Walk 175: Thorpe Mandeville & Thenford Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 7.5 miles (12.1km)

Time to walk: Roughly 3.5 hours, but it depends how long you wish to stay in the garden

Difficulty: Mainly across field paths. There are some hills, but nothing too difficult

Parking: Carefully & considerately on the road in Thorpe Mandeville

Public toilets: The Three Conies in Thorpe Mandeville at the start & end of the walk

Map of the route:

I have Richard Parkes to thank for doing the legwork on this walk

Thorpe Mandeville lies in the far south-west of the County approximately 6 miles north-east of Banbury, close to the Oxfordshire Border

‘Thorp’ is an Old Norse generic name for a village & therefore it may well have originated as a Danish settlement sometime after the Danes invaded England in the 9th century

‘Mandeville’ is a corruption of ‘Amundeville’. Richard de Amundeville was Lord of the Manor during the 13th century. The village is best associated with the Kirton family who were relatives of Oliver Cromwell

The population has not altered greatly in recent centuries, rarely exceeding 200. Sadly the nearby hamlet of Little Thorpe is being decimated by HS2

Shall we go & have a stroll?

1. We start our walk outside the Three Conies public house. The Three Conies was a drovers’ inn providing overnight accommodation for livestock drovers & their stock. Scots Pine trees are often associated with drovers’ inns, supposedly to mark their location for travellers. Old pine trees are still evident in the former accommodation land opposite the inn

The property is believed to date from at least the 17th century; the stone sundial above the former front door shows the date 1622. Income was supplemented by farming activities, as with many successor landlords.

Unfortunately it is left to the imagination to picture the inn with its former thatched roof. A parish meeting held at the inn in 1968 refers to the thatch on the inn’s outbuildings. They were probably the last thatched buildings in the village.

A stone mounting block for horse riders stood in the present car park until well into the 1900s. The Three Conies has hosted many hunt meets & the Bicester Hunt had kennels attached to the inn. The kennels were in use in the late 1800s

2. Facing the pub turn left & walk down into the village passing a house called ‘Seven Dove Cottage’. The driveway of this cottage will actually be the end of our walk later. Pass the old school & the village hall to arrive at the local church on your left

This is the Church of St John the Baptist which believed to date from the 13th century, but the site may well have been a place of worship in much earlier times

Have a look at the magnificent, ancient yew in the churchyard

3. This is such a small village, but there’s plenty to see & the jewel in the crown of this walk is still to come

Take the footpath to the left of the church, passing through the gate & heading diagonally right to the top corner. Here you’ll find another further gate. Pass through it & head straight across the field where a gap in the hedge awaits us…

4. Pass through the gap & bear left up the track, We are now following the Millennium Way long distance footpath for a while. This is a 100 mile footpath in the heart of England, taking in stunning countryside in Northamptonshire, Warwickshire & Worcestershire

Cross the road & continue on the track, passing the allotment on your right…

5. The track arrives at another road, but this one’s busier so please be careful. Head across the road & continue over the field, aiming for the big trees to the left of the farm buildings (Thenford Hill Farm)…

8. Cross the track & carry on in the same direction with the hedgerows on your left…

At the tree in the next picture, cross the stile underneath it & also the road. Walk up the track into the farm…

9. When you reach the house, take the track to the right, which sweeps around the side. Keep the house on your left

10. At the telegraph pole continue down the hill on the track &, as the field opens up to some amazing views, go straight right keeping the hedge on your left. (when I walked this route the field had just been ploughed so the actual path is down the hill diagonally across the field, I had to go round the edge to protect the field)

11. At the bottom of the field look for a large metal gate. Go through this & cross the road, continuing straight towards the woodlands in the picture below

12. Cross the stile under the tree & carry on with the trees on your right, until reaching a bridge…

Cross the bridge & turn slightly left, looking for a gap in the hedge. Go through the gap & across the next field to the very left corner of the woodlands. Now follow the tree line on your right to the gap at the end

13. Now pass through this gap & walk diagonally down to the woodland in the picture below…

Not surprisingly there’s another gap to pass through. Now keep the hedgerow on your left & enter the woods over the bridge & stile. Carry on, looking for another stile about 100 meters on your left in the next field

14. Cross this & walk diagonally left to a further set of stiles in the bottom corner…

Keep going in the same direction, keeping the fence & hedges on your left, passing over a couple more stiles & heading towards the farm…

15. On reaching the farm go through the gate & right up the track, leaving the buildings behind. Now pass through the metal gate, crossing the road to continue our path just to the left under the big tree…

16. Now walk uphill, with the fences & hedges on your right until you can go no further. It’s quite some walk up here & finally you’ll meet a clear ending

Its at this point we turn left & follow the hedgerows on the right as we make our way down to the village of Thenford

Walk through the gate & just look at the village that awaits us!

Follow the path straight down beside the telegraph poles to exit via a gate &… welcome to Thenford!

17. Thenford, whose name means ‘Ford of the retainers’ has seen many settlements over the years including Neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman & Saxons being present. The population has always remained around 100

Keep left up the hill, passing some beautiful properties…

On arriving at Swiss Cottage, continue up the hill, but please go & visit the Church if you have time which is directly behind us down the hill, Sadly for us it was closed…

The Church of Saint Mary was built in about 1200, & extensively rebuilt in about 1300. It was described by one writer as “a dark silent haunted place”

18. What comes next will, in my opinion, prove to be as popular as the elephants on the Woburn Walk, or the Waterfall in Billing – let’s go & see what it is

Pass the Old Rectory & ignore the double footpath sign ahead, We are looking for something far more special & here it is!

Take the footpath on the right by the small brick wall…

19. Head through the trees to the left & across the driveway & through the kissing gate. Now look at what we have found together

Welcome to Thenford House, an 18th century country house built for Michael Wodhull, the bibliophile & translator. Construction took place between 1761 & 1765. Since the 1970s, the house has been the country home of Michael Heseltine who has constructed a notable arboretum in the grounds

20. Now it’s time for a reminder…Please Stick to the Public Footpath!

Go through the gate & our path is straight ahead, but look where we are… this place is incredible. Please be respectful of where we are & remember our path lays straight ahead, but wow what a place this is with something behind every tree!

The House is never open to the public, but the gardens & arboretum, which is home to over 5000 trees & shrubs, does open at certain times

The 70 acre estate contains three large lakes & many smaller ponds, including three medieval fish ponds. Specimen trees from around the world are planted in & around areas of old woodland overlooking the lakes

There is a restored Victorian walled garden with a geometric pattern of flat water, immaculate lawns & a central fountain. A formal rill garden cascades down to a stone bridge, alongside a sculpture garden with various ‘rooms’ surrounded by hedges

Look out for the massive bronze bust of Lenin from the roof of the KGB headquarters in Preili, Latvia

21. Head for a stile to leave the gardens & continue in the same direction over a further stile keeping the hedgerows on your left until arriving at a bridge…

Cross over the bridge & through the gate opposite to reach the road which we cross & continue straight across the field to a further gap in the hedge…

22. Go through the gap & head to the bottom left-hand side of the field where we find a black kissing gate. Pass through the gate, down the path to the next gate.

Now continue down again to the bottom right corner where we exit through a further kissing gate to reach the village of Marston St Lawrence

23. The name Marston St Lawrence means ‘marsh farm / settlement’. The village is small, but worth a quick stroll around. The 17th century church had a rector in the reign of Charles I called Charles Chauncey who fell foul of the archbishop & left for America, subsequently becoming the President of Harvard

Later that century, William Blencoe was born in the village. He became the head of Charles II’s secret service & was known as the Decipherer for his ability to crack codes

24. Leave the final gate & head up the road on the left…

…passing the bus stop & the village hall…

25. On reaching the fork bear left…

… & follow the country road. It’s hard to believe this is a road but it is so just keep an eye out for traffic, Keep following it until reaching a footpath sign on your left

26. There are two paths here & the one you need to take is the bottom left one that heads towards Thorpe House in the OS Map below…

Keeping to the field edge, we followed the left hand hedgerows around the edge of the field until we finally found a gap in the hedge just before the hill got really steep

27. Now walk diagonally right up the hill & into the woods in the picture below (you can also see them on the above map)

28. Follow the woodland path through the trees to emerge into another field. Once out keep the trees & hedges on your right as we head to the next woodland area opposite…

29. Our path is to a bridge in the top right hand corner. Cross over the bridge & continue up the hill. keeping the trees & hedges on our left passing the barn conversion. Finally the path arrives at a road…

Cross the road & continue through the above gap

30. Keep the hedgerows an your left for what felt like ages until we finally found a waymarker sign at the middle bottom of the field, I honestly thought I was lost so just keep walking & you will find it (see OS Map below)

31. Head down through the forest & over the bridge. There’s now more fields to cross until you reach the gap in the picture below…

Once through the gap, turn right & follow the field edge to another gap under the trees…

32. Pass through it onto the road. Cross the road & go over the stile. Head down the field keeping the hedges on your left & exit through a further gate…

Now look where we are! We’re on the driveway of Seven Dove Cottage so turn left & it’s time for a pint & a game of French Boules in the garden of The Three Conies

Go walk !!!