First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A hot day, and the north-eastern corner of the Cotswolds lay in glorious sunshine. On the grass verge in Chadlington a girl in a red T-shirt patiently sat a stout white pony as it lifted its dripping muzzle from the brook and smacked its hairy lips over the savour of cool water.
Chadlington is a sprawling village, a place of rills and springs. In one of the brook meadows an old man went blithely singing through the docks and thistles, and we followed him down towards the fishing lake at Greenend. The fields beyond the shallow dip of the River Evenlode’s valley shone dull gold under the sun, mown and harvested, but not yet gathered. The woods on the ridge lay black and impenetrable in the dark dress of late summer.
Trout plopped in the olive-green lake under weeping willows. We followed a broad stony lane, thick with the scent of new-mown hay, west to Pudlicote and the banks of the Evenlode. The river wriggled like an agitated centipede between pale meadows freshly cut, and rustling fields of elephant grass destined for immolation in some green power station.
Swallows were fuelling up for their imminent southward flights. They flicked and zoomed like miniature fighter planes low over the stubbles, picking off insects by the thousand, snatching and swallowing as many as possible before the long, improbable journey to their African wintering grounds. We couldn’t help but admire their panache, while feeling a shiver of anxiety for their vulnerability and a pang of sadness at these last rites of summer.
We chose a crumbly seat of earth under an enormous old oak and sat for a gulp of water, looking out over the green and gold valley of the Evenlode and up overhead at a jigsaw tessellation of oak leaves against the blue and white sky. Then we took the homeward path across Dean Common, where the Wychwood Project is turning old gravel pits and worked-out ground into flowery wetland and butterfly-friendly grassland.
Back in Chadlington, high on the outside of St Nicholas’s Church, I spotted my old chum the Green Man, carved a-gape with jovial menace, his knotted brow crowned with leaves in all the vigour of summer.
Start: Tite Inn, Chadlington, Oxfordshire OX7 3NY (OS ref SP 324225)
Getting there: Bus X9, Witney-Chipping Norton.
Road – Chadlington is signed off A361, 2 miles south of Chipping Norton.
Walk (6¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 191): From Tite PH car park, left up road. In 15m, right (kissing gate/KG, ‘Brook End’) on path beside brook. In 200m, through gate (324222); bear right up bank (YA) across field. Over stile; left (YA) along hedge. Across Cross’s Lane (322219, fingerpost/FP) and on (YAs) to cross road (324214) at Greenend. Down ‘No Through Road’ opposite.
Just before Lower Court Farm, right (‘Bridleway, Pudlicote’); follow farm track west for 1 mile to Pudlicote House. At road, left (314205); in 200m, left (‘Oxfordshire Way’/OW). Follow OW east for 1 mile to cross Catsham Lane (331208) and on. In 700m, at NE corner of Greenhill Copse (337212), don’t turn right, but keep ahead for 100m into trees. At Wychwood Project info board, OW turns right; but keep ahead (east) on path across Dean Common. In 350m cross Grove Lane (341213); on down slope. At bottom, before entering woodland, left/north (344214) along fence. At field end, dogleg left over stile (343216); continue north beside Coldron Brook for 3 fields to road (343220).
Right (take care – nasty bend!); in 50m, left along Dean Mill drive (there is a right of way for walkers). In 30m, left across footbridge (YA on far end); follow path between paddock and hedge, then across field to stile into road (341222). Right, in 100m, sharp left (FP) past No.1, Dean Bank. Right round end of house, through gate ahead; pass stables and cross stile (340224). Half left across field, sloping down to bottom right corner (339223). Cross stream (2 gates) and follow hedge (now on unmarked Wychwood Way). Over stile at top; on along lane to road (336221).
Right, soon on pavement, through Eastend. Pass St Nicholas’s Church, cross Church Road, and just before right bend, go right (332219, KG, FP), clockwise around recreation field. At top left corner, through gateway (330221); half right across field to road (327222). Right; opposite Church Road, go left over stile (326224, FP). At path end, through gate; left along fence. In 100m, through gate into garden. Aim just left of house to cross stone stile; right beside wall to road and Tite Inn.
Lunch: Tite Inn, Chadlington (01608-676910, thetiteinn.co.uk)
Accommodation: Bull Inn, Charlbury OX7 3RR (01608-810689, bullinn-charlbury.com)