchyard to the gate on the far side.

4 Turn right and follow the tarmac lane to some wooden gates. Continue ahead on the field path to the corner and turn right at the waymark. With a hedgerow on the left, pass to the left of woodland and head for a white gate, with the road beyond. Turn left by some lock-up garages and follow the path signposted to Begbroke.

5 Cross a rectangular pasture and, at the far end, follow the path into the trees and through a gate. Emerge at length from the wood at another gate and continue ahead along the field boundary towards Begbroke. Go through a gate in the corner and follow the path alongside the drive to the road. Turn left and left again into St Michael's Lane, returning to the church.

One name remains synonymous with Britain's victory over the Nazi regime in 1945 - that of Sir Winston Churchill. And yet if it had not been for the Second World War, Churchill would have been almost forgotten by now, his political record meaning little, if anything, in today's world. His shifting allegiance between the Conservative and Liberal parties might have given him a slightly higher profile, but that is all.

Instead, he came into his own as Britain's wartime leader, renowned for his inspired rhetoric and his familiar 'V for victory' salute. He so perfectly embodied the fighting spirit and determination of the British character and, as well as being a magnificent statesman, he was probably the greatest orator of modern times.

Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874. He was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst and took part in the charge of the 21st Lancers at the Battle of Omdurman before becoming a newspaper correspondent in the Boer War. In 1900 he entered parliament as a Tory MP but later crossed the floor of the House to join the Liberal majority.

As Home Secretary he witnessed the famous Siege of Sidney Street and, as First Lord of the Admiralty, with the threat of the First World War looming, he began strengthening Britain's military arsenal, becoming Minister of Munitions in 1917. However, between the wars he found himself in the political wilderness, with his concern over the increasing Nazi threat largely ignored.

The dark days of 1940 eventually dawned and Neville Chamberlain stepped down as Prime Minister, heralding Churchill's 'walk with destiny'. Not only would this be Britain's finest hour, but Churchill's too - the zenith of his political career. During the next five years he would excel himself. He began shaping the 1941 Atlantic Charter, looked to America for help and support in the war and masterminded the strategy adopted for the Battle of Britain, Alamein and the North African campaign. With the war finally won, a victorious Churchill went to the country, hoping for a landslide result. But it was not to be. He lost the election to Labour.

In 1951, six years after losing the election, Churchill was returned to power. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953, but had quite a severe stroke in the same year. With Britain's post-war recovery well advanced, he eventually retired as Prime Minister in 1955, his health by now in dramatic decline. He died ten years later, and at the express wish of the Queen was the first commoner since Wellington to be afforded a state funeral. Churchill's death not only represented the passing of a momentous era but came to be acknowledged as the end of the British Empire.

Seventy years earlier, aged 20, Churchill wrote to his mother: 'I went this morning to Bladon to look at Papa's grave ? I was so struck by the sense of quietness and peace, as well as by the old-world air of the place, that my sadness was not unmixed with solace?'

While you're there

Have a look at Bladon's parish Church of St Martin. There has been a church on this site for over 800 years. The place oozes history - Henry II and Thomas Becket walked together here, Edward the Black Prince grew up here and Elizabeth I was imprisoned near by.

Where to eat and drink

The Royal Sun at Begbroke, a few minutes on foot from the start and finish of the walk, offers traditional Sunday lunches, main meals and snacks. The Lamb at Bladon, midway round the circuit, also includes a good range of hot and cold dishes and beers.

What to look for

Visitors from all corners of the world visit Churchill's final resting place at Bladon, expressing their gratitude and admiration for the leadership qualities of this legendary statesman in the visitor book and on his grave. 'Thank you for showing the world how to stand up to tyranny,' wrote an American woman from Virginia the day I was there. 'May Sir Winston never be forgotten. RIP' was another heartfelt message.

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