About 50 Walks in the Cotswolds
Walking is one of Britain's favourite leisure activities, and this guide to the Cotswolds features 50 mapped walks from 2 to 10 miles, to suit all abilities.
The book features all the practical detail you need, including:
- fascinating background reading on the history and wildlife of the area,
- clear OS-based mapping for ease of use,
- every route has been colour coded according to difficulty,
- annotations for local points of interest and places to stop for refreshments,
- summary of distance, time, gradient, level of difficulty, type of surface and access, landscape, dog friendliness, parking and public toilets.
Sample walk: Burford – a classic Cotswold town
- Distance: 5.5 miles (8.8km)
- Minimum Time: 2hrs 30min
- Ascent: 475 feet (145m)
- Gradient: 1
- Difficulty: 1
- Paths: Fields and riverside paths, tracks, country roads, several stiles
- Landscape: Undulating Windrush Valley to the east of Burford
- Suggested Map: AA Walker's Map 8 The Cotswolds
- Start Grid Reference: SP254122
- Dog Friendliness: Under control across farmland; on lead where requested
- Parking: Large car park to the east of the River Windrush, near parish church
- Public Toilet: Burford High Street and at car park
Often described as the gateway to the Cotswolds, the picturesque town of Burford has changed little over the years. The High Street runs down between lime trees and mellow stone houses to a narrow three-arched bridge over the River Windrush. Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynn, whose child was named the Earl of Burford, attended Burford races and stayed at the George Hotel. When she retired to Windsor, Gwynn called her home there Burford House. An important trading centre Situated at several major east–west and north–south crossing routes, Burford has always been regarded as an important trading centre. People would pay their tolls at the twin-gabled 15th-century Tolsey, now a museum, for the right to trade in the town and it was here that the prosperous Guild of Merchants conducted their meetings. Such was their power and influence that by the Middle Ages the merchants were running Burford as if it boasted a Mayor and Corporation. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets of the town and you'll stumble across a host of treasures – especially in the little side roads leading off the High Street. For example, the Great House in Witney Street was the largest residence in Burford when it was built about 1690. With its Georgian façade, it certainly dwarfs the other buildings in the street. The Dolls' House, dating back to 1939 and on view in the Tolsey Museum, is modelled on the Great House. A gem of a church Burford's parish church, with its slender spire, is one of the largest in Oxfordshire. Begun about 1170, it was enlarged over subsequent centuries and one of its last additions was the south porch, noted for its elaborate stonework. The west doorway is pure Norman, as is the central part of the tower, to which another stage was added in the 15th century to provide a base for the spire. Inside the south porch the ceiling is fan vaulted, and in inside the church there are five medieval screens dividing various chapels. Levellers revolt This sizeable wool church is also associated with the Civil War Levellers – 800 parliamentarian troopers who mutinied at Salisbury over pay and then marched north to join forces with other groups. On 14 May 1649 they reached Burford where they believed they would negotiate a settlement with Fairfax, the Commander-in-Chief. However, Fairfax had different plans and at midnight he and Cromwell entered the town with 2,000 horsemen. Following a skirmish, they captured 340 men. The prisoners were held in the church where one of them carved his name on the font. Two days later, on 17 May, three ringleaders were shot in the churchyard and a fourth was forced to preach a sermon. Speaker's house The Priory in Priory Lane is another of Burford's historic buildings. This Elizabethan house, rebuilt in the early 1800s, still has its Tudor gables and the heraldic arms over the doorway recall William Lenthall (1591–1662) who lived here and was elected Speaker to the Long Parliament in 1640.
- Head north along the High Street to the Windrush. Cross the river and turn right at the mini-roundabout towards Fulbrook. Pass the Carpenters Arms and continue along the road. Ignore a right turning for Swinbrook, then pass the last houses on the right. Keep ahead, passing Upper End on the left, and look for a footpath on the right.
- Follow the steps cut into the side of the slope up to the field-edge and then swing right. Follow the boundary to a waymark just before a slope and head diagonally left on a clear path to the far corner of the field. Go through a gap in the hedge and cross the field to an opening in the hedgerow. Go half left and cross the next field towards a curtain of woodland and make for a track.
- Keep right and follow the track through the woodland. Break cover from the trees and pass a row of cottages. Continue down the track to Paynes Farm and, just beyond it, turn right to join a signposted right of way. Head for a gate and follow the unfenced track towards trees. Descend the slope to a gate and continue ahead between hedges up the hill to the road.
- Turn right and follow the road down into a dip. Swing left at the stile and footpath sign for Widford, and follow the grassy ride through verdant Dean Bottom. Make for a stile at the bottom of the hill, turn right and visit Widford's St Oswald's Church.
- On leaving the church, veer right and follow the unmade track, passing a lake on the left. Turn left at the road, recross the Windrush and turn right at the junction. Keep to the road until you reach the first footpath on the right. Follow the riverside path across a series of stiles to eventually reach the road. Turn right towards Burford, pass the Great House and The Royal Oak, and return to the High Street.
While you're there
Visit the nearby village of Filkins, home to the Cotswold Woollen Weavers and the Swinford Museum, both of which illustrate aspects of west Oxfordshire's rural heritage. The village boasts a Victorian church built in the French Gothic style and was once the home of Sir Stafford Cripps, Chancellor of the Exchequer (1947–50) in the post-war Labour cabinet.
Where to eat and drink
Burford has plenty of places to eat and drink – from hotel restaurants to pub food and tea shops. Just at the end of the walk is The Royal Oak which serves coffee and tea. Various specials and snacks are also available.
What to look out for
Built on the site of a Roman villa, the little medieval Church of St Oswald includes a mosaic floor near the altar, discovered in 1904. Nearby is the abandoned site of a medieval village; imagine the slopes of the valley crowded at one time with houses.