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Empires and Poets at Adlestrop and Daylesford

A walk embracing the legacies of the imperialist Warren Hastings and the poet Edward Thomas.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 230ft (70m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Track, field and road, 6 stiles

Landscape Rolling fields, woodland and villages

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 45 The Cotswolds

Start/finish SP 241272

Dog friendliness Some livestock but some open areas and quiet lanes

Parking Car park (donations requested) outside village hall

Public toilets None on route

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© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the car park turn left along the road. Pass a road on the right, the bus shelter bearing the Adlestrop sign, and some houses. Some 200yds (183m) after another road, turn right over a stile. Follow a woodland path to the left. Continue on this path until it meets a stile at a road.

2 Cross the road with care and turn left along the verge. Before a road on the right, turn right through a gate on to a path in the Daylesford Estate. The path curves left towards a fence. Stay to the left of the fence until you reach a stile. Go over and cross the paddock. Pass through a gate, turn right and then left between fences.

3 Cross a bridge and follow a tree-lined avenue towards buildings. Traverse the farmyard and then turn right, passing the estate office.

4 Walk along the drive between paddocks, soon following the estate wall. Pass the gateway to the garden offices and then, as it goes sharp right, stay on this drive, eventually coming to a road. Turn right.

5 Walk along the road, with the estate on your right, until you come to Daylesford estate village. Opposite the drive to Daylesford House is a shaded footpath leading to Daylesford church. After visiting the church, return to the road, turn right and retrace your steps. Before the pavement ends, turn right over a stile.

6 Cross this field to a railway footbridge. Go over it and straight ahead into a field (not the field on the left) then head, bearing slightly right, for another footbridge. Cross into a field, turn right and then left at the corner. Follow the grassy field margin as it passes into another field. At the next corner, enter the field in front of you. Turn right and then left. At the next corner, go right to a track.

7 Turn right and pass Oddington church. Continue to a junction in the village and turn right. Pass the Fox pub and continue to another junction. Turn right and walk along the pavement. Where this ends, cross the road carefully to the pavement opposite.

8 Beyond the bridge, turn left along the Adlestrop road and turn immediately right over two stiles. Walk towards Adlestrop Park. As you draw level with the cricket pitch go diagonally left to a gate about 100yds (91m) to the right of the pavilion.

9 Follow the track past Adlestrop church. At the next junction turn left through the village until you reach the bus stop. Turn left here to return to the car park at the start of the walk.

Warren Hastings is a name that is simultaneously familiar and elusive; his role, however, in the making of the British Empire, was paramount. Born in the nearby village of Churchill, in 1732, he spent much of his childhood in Daylesford, where his grandfather was rector. When debt forced the sale of the manor, Hastings was sent to London to train for a career in commerce. He joined the East India Company, which was de facto ruler of India, and by 1773 he had attained the rank of Governor-General of Bengal, with the specific remit of cleaning up the corruption that was rife among the British and Indian ruling classes. His draconian methods were often resented but his determination and guile were effective. That India became the fulcrum of the British Empire was largely due to his work. Upon his return to England, he used his savings to repurchase Daylesford, where he died in 1818. The years before his death were bitter. A change in attitude to colonialist methods meant that Hastings was impeached for corruption. The seven year trial bankrupted him and ruined his health, although he was eventually vindicated and made Privy Councillor to George III.

Daylesford House was rebuilt by Warren Hastings to the design of the architect Samuel Cockerell, who had been a colleague of Hastings at the East India Company. The building is in a classical style with Moorish features. The parkland around Daylesford House was laid out in 1787 by the landscape gardener Humphrey Repton in the spacious style of the day, made popular by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. The village grew largely out of a need for cottages to house the workers who helped to make the estate profitable. Similarly, Daylesford church was rebuilt by Hastings in 1816 as a place of worship for the estate workers. By 1860 the congregation had outgrown the church, so it was redesigned to accommodate it. Inside there are monuments to the Hastings family, whilst the tomb of Warren Hastings himself lies outside the east window.

If Hastings represents the British Empire at its strongest then, in Adelstrop, you will find echoes of the changing world which signalled its decline. This small village, so characteristic of rural southern England, has come to be associated with one of the best-known poems in English, written by the war poet, Edward Thomas (1878-1917). Called simply Adlestrop, the poem captures a single moment as a train halts briefly at the village's station. Its haunting evocation of the drowsy silence of a hot summer day is all the more poignant when it is borne in mind that Thomas was killed by an exploding shell at Ronville near Arras in April 1917. Though trains still run on the line, the station was closed in 1964. You'll find the old station sign now decorates a bus shelter and the old staion bench has the poem inscribed upon it.

Where to eat and drink

The Fox in Lower Oddington is very homely. There is also the Horse and Groom in the sibling village of Upper Oddington. Stow-on-the-Wold, a short drive to the west, has many and varied pubs, restaurants and tea rooms.

While you're there

Bledington church, about 3 miles (4.8km) south of the Oddingtons, contains an outstanding series of Perpendicular windows of beautiful, medieval stained glass. North of Adlestrop is the handsome Stuart manor house of Chastleton, Stow-on-the-Wold's Toy Museum will delight children and probably adults, too; Stow also has a set of stocks and several antique shops.

What to look for

As you walk around Daylesford Park, try to catch a glimpse of the house - it's almost impossible as it's very cleverly concealed behind ornamental parkland. This it seems was a deliberate ruse, fashionable in the 18th century, to preserve privacy whilst creating a harmonious landscape in keeping with the surrounding countryside. In Adlestrop, look out for the site of the old station, immortalised by Edward Thomas.

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