Monday, 3 December 2012

Upton House and Ratley

 View towards Radway and the Edge Hill battlefield

We met up with our friend Sally for this walk which comes from the Great British walks booklet given away by the Guardian earlier this year and is also available on their website, but we cut off a bit to save time. We left Upton House car park and followed the road to join the Centenary Way at Edgehill Farm. (The Centenary Way is 100 miles long and was created to celebrate Warwickshire's 100th anniversary. The Council's website says where it starts and explains that it can be found on OS maps - a bit pathetic as information goes.)

The path follows the edge of an escarpment with fine views over the plain below, initially obscured by trees, but eventually more open. The dominant element in the foreground (see above) is Radway Grange. The house was originally Elizabethan, but was substantially altered by an 18th century owner, Sanderson Miller.

Behind and to the left of the house is the site of the Civil War battle of Edge Hill (1642). It was the first pitched battle of the war but did produce a conclusive result.

Opposite the village of Edgehill, we paused to enjoy further views of the plain and look back along the edge of the scarp towards the distant hills beyond.

We climbed some steps, grandly marked on the map as Jacob's Ladder, and were rather staggered to see a large crenelated tower above us. This turned out to be the Castle Inn and we were sufficiently impressed to stop for lunch. The castle dates from 1746-7 and is, in Pevsner's view, "really very picturesque". It is impossible to disagree. Interestingly, it was the work of the same Sanderson Miller who altered Radway Grange, and was presumably a classic folly on a hill, designed to improve the view from the house.

We carried on along the scarp path and soon turned right, now along the Macmillan Way, into Ratley.  This long distance path was developed to support the Macmillan cancer charity and runs 290 miles from Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset.

We only skirted the village however, so missing its gothic church, and climbed across some very indented country ... reach Uplands Farm and follow a track and then roads back to Upton House. It dates from 1695, but was altered in the 19th century and during the early 20th. It came into the hands of Lord Bearsted, the wealthy owner of Shell Petroleum, in 1927 and still houses his superb collection of pictures, including works by Breughel, Durer, Rogier van der Weyden, El Greco, Constable ....

 Our first proper look at the house was from the end of the long drive ...

 ... but we thought the south front was more impressive.

 As you walk down the long lawn away from the house, you can a grassy ridge in the near distance, but all of a sudden the lawn ends and a sunken garden is revealed in a dip between the lawn and the high ground. It is quite theatrical and rather wonderful.

Distance: about 5 miles.

Map: Explorer 206 (Edge Hill and Fenny Compton).

Weather: bright but cold.

Rating: four stars.


Android said...

Nice report. We've intended to do a walk in this area (from the Pathfinder guide) for some time now, must get on and do it!

PH said...

Many thanks. A friend told me today that the scarp is the extension of the Cotswold scarp, which I hadn't realised. It's a lovely area and I can't recommend the Upton paintings too highly.