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Cotswolds – Chedworth Roman Villa from Chedworth round

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Gloucestershire is a county in South West England split into three areas, the major part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn and the entire Forest of Dean. It borders with the counties of Gwent in Wales to the west, Herefordshire to the northwest, Worcestershire to the north Warwickshire to the northeast, Oxfordshire to the east, Wiltshire to the south and Bristol and Somerset to the southwest. Gloucestershire’s county town and only city is Gloucester and has 32 towns. The charming Cotswolds villages and towns and quaint cottages and buildings gained much of their character from the yellow limestone that was quarried locally. The area was once entirely dependent on sheep farming and many of the fine churches and manor houses owe their existence to the generosity of the wealthy medieval yeoman farmers and wool merchants. The valley of Britain’s longest river, the River Severn, is flat with lush meadows along its banks and is famous for its tidal bore. The views across the River Severn are outstanding and its estuary is a haven for wildfowl and wading birds. The Royal Forest of Dean sits between the Wye Valley, the Vale of Leadon and the Severn Valley and is one of England’s few remaining ancient forests. Covering 27,000 acres it was designated as a National Park in 1938. Full of magic and mystery the forest has been the inspiration for many great artists and writers including JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling.

The Cotswolds are a range of hills covering an area of 25 miles across and 90 miles long and lie mainly within the counties of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire but extend into parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The spine of the Cotswolds runs southwest to northeast through the six counties particularly Gloucestershire, west Oxfordshire and south western Warwickshire. The Cotswolds have been designated as the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is the largest AONB in England and Wales. The northern and western edges of the Cotswolds are marked by steep escarpments down to the Severn Valley and the Warwickshire Avon and this escarpment is often called the Cotswolds Edge. On the eastern boundary lies the city of Oxford and on the west is Stroud. To the southeast the upper reaches of the Thames Valley and towns such as Lechlade, Tetbury and Fairford mark the limit of this region and to the south the boundary reaches beyond Bath and towns such as Chipping Sodbury and Marshfield. The Cotswolds are characterised by attractive small towns and villages built of the underlying Cotswold stone, a yellow limestone, and drystone walls many built in the 18th and 19th centuries can be seen everywhere in the fields. The most well known towns or villages are Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Burford, Chipping Norton, Cirencester, Moreton-in-Marsh, Northleach, Stow-on-the-Wold, Stroud and Winchcombe. During the 13th – 15th centuries the native Cotswold sheep were famous throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and high quality of wool. Cotswold wool came at a high price and the wealth generated by the wool trade enabled wealthy traders to leave their mark by building fine houses and beautiful churches, known as “wool churches”. Today the sight of the sheep on the hillside is still one of the most common features of the Cotswolds.

Chedworth is a lovely unspoilt village off the beaten track situated in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Beauty. Much of the village is a conservation area ensuring that the distinct character of the village is maintained. It does not have a village centre but extends more than a mile along and above a small valley which comprises of Lower, Middle and Upper Chedworth. It is a thriving community with a village school, church, pub, farm shop and a campsite. Chedworth is 7 miles from Cirencester, 11 miles from Cheltenham and close to the Roman Fosse Way. The popular Chedworth Roman Villa, one of the largest and best preserved villas in Britain, is only about a miles walk away but 4½ miles by road.

Chedworth Roman Villa was built in phases from the early 2nd century to the 4th century. The 4th century construction transformed the building into an elite dwelling arranged around three sides of a courtyard. The 4th century building included a heated and furnished west wing containing a dining room with a fine mosaic floor as well as two separate bathing suites, one for damp heat and one for dry heat. Chedworth Roman Villa was discovered in the Victorian era in 1864 by a gamekeeper who found small stone cubes from one of the buried mosaics whilst digging for a ferret. The area was excavated to reveal the extensive walls, bath houses and fine mosaics and soon put on display. Landowner Lord Eldon maintained timber shelter buildings over the most delicate ruins and had a small museum for the artefacts. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1924 who have conducted a long term conservation programme. In 2011 the site underwent a major renovation with a new shelter building to protect the fragile remains, new museum displays and many more ways to learn about life in the Villa during the ‘Golden Age’ of Roman Britain. Most days the volunteer site guides bring the place to life as they share their stories of the villa’s history and on some days you can enjoy a specialist talk or tour. The museum has fascinating artefacts such as roman jewellery, figurines, coins and more which have been unearthed during on-site excavations. As well as offering an insight into the Romano British history, Chedworth Roman Villa is a place of peace and beauty with idyllic rural views and a rich wildlife haven. The villa, located just off the Roman road known as the Fosse Way, stands in a sheltered but shady position overlooking the River Coln. There are a number of nearby footpaths, including Macmillan Way and Monarch’s Way, for some walking and the woods above the site offer lots of space to explore. The cafe provides light snacks and drinks or you can enjoy your own food in the picnic area.

Monarch’s Way is also a long distance footpath more or less following the escape route taken by King Charles II in 1651 after being defeated in the Battle of Worcester. The route is 615 miles long and marked with yellow discs with a ship “The Surprise”, the Prince of Wales crown and the Royal Oak tree at Boscobel House. Starting at Powick Bridge at Worcester the path runs north to Boscobel then south to Stratford-upon-Avon continues south to Stow-on-the-Wold before turning south west to Cirencester and Bristol. It then heads south across the Mendip Hills to Wells then on through Somerset and then south west to Charmouth where there is a short section along the Dorset coast before turning north to Yeovil then turns east across the Downs to Brighton and Shoreham-by-Sea.

The Macmillan Way is a 290 mile long distance walk linking Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset. The route follows existing footpaths, bridle ways and byways with only short stretches of minor road. From Boston the path heads to Stamford, then by the shore of Rutland Water to Oakham then on to Stow-on-the-Wold via Warmington then through the Cotswolds to Bradford-on-Avon, through Somerset and into Dorset via Castle Cary and Sherborne to Abbotsbury on the coast. The path links to the Viking Way, the Thames Path and the South West Coast Path.

The Walk

With the church behind us we head forward downhill on the little path to the Seven Tuns pub. With the pub in front of us we turn right then immediate left at the footpath sign and go through the small gate. We pass to the right of the stables, cross over a stile and head forward. We cross two more stiles as we enter the trees then cross over an old railway line. We head downhill to another stile and soon cross a stream and follow the path uphill to the cottages. We cross straight over the road and head forward through the gate into the field then continue ahead through another gate into the trees. We follow the path until we reach the road then turn right. After a short way we turn left onto the Bridle Way and follow the track passing a building on the right. At the crossroads of tracks with a gate in front of us we turn right following the grass track with the tall hedge on our right. We soon go through a gate into the open field and head forward. We pass over a track and keep heading forward to the wood. At the wood and the footpath sign we turn left slightly downhill to follow the next footpath sign into the wood. We follow the track, which widens, until we come to a footpath sign we turn left leaving the track up into the trees to another track. We turn right then very soon turn left following the yellow arrow at the base of a tree on the right. When we reach the road we turn left then at the right hand bend we head straight forward onto the track Monarch’s Way, you will see Yanworth Mill on the right. We follow the track until we reach a road. We turn left and follow the road which leads to Chedworth Roman Villa. After a visiting the villa we go back to the path and continue in the same direction heading uphill into the wood. We soon go under a railway arch and keep heading uphill until we come to a crossroads of paths we turn left. The path soon starts to level out and drop downhill. We come out into the open and head forward to another crossroads of paths. We head forward going through the iron gate. We drop down through the trees then head straight forward through the field towards Chedworth. At the houses we turn right through the gate back to the church.

 

Terrain

This is an easy to moderate walk through fields and woods on grass and gravel paths/ tracks with some gates and stiles. There are some inclines and declines.

Elevation: approx lowest point 128.10m (420.28ft) approx highest point 227.50m (746.39ft) approx ascent 158.20m (519.03ft)

Distance and Start Point

Approx 4.2 miles allow 2-2½ hours using OS Explorer Map OL45, The Cotswolds. This walk is done anti-clockwise. Allow extra time to visit the Roman Villa.

Start point:  In front of St Andrews church at Chedworth.

Location

Chedworth is in the Cotswolds of Gloucestershire.

Directions and Parking

On the M40 at junction 9 take the A34 towards Oxford then take the A40 towards Witney and Burford. At Burford stay on the A40 for approx 10 miles to a roundabout then turn left onto the A429. Continue for approx 3½ miles to cross Foss Bridge and take the first right. Then take the next right and follow the road to Chedworth turning right then immediate left to the church.

Parking: free roadside parking in Chedworth and in front of the church but only when the church is not in use.  There is also free parking at the Roman Villa.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets. For refreshments there is a village and farm shop with cafe and a pub the Seven Tuns in Chedworth. There is also a cafe at the Roman Villa and a National Trust shop selling gifts and Roman souvenirs. There is also a pub at nearby Fosse Bridge.

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