Walk 39: Aynho Circular: ‘I know, I know…(apricot anyone?)

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 3.5 miles (5.63 km)

Time to walk: Roughly an hour & a quarter, but you know us by now…there’s pubs, places to sit & enjoy, photos to take, locals to chat to etc etc…

Difficulty: A mix of hard path & fields. There’s a couple of inclines, but nothing too taxing

Parking: On road in Aynho. We actually parked in the Church car park – you’re not allowed to park in the road leading to it

Public toilets: The Cartwright Arms in Aynho or The Fox in Souldern

Map of the route: 

Aynho lies in the far south-west of our county & is simply a stunning village. Given it’s location it looks very much like a Cotswold hamlet

It’s known as the ‘Apricot Village’ & we’ll see why later, but we can’t recommend exploring it enough – even if you don’t do our wider walk. We bumped into a lovely guy who was involved with Aynho History Society & was keen to share the village’s history with us – click here to see their website which is amazing & very comprehensive

Aynho was founded in Anglo-Saxon times. The name comes from Aienho, Old English for a spring, grove or hill. The circular village was surrounded by a defensive wall

In the 11th century Asgar, a Saxon thegn and standard bearer to Edward the Confessor owned the manor of Aynho. After the Norman conquest of England he was forced to give it to Geoffrey de Mandeville, whose family retained it for several generations. Later the manor passed through the Clavering, Neville, Fitzalan, Shakerley, Tracy and Marmion families

Late in the 16th century Aynhoe Park was sold to Richard Cartwright, a barrister who moved to Aynho in 1616. It then remained in the Cartwright Family for over three hundred years

We’ll visit the Church & see the influence of the Cartwrights in a moment, but their name crops up all over this village

This is an unusual walk to write up as we had a good look at the village itself & then did the 3.5 mile walk which included bits of it. Therefore we’re going to split the walk in two…starting with the village…

Aynho Village (thanks to the History Society for the links)

1. As the street was busy we parked in the Church car park, although the signs say don’t block the road – the entrance is first left before the Hall. So the Church seems a good place to start our short walk round this beautiful village

The entrance to the churchyard is through the iron gate…

This is St Michael’s Church & is quite a mix as it’s part Norman (the tower) & part Georgian as can be seen below…

It’s like nothing we’ve come across before on our walks

The Reverend Simon Dommett has produced a great leaflet which rather than us talk about can be accessed here

2. Check out the link above for full details of the inside of the Church, but everywhere here is evidence of the influence of the Cartwright family – see all the plaques on the walls. The Cartwrights were Lords of the Manor from 1615 – 1950s & mainly lived in the nearby Aynho Park House. Unfortunately the last squire & his heir were killed in a car crash in 1954 & with that the line died out

On the south side is the Cartwright family Chapel. The tomb was made in 1654 to Richard Cartwright, founder of the Cartwright family. His body along with other members of the early family are interred in the vault below the floor

The Cartwright family Chapel

The Cartwright family Chapel

An old coffin cart

An old coffin cart

3. Ok it’s time to leave the church, but as we exit do you think we could resist…..

You'll never know ;-)

You’ll never know 😉

4. On reaching the road we turn right & after about 100 yards we come across The Village Hall…

…& then cross over the busy road to see The Grammar House…

What a fabulous property, built in 1671. Click on this link for full details

5. Let’s head back into the village now & have a look at the cottages on the right (see this link) which were built around 1650 – at one time the Cartwrights owned every cottage in the village

Apricot trees all along these buildings

Apricot trees all along these buildings

6. A little further along here we come to The Cartwright Arms

The hotel & pub have been looking after guests since the 16th century when it was a coaching inn – you can still see the original cobbles under the arch

Have a look at the plants on the wall – all these buildings have an abundance of apricots…

Mid May

Mid May

We discussed this walk on the Helen Blaby programme on BBC Northampton in May 2018 & we thought that maybe the apricots were used as some king of payment / barter system. After researching further there’s an article in the Northamptonshire Chronicle & Echo back in 2009 which dispels that theory…

“The local story about the origin of the custom is that since feudal times, when rent was paid to the lord of the manor, Aynho residents paid part of their rent in apricots.

However, the most recent lords of the manor were the Cartwrights, who arrived in 1615, and this tale is denied by the last of the line to live there.

Elizabeth Cartwright-Hignett, was born at the big house, confusingly spelt Aynhoe Park, and returned to it in 1945 after spending the war years in the United States. In her book, Lili At Aynhoe, a biography of her great-great-grandmother, The Countess Elizabeth von Sandizell, Mrs Cartwright-Hignett claims that although this custom is generally accepted, it is incorrect. She simply says that “the origin is unknown, but the result is charming”

7. We now continue past the Hotel into The Square – again there’s so much information on the local link so click here

Chocolate box...

Chocolate box…

8. The building below used to be The White Hart pub…

…you can see the room above the archway. This is where the ‘Pig Club’ used to meet. They made the village decisions re killing & distributing the local swine

9. Many of the properties in The Square used to be the village shops, but sadly these are no longer here. We need to turn right up the alley past the above building & on the left is Catton House, once the home to Susan Prowett a highly regarded dairy farmer…

…& at the top of the slope we’re entering the site of the first ‘National School’ which was formed in 1812 with 50 boys & 1 master. The Master’s House can still be seen below…

10. We need to walk down the gap on the right of this house – it looks as if we’re going into someone’s back garden, but we emerge in an area known as School End & cross the road below into Bowman’s Lea…

…which contains Aynho’s Alms Houses…

These properties were built in 1822 following John Parker leaving funds in his will. They were built for 8 old people (4 men & 4 women)

The tenants had to attend church twice every Sunday & had to be home by 8pm as the gate would be locked

11. Now walk back out of the Close, turning right down the hill. The view from here is pretty amazing (photo doesn’t do it justice)…

12. We’re now entering one of the oldest & most beautiful parts of the village as we turn left down Blacksmith’s Hill…

…the cottages on the right date from 1500…

…so be cheeky & have a look over the walls & in the gardens, especially No. 33 where there’s a 30ft deep well in the garden…

13. The buildings on this hill were home to many of the village’s tradespeople hence the names of the cottages…’Forge Cottage’, ‘The Old Dairy Cottage’ & ‘Dove Cottage’…

Dove Cottage

Dove Cottage

Doves provided fresh meat for the village through the winter…

14. We had a really nice chat with the owner of the house on the left here who told us that a condition of him buying it was he had to make an annual contribution to the upkeep of the church pulpit…

The view from here's pretty spectacular!

The view from here’s pretty spectacular!

15. We now walk across from Dove Cottage & down Skittle Alley…

We’re at the back of the old White Hart pub where games were played, hence the name Skittle Alley! On emerging into Hollow Way we turn right down the hill & follow it left to the junction with the main road below…

16. Be careful crossing the busy road, but over the wall here is College Farm once the site of a hostel & hospital for the poor founded in 1180 by Roger FitzRichard. In the 15th century it was bequeathed to Magdalen College Oxford

17. Continue heading up the hill back towards where we left the car…

…be careful, but if you fancy a look at the village stocks they’re on the right…

…& look at the wisteria on the cottage just around the corner…

18. On the right over the road is one of Aynho’s jewels – Aynho Park

Have a look at this link for current details

It’s a Grade I listed 17th-century country house rebuilt after the English Civil War representing 4 architectural periods: Jacobean, Carolean and both the early 18th and 19th centuries

The estate was purchased in the 17th century by John Cartwright, but the house he built in 1615 was seriously damaged during the Civil War by Royalist forces following the Battle of Naseby. It was rebuilt after the Civil War to the design of Edward Marshall, master mason in Charles II‘s Office of Works. In 1707, Thomas Cartwright employed Thomas Archer to enlarge the Jacobean building. At the beginning of the 19th century, the house was embellished by Sir John Soane

It’s now also home to The White Rooms Medispa which states it’s ‘at the heart of the Cotswolds‘ – maybe a bit of poetic licence here we think…

So here we are at the end of what’s a very short walk around the village. The walk may be short but there’s lots of history here. Now it’s time to stretch our legs across some fields… so…let’s go!!

Aynho walk

1. We start from the Cartwright Arms (maybe after a little refreshment…) & head out of the village past the Grammar House again…

…& after carefully crossing the road the path marker below indicates our route…

2. Be careful stepping over the stone into the alley – you see it’s interesting already as how many times do we come across something like this…

…sadly though there’s another poster on the wall (these are becoming more familiar so dog owners beware)

3. This is quite a long alley between 2 dry stone walls & we can imaging it get’s a bit muddy in winter…

…eventually we come to a low tunnel to pass under…

4. After what seems like an eternity we finally emerge into daylight once more & need to cross the stile below…

…& the path ahead of us is clear along the side of the fence…

It's good be out in the open again

It’s good be out in the open again

Plenty of replacement planting going on too

Plenty of replacement planting going on too

5. At the end of the path there’s a Kissing Gate into the next field…

…& a word of warning here. When we did this walk at the beginning of May the Bullocks in this field were extremely amorous & very inquisitive following us at very close quarters across the field…so be careful!!

They look docile enough at the moment, but we had to turn round & shoo them several times

They look docile enough at the moment, but we had to turn round & shoo them several times

Our exit out of the field’s marked by a white circle through another Kissing Gate…

6. Have you escaped? If so let’s turn right down the track…

It's starting to get a bit pretty down here...

It’s starting to get a bit pretty down here…

7. Eventually we cross Ockley Brook…stand where we’ve come from we’re in Northamptonshire…stand across it we’re now in Oxfordshire

It’s worth spending a few quiet moments here as it’s a lovely place & we saw a great little Wren darting about – too quickly for us to snap

8. Right…come on let’s see what Oxfordshire’s got to offer! Our way out of the woods lies through the gate below over the stile…

…& now follow the right hand field edge through this lovely meadow with plenty of spring flowers (they’re on the left – we know that’s rape on the right!)…

…we saw a Green Woodpecker up here, but he also moved a bit quick

We're heading for the stile at the left of the conifers

We’re heading for the stile at the left of the conifers

As kids we used to hold it under our chins to see if we liked butter - we did!!

As kids we used to hold it under our chins to see if we liked butter – we did!!

9. Enough of laying in the grass taking photos let’s cross that stile & mind our heads on the old fallen tree…

& then up the narrow path

& then up the narrow path

& then up the lane - beware the midges!!

& then up the lane – beware the midges!!

10. The gate at end takes us into the outskirts of the beautiful village of Souldern…we’ll have a closer look in a moment…

…where we just pass through another meadow on a hard track leading to our exit over the stile below…

It's a big drop off this stile so be careful!

It’s a big drop off this stile so be careful!

 11. Over the stile on our left is the church which is undergoing some renovation…

The Church of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary oldest parts are 12th century. The church was enlarged and altered at various times between about 1200 and 1500. The medieval chancel fell into disrepair in the 18th century and was demolished after 1775. In 1896-97 the Gothic Revival architect Ninian Comper rebuilt the chancel and in 1906 G.F. Bodley dismantled and rebuilt the Norman tower and tower

12. After passing the church we keep heading up the lane towards the village itself…

Some gorgeous places up here...

Some gorgeous places up here…

…& eventually we come to the crossroads where, on the left, is the village pond…

Good place to sit & chill for a few moments

Good place to sit & chill for a few moments

13. Our route lies up the right-hand street from the crossroads past the large house with the immaculate hedges…

14. Souldern really is a lovely village although we’re just touching the edges of it on this walk. Moving along the street there’s The Fox Pub which is a great stopping off place as it’s roughly halfway round our walk…

 15. Refreshed?? Well then let’s carry on. Over the road’s a great name for a property…

…there really are some lovely properties along here…

16. After keeping straight on out of the village the road passes the Manor gates & then eventually bends left. At this point we need to head straight on down the track ahead…

Head straight on

Head straight on

Souldern Mill…that's where we need to head

Souldern Mill…that’s where we need to head

17. The track’s now really easy to follow & there’s some really remote properties…

At the bottom of the track there’s a stunner…who lives in this one as it’s very special (having done this walk twice we think it’s a 2nd home) – check out the gardens at the back…

…this is the old Mill building & just around the corner we get our first glimpse of the brook…

18. On your left’s a little footbridge – we don’t need to cross, but we recommend sitting & dangling your legs for a while – the simple things in life…

Right…stop dangling as we need to walk through the ford & up the hill – hope you’ve damp-proofed those walking boots!!

19. At the top of the rise a road from the farm joins from the farm on the left, but we now need to head straight on keeping the Aynho Park dry stone wall on our right…

…mind the stack of logs on the right…

Quite right too!!

Quite right too!!

20. Just keep following the road & it eventually exits onto the main road…

…where we turn right & head up the hill back into Aynho & where we left our car

21. We nearly managed to do this, but heard a loud moo from over the wall so had to have a quick peep – here’s our newest friends!

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

So that’s the end of our walk around one of Northamptonshire’s most southernmost villages & one of its most stunning. What we loved was that the locals we spoke to were extremely friendly & very happy to share the history of their special place with us – they’re quite rightly proud of it

We’ve also made a diary note to go back & taste one of this apricots!!

It’s a beautiful place (not in the Cotswolds…) so Go Walk!

 

 

 

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