Creating a village trail for families of Shipton under Wychwood

Back in the days before we had heard of coronavirus, as Heritage representative of the Cotswolds branch of The Arts Society, based in Burford, I was planning to create a Trail of

Discovery of Swinbrook church. As many of you will know, it is a fascinating church, as is nearby Widford. My background is in teaching and I work with children, so I wanted to make a children’s trail. I had done lots of research and gathered a group of willing volunteers to help me. Then COVID struck and the church was closed and that was that for the time being.

For a while everything was on hold and then the Arts Society looked again at their Trails of Discovery and came up with the idea of doing town, village and neighbourhood trails that do not involve going inside any buildings. This fitted much better with the restrictions at the time and I decided to shelve the plans for Swinbrook church for the time being and make a village trail for children, but of my own village of Shipton. I felt I already knew a certain amount about the village and could quite easily find out more. It felt more in keeping with the restrictions we were under at the time to stay local and recruit local volunteers to help. Simon and Christine Bucknall, who live in the village, kindly offered to help me while Alan Vickers and the history society gave valuable input; it was a good team effort.

Gradually things took shape. We formed an idea of what we wanted to include and a basic route, deciding to do the trail in two parts, following the historical layout of the village, with optional amounts of walking required. As the trail was aimed at children, the Wild Garden was a must, as was the play park. We sought advice on historical accuracy and suitability of wording for children.

The trail is designed to be completed by children aged 8 to 12, accompanied by a carer, but I think its appeal is wider than that. These newer Arts Society trails also come with a poster that has a QR code on it. These can be put up in local shops and village halls, etc., as well as being on local websites and the trail can be downloaded on to a phone or tablet from the code. They are not yet fully interactive, but the Arts Society is working on this. Paper copies will also be widely available.

The plan is that, having done a trail of one village, we can go on to make more trails of other local villages and gradually build up a collection. My plan is to focus on Milton next, followed by Ascott and I will soon be looking for volunteers!

Look out for the posters and give the trail a try, whether or not you have children or grandchildren and enjoy exploring our lovely village. You might discover something new along the way.

Clare Iley

October-November 2021