From the Archives with Peter Jones
My last two walks have been fairly easy strolls around Warwick and Deddington and it is now time to cover some serious miles in the wonderful four shires.
For the third successive walk I am joined by my regular Four Shires reader; we are rapidly turning into a double act, and en route we meet lots of other pairs, two pubs, two bottles, two e-type Jaguars and one Member of Parliament.
Our planned route today takes from Upper Wardington across the fields to Thorpe Mandeville and from there on to Edgecote and back up into Wardington around about ten miles later.
We park up outside the newly refurbished Wardington village hall and head south through the village, Wardington Manor looks stunning on what is the best day this year for the weather.
There are two pubs within a few yard of each other, The Plough which is still open and what was The Red Lion. That has been closed for some years and is now a private house. Though the outside still carries the plaque of the Banbury based Hunt Edmunds brewery, at its peak they had over a hundred pubs, these plaques can be seen all over the area, most are grey and white though there are a few cream and blue ones.
Like a lot of pubs the Red Lion was also the village post office and a fine George VI post box is set into its walls.
Opposite is a bench that celebrates the millennium, we are tempted to sit in the sun for a while but have only just covered about 200 yards!
We turn left off the village road on to a well marked footpath that takes us steadily up hill across the field towards Thorpe Mandeville. There are great views back to Banbury and if you look carefully you can even see a field of Ostriches.
The footpath takes us down to and across the disused Banbury to Woodford Halse railway lane and as we climb up the other side we skirt a rather impressive house. The Hill, built in 1898 was designed by architect Charles Voysey and is described by architectural historian Pevsner as having “a happy, informal composition”.
Thanks to some brilliant planning the footpath comes out right opposite the Three Conies pub in Thorpe just at lunchtime. It is very busy and popular and we spend an hour enjoying a bottle of Merlot and a sausage ciabatta… they are sophisticated people these Mandellovians.
As we leave the pub to walk down to the church we pass a row of cottages. One of these was where my late mother in law was born. I have been married to her daughter for 40 years and as I am keen to celebrate the 41st I will make no comment whatsoever!
We come across two properties within a few yards of each other that both have beautiful classic e-type Jaguars parked in their drives. There must be some pretty serious car collectors in the village, though I am told one belongs to a smooth, suave airline pilot and you really would not expect him to drive anything else.
The Parish Church, which we have now reached, is like all our village churches. It is well worth a visit and you could easily spend an hour or two here. It is full of many interesting features of which I find the three scholastic stained glass windows really interesting, I am not certain what the connection is with Thorpe but one is of Lawrence Sheriff who endowed Rugby School. I played rugby many years ago against Lawrence Sheriff school in Rugby!
We take the footpath from the north corner of the churchyard and head off back across the field to some serious horse racing country. But before we do, if we look back over our shoulder opposite the church we can see Thorpe Mandeville Manor, the former home of horse race trainer Derek Ancil.
Not only did he train his horses but he was also their jockey and in 1960 achieved the unique feat of training and riding Knuclecracker to victory in Hennessey Gold Cup.
Our footpath turns right and we turn onto the ‘Millennium Way’, a long distance footpath, which was devised and promoted by the 41 club (ex round tablers) and we stay on this as it goes gently downhill towards Trafford Bridge.
Just before we re-cross the disused railway line we come across a long abandoned railwayman’s cottage and a really solid blue brick bridge that appears to be going nowhere standing in the field all on its own. It was built at the time of the railway and was used by a local farmer to carry his cattle over the line from one field to the next.
Underneath it we find two old wide necked milk bottles the marking on them was NBD, I assume that the D was for dairy but have no idea what NB represents?
Everywhere you look over the rest of this walk there are signs that we are now in racehorse training country. We cross several gallops, find starting gates in the middle of fields, hoof prints, furlong posts and horses every where you look.
As we cross another footpath to our left we see Danes Moor and beyond it Danes Moor spinney, the site of the battle of Edgcote Moor during the War of the Roses in 1469. It also saw fighting much earlier in the 10th Century between the invading Danes and the Saxons.
The footpath reaches the Culworth to Chipping Warden road at Trafford Bridge which crosses the River Cherwell; we turn left and stay on the lane towards Edgecote.
The Edgcote estate has changed hands in recent years and much planting of hedgerows and clearing has been carried out including the lake in front of the old walled vegetable garden. It really is in superb condition, again there are many signs of the horse world, more start gates, more gallops and horses everywhere.
The impressive Edgecote House is to our right with the parish church of St James just down the drive. It is a 13th century church, like the one we visited earlier in Thorpe it is well worth popping into, the nearby vicarage is equally impressive.
We would have liked to have spent more time here but the lure of the Hare and Hounds just up the road was too strong. We headed there passing through what looked like the old gatehouse to the estate now converted into cottages, one obviously owned by someone with a great sense of humour.
Lots of wildlife appeared out of the woods. To our left, deer, buzzards and rabbits, although I think the alpacas you see just before you enter Wardington may not be an indigenous species!
We were joined by the smooth, suave e-type driving pilot in the pub for a couple of pints before returning to the car. This last few hundred yards was hard going as legs, knees and muscles were all seizing up.
Another Hunt Edmunds plaque adorned a cottage on our left , though this was one of the rarer blue and cream ones. Our arrival back at the car coincided with the opening ceremony of the newly refurbished memorial hall where we met our local MP Sir Tony Baldry and The Lady Wardington.
At just under ten miles this is a serious walk, but there are no difficult parts and no really steep bits. It is best to take a bottle of water and take your own time. Part of the walk is on the well known Battlefield Trail, a leaflet on which you can either pick up in the tourist office or download off the internet.