The Swinbrook Cotswold Walk
The finest rural walk in England is in the county of Oxfordshire. Starting in the virtually unknown Cotswold village of Swinbrook (near Burford in the county of Oxfordshire), the Swinbrook Walk takes in a series of sights, views and places of historical interest which will make even the most casual walker rejoice in the tranquil panorama that unfolds with each step. At a leisurely pace this circular natural beauty walk takes 1.5 hours.
From the A40 (Cheltenham to Oxford) take the turnoff to Swinbrook. As you cross the River Windrush and approach Swinbrook take note of The Swan Inn. You may want to visit The Swan Inn on completion of your walk.
Park at the Swinbrook village green.
Begin your walk at the gated footpath leading to St. Mary's Church. Even if you go no farther, there are many points of interest at this first stage of the walk.
St. Mary's Church, Swinbrook is a 12th century church full of light. For four centuries the wealthy Fettiplace family lived in the area. The church contains marble effigies in two triple tiers depicting six Fettiplace males in recline.
When you leave the church turn right and follow the footpath towards Widford. The path provides splendid views across the Windrush Valley and takes you through a narrow passage at the foot of the former Fettiplace manor.
Pass through two farm fields (make sure to shut the gates) and enjoy the vista of the Windrush Valley on the left. Pay special attention to what looks like terraces on the right. They are all that is left of the ancient village of Widford which was abandoned during the middle ages as a result of the Black Plague.
In the distance you will see tiny St. Oswald Church, Widford. We suggest you spend a quiet moment there and appreciate this unique church which is built on the remains of a Roman Villa.
When you leave St. Oswald Church turn left and then make another left. Walk up the valley called Dean's Bottom. The gradual slope of this section of the walk immediately takes you into a wonderful secluded valley. Proceed all the way up the valley until you reach another farm gate which will take you to a narrow paved country lane.
Go right on the lane. At the top of the hill turn left on the Bridleway (now bureaucratically called a Restricted Right of Way)
Follow the track down through the cool glade until you reach another farm gate. Then continue up (this is the last up-hill climb) through the pasture. Faw's Grove (part of the Royal Forest of Wychwood) is on the left and a spectacular Cotswold view is to the south.
Pass through the (final) farm gate and follow the dry stone wall bordered track down to Pain's Farm. On the left you will see an old and still working duck pond which filters water from the up-lying hills into a gentle stream. You will meet this stream several times again during the remainder of your walk.
Turn right on the paved country lane noting the splendid examples of traditional Cotswold farm cottages until you soon reach a junction sign posted to "Swinbrook".
The rest of the walk is along a quiet shady lane sprinkled with beautiful Cotswold stone cottages. Each one, a gem in it's own right.
As you approach Swinbrook village pay special attention to the bubbling brook as it glides along on the left. In some places it appears to run up-hill. This is a rare phenomena and it is hard to convince yourself that the stream is not really running up-hill.
Stay with the stream as it flows around to the left through a low water crossing.
Take the dry footpath (optional) and continue on through the village until you arrive again at the village green.