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Little Sodbury's Fort and Horton Court

Encountering the ancient and the medieval along a new way.

Distance 3.7 miles (6km)

Minimum time 1hr 45min

Ascent/gradient 245ft (75m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Tracks, fields, woodland and lanes, 9 stiles

Landscape Meadows and open hilltop

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 167 Thornbury, Dursley & Yate

Start/finish ST 759844

Dog friendliness Livestock in initial fields, thereafter reasonably good

Parking Horton village

Public toilets None on route

1 Walk up the hill out of Horton. Near the top turn right on to a track towards Little Sodbury. After 20yds (18m), go left through a fence to a path. Continue to a stile, to follow the Cotswold Way, marked by a white dot or an acorn.

2 Cross the field in front of you and come to a stile on the far side. Descend a steep bank in a field and continue across it, on the same line, to another stile. Walk across the following field, with a hedge to your right, to a stile in the corner. Cross on to a path beside a cottage and turn left to follow a path to a lane in Little Sodbury. Turn right and, at the next junction, left. Pass Little Sodbury church on your left and continue along this lane for 550yds (503m). At a junction, fork left along what is really the drive to Little Sodbury Manor. After a few paces turn right on to a path, then, at the next corner, bear left as the path rises up the slope and brings you to the fortified-looking walls of a farmhouse. To visit Little Sodbury hill fort, turn right and then left through a kissing gate. The fort is considered to be one of the finest in the Cotswolds.

3 Turn left and, at the end of the wall, turn right through a gate. Turn left to pass a shed and then cross a paddock to a gate. Go through to a field and cross half right to a ladder stile. Go over to a lane and cross to enter another lane in front of you. Follow this for 700yds (640m), until you come to a junction. Turn right. Follow the road for about 50yds (46m) then, at a corner, leave the road to enter a lane. Follow this for 750yds (686m), passing Top Farm to your left. Turn left on to a path through woodland. Follow this to the end to a stile at a field. Cross to another stile at a lane and turn right. Walk down the lane, passing the entrance to Horton Court.

4 Founded in 1140, Horton Court is one of the oldest inhabited buildings in the Cotswolds, and probably the oldest rectory in England. The original limestone house was little more than a single great hall, which still survives, although the house was greatly embellished and extended under the ownership of William Knight in the 16th century. He was both Bishop of Bath and Wells and Chamberlain to King Henry VIII at the time when the King was seeking to divorce Catherine of Aragon. In fact Henry attempted to send him on a mission to persuade the Pope to allow the divorce, but the plan was scuppered after it was discovered by Cardinal Wolseley.

5 At the next corner turn sharp left to a bridleway. Cross a field, then pass through a hedge to reach gate. Continue to another gate and then follow a hedge to a stile. Go over to the corner of a protruding hedge and then on to a stile near some houses. Cross this and follow the path back into Horton.

Nearly 50 years have elapsed since the notion of a continuous route through the Cotswolds was born. The Cotswold Way will be 'officially' opened in 2004. In preparation for this, improvements to the waymarking and other facilities have been undertaken. Among these is the ongoing replacement of the 'white dot' - the route's distinguishing mark throughout its time as a regional route - with the 'acorn' that signifies its status as an official National Trail.

Horton Court is just one of several historically important sites and landmarks encountered on the Cotswold Way. In total the Way runs for just under 100 miles (161km), keeping close to the Cotswold escarpment, between Chipping Campden in the north and Bath in the south. A route along the Cotswold edge was first mooted in the early 1950s but only in 1968, when Gloucestershire County Council carried out a recreational survey, was the idea resurrected. In 1970 it was decided to create the Cotswold Way, based on existing roads and public rights of way. Amendments were made over the following years, with enthusiastic voluntary help from the Cotswold Warden Service. In 1983 the first official application for national status was made. It took another 15 years before the go-ahead was finally given, and, along with it, entitlement to grant aid for its creation and maintenance.

While you're there

In this southern part of Gloucestershire you are not far from the city of Bath, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Above all it is a city of elegant Georgian architecture, but there are many other attractions including the Roman Baths and new spa baths, the abbey and many museums and galleries.

What to look for

The church at Little Sodbury is worth visiting because of its historical connection with William Tyndale who translated the New Testament into English. He was chaplain and tutor at the nearby manor in 1522. The church is said to have been built from the stones of the manor chapel.

Where to eat and drink

Just south of Little Sodbury is Old Sodbury, where you will find the Dog Inn, with stucco outside, but traditional stone and beams within.

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