<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cotswold Life today click here

Cotswold Ways Walk: A sisterly saunter by the Windrush

PUBLISHED: 11:01 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:01 12 September 2017

The meadow, looking back to St Mary's

The meadow, looking back to St Mary's

Kevan Manwaring

Walk in the footsteps of the talented and controversial socialites, the Mitford Sisters, around stunning Asthall and sublime Swinbrook. The perfect pub walk for a summer’s day

“Diana the Fascist, Jessica the Communist, Unity the Hitler-lover; Nancy the Novelist; Deborah the Duchess and Pamela the unobtrusive poultry connoisseur” as Ben Macintyre pithily described “those utterly maddening Mitford girls” (The Times, October 12, 2007). Between the six of them, these remarkable siblings seem to epitomize the major fault-lines of the 20th century, and their lives, as much as their literary works, have been the source of popular commentary, academic scrutiny and dramatic interpretation (e.g. Love in a Cold Climate adapted for television in 1980 and 2001).

The Mitfords, daughters of the 2nd Baron Redesdale (David Freeman-Mitford), were great socialites, and Asthall, the handsome Jacobean Cotswold manor house which their father inherited in 1916, hosted frequent hunting and shooting weekend parties after the family ensconced themselves there from 1919. Regular guests included Clementine Churchill, Frederick Lindemann and Walter Sickert.

Self-contained in their aristocratic bubble, the Mitford sisters had a private language called “Boudledidge” (pronounced “bowdledidge”), and each had a different nickname for the others (e.g. Bobo; Decca; Debbo). Their father was called ‘Farve’ and their mother, Sydney Freeman-Mitford, Baroness Redesdale, ‘Muv’.

The youngest of the Mitford sisters Deborah, later Duchess of Devonshire, was born at Asthall in 1920 (she went onto manage Chatsworth House). Her sister Diana had an appendectomy on the spare-bedroom table. Nancy Mitford’s fictional ‘Alconleigh’ in her most enduringly popular novel, The Pursuit of Love (1945) is based largely on Asthall, and family life there is described in Jessica Mitford’s autobiographical Hons and Rebels (1960). Redesdale had never planned to make Asthall Manor a permanent home (although improvements did take place during their time there), and in 1926 the family moved into nearby Swinbrook House which Redesdale had had built on the site of a derelict farm. The Mitfords subsequently leased 26 Rutland Gate in London’s Knightsbridge district following the sale of Asthall. And yet the legacy of the Mitfords presence in the Windrush valley lingers – one can almost hear the popping of champagne, the erudite chatter, and the chandelier tinkling of laughter.

St Mary's, burial place of the Mitfords St Mary's, burial place of the Mitfords

Check out the map here!

The walk:

1. Park at The Maytime Inn if you’re planning to return for a drink or a meal or both (and who wouldn’t?). Walk out of the carpark and turn right towards the church of St Nicholas.

2. Enter the picturesque churchyard to get a splendid view of Asthall Manor, the childhood home of the Mitford Sisters. Note their private entrance to the churchyard. Admire the gabled Jacobean Cotswold manor house in Asthall, Oxfordshire, built circa 1620 and altered and enlarged in 1916.

3. Leave the churchyard via the gate you entered from, and turn right up the lane. Follow it around, turning right at the corner.

The belltower of St Mary's The belltower of St Mary's

4. Heading north-west, follow the lane along, enjoying the contours of the Windrush Valley, until you come to a crossroads by a cricket ground.

5. Turn right at the crossroads until you cross the lovely Windrush by the Swan Inn. Here, enjoy the sparkling waters of both if you wish... or push on.

6. Follow the lane around to the left and keep going until you get to the church of St Mary the Virgin.

7. Enter the churchyard. Just behind the tower – on the side with the ladder going up into the belfry – you’ll find the graves of Nancy, Unity and Pamela Mitford (plus a couple of the Mosley in-laws...).

8. Exit the churchyard via the little snicket between the cottages, turning right and following the stone-walled footpath out to the meadow.

9. Cross the meadow, enjoying the view out across the lake. Climb the stile into the next, heading towards the corner of the stone wall opposite via the old church of St Oswald’s.

The lane from Asthall to Swinbrook The lane from Asthall to Swinbrook

10. Here is a site of an abandoned medieval village, a victim of the Black Death, although on a sunny day it’s hard to imagine a pleasanter spot.

11. Staying in the meadow, cross the unusual stile and walk uphill through Dean Meadow.

12. When you reach the top, catch your breath before crossing the stile and turning right along the road.

13. Follow this until you come to a path on your left. Follow this NE through some lovely fields full of grazing sheep (keep your dog on a lead), taking the left fork up the slope.

14. Eventually you come out on a lane. Turning right here, follow this along, pass the Hit and Miss Cottages (named after the frequent shooting parties the Mitford Sisters held, I wonder?). Ignoring the signs back to Swinbrook, carry on east straight passed the woods.

15. Until you come to a bridlepath on your right, which runs between the fields back towards Asthall.

A charming sign A charming sign

16. Follow this southwards, thinking of the refreshment that awaits you ...

17. Crossing the lane, drop down the charmingly-named Ninety Cut Hill and cross the Windrush, and bob’s your uncle – you’re back in Asthall. The Maytime Inn is not, fortunately, a mirage. Refreshment awaits. Raise a glass to those maddening Mitford Sisters.

Need to know:

Distance: 7.11km / 4.42ml walk

Level: Easy. Suitable footwear essential.

Time: 2 hours.

Pub: The Maytime Inn, Burford, OX18 4HW, tel: 01993 822068; The Swan Inn, Swinbrook, nr Burford, OX18 4DY, tel: 01993 823339.

Dog-friendly: Yes.

Public transport: Buses from Oxford or Cheltenham.

Parking: The Maytime Inn, or nearby.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

Mon, 10:38

Becoming a more and more popular pastime, outdoor cinema experiences are popping up in a number of stunning, and unique, locations all over the Cotswolds. We pick 10 places to catch a movie al fresco in and around the region

Read more
Friday, April 20, 2018

Stow-on-the-Wold may be the highest point of the Cotswolds and a few degrees colder than its counterparts, but it has a warm community heart

Read more
Monday, April 16, 2018

Expect plenty of flower power at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Thursday May 10 - Sunday May 13

Read more
Friday, April 13, 2018

What’s black and white and well-bred all over? Tracy Spiers explores Tewkesbury’s abbey and ancient alleyways

Read more
Thursday, April 12, 2018

There are many beautiful spots in and around the Cotswolds to lay your blanket down and enjoy a good old fashioned picnic! Here are 13 of the best…

Read more
Monday, April 9, 2018

On a soggy day in Oxfordshire, Tracy Spiers and family discover first-hand just how warm a Witney Blanket is

Read more
Friday, April 6, 2018

Marking the arrival of sunny days and warmer weather, spring has truly begun once we spot a beautiful display of bluebells. We pick 10 places in and around the Cotswolds to marvel at the pretty blue flower

Read more
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2018 is set to take visitors on an exciting journey of discovery from May 10-13

Read more
Tuesday, April 3, 2018

With an average audience of 2.5 million viewers and a global audience, it’s safe to say Father Brown is a hit. We talk through the gorgeous Cotswold villages and locations that have been used as the backdrop to BBC One’s popular crime-solving drama...

Read more
Monday, April 2, 2018

If only walls could talk! Featuring gorgeous Cotswold almshouses, stunning market squares and honey-coloured architecture, we pick 8 beautifully historic market towns to visit in the region

Read more
Friday, March 23, 2018

Imposing manor houses, quiet medieval villages, idyllic swathes of countryside - the Cotswolds offers a lot for location scouts in the film business. We pick 19 famous filming locations in the Cotswolds, as seen on screens big and small

Read more
Friday, March 23, 2018

A bracing walk up to the summit of Bredon Hill is the perfect way to see in the Spring. A local saying warns ‘When Bredon Hill has on his hat, men of the vale beware of that’, but whatever the weather the charm of Elmley Castle and its inn will more than compensate!

Read more
Friday, March 16, 2018

As the weather warms, blossom blooms from the trees and colourful flowers burst from the ground, we can’t wait to explore the Cotswold countryside. We pick 9 walks that will make you want to lace up your walking boots straightaway!

Read more
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The finest horses, jockeys and trainers are preparing to battle it out at The Cheltenham Festival. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 12 suggestions on what a racegoer needs to do during the four days of racing...

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Cotswold's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search