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Oxfordshire

The (Old) London-Worcester  Road (1)

 

The old road described by Ogilby went: Uxbridge, High Wycombe, Tetsworth, Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway, Pershore & Worcester, and nearly all that route is followed today by modern trunk roads like the A40 and A44.  But there are three places where the old road took a different course.  One is the Oxford bypass through Islip (now the B4027); the other two are now bridleways going through open countryside, and both of these are worth the walk. 

 

The longer stretch breaks away from B4027 at Blue Barn (SP 437 206), three miles north of Woodstock; goes on tarmac through Glympton; then breaks off again and becomes a bridleway at SP 421 243.  That’s where to start the walk.

 

At first it’s not too impressive, but after crossing the B4030 near Cuckold’s Holt Farm (Fig.1) - an early 18th century drovers' inn then called the White Hart which was open for business as late as 1988 - it becomes a majestic highway as it skirts Enstone Airfield.  Tall oaks and ashes either side of the wide track leave one in no doubt that this was an eighteenth century ‘A Road’ (Fig.2,3).  Drovers certainly would have used it – Broadway was an important market for them - but in the 18th century they would have been brushed aside by coaches racing down to London from Wales* and the Midlands. 

 

Then there are two miles of (charming, traffic-free) tarmac (Fig.4) before we are back on green lane again for a mile.  This time we go through fields, where the trees – and the path in places – have  disappeared (Fig.5).  How ironic to realise that the presence of that wartime airfield, which I thought at first was going to be a blot on the landscape, has stopped intensive agriculture and thereby preserved the trees and the old road.  I had thought the airfield stretch would be the least interesting; in fact the opposite is true.

 

Finally we hit the busy A361 near Banbury Lodge (SP 337 287) and the walk is over.

 

*The road carried on to Aberystwyth.

Oxfordshire image 1
Cuckold's Holt Farm
Oxfordshire image 2
North of Enstone Airfield