Cotswolds – Old Sodbury to Horton and Hawkesbury Upton round
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. Worcestershire is a county steeped in history and boasts miles of The Great Outdoors across rolling countryside and winding waterways. It is a county of arts and culture as well as having many historic houses, museums, country house gardens, two arboreta and Britain’s premier steam railway.
Old Sodbury in South Gloucestershire is a small village in the valley of the River Frome not far from to Chipping Sodbury and Yate to the west. The village lies on an old coaching route and is more ancient than Chipping Sodbury. It also lies on the Cotswold Way. The 11th century St John the Baptist Church was built between 1200 and 1225 at the north end of Old Sodbury on the hill with magnificent views over the Vale of Sodbury. Although the church has been enlarged and altered much of the original Norman work remains. In the nave there is an arcade of Norman columns, there are two Norman windows and the tower is also Norman. In the churchyard some of the grave stones date back to the early 19th century and there are a number of old bale-tombs of rich merchants. This lovely church is open every day for anyone to visit. The Iron Age hill fort just to the north east of the village sits on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment and is enclosed on three sides by two parallel earthworks. It is open to the west providing impressive views of the Frome Valley, Severn Vale, and the Welsh mountains. The Romans strengthened the fort for use as a camp to support their western frontier and in AD 577 the Saxon army also used the fort as a camp before the battle of Dyrham. Little Sodbury also has an Iron Age hill fort which was reshaped by the Romans.
At Little Sodbury, a small village located about a mile above Old Sodbury, there is Little Sodbury Manor originally 15th century and the home of Sir John Walsh. The manor retains the porch and Great Hall with a timber roof resting on corbels carved as shield-bearing angels, of the 15th century courtyard house. The house fell into disrepair in the 19th century and was restored by architect Sir Harold Brakspear. The village is also home to St Adeline’s Church built in 1859 by William James.
Horton is a small village about 2½ miles above Old Sodbury and is a linear village built on the bank of a steep hill. In the village is Horton Court a stone built manor house which is now owned by the National Trust and the Little Avon River rises near Horton Farm.
Hawkesbury Upton is a larger village about 5 miles from Old Sodbury and also lies on the Cotswold Way. The village holds the character of a typical Cotswold village, including the use of the local limestone in most of the buildings. Nearby on the Cotswold Edge is the Somerset Monument which was designed by Vulliamy and built in 1846 as a memorial to Lord Robert Somerset of Badminton, an army general who fought at Waterloo. Hawkesbury Horticultural Show has been held in the village on the last Saturday in August for over 130 years and is also home to world-renowned football club, the Hawkesbury Stallions.
The Cotswold Way is a 102 mile long national trail that runs from the market town of Chipping Campden in the north to the World Heritage City of Bath in the south. The route runs for most of its length on the Cotswold escarpment which is a ridge through the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along with its stunning views it passes through many picturesque villages and close to a number of historic sites. In 1998 the trail, after much lobbying, was approved by the government for its development as a National Trail. It is a very special designation and was formally launched as a National Trail in May 2007. The trail is said to be the best marked trail in England. In some locations the Cotswold Way is being diverted from its old route along new and improved paths. Where this occurs the old path will remain open but will no longer be signed as the Cotswold Way. The Cotswold Way has been twinned with a scenic coastal walk in South Korea to become one of the World’s first ‘friendship trails’.
We go through the gate at the far side of the churchyard and bear diagonally right downhill to the gate at the far end of the field. We continue through the fields with the hedge on our right and the electricity wires on our left until we reach a lane. We cross straight over and go through the gate then bear slightly right over the field to a gate and lane in the far right corner. We turn left into Little Sodbury and after passing the church we turn right at the junction, signposted Horton. We follow the road for a short way and at the end of the cottages we turn left to a stile on the right. We turn left and follow the hedge on our left through two fields. In the next field we drop downhill to a gap in the hedge with a fishing pond on the right then uphill. At the top we keep heading forwards between the wire fences towards the buildings and the road at Horton. We cross the road and take the little tarmac lane opposite to pass a number of cottages. When the lane bears left we turn right along a stony track for a short way to go over a stile on the right. We bear left to go through a gate and in the next field we turn right following the hedge on the right. At the end of the field we go through a gate and cross over the field to pass through the gate in front heading towards the church. At the end of the next field we go through the gate to a lane. We turn right and just after passing the building we take the stile on the left following the footpath sign. We keep heading forwards with the hedge on our left towards the woodland. We then follow woodland path uphill to the road. We cross the road and take the gate opposite. We keep heading forwards with the hedge on our right to pass to the right of the wood ahead. At the end of the wood we go through a wooden gate and turn left. We now keep heading forwards through the fields slightly downhill then uphill to a minor road. We cross over the road into a field and head towards the telegraph pole to go through a gate to the left. We keep to the right of the next field passing the allotments. At the end of the field we bear left and after a short way we turn right through the hedge and follow the path at the side of the gardens. We come out into the pub car park in Hawkesbury Upton. At the road we turn left and after passing the school we turn left at the footpath sign. When we reach the wider gravel track of the Cotswold Way we turn left. We follow the track until we reach a gate we head forwards to the right of the gate and follow the path through the fields with the hedge on our left. We pass to the left of an old building and go through a gate. At the end of the next field we go through a gate to the road and turn right, this is the crossing point of our figure of eight. At the road junction we keep heading forwards signposted Horton. When the road turns sharp right we head forwards on to a side road and continue to a t-junction. We cross straight over into the field and head forward to a gate in far right corner. We keep to the right of a lawn go through the gate on the right and turn left alongside property. We go into the wood and turn left following the yellow arrow through an iron gate. We come out into a field and turn right through the centre of the remains Old Sodbury Fort. At the gate we turn right downhill going through the trees. At the end of the wood we turn left through an iron gate and left again and follow the hedge on our left back to the church we can see in the distance.
This is an easy walk through grass fields, on gravel paths and tracks. Some minor tarmac roads and one climb after Horton Court.
Elevation: approx lowest point 122.80m (402.89ft) approx highest point 203.60m (667.98ft) approx ascent 226.80m (744.09ft)
Distance and Start Point
Approx 9.2 miles allow 3½ to 4 hours using OS Explorer Map 167, Thornbury, Dursley & Yate. This walk is a figure of eight starting anti-clockwise.
Start point: Old Sodbury Church.
Old Sodbury is east of Chipping Sodbury in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire.
Directions and Parking
Old Sodbury is situated on the A432, just off the A46, about a mile east of Chipping Sodbury. The church and parking is about 0.25 miles north of the village.
Parking: Free roadside parking near the church.
Toilets and Refreshments
There are no public toilets the nearest ones are at Chipping Sodbury. For refreshments there is the Dog Inn in Old Sodbury village. In Hawkesbury Upton there is the Beaufort Arms and the Fox Inn both are on the High Street, a shop and a post office. There are also shops, pubs and restaurants in nearby Chipping Sodbury and Yate.