A ley line walk from Upton House and Gardens
Upton House and Gardens, Nr Banbury, Warwickshire OX15 6HTRoute details and mapDownload as a print friendly PDF
Panoramic vistas, big skies and the frisson of a historic battle. Stop off at a pub with a 19th-century tower that stands where King Charles rallied his troops or at one where an opposing roundhead haunts the inglenook fireplace.
Circle Alfred Watkins' Cotswold ley line for a taste of Civil War history.
- Bus stop
Start: National Trust car park at Upton House and Gardens; grid ref: SP371461
In the car park, with your back to the main road head for the grassy knoll in the far right hand corner of the boundary. Cross the stile, keep to the right. When the farm buildings come into view continue to the end of the fenced compound then turn left, cross the valley and head for the stile on the horizon.
Take the straight path over two fields to Sugarswell Lane (the first time you cross the Cotswold ley). Take the stile on the far side, continue diagonally across the field and, from a height of 700 feet (215 metres) above sea level, watch a panorama of Warwickshire come into view - the site of the Battle of Edgehill in October 1642. Next to the tourist information board is a further stile; after crossing it, turn right along the Edge.
In October 1642 King Charles left Shrewsbury to march his army to London where he intended to confront the Parliamentarian army. The King unexpectedly encountered Parliamentary forces near Edge Hill and, on 23 October, descended the steep slope to engage in what was to be the first major battle of the English Civil War. Neither side was capable of inflicting a decisive result. Around 1500 combatants died and many others from both sides left the killing fields either to flee or to loot. After an inconclusive result, King Charles continued onwards to London for another inconclusive encounter, after which the English Civil War continued for four years.
You are now on the long distance walks of Warwickshire's Centenary Way (from Kingsbury Water Park to Upper Quinton, 98 miles (158km)) and the Macmillan Way (from Boston in Lincolnshire to Abbotsbury in Dorset, 290 miles (467km)). With a distant view of the Malvern Hills on your left continue north along the ridge line of the Edge, which marks the north-eastern extremity of the Cotswolds. The path here is spectacular in any season. In spring and summer the ancient woodland is rich in wildflowers and for the rest of the year the leaf fall reveals vistas across the plains to the west. Continue along the edge to the next iron gate and through the woodland, passing the paddocks on the right and the stables to the left. Viscount Bearsted chose this property for his hunting retreat in the area until his acquisition of Upton House which in due course he vested to the National Trust. At the farm turn right on to the short metalled lane, then left at the T junction to the A422 road at Sun Rising Hill. Take great care since there is no pedestrian footway. Cross the A422 diagonally to the left for a few paces then take a footpath which continues through the trees along the line of the ridge.
A mile or so to the south, Shenington Gliding Club occupies the site of a World War 2 Bomber Command RAF base. It was used for bomber training and for operational bombing flights to Germany. In 1942 it was selected for test flights of the first British jet aircraft, the Gloster E28/39 Pioneer invented by (Sir) Frank Whittle. His manufacturing company was nearby, as was his birthplace, just 30 miles away in Coventry. Look out for birds surfing the updraught caused by the escarpment; gliders from Shenington Gliding Club might also be circling above you.
Continue along the line of the ridge, catching glimpses through the trees of the plains below. At King John's Lane (metalled) cross the road, again diagonally to the left then after a few paces take the path on your right which continues the line along the ridge. You will soon spot the unmistakable octagonal tower of the Castle Inn on your right. This is about half way through the walk so you may wish to take a rest. Just a few paces down to your left across a stile you will find a stone bench where you can sit and take in stunning uninterrupted views. Whatever your choice continue along the ridge-line path, past an obelisk, and within a few minutes you approach 'Jacob's ladder', a long flight of stone steps leading up to a B road. At this point you can cut the walk short and return to Upton House by turning right onto the road, past the Castle Inn, then after 1 mile (1.6 km) or so left at the T junction and soon after the car park at Upton House comes into view on your right. Otherwise cross the road to take the turning signposted for Ratley village.
The tower at the Castle Inn was contructed in 1742 to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Edgehill. It was inspired by Guys Tower at nearby Warwick Castle and is reputed to be the spot where King Charles raised his standard before engaging with Oliver Cromwell's opposing parliamentary forces on the plains below. The rear terrace of the inn provides another opportunity to take in those views. A few minutes after passing the tower the walk takes you past an obelisk on your left. It was erected in 1854 to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo and the gallantry of a local son, Colonel F. S. Miller, in commanding the VIth Inniskilling Dragoons.
Continue for around 750 yards (700 metres) to the bottom of the hill in Ratley village. Once the road bears to the left you need to take the right turn onto a track heading towards Manor Farm. However there is another chance to divert for refreshment, this time to the Rose and Crown, by continuing to follow the road as it bears left until you come to the end of the village. Retrace your steps to take the track towards Manor Farm. Just before the farm gate, cross the stile in the corner to the right.
The Rose and Crown is a 900-year-old, Grade-1-listed inn. Its inglenook fireplace is reputedly haunted by a roundhead from the Battle of Edgehill. Probably one of those who saw fit to flee the scene, he was out of luck - he was beheaded here.
The path climbs the hill then drops down to another stile beside a gate. A longer climb follows to the far right corner of the field with an open byre near one more stile - to the left of three trees. Once over the stile walk across the lane to the left of the tree and continue forwards along the left side of the hedge.
Continuing alongside the hedge leads to the other side of the valley and Uplands Farm. The route takes you down the side of an old stone barn, beside a field to the left of the buildings around Uplands Farm and onto a metalled lane.
Turn right into the lane and walk to the T junction with the A422. Turn right again along the wide grass verge which leads back to the National Trust car park on your left - leaving enough time for tea and a slice of cake in the Pavilion Restaurant (closes at 5pm; closed Thursdays except July and August).
End: National Trust car park at Upton House and Gardens; grid ref: SP371461
- Trail: Walking
- Grade: Moderate
- Distance: 5.5 miles (9km)
- Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- OS Map: Explorer 206 Edge Hill and Fenny Compton
Mostly easy-going on established footpaths and fields. Parts are slippy in wet weather especially along the edge of the Edgehill ridge. It includes a number of stiles and is steep in places including a long flight of steps. It crosses farmland in many places so dogs must be kept under close control. Dogs are not permitted within the grounds at Upton House (assistance dogs excepted).
- How to get here:
Footpath SM 177 runs adjacent to property; Centenary Way 0.5 mile, Millenium Way 1 mile
By bike: NCN5 5 miles; Oxfordshire Cycleway 1.5 miles; view local cycle routes on the National Cycle Network website
By train: Banbury station 7 miles then taxi
By car: 8 miles from M40 exit 12; on A422 7 miles north west of Banbury, 12 miles south east of Stratford upon Avon
Upton House Car Park: Free hardstanding for cars and coaches with grass-surfaced overflow. Gates locked at 5.30pm. Picnic tables.
Inns serving food at 2.5 miles (4 km) and 3.5 miles (6 km) from the start
Within Upton House and Gardens (see website for entrance charges):
- Toilets with baby-changing facilities
- Restaurant, hot and cold meals using local produce
- Shop with a wide range of gifts and memorabilia
- Large grounds with beautiful gardens and bags of open space to run round
- Contact us