This month’s walk starts with a bit of good news and a bit of bad news. The good news is that the whole walk is on the flat, the bad news was that it took place on the coldest day of the year so far, and this bit of the Four Shires is no place to be on a cold day.
However we do end up in front of a roaring fire with a bottle of red having found two churches, two pubs, a couple of people falling out of the sky; and we get stalked by Damien Lewis.
We are start our walk in Farthinghoe, six miles to the east of Banbury, where we park at The Fox pub (to which we will return) and set out to explore the village.
The cold gets to us straight away and we back track to the start of the village and enjoy a coffee in the Limes Farm shop and tearooms. The restaurant is set in a mediaeval barn and my architect mate Roger wastes no time giving us our first lecture of the day!
Staring at us across the counter are the piercing eyes of Damian Lewis on the stunning front cover of The Four Shire Magazine, sitting in its display rack, those eyes will crop up several more times this morning.
We explore the farm, before leaving and admiring the frozen lake sitting below us. This looks like a nice spot to return in the summer.
We go back up into the village and stop at the church of St Michael and all Angels. Dating from Norman times, it sits alongside one of Farthinghoe’s notorious bends though all is peaceful once inside. Sadly, one of the well-kept Commonwealth War Graves we often find is in a far from tranquil spot alongside the busy main road.
There is much to see in the church. We were particularly tickled however by the church providing reading glasses and an accompanying notice (pictured). A couple of doors away is the brilliantly named ‘Thickness Cottage’, presumably after the Rev John Thickness who died in 1725.
Keeping the village school to our left we cross the main road and disappear into the village lanes. As usual lots of properties carry the names that indicated their former use and there are several water pumps still standing on the verges. We give them a pump but nothing happens…one day we will find one that works.
We pick up the Charlton Road and head south. To our right are the views across and beyond Banbury, that whilst we never get used to, we are beginning to take for granted. I have said it before but there are views in the Four Shires that are as good as any other you might find in the country.
The road takes us through some woods. Ignoring the marked footpath on our left, until we arrive just a couple of hundred yards later at Green Lane also on our left. Cars are either allowed along this lane between November and April or the other way round, though the sign does not make it clear.
There is a gate across the lane on which sits a robin who decides to stick with us for the next couple of miles. Architect Roger again gets excited by a group of barns crying out for restoration. We emerge on the track that leads to Hinton Airfield, a wartime pillbox sitting in front of us.
Hinton is still an active airfield and sky diving centre. Two parachutists drop out of the sky in front of us and a light aircraft is doing circuits and bumps. The footpath passes behind the sky diving centre and cuts across the bottom of the main runway to Hinton in the Hedges village.
We have a short discussion as to whether planes have right of way over pedestrians and horses. The retired airline pilot quotes some obscure Civil Aviation Authority rule, so we wisely let the plane land before we cross the runway.
The footpath skirts the southern end of the airfield before leading us into the churchyard of our second church of the morning, Holy Trinity Church. Like its sister church in Farthinghoe, Holy Trinity also supplies reading glasses… Who needs Specsavers?
There are some interesting monuments and tablets in the church. The highlight being the two recumbent figures of a knight and his lady; possibly Sir William de Hinton and his wife. The leaflet in the church gives far more detail than I can write here.
We explore the village, where there are some impressive properties, many of which seem to have shared the same tin of Farrow and Ball green paint. Just off the village green we find the Crewe Arms where we warm up with a glass of “Scottish Wine”. Though Damian Lewis is already there on the bar!
Ignoring the cold is a family of ducks happily swimming on a pond at the bottom end of this picturesque but quiet village, though we meet a lady with a very bouncy dog. Retired airline pilot has a neat trick on these walks; he carries a pocketful of dog treats!
This works two ways. It keeps dogs happy and opens up conversation with owners who often give us the information that is not in the guide books. He would never give a dog a treat without the owner’s permission.
We take the gated road back to Farthinghoe, passing the village playing fields to our right. No traffic and a good surface across flat terrain makes this easy walking. The views on this section are to the north, to Brackley and beyond and I am sure we could see the sea the other side of Croughton!
We arrive back at Green Lane and backtrack to the gate where our robin chirps cheerio and cross straight over onto a track marked Sandy Lane on our map. After a while we bear right onto a footpath through Farthinghoe Park and back into the village.
We find our way back to The Fox, a very popular pub where the owners have a good sense of humour. The rooms all named after local hunts – we grab a table next to the fire and are soon enjoying a lunchtime snack washed down with something Argentinean and red. Oh and Damian is on a side table, his eyes staring at us from the cover of the Four Shires.
This was not a strenuous walk, apart from the cold. It was fairly easy and on really good surfaces. It is ideal for those of you who may want to walk a little quicker than usual.