A circular walk starting and finishing in Bishopstone
Distance – 4.5 miles, climbing 250 feet and taking 2 to 2.5 hours. This walk straddles the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border and leads the walker through the delightful spring line village of Bishopstone and up a typical chalk downland coombe or dry valley to the Ridgeway National Trail. Return is via the village of Idstone and through fields and lanes. The walk passes six cottages and a church that are modelled at Pendon, plus a memorial plaque to Pendon’s Founder, Roye England. If just a short stroll is needed then simply wandering around Bishopstone is well worthwhile.
Suggested map – the walk is covered by OS Explorer 170 Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse.
Buildings in italics are modelled in Pendon’s Vale Scene.
Some geographic terms are explained in a short Glossary.
- Leave the Royal Oak Car Park by the vehicle entrance, turning left onto Cues Lane. Very soon turn right onto a Public Footpath, leading down some wide steps. Follow the stream until reaching a wooded bridge, cross and ascend the path. Turn left when a car track is reached and you will see a gate to St Mary’s Church ahead. There is a fine Norman doorway at the left side of the church but go right, passing the west door and a plaque in memory of Roye England, the Founder of Pendon Museum, can be seen in the grass. Continue on the path, leave the churchyard through a gate and walk down to the main road. Cross over and walk ahead, at the side of the mill pond.
- Take the first path to the left signposted The City. It’s not like any city that you have ever seen before! You will very soon see a pond in the garden to the left. The spring that is the source of the stream is close by and the pond is a remnant of the watercress beds that used to be here. Straight ahead is Spring Cottage with Finch Hill Cottage to its left and Lincott to its right. Walk in front of Spring Cottage, then turn right up some steps. You will come out onto a lane signposted to Russley Downs.
- Very soon take a path on the right, just after the last house, signposted to The Ridgeway. Go through a gate onto pasture and continue in the same direction. You will soon see the straight lines of medieval strip lynchets ahead. Bear left before reaching them, through a gate and up the floor of the coombe as it narrows. At the top of the valley continue in the same direction until you reach the Ridgeway. Pause to look back over the coombe and the Vale.
- Turn left along the Ridgeway. This is thought by some to be the oldest road in England having been in use for some 5,000 years. Now a National Trail, it stretches for 87 miles from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon. This walk follows it for just over a mile. Cross a lane and at the next lane, by more farm buildings, turn left signposted to Idstone.
- This quiet lane drops down the slope, quite steeply at times, giving wide views of the Vale. On reaching a busier road go left and then very shortly right onto a lane leading through Idstone. Just before the end of the lane, by Lower Idstone Farm, turn left through a gate. There is a footpath sign pointing that way on the opposite side of the lane.
- Pass farm buildings on the right and through another gate into pasture. Keep in the same direction then, with a hedge on the right, head to the corner of the field – it’s a very ‘pointy’ corner. On reaching the corner, go through a gate on the left, over a little bridge and through another gate. Follow the field edge with the hedge on your left. Soon another hedge starts on your right. Keep straight ahead between the hedges until a minor road is reached.
- Turn right along the road then left at the first junction. Soon you will see Cues Lane on the right, but bear left onto High St. On your left you will pass three cottages modelled at Pendon. First there is Littlecot (to be modelled at Pendon as "Blissetts"), and attached to it is Edmunds Cottage and a 100 yards further on is Lilac Cottage. Shortly, on the right, there is a sign for the Royal Oak and you can make your way through and reach the car park that was the starting point. You will have earned a visit to the pub! Maybe buy some organic pork sausages at the store too.
Start / finish - Grid Reference SU245837. Parking - in the village or use the Royal Oak Car Park if using the pub or Bishopstone Store. To reach the Car Park pass the front of the pub on Cues Lane and take the next right.
Refreshments – Royal Oak, Bishopstone.
A dry valley or coombe may develop on many kinds of permeable rock such as chalk and limestone. Such valleys do not hold surface water because it sinks into the permeable bedrock.
A lynchet or linchet is an earth terrace found on the side of a hill. Lynchets are a feature of ancient field systems of the British Isles. Lynchets appear predominantly in Southern Britain and many are in areas close to Iron Age forts and other earthworks.The size, location, spacing and number of rows of many strip lynchets indicates that many were man-made. It is most likely that lynchets were dug to maximise the use of land for agriculture, although they may have had other, ceremonial uses.
Spring line villages occur where a ridge of permeable rock lies over impermeable rock, resulting in a line of springs along the contact between the two layers. Spring line settlements will sometimes form around these springs, becoming villages. Spring line villages are often the principal settlements in long, narrow parishes stretching from below the spring line up to the top of the ridge.