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Perfect Mansion at Compton Wynyates

Enjoy spectacular views of one of Warwickshire's finest houses on this scenic walk over high ground.

Distance 6 miles (9.7km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 298ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field paths, tracks and roads, 10 stiles

Landscape Undulating countryside on edge of Cotswolds

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 206 Edge Hill & Fenny Compton

Start/finish SP 338437

Dog friendliness On lead or under control across farmland

Parking Spaces in Tysoe

Public toilets None on route

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

1 Make for the southern end of Upper Tysoe and look for the turning signposted 'Shenington and Banbury'. Follow the road, keeping Middleton Close on the left, and turn right just before the speed de-restriction signs at a gate and footpath sign. Keep alongside the field boundary to a stile in the corner and continue ahead across the field to the next stile. Keep ahead in the next field, passing under power lines, and make for a plank bridge and stile in the boundary hedge ahead. Go straight on up the field slope and, on reaching the brow of the hill, look for a stile and plank bridge in the hedge by the road.

2 Turn left and follow the road as it curves right and up the hill. Pass Broomhill Farm and continue ahead to the first crossroads. Turn right here, signposted 'Compton Wynyates', and pass a turning on the left to Winderton. Follow the lane along to the main entrance to Compton Wynyates on the right.

3 Keep walking ahead, passing a house on the left-hand side and, as the road begins to curve left, look for a galvanised gate and stile on the right. Join the green lane and follow it to the next gate and stile. Continue ahead and, when the track curves to the left, go straight ahead over a stile and up the edge of the field. Pass a ruined stone-built barn and make for the top corner of the field. Take some steps up the bank before climbing steeply but briefly up to a stile. Keep a stone wall and a restored windmill on your left-hand side and look over to the right for a splendid view of Compton Wynyates house.

4 Make for a stile a few paces ahead and then follow the path over the high ground, keeping to the right of the windmill. Make for a hedge corner ahead, pass through the gap and then descend the field slope, keeping the hedge on your right. Pass into the next field and keep close to the right-hand boundary. Aim a little to the left of the bottom right corner of the field and make for a stile leading out to the road. Turn right and return to the centre of Tysoe.

Regarded as one of the most visually striking mansions in England and described by Pevsner as 'the most perfect picture-book house of the Early Tudor decades', Compton Wynyates is all that remains of the village of Compton-in-the-Hole, which was depopulated by Sir William Compton during the reign of Henry VIII. The reason was simple. Sir William wanted to create a spacious park around his new home, built in brick on the site of an earlier structure, and the village was in the way.

Lying in a secluded fold of the hills, about 12 miles (19km) south east of Stratford-upon-Avon, Compton Wynyates first came into the possession of Philip de Compton in about 1204 and has been in the same family ever since. The original moated house was demolished and a new brick and stone building begun in about 1481 by Edmund de Compton, part of which still survives in the vicinity of the courtyard. The rebuilding of Compton Wynyates took about 40 years to complete.

The house passed to Edmund's son who, at the end of the 15th century, was a young page to Prince Henry. He was knighted by Henry VIII following the Battle of Tournai in 1512 and, as a gesture of thanks, the King also gifted him the old castle at Fulbroke, near Warwick. However, so keen was the Compton family to improve and enlarge Compton Wynyates that the castle was soon demolished to provide extra materials. Undoubtedly, the timber roof of the hall and the oriel window facing the courtyard came from Fulbroke. Many other distinguished features from that period include the battlemented towers and the great porch, which has the arms of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon above the door.

The variety of colour in the brickwork is breathtaking, with hardly two bricks being the same shade. As you look down the drive towards the house, you should catch a hint of pale rose, orange, dark red and blue. Henry VIII stayed here on several occasions, as did Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, but it was during the Civil War that Compton Wynyates experienced its darkest days. The house was besieged and finally captured by the Parliamentarians before eventually being returned to the Compton family. The church was completely demolished at the time and this period in Britain's history left deep scars on Compton Wynyates.

Privately owned and sadly not open to the public, Compton Wynyates comprises a fascinating network of secret passages, hidden rooms and fine stairways. It is said there are almost 100 rooms and about 300 windows. The dining room has a fine Elizabethan, or perhaps early Jacobean, ceiling and there are many portraits in the house of Compton ancestors. Carved panels depicting the Battle of Tournai and a 16th-century tapestry of Cupid picking grapes are among many other historic features.

While you're there

Visit nearby Upton House, now in the care of the National Trust. The house dates back to 1695 and was acquired and remodelled in 1927-29 by Walter Samuel, son of the founder of Shell. Upton has a fine collection of English and continental old master paintings, and outdoors is an impressive garden with terraces, herbaceous borders and an interesting 1930s water garden.

Where to eat and drink

The Peacock Inn, a traditional village pub, is situated in the centre of Tysoe and offers a range of snacks and main meals. There is also a pleasant beer garden and restaurant.

What to look for

Tysoe church is a rare, Grade I listed building dating back to the 11th century at least. Among various treasures inside are a striking octagonal Perpendicular font, ancient brasses and window glass. Compton Pike can be seen across the fields as you approach the main entrance to Compton Wynyates. The pike, more a spire really, is a beacon thought to have been erected at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588. It may also have been put up to indicate the position of the old village of Compton-in-the-Hole.

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