Walk 176: Middleton Cheney, Chacombe, Overthorpe & Warkworth Circular

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 6.5 miles (10.5km)

Time to walk: Roughly 2.5 hours

Difficulty: Some hills & stiles, but nothing too difficult. Please be aware that there was a bull on this walk in October 2021

Parking: Considerately on the street in Middleton Cheney

Public toilets: Pubs in Middleton Cheney & Chacombe

Map of the route:

Thanks to Richard Parkes for doing the legwork on this one for me

The villages in this part of the County really are beautiful & this walk will explore a few of them. Middleton Cheney, where this walk starts, is one of those such villages & you can explore it on our Walk 77

‘Middleton’ is a very common name in England & means ‘middle farmstead or estate / settlement’. The ‘Cheney’ part comes from Domesday Lord, Ralph de Chenduit whose family held the village

Traces of Neolithic, Bronze Age & Roman settlements have been found in the parish.

 One of the village’s most famous residents, Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland (1887–1941) was born in Middleton Cheney. He joined the Royal Navy in 1902 & spent the First World War as a gunnery instructor at HMS Excellent. By 1934 he was a rear admiral, & in 1937 aide-de-camp to King George VI

In the Second World War, Holland commanded the 7th Cruiser Squadron at the Battle of Cape Spartivento in November 1940. In May 1941 he commanded the Battlecruiser Squadron when it engaged the German battleship Bismarck in the Battle of Denmark Strait. The magazine of Holland’s flagship HMS Hood exploded, breaking her in two & sinking her. Holland was killed, along with all but three of Hood’s company

Shall we get going?

Let’s Walk!

1. We start & finish our walk at the pub!

This is the Dolphin Inn which dates back to 1717. It has an excellent reputation for both food & beer, so maybe worth partaking at the end of the walk. Facing the pub walk up the street past the Co-Op

2. On reaching the island turn left & then right up Church Lane, ignoring the footpath on the left, to arrive at All Saints Church…

This early 14th-century church was built by the rector, William of Edyngton, who later became Bishop of Westminster

The west tower has a ring of six bells. It’s interesting that one of them was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 1881. They also cast ‘Big Ben’. You visit their old premises on our Walk outside Northamptonshire: Jack the Ripper Walk 1. Sadly the business has now closed

3. The graveyard’s also interesting. In the Battle of Middleton in 1643, Lord Northampton’s Horse killed over 200 Roundheads, some of which are buried here. Several of the headstones & tombs are Grade II listed

Also you can’t miss the ornate Horton family mausoleum dating back to 1866

4. Walk past the church & continue up the lane past some beautiful houses…

…bearing right at the T junction & continuing up the hill to the main road

5. On reaching the main road we carefully cross it & follow the footpath opposite…

As the footpath bends left take the track on the right, past peoples back gardens initially on your right hand side, & then shortly afterwards on your left

6. On reaching the field turn left & follow the gardens once more on the left. Continue in this direction to the very bottom of the field, before turning right, following the hedgerows on your left hand side…

7. Cross the stile & continue along the field edge to exit the field by another stile. Now turn left & walk up the steep road

On reaching the junction with the busy main road, carefully cross straight over…

8. Once across the road continue straight ahead in the direction shown on the map below, past the farm until finally reaching a gate leading onto a small country road..

Turn left along the road into the village of Chacombe. Although it has an Oxfordshire postcode, Chacombe is very much in Northamptonshire. It’s a small village with the population remaining static at around 700. The name Chacombe comes from “Valley of a man called Ceawa”

The village is probably best known for its Augustinian Priory, founded during the reign of Henry II, the site of which lies just to the west. As with most at the time, in 1536 the Priory was suppressed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries & passed all its properties to the Crown. The only visible remains of it are a small chapel apparently built in the 13th century & a set of medieval fishponds

Part of the priory site is now occupied by a house, also called Chacombe Priory, which we’ll pass later in this walk

9. Continue down the road & into the village until you reach the beautifully named “Beanfurlong” (byway) where we head right down the hill

10. Follow the road as it branches left – DO NOT go through the gate straight ahead. Cross the ford (I do love a ford!) & walk up Silver Street. Just look at these houses!

11. Go through the gate at the end of the road & enter Berry Close Field. Head over the field towards the church…

…& enter the churchyard

This is the church of St Peter & St Paul which dates back to Norman times, although it’s been much changed & is now a style known as “Decorated Gothic”. In the north aisle you’ll find a 14th century wall painting of St Peter being crucified upside down. There’s only one other such wall painting of St Peter’s crucifixion, which you can find in the church at Ickleton in Cambridgeshire

12. Exit the churchyard on the left & turn immediately right through the kissing gate. Walk across the field & exit through the stile 

Now turn left

13. At the T junction you now have a choice…left’s the pub, called the 16th century George & Dragon. To get there, follow the road for about 150 yards. There’s also a delightful bench for a picnic

OR we can continue our walk which is straight ahead

14. Ok…so it was here I experienced my first bull chase. The path is behind the barn & then diagonally right to the very top corner of the field, up the very steep hill. I can’t remember which route I took personally, but it was extremely fast & I may well have vaulted the gate at the top of the hill rather than go through it!

I needed a rest, so what better view to take in just past the gate over to your right. I just need to get that lottery win & it’s ours!

This is where the Augustinian Priory that we mentioned earlier once stood, that has now been replaced by this house

15. Continue up the hill keeping the trees & fencing on your left. Cross over the stile & carry on up a pretty woodland path & through a gate to enter another field

Follow the well-trodden path slightly right up the hill towards the telegraph pole to reach the next gate. Go through this & walk through the trees to exit via another gate (at least they’re better than stiles!). Continue in the same direction, keeping the trees on your left

16. Finally after quite some distance, we reach the final big gate on this section. Pass through it & head up the hill & then follow the bridleway all the way down to the road

Cross the road & go through the metal gate

17. Continue along the path to reach a dual carriageway. Cross over & follow the country road opposite…

At the crossroads turn right & walk carefully along the edge of the road into Overthorpe, passing some big houses

18. It’s really hard to find any historical evidence relating to Overthorpe & it’s not even mentioned in the Domesday Book. It features in the Civil War when it’s shown both sides marched through the village on the way to the Battle of Cropredy Bridge

We’re looking for our next footpath which is just past Hillcrest Lodge. Take the path & then turn right at the top, keeping the gardens on your right

19. Keep following this path past the gardens & eventually a field edge to reach a gate. Go through the gate & turn left. Head up to the church, keeping the trees on your left

20. On reaching the church you’re now in the extremely small hamlet of Warkworth, which means “enclosure of a man called Weorca”

The land on which Warkworth lies was granted to the Lyons family by William the Conqueror. On it they built a castle, which was later converted into a spectacular Jacobean house. Sadly this was all demolished in 1805 & the only traces can be found in a stone with the family arms on it, built into a nearby farm

The Church of St Mary dates back to the 14th century & contains several memorials to the Lyons family

There’s an unusual fact about the mowing of grass here. In olden times “crocus men presided over the mowing & feated on rump of beef & cheese cakes the size of a winnowing sieve” 

21. Exit the churchyard the way you came in, & continue this walk through the gate just to the left…

Follow the track round to the next gate on the left. Pass through & follow the path past the paddock & through the trees

22. Continue on this path & don’t be tempted to leave the woodland area. Walk past the pond, but be careful as it’s not fenced

Shortly you arrive at two gates. Pass through the first one & the the second on your right to arrive at the road

23. Turn left up the road & look out for a gap under the big tree on the opposite side. Cross & pass through the gap, continuing across the field, heading for the telegraph pole in the picture below

24. On reaching the telegraph pole bear slightly right & walk diagonally across the field. When I did this walk it was a nice path through the sweetcorn

At the end of the field, go through the gap & bear right towards the farm. Walk through the farm area & exit it through a couple of gates & a stile to reach another field

25. Now walk towards the telegraph pole to find another gate underneath it…

Go through this gate & continue past the paddock to leave the field through another gate. Continue in the same direction across the next field. At the end walk through the gap & cross both the bridge & stile

26. The path now climbs a hill. Just a word of warning…it’s tougher than it looks! Cross the stile & walk up the grass track beside the house to arrive at the road…

On reaching the road, turn left & continue over the bridge to arrive back at The Dolphin Inn once more

Well that was a nice walk with plenty to see &, if I can forget about the bull chase, it’s one I will be doing time & time again!

Go Walk!