Cotswold Ways Walk: A pleasant amble around Oakridge and Sapperton
PUBLISHED: 10:29 17 July 2018
Quench your thirst for culture, countryside and a cool drink with this pleasant amble through sleepy backwaters that boast some of the greatest artists, writers and crafters of the twentieth century
In the early years of the 20th century a remarkable coterie of artists, writers and wits coalesced in the hamlet of Far Oakridge. Guests of the painter John Rothenstein (1901-1992), an art historian and director of the Tate - best known for his voluminous Modern British Painters - and his wife. Friends of the Bloomsbury Set and a college chum of TE Lawrence, the handsome house overlooking the Golden Valley, between Stroud and Chalford, paid host to a glittering array of literati, including DH Lawrence, Max Beerbohm, and Rabindranath Tagore, who sat for a portrait in Rothenstein’s studio.
Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. He has been called one of the outstanding thinkers of the 20th century and the greatest poet India has ever produced. His Nobel followed publication of Gitanjali, his English version of some of his Bengali poems. WB Yeats and Ezra Pound were great supporters. Tagore was born in Calcutta in 1861 and educated partly in Britain; King George V knighted him, but Tagore renounced this in 1919 following the Amritsar Massacre. A key figure in Indian nationalism, Tagore became a friend of Gandhi, offering criticism as well as support. A polymath and progressive, Tagore painted, wrote plays, novels, short stories and many songs. The national anthems of India and Bangladesh are based on his poems.
Regulars at the Rothensteins included the poet and cartoonist Max Beerbohm and John Drinkwater, who moved into a humbler abode just up the lane. The soirees must have been legendary, as Rothenstein evokes in his autobiography, Summer’s Lease.
Nearby, in the ridiculously picturesque village of Sapperton, an important hub of the Arts and Crafts had left its mark in the churchyard and chapel of St Kenelm’s. It seems you can’t walk more than a couple of miles in the Cotswolds without stumbling upon some remarkable heritage – small wonder it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (since that momentous year, 1966).
1. From the crossroads above Iles Green walk south down hill.
2. As you descend the lane a large house will come into view on your left, this is was the home of the artist John Rothenstein and his wife. Note the initials and animals motifs in the gables of the first floor windows. Rothenstein had his studio in the barn to the right. Here, the Rothensteins entertained their famous, artistic friends.
3. Continue along side of house until you reach a footpath on your right, take this down the hill.
4. The footpath descends through fields down to Siccaridge Wood nature reserve and the canal. It can be muddy here, so watch your step.
5. Cross the canal bridge and turn left, along the towpath, through pleasant shady groves. Here the canal has been taken over by trees and all the hard work of the navvies undone. The Thames and Severn Canal is slowly being restored so perhaps one day narrowboats will be seen along here once more.
6. Cross over the footbridge on the left, and continue along towpath until it emerges onto the road opposite the Daneway Inn.
7. If you have sufficient willpower, continue past the Daneway along the footpath that crosses in front of it in the same direction you have been going (the Wysis Way).
8. You reach the head of the old Sapperton Tunnel, which looks rather uninviting. Follow the line of its wall to the stile, where the footpath emerges into a pleasant meadow.
9. Ascend to the village of Sapperton on the brow of the hill.
10. Follow Church Lane into the village, turning right at the charming parish church of St Kenelm’s. It is worth visiting the churchyard here to see the Arts and Crafts graves, and that of the architect and publisher, Ernest Gimson.
11. The interior of the church is well worth a look too – with its remarkable pews, shrines, and pulpit (with Arts and Craft-style inlay).
12. Exiting the church through the top gate, follow the road up through the village to The Bell. Saved!
13. Refreshed, descend back to the church, turning right and taking the footpath just after it, which heads back down into the valley.
14. Crossing the river Frome and ascend the other side, initially heading right until the footpath forks, when you must turn left and follow the steep path as it bends around back towards the south-west.
15. When you reach a cross-roads in the forest, continue straight over, and push onwards until you emerge from the trees.
16. Descend to Dane Lane, emerging next to the publisher’s house on your left.
17. Turn left down the lane, briefly, before taking the footpath on your right that leads over Daneway Banks nature reserve (see the interpretation board).
18. Cross the meadows, enjoying the views. When you reach the lane on the far side, turn right up the hill, until you reach a footpath on your left. Take this.
19. Heading west, follow the edge of Siccaridge Woods as it drops down to a pleasant stream – Holy Brook – cross this at the stepping stones and ascend the far side into Peyton’s Grove.
20. Emerging from the trees, keep heading west back to Far Oakridge.
21. When you reach the lane turn right, and follow it around the bend of the valley back to the crossroads where it all began!
Distance: 4.37ml/7.03km walk.
Duration: 2 hrs.
Level: Mostly easy (can be muddy in places at certain times of the year).
Parking: Far Oakridge crossroads.
Toilets: Available in the pubs for customers.
Pubs: The Daneway Inn, GL7 6LN, t:01285 760297; The Crown, Sapperton, GL7 6LE, t: 01285 760298.
Transport links: Buses to Sapperton from Stroud.
Map: OS Explorer map: 179: Gloucester, Cheltenham & Stroud
Kevan Manwaring is a Stroud-based writer and storyteller. He is the author of Oxfordshire Folk Tales and Northamptonshire Folk Tales, a contributor to English Folk Tales and editor of Ballad Tales, all from the History Press. He teaches creative writing for the Open University and the Stroud area.
Find Kevan on Twitter! @bardicacademic