Cotswolds – Windrush to the Barrington’s and Sherborne 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.
Windrush is a small idyllic village located close to the River Windrush and from which it derives its name. Windrush is located 4 miles west of Burford and has no shops or public houses. It is an old quarrying village with lovely houses built from the local stone, some of the houses are 17th century and one of them has a date stone of 1668. There is a small green lined with trees that lead to the Norman Church of St Peter and the village also has a war memorial listing the local men who gave their lives to the First and Second World Wars. South of the village is the Iron Age hill fort of Windrush Camp where only the banks can be seen and the Second World War airfield which was used for training purposes from 1940 – 1945. The River Windrush is a stream and river in the upper Thames catchment. It source is in the Cotswold Hills northeast of Taddington, Gloucestershire and flows for about 35 miles through Bourton-on-the-Water, by Windrush and into Oxfordshire through Burford, Witney, Ducklington and Standlake to meet the Thames at Newbridge upstream of Northmoor Lock.
Little Barrington is a small village just south of the River Windrush and was the home of the Strong family who were master masons and suppliers of limestone for some of the finest houses in the Cotswolds. To the north of the village on the other side of the River Windrush lies Great Barrington another small village with pretty cottages lining its quiet road. Great Barrington has no shops but is home to the Norman Church of St Mary. To the west of the village is Barrington Park, a Palladian manor house built in 1737 by Lord Charles Talbot who was Lord Chancellor to George I. Barrington Park a landscape park of about 120 hectacres had a deer park which probably dated from the 17th century. The manor house is a Grade I listed building and its parkland is Grade II listed.
Sherborne is a long village extending more than a mile along the valley of Sherborne Brook, a tributary of the River Windrush. In 1086 the village had four watermills on the Sherborne Brook. By the end of the 19th century only Duckleston Mill remained and disused. In 1961 the mill was converted into a farmhouse. The village is home to the Church of St Mary Magdalene and the very friendly Sherborne Village Shop and Tea Room. About 2½ miles south of Sherbourne is Lodge Park a 17th century grandstand, in the Sherborne Estate, was built by John ‘Crump’ Dutton fuelled by his passion for deer coursing, gambling, banqueting and entertaining. The lodge belongs to the National Trust and is open March to October Fridays to Monday and every day through August but maybe closed occasionally for private functions.
We walk back towards the village past the telephone box and keep to the left of the church. Just after passing the post box in the wall of the old forge on our left we take the footpath on the right into a field. We head straight forward to the left of the telegraph pole and go through the gate. We continue ahead through a number of fields until we reach the buildings of Little Barrington. We go through the arrowed gate and head forward to the village green. We now turn left in front of the row of terraced houses then cross over the road and take the track, no through road, opposite. At the end of the buildings we continue straight forward. When we come to a building we turn left and cross over a footbridge following the D’arcy Dalton Way. We bear right at the arrow passing the old mill on our left and over some footbridges then continue ahead on the track between two thick hedges until we reach the road and the memorial cross at Great Barrington. We take the road opposite and continue along the road with the tall wall of Barrington Park on our left. At the end of the park wall we bear right and immediately go through the gate and onto the track. We keep following the track as it drops down then up and when we reach a t-junction of tracks we turn left towards the trees. We keep following the track downhill and then when the track bears left we head straight forward into the trees following the arrow to the river. We cross over the footbridge into the National Trust Sherborne Estate and head forward. At the little gate we do not go through the gate but turn right then left and continue ahead on the grass track with the hedge on our left until we reach the wood. We now turn left and walk forward with the wood on our right past an old chopped down tree. We head forward through the gap in the trees then through the gate into the field and bear right heading for the gate and two signposts. We now turn left over the bridge then almost immediately we turn right through the gate and across the field towards the buildings of Sherborne. We go through a gate onto a concrete track then go through the gate on the left. We keep heading forwards through a number of fields and soon come close to the River Windrush on our left. We keep heading forward to a track with Windrush Mill on our left. We cross the track taking the steps on the right over a stile and continue forward following the fence. The path soon bends to the right and we go over the stile in the wall and follow the track back into Windrush.
This is an easy walk on gravel and grass paths/tracks with some gates, stiles and footbridges. There are some gentle inclines and declines and also some short distances of minor tarmac road.
Elevation: approx lowest point 106.90m (350.72ft) approx highest point 167.50m (549.54ft) approx ascent 147.10m (482.61ft).
Distance and Start Point
Approx 6.75 miles allow 2½ to 3 hours using OS Explorer Map OL45, The Cotswolds. This walk is done anti-clockwise.
Start point: St Peters Church at Windrush.
Windrush, the Barrington’s and Sherborne are in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire.
Directions and Parking
From the M40 take junction 15 then take the A429. About a mile after passing through Stow-on-the-Wold take the left turn onto the A424 to Burford. Continue through Burford and at the roundabout at the top of the hill take the third exit onto the A40. After passing the Inn For All Seasons take the first right to Windrush. At the junction the church is on the right but we turn left and park at the side of the road.
Parking: there is free road side parking but if possible please park by the church.
Toilets and Refreshments
There is no public toilets en-route the nearest ones are at Burford and Northleach. For refreshments the nearest pub is The Fox Inn on the River Windrush at Barrington Bridge situated between Little Barrington and Great Barrington then there’s The Inn For All Seasons on the A40 about 1 ½ miles away. There is a shop and tea room at Sherborne and many shops, pubs, cafes at Burford.