Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bourton-on-the-Water to Foxholes (Oxfordshire Way 1)


Last year we completed the Cotswold Way with our friends Merv and Pud. Since then we have done the Windrush Way in two stages to join up with this year's project: The Oxfordshire Way. It starts right in the centre of the exquisite Cotswold town of Bourton-on-the-Water, with the river Windrush running through the centre, crossed by several low bridges.

You walk along a track to reach water meadows, cross the narrow fast-flowing river Dikler and then cross fields to reach Wyck Rissington. This lovely village has a wide central street with large grassed areas on both sides. Pevsner says that most of the houses are 17th or 18th century.

Towards the end you reach St Laurence's church. The church dates from the 12th century, and was sympathetically restored in 1879. The chancel and tower are 13th century (Pevsner)

You turn left here and enter open country behind the church, climbing a series of fields to get increasingly good views back towards Bourton.

Eventually you reach a road, which you follow for a while then turn left between fields of sheep with their new lambs. The particularly well-organised farmer had numbered the lambs to match their mothers, but we still saw one lamb who had become separated. I just loved the way the lamb at the front looked at us in such a frank and open way.

Now we went through Gawcombe Woods and saw our first bluebells of the year.

The woods led into the well ordered grounds of Gawcombe Park and past some of its outbuildings. Here we had a surprising and pleasant chat with its owner, who explained how the area around the path had not been farmed for 20 years in the interests of wildlife.

The map seemed to suggest a more or less straight route across open country to Bledington, but somehow we veered off course until some other walkers put us right.

After some pleasant, what felt like common land with scattered bushes we reached Bledington to be  presented with the intriguing church of St Leonard. We were immediately struck by the clerestory - the row of windows above the nave - with their square-headed windows. According to Pevsner, the church is of 12th century origin, while the clerestory was added in the 15th century.

We walked down Church St to the village green featuring a stream and this fine row of cottages, with a 1741 date stone. The central building is named the Old Bakery.

We had lunch at the excellent King's Head pub across the green. It is as good a pub as you could dream of stumbling on in the middle of a walk.

After lunch, it was a short walk to the edge of the village and the a path across fields and beside a cope to return to the Foxholes nature reserve in whose car park, accessible only by shoickingly bad roads, we had left the car.  On the way we spotted a wonderful clump of Snakeskin Fritillary.

Conditions: sunny and quite warm, although the air was cold at first.

Distance: officially 7.5 miles. ignoring the detour.

Rating: four stars.


Apart from the flowers mentioned above, we saw a few Peacocks, a couple of Commas and a lone Speckled Wood.

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