Thame High Street
We lunched in Thame a couple of times when we were doing the Oxfordshire Way. It seemed a pretty place and today I decided it was time to take a proper look. I discovered this walk around the centre of Thame rather mysteriously on the Long Crendon website and then found a leaflet of walks from Thame on the Southern Oxfordshire website.
I started at the large car park near the end of the upper High St. Thame was an important market town from the 13th century onwards and this is where the market was once held. I walked down to the High Street itself, which contains a pleasing variety of old houses and pubs, mainly 15th-17th century, with a few Georgian and Victorian additions. One of the landmarks is the Town Hall of 1883. It is currently hidden by plastic sheeting and I had to go round the back to get any sort of picture. I rather like it, but Pevsner is rather scathing: "a feeble design in Jacobethan style".
Towards the end of the High St there is a particularly fine half-timbered house: The Cruke dates from the 15th century. The gable end is especially pleasing, although the cruck timbers are from a cottage that was previously joined to this house.
A little further on, on the corner of Church St, are the former almshouses, founded by Lord Williams in the 1550s. They are now private houses.
Just along the street is the former Grammar School, also founded by Lord Williams, in 1558. What you see from the road was once the master's house, with the school room being at the back. The building is now offices.
Next you come to the fine 15th century Tithe Barn.
And just beyond it is the imposing cruciform St Mary's church. It dates from the 13th century, but in Pevsner's view was over restored at the end of the 19th century.
Across the road at the back of the church is The Prebendal, strangely not even mentioned on the town walk. (A prebendary was a member of the clergy of a cathedral who received the income of a particular parish.) This particular example dates back to 1140, although the gatehouse range was constructed only in1930. A look through the gate revealed some church buildings, one of whoich was probably the chapel of about 1250 described by Pevsner.
At this point I left the circuit of the town to walk out to Long Crendon, first crossing the pretty river Thame.
After crossing the busy A418, and entering Buckinghamshire, you head across fields along the Thame Valley Walk. There were plenty of Small Tortoisehell butterflies here and this dramatic fallen tree. Normally the roots seem to come up as well, but this one was just snapped off at ground level.
You reach a minor road and turn right to walk up the hill into Long Crendon. I loved this sight of this willow tree high above a wall.
At the top you pass Long Crendon Grange, a 15th century building entered through an imposing gatehouse of the same period.
Further on, the High Street, busy at first, becomes a quiet street of thatched cottages.
At the end there is the beautiful group of St Mary's church - similar in appearance to the one in Thame - and the half-timbered Court House. It dates from the 15th century and is now owned by the National Trust. The upper storey is one large room with a small adjoining one.
A path by the church led across fields and then through an industrial estate back to Thame, where I rejoined the town walk passing some more nice old houses opposite the cricket pitch. Beyond the pitch, a different view of St Mary's church which reveals a sort of small tower on one coroner of the main tower - perhaps a staircase.
I did a bit a googling to see if I could find out more, without success. I did discover however that former Bee Gee Robin Gibb is buried here and that the church gets a three star rating on Trip Advisor. I can feel an old fogey comment coming on.
There was just time for one final surprise. On the way back into the town centre a short detour revealed this lovely house, which rather surprisingly was the Bishop's Palace. It was used by the Bishop on his visits.
Conditions: warm and sunny.
Distance: 7 miles (5 miles for the triangular walk to Long Crendon, two around the town).
Map: Explorer 180 (Oxford, Witney and Woodstock).
Rating: four stars.