I know many of you enjoy reading these walks around the Four Shires and I know some of you have followed our footsteps. If you could only choose one of them to do however, then choose this month’s. It turns out to be one of the best we have done.
All the usual ingredients are there, stunning Four Shires views, fabulous properties, a couple of churches, great footpaths and Giraffes, Zebras, Camels and Penguins and that was before we got to the bottle of red, oh and Damien Lewis was there again before us!
We have headed west again to the village of Church Enstone where we park outside the Parish Church of St Kenelm. As is becoming more common in many of our churches the pews have been removed and replaced with freestanding chairs, making the church much more adaptable for events in addition to worship.
We spend some time admiring the stained glass and the other contents, spending a little time in the churchyard now full of spring flowers, before taking the footpath alongside the church which leads us to the adjacent fields.
There are some of the finest private residences in our area on this walk. The first is immediately to our left, a barn conversion and new build it is involving some fairly major earth works. Health and safety shoo us away and we follow the footpath downhill towards Heythrop Park.
We pass through some fairly dense and descend down to a stream which we keep to our right. It turns out to be a tributary of the River Glyme. We pass waterfalls and manmade lakes where the stream has been widened.
Either side of us are the fairways and greens of the golf course in the grounds of Heythrop and we arrive at the historic Archer Bridge alongside the sixth green. Built in the mid 18th century it is named after architect Thomas Archer and straddles the two lake created in the same period.
We pause for water and Kendal Mint Cake and cross the bridge following the footpath uphill. Every footpath on this walk is well marked and easy to follow even for us. On our right another magnificent property which we assume was the former gate house to the hall.
Architect Roger is our expert on the flora and fauna of the Four Shires and has been pointing out the Buzzards and ever increasing numbers of Red Kites in our skies. Even he is speechless however, when we are confronted by a two humped Bactrian camel!
The footpath takes us straight through the middle of the home of Amazing Animals. Once the winter quarters of Chipperfield Circus, it is now home to Camels, Zebras, Penguins, a massive giraffe, monkeys and many other exotic and domestic animals.Amazing Animals are the major provider of trained animals for TV, Film and advertising work. Indeed as I lifted my camera to take a photo two camels ran towards me and pose. I am sure one of them even smiled at me!
One of our more exciting and unusual discoveries on our walks, their website is full of information including details of days when they are open to the public.
The footpath then crosses Green Lane and carries on down the drive of Little Tew Grounds farm, where we cross an area of marshland. We have to be careful where we put our feet, though are zig zag course keeps them dry and we climb up to Little Tew.
First thing we come across is a derelict farm and barn. No guesses who got excited at that. Next, a really pretty cottage that was in course of extension and renovation with brand spanking new thatched roof.
A pretty little village though very quiet. We popped into the church of St John The Evangelist which dates from the mid 19th Century, the church was later enlarged to provide for space for the Church Organ.
Outside we come across one of the War Graves that frequent many of the churches we visit. This one to Captain J Sandilands of The Royal Medical Corps who died in 1944 aged just 26.
Time had run away with us and our planned route of from here back to Church Enstone via the nearby Enstone Airfield was beginning to look a bit ambitious. We instead took the lane from Little Tew back to our start point, a very quiet lane and in two miles we saw just one vehicle.
Retired airline pilot was struggling with a pulling hamstring and I offered to go ahead and bring the car back to collect him, but for some reason he didn’t trust me to keep it quiet so we carried on walking pausing to look back at Heythrop Hall back on the hill behind us.
We arrived back in the village on a little lane through the churchyard and back to the car. Making ourselves a bit more respectable we walked a few yards down hill to The Crown pub. For the second month running Damien Lewis had beaten us to it and was smiling at us from the front of February’s Four Shires.
There are no bad pubs on any of our walks but this was one of the best. The landlady who has been there for twelve years gave us some information that you will not find in the guide book, though we broke all the culinary riles and had fish with our bottle of red, though it was very good fish.
As I said at the beginning one the best walks we have done. We were surprised however, when we discovered we had done a little over eight and a half miles, perhaps we broke off a little more than we could Tew….Sorry!