Ascott footpaths

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Ascott is a classic example of what geographers call a ‘ribbon’ settlement, one that is strung out in one long ribbon.  From one end to the other is little short of a mile, but stretched along its length is an enticing web of footpaths just waiting to be explored, all of which are shown on the map opposite.

Starting at the end of the High Street, just before it turns into a track to the mill, path 1 arcs up across the fields towards Chilson.  That ‘up’ gives it its character as it then follows the valley side with views down into the Evenlode’s flood plain.  It is easy to follow, and continues to Charlbury for the more intrepid.

Paths which start in villages and end on the road, without any continuation in sight, have limited appeal and one wonders why they were ever designated as public rights of way.  Paths 2, 3, 4 and 12 all fall into this category; 2 starts at the same point as path 1 while 3 and 4 start beside the allotments, rising to the Charlbury road.  Not surprisingly, they are very little used and therefore not generally clear to follow on the ground but that is of little import on such straight paths.

Next up is path 11.  Right up to the top of the hill, this is a well maintained farm road but once the farm is passed, the track, while always clearly visible, becomes narrower and narrower, descending to a dry valley and coming out onto the forest road to Leafield with that village itself just a quarter of a mile away, albeit up a steep section of road.

Paths 5 and 7 break the rule about pointless paths, those which simply join a village with a road, with nothing beyond, for each has a strong redeeming feature.  Path 7 is best started on the main A361, opposite the Kingham turn, because it is one long descent with huge views right down the valley to Charlbury; easy walking, even if the ground is not clearly marked, plus that view, make this one highly recommended path.  Path 5 has a very different attraction; right near the bottom, after following the stream downwards, and on the edge of the village, is a beautifully restored sheep wash and fish pond, the latter dating back to the mid 12th century when it supplied fish for Ascott Earl.  Its history is well explained on an illustrated board beside the stream.  While the path itself is unexceptional, and its start on the Charlbury road is both well hidden and slightly lethal, this feature is definitely worth exploring.

Path 6 begins on the sharp bend at the western end of the village, crossing the Evenlode before slanting gently towards the railway between high hedges.  One strand of this path crosses the line and comes to the bottom of the hill out of Shipton on the A361 while the other hugs the river bank before emerging onto the main road at Shipton garage.

That just leaves paths 8, 9 and 10.  Path 9 starts just beyond the level crossing, following a tarmac track to several barn conversions and a rather fetching, if somewhat dilapidated tree house that is proudly labelled ‘Ascott Doyley’.  From there, a path forks off, crossing the river and joining path 8 which began just above the river bridge, forming the main Oxfordshire Way.  This is a leisurely and well used path, as befits its name, never spectacular but quietly attractive as it crosses field boundaries on its way to Pudlicote and beyond to Charlbury.

Whichever way you look, the pathways of Ascott are ripe for exploration.

RWF

June – July 2020