Starting from the Cotswold town of Charlbury – or anywhere else along the route – this circular ride takes you through unspoilt Cotswold villages and countryside, with great views across the Evenlode valley and plenty of historical interest along the way too.
Terrain: mostly on lanes with little traffic, plus two off-road stretches in the second half of the ride, following bridleways. There’s a gentle uphill climb out of Charlbury at the beginning and a few ups and downs after that, but nothing too strenuous.
Distance: 12 miles (19.5 kms)Download file for GPS
Charlbury to Ditchley Park
Heading east out of Charlbury is a very low-traffic stretch of the National Cycle Network Route 442. It leads you to an entrance to Ditchley Park. The fine 18th century house in these grounds is now a high-level conference centre and has also featured in period productions such as Downton Abbey and Young Victoria. Winston Churchill liked to stay here at weekends during the 1939-45 war as it was difficult to spot from the air.
The house is not visible from the park entrance, but the footpath around the estate is an optional detour (about an hour on foot). It starts just after the left turn towards Taston (See the map above).
Cotswold villages: Taston, Spelsbury, Dean, Chadlington
Taston is an attractive hamlet with a medieval preaching cross at its centre. The steps at its base survive, as does the broken shaft of the cross. Preaching crosses marked the spots where priests or monks would preach to local communities where no church had yet been built.
From here, it’s an easy ride on the road through Spelsbury village to Chadlington, where there’s a pleasant cafe that’s popular with cyclists. An alternative off-road route through green fields can include the pretty hamlet of Dean (See the red dashed lines on the map), home of Britain’s former prime minister, David Cameron.
Just after Chadlington, the track from Greenend Farm to Pudlicote Lane takes you past this small fishing lake.
Back above the Evenlode Valley
Pudlicote Lane leads south across the River Evenlode. Then the route back to Charlbury station and town follows a path with views across the valley to the rolling green fields and woods on the other side.
The little church in the hamlet of Shorthampton is worth a stop. Visible inside are the remains of wall paintings that enable us to imagine how colourful English churches were before the 16th century Protestant reformation swept that away. The paintings here include a very rare depiction of the ‘miracle of the clay birds’. This is when young Jesus is supposed to have made toy birds from clay and then brought them to life. Details here.
Where to stay, eat, drink
Charlbury is a good centre from which to explore this part of the Cotswolds. A town full of character, it is surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside with great rides and walks, but far less touristy than some Cotswold towns. Amazingly, there’s an hourly train service to and from London.
Train times to/from Charlbury
Local bike hire
TY Cycles, Chipping Norton, deliver to Charlbury train station or your accommodation. Closed Sundays
tel: 01608 238150