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Walking Over the Hill at Brailes

A fine hill walk with outstanding views to enjoy.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 476ft (145m)

Level of difficulty Hard

Paths Field paths and country lanes, 7 stiles

Landscape Rolling hills

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 191 Banbury, Bicester & Chipping Norton

Start/finish SP 308394

Dog friendliness Under control at all times

Parking Village Hall car park in Lower Brailes - donation to hall funds expected

Public toilets None on route

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1 Leave the car park by the village hall in Lower Brailes to join the B4035. Turn left to stroll up through the beautiful village for about ½ mile (800m), first passing the post office and then the George Hotel, which has always been popular with local ramblers (PWhere to Eat and Drink).

2 Turn right and walk down a waymarked public footpath by the side of the George Hotel. This runs beside a small Cotswold dry-stone wall and then crosses Cow Lane into pastureland. Continue ahead and, at a junction of public footpaths, bear left to begin the climb towards New Barn Farm. The footpath goes to the left of the farm complex and you should continue up the hill crossing several fields and stiles - there is a fine retrospective view over Lower Brailes. Walk up the path, then go through a hedge gap and bear right, walking above the trees surrounding Rectory Farm.

3 Bear right at the end of the trees and now begin a gentle descent on a farm track, enjoying a wonderful view ahead over the valley as you proceed towards the village of Sutton-under-Brailes. When you reach the road at the bottom of the hill, turn left and wander through another beautiful Cotswold village, going to the right, past the fine village green, and heading for a stile to the left-hand side of the parish church.

4 Clamber over the stile and walk past the church, then across the field by Church Farm on to a farm lane/track. Go right up this track, passing to the right-hand side of Oaken Covert as you ascend Cherington Hill.

5 When you reach a junction of public footpaths, go right through a metal bridle gate and follow a tractor track heading generally eastwards. The route goes to the left-hand side of New House Barn, then veers roughly north east along the top of several farm fields, with more good views over the Brailes Valley to the right. After going through a farm gate descend the hedged track called High Lane to reach Tommy's Turn.

6 Turn left and walk down the lane, continuing your descent into Henbrook Lane. Soon you will come back out on to the High Street in Lower Brailes (the B4035). Turn right along the road for about 100yds (91m) to return to the village hall car park on the corner of Castle Hill Lane.

In medieval times Brailes was the third-largest town in Warwickshire. Today it comprises a pair of small country villages, happily situated off-route, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern towns and cities.

This fine walk takes you over part of Brailes Hill which, at 761ft (232m), is the second-highest point in Warwickshire. From the pretty village of Upper Brailes you walk into Lower Brailes and can enjoy lovely views as you descend into open countryside. You climb above Sutton Brook and will have a wonderful valley view as you go down into a third village, Sutton-under-Brailes.

It is a delight to walk through the old part of Upper Brailes where there are a number of thatched cottages to admire and an ancient earthwork and burial ground called Castle Hill. Following the arrival of the Normans in the 11th century, it was used as the basis for a conventional castle of the motte-and-bailey style. Now it is an excellent vantage point for those who wish to play 'King of the Castle'. From the top of its hill you can see the distinctive marks of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation methods in the surrounding fields.

Lower Brailes is also a dreamy place and, although it has no castle, it does contain the 14th-century Church of St George. With its splendid 120ft (37m) high tower, it is sometimes a referred to as the 'Cathedral of the Feldon', a potentially baffling claim to fame until you learn that 'Feldon' is an old English word for an area of rich fertile farmland. It is without a doubt one of the finest churches in Warwickshire. Inside you'll find some exquisite illuminated manuscripts. These date from the middle of the 13th century and are the work of William de Brailes and Matthew Paris. The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is home to some of de Brailes better-known work, including six items on permanent display that were purchased in the 1900s.

Brailes has attracted its fair share of unusual and interesting characters. Nance Austin gained a reputation as the Brailes witch. Apparently she specialised in levitation and had a familiar in the form of a cat. Richard Davies was a worthy Elizabethan scholar who is remembered in a monument above a tomb of black marble in St George's Church:

'Though dead he be yet lives his fame,

Like rose in June so smells his name;

Rejoice we at his change, not faint;

Death killed a man but made a saint.'

Field paths lead you around the slopes of Brailes Hill between these three lovely villages, which reward you for your patience in taking time to explore on foot.

Where to eat and drink

The George Hotel, in the middle of Lower Brailes, has long been a popular eating and drinking place for local walkers and walking groups. Apart from selling the fine local ales and excellent home-made food there is a large rear garden to enjoy.

While you're there

Perhaps travel to Tysoe, about 5 miles (8km) north, and explore the lovely village which William the Conqueror gave to one of his followers, Robert de Stafford. In size and importance it ranked, along with Brailes, next to Warwick. From Upper Tysoe you can stroll up to the parish church and enjoy a classic view of the great Tudor mansion of Compton Wynyates - still the seat of the Marquis of Northampton.

What to look for

You will adore the quaint village of Sutton-under-Brailes where time appears to have stood still. Attractive houses surround the picturesque village green and the fine old tombs in the churchyard lie beneath a beautiful spreading chestnut tree. The 13th-century church has a beautiful lofty tower and a 14th- to 15th-century porch. There is a shallow recess on its north side which may once have been a chantry chapel.

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