Distance – 4 ½ miles taking approx. 2 hrs. Spectacular downland country, with the walk following obvious tracks and paths to the south of the villages of East and West Hendred. This area has strong equestrian associations and it’s quite common to spot strings of horses exercising at different stages of the route. At its heart are two downland villages sheltering beneath the Ridgeway. West Hendred has some striking houses and cottages; its neighbour, East Hendred, where the walk begins, is much larger and was once well-known as a centre for cloth. Suggested map – OS Explorer 170 Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse.
1. From the 13th-century church in the centre of East Hendred make for the junction with Church Street (a short detour along this street brings you to Snells Hall) and continue south, heading uphill on Newbury Road. You will pass Meadow Cottages. On reaching a byway at the top of the hill, with a turning to Aldfield Farm on the left, turn right and follow the track west.
2. Keep a line of trees on the right , continue through a gap in the trees and strike out between fields, still on the byway. Cross a lane and continue on the byway, heading down steeply to some trees sheltering the Ginge brook. This is a charming scene on the walk. Cross a footbridge here and keep ahead, soon passing over a track. Continue between fields, with fine views over extensive downland country, and look for Roundabout Hill over to the right.
3. At the next intersection turn right and head down the track, keeping to the left of the trees on Roundabout Hill. Ahead are the rooftops of the picturesque estate village of Ardington. There is also a fine view of Ardington House. Cross a concrete farm track and continue ahead along the left side of outbuildings.
4. Head down to a junction, with Ardington straight on, and turn right. Follow the track across the fields towards Red Barn. At the intersection, keep ahead towards West Hendred. During the winter months the skeletal trees allow glimpses of the tower of West Hendred church. Head down to a bridge over the Ginge brook, cross a stile, pass through a gate and enter the churchyard. Make for the lychgate and turn left at the road (Brewer’s Lane).
5. Follow it and when it sweeps left, keep right at a footpath by Furlong Cottage. Turn immediately left and follow the path beside a line of houses and gardens before striding out with farmland either side of your route. On reaching some galvanized double gates at a path intersection, keep ahead towards the buildings of East Hendred. At the road turn left, pass the village school and head downhill between trees. When the lane divides at Fordybrook Farm, keep right and head for the next junction. Keep left (Cat Street) and at the junction with Orchard Lane, turn right. Pass the Plough public house on the right and at the next junction, turn right and follow the High Street. Champs Chapel can be seen on the right. Continue along the High Street, passing Eyston Arms and Hendred Stores (Duck’s Store), and return to the vicinity of the church.
Links with Pendon Snells Hall dates back to the Victorian era and was originally a school. Today it is the local community centre where many village events and activities take place. Meadow Cottages are black and white timber-framed cottages with wattle and daub on stone base. There was a thatched carthouse and stable. The model is based on photos from 1930s and measurements made by Roye England around 1970. Champs Chapel was built by Carthusian monks in 1453. Champs Chapel is now a village museum with some of the exhibits recalling more than a thousand years of history in East Hendred. The chapel is named after the family who originally owned it. Over the centuries, it has been used as a chapel, washhouse, bake-house, pigeon loft and meeting room. Hendred Stores (Pendon’s Duck’s Store). Originally built as a yeoman farmhouse c. 1550, it has a crooked timber frame and herringbone bricks.
Other points of interest on the walk During the 16th and 17th Centuries a fair took place annually along the Golden Mile, stretching from near the start of the walk as far as the Ridgeway. Many of the houses and thatched cottages in East Hendred date from that period. The cemetery in Cat Street, just a few yards from the route of the walk, is the final resting place of Baron Jenkins of Hillhead (1920-2003) better known as the Welsh politician and author Roy Jenkins. He lived in the village with his wife, Jennifer, between 1965 and his death. He was Home Secetary (twice), Chancellor of the Exchequer, deputy leader of the Labour Party and President of the European Commission. Just a few yards away is a good view of the parish church where there is another link with a famous politician – David and Samantha Cameron were married here in 1996.
Logistics Start/finish – Grid reference SU458886 Parking – Spaces in East Hendred High Street in the vicinity of the parish church.
Refreshments – All three of East Hendred’s pubs are on the route of the walk. The Eyston Arms is open Monday to Sunday from 11.30am until11pm and has a cosy log fire, rustic Cotswold flagstone floor, cartoons of regular customers and leather-upholstered chairs. The Wheatsheaf is 16th century with a pretty garden; a popular choice on the menu is Sunday roast with the added delights of homemade cauliflower cheese and Yorkshire pudding. The Plough is a traditional and friendly country pub with a lovely atmosphere and a garden often referred to as the best beer garden in Oxfordshire.