Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:
The Jurassic Way

The Jurassic Way is a putative ancient north-east to south-west route following the escarpment of the Jurassic hills, from Lincolnshire down into Wiltshire. Locally it is a route which defines county boundaries and links many local historic sites.

Summary for ‘The Jurassic Way’:

Location: Ancient trackway from Lincolnshire/North East to Avebury and Stonehenge

Type: ‘Ancient tracks & Lanes’.

Condition: Many local sections are off-road and give access to some of the most splendiferous local scenery.

Access: Minor surfaced roads and off-road bridlepaths.

Further information: Wikipedia

Walks posts for site: {none yet}

The Jurassic Way is arguably not a single road. Its general route is topographically defined by local hills and valleys as a ‘corridor’ of routes, all heading in a similar direction. Much complicated since by its use as a drove road in Medieval times, and possibly a minor Roman route along the escarpment, parts of the ancient route are difficult to find today.

How were these ‘ancient trackways’ created by our ancestors?

In the higher latitudes, before humans settled they would follow the migration of herd animals too and fro with the seasons. Those herd animals tended to stick to the same route on each migration. When humans settled down to farm they no longer moved with the herds, but instead still followed those same routes to travel the country. This is reputedly how the first ancient ‘roads’ came about.

Unlike modern routes though, before the time when the land was enclosed, it would not have been a single road but a series of tracks running in parallel in the same direction.

The Jurassic Way (not to be confused with the recreational footpath of the same name) is an example of an ancient route. Though less well known than The Ridgeway on the southern boundary of Oxfordshire, or The Harrow Way, the Medieval Pilgrims’ Way, that runs along the North Downs, past Stonehenge, to the South West.

The Jurassic Way probably began in the linear route along the Lincolnshire Wolds – along what later became the Roman Ermine Street. On the south side of the River Welland near Stamford it picks up the Jurassic ridge which runs down the edge of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. Crossing the Thames around Lechlade, it runs south across the North Wessex Downs to Avebury and Stonehenge.

Recent research on animal bones has revealed that people attended the large celebrations at Avebury and Stonehenge from all over Britain. They would have passed Oxfordshire from the north, driving livestock down these routes to feast upon after they arrived.

What’s also interesting is that this route appears to demarcate the lands of the ancient Britonic tribes of Southern England. Even today in the Banburyshire area, it separates the modern-day borders of Warwickshire and Leicestershire from Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.

For much of the line of the Jurassic ridge in Northamptonshire the route of The Way is not well defined. Within The Irondowns there is a long walkable section starting around Braunston, skirting Daventry to Hellidon and Warmington. Then continuing south-south-west, along the ridge line towards Chipping Norton, it’s a beautiful green lane. After which it pretty much follows the ‘unwalkable’ modern A361 to Avebury.

The best walks are from Braunston to Staverton, then past Arbury Hill to Priors Hardwick. The best way to access this area is: The 200 bus service from Banbury to Daventry via Badby and Byfield; and the D2 bus service from Rugby to Daventry via Braunston.

The route becomes indistinct crossing the valley from Wormleighton to Farnborough, but from Warmington to Chipping Norton the route follows mostly byways and minor roads along the ridge – with wonderful views (on a clear day) to the Clee Hills sixty miles to the north-west. The simplest access to this section is: Johnson’s 7 and 50A buses between Banbury and Stratford; and the Stagecoach 488 bus service between Banbury and Chipping Norton.

By virtue of the fact it follows the high ridge that divides the Midlands from the South East, The Jurassic Way allows you to step out of the bustle of the modern day into some unique countryside. Look more closely though, and take the time to study the places and landscape you pass through, and you will see the ‘deep history’ this route takes you through – linking our prehistoric origins to the present-day.