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Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:

Ogilby’s Banbury-Campden Road

From Banbury until Sibford Heath this is a route to escape the fast-moving world. Though part of Ogilby’s road atlas, today its an almost invisible-at-points route that rambles through the hills to the west of Banbury – not becoming an established main road again until it descends in to Warwickshire.

‘Ogilby’s road climbs up towards Sibford Heath’, 9th January 2013
Ogilby’s road climbs up towards Sibford Heath, 9th January 2013

Ogilby’s road begins in West Bar, at Banbury Cross (though that particular stone monument did not exist in Ogilby’s time). The road continues to climb up through modern Banbury until it reaches a crest between Crouch Hill and Bretch Hill – where the valley beyond falls away towards Broughton, and looks down the route of the ‘Cotswold Ridgeway’ all the way to Whichford Heath.

Extract from Ogilby’s Plate: 13. Banbury to Campden
Extract from Ogilby’s Plate 13 – Banbury to Campden

Even before I knew of Ogilby’s road atlas I always felt this was an ‘old road’. If you intensively walk across an area, you get a feel for how people have moved across the local landscape. From the width between the hedgerows, to the way it curves across the folds in the landscape – even where hidden by the plough – it says, “walk this way”.

The most important thing to remember is that Ogilby’s map is not, ‘to scale’. Miles along the route are shown as small numbers; but the way the map navigates is not by distance, but by landmarks – in particular crossing streams, or church towers or windmills visible on the horizon, and describing the type of land the road crosses at that point.

At Giants Caves Ogilby’s road meets the Medieval Birmingham-Oxford road. To the south this becomes ‘Salt Way’, which follows the line of the ridge around the south of the town. To the north-west this road follows it through North Newington.

At North Newington Mill, the road loses its verge and becomes quite dangerous. The small single-track road to the left bypasses North Newington and rejoins this road beyond the village – albeit at the cost of an extra half-mile of distance. For a less stressful/more survivable route into the village, take the footpath to the right just beyond the bridge, and cross the bumpy field toward the left side of the manor (once the site of the Medieval village), then turn left into Park Lane.

Through the village the Medieval Birmingham road departs to the right. On Ogilby’s map it is marked, ‘To Stratford’; but when it meets the Stratford Road at the ‘Wroxton Fingerpost’ Ogilby marks it, ‘To Birmingham’.

The road ahead is wide, with a good verge either side. This is the first view of what the road would have been like in Ogilby’s time – though perhaps without so many hedgerows: Inclosure only came to this area around one hundred to one-hundred-and-fifty years later.

Though the traffic is fast here the wide verge allows you to easily step to the side and avoid it. The road runs like this all the way to ‘Shutford Five-ways’, where five local roads meet. And it’s still busy today: Robert Johnson may have “went down to the crossroads” to meet the devil; this is 25% worse!

The next section into Shutford is a little narrow, but the route through the village is more picturesque. Through the village, just after leaving the houses, near to a small pond by the left side of the road, the road does a little dog-leg to the right and meets a junction. But if you look hard, straight ahead, this road obviously continued straight – to the left of the houses on the low ridge ahead.

Carry on up the rise, turn left at the next junction, and the footpath that leaves the road to the right (just after the cemetary) is the continuation of Ogilby’s road straight from the village.

This next section to Sibford Heath is completely off-road. The footpath goes straight, keeping the hedge on the right. As it runs around the side of Long Hill it loses its course, and meanders around the small copse on the hillside. Then it drops down into the valley beyond across an open field. The ‘brook’ noted on Ogilby’s map is where the path crosses Tadmarton Brook today, and then climbs the hill towards Chilaway Farm (pictured at the top of the page), and beyond it, Sibford Heath – around 217 metres/715 feet above sea level.

At Sibford Heath, on the double bend, Ogilby’s road crosses the line of the prehistoric ‘Jurassic Way’. In Summer it has great views, on a clear day all the way to the North Cotswolds, The Chilterns, the Clent and Lickey Hills, and Clee Hill. In Winter though, it can be a rather bleak and exposed location (see panorama below).

As Ogilby’s road enters Warwickshire it turns back into a main road. Unfortunately, all the way into Brailes, and especially on Holloway Hill, it is rather dangerous to walk (though is quite fun on a cycle!). As an alternative, turn north along (a particularly lovely) section of Ditchedge Lane, and then from The White House take the bridleway and footpath back towards Brailes.

Today the modern road winds through Lower and Upper Brailes and then goes around the hill. Looking at the erosion of the routes, though, it’s quite possible Ogilby’s road followed what is now the footpath over Gillett’s Hill, then rejoined the modern route about half-way into Shipston. This is the most pleasant route to avoid the busy road (see picture); and by doing a left-right on the far side of the hill, the path to Barcheston takes you into Shipston.

Entering Shipston the ‘six arch’ stone bridge noted on Ogilby’s map is still there.

Beyond Shipston the road crosses the Roman Fosse Way – albeit on this road today cars reach eighty-miles-per-hour.

Beyond the crossroads the route to Chipping Campden is narrow, with few verges, and a lot of traffic. While cycleable, on foot it’s rather unpleasant. Today the most pleasant route on foot is south out of Shipston to Ditchford Friary, Ditchford Mill, then follow the road into Paxford, then that footpaths to Broad Campden then Chipping Campden.

Chipping Campden is often busy with walkers, and inevitably car-based tourists, although they inevitably head south into The Cotswolds rather than east on the old route towards Banbury (actually, north to Ebrington and Ilmington down is equally brilliant, and a lot more peaceful). Though only 21 miles (by Ogilby’s map) it’s seemingly a world away from Banbury – but from either place you would have little idea about the landscape that this road traverses between the two.

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