We often visit Blewbury, although this is usually to eat lunch at the Style Acre tea room. This week I decided to explore the village itself. What did I discover?
Blewbury is a downland village three miles south of Didcot. It has a long history; Blewburton Hill was occupied from the 4th century BC, St Birinus (possibly) preached at Churn Knob in the 7th century and 89 households were registered in the Domesday Book in 1086. Nowadays around 1600 people live in the village.
My walk started from the noticeboard on the corner of London Road/South Street. Whilst I’ve recorded my route below I highly recommend just wandering. Either way it’s a good idea to take a photo of the map for reference.
My first port of call was The Cleve. Blewbury is located around natural springs, partially resulting in this large pond. It was once used for growing watercress. Nowadays it’s home to a few ducks and is a popular spot for dog walks and afternoon strolls.
Leaving behind the stream I arrived at the Red Lion, one of the village’s two remaining pubs. I’ve eaten here several times and highly recommend it. The other pub is The Blueberry on the London Road. This specialises in wood fired pizza and although I’ve not visited the reviews look good.
Beside the pub is a lane with thatched cob walls on either side. There are six cob walls in Blewbury, believed to be of Saxon origin. The walls are constructed from wattle (woven branches) and daub (a mix of chalky soil, sand, straw, lime and cow dung) and then coated in lime render. These historic walls, and network of footpaths, are a significant feature of the village.
As I continued my walk down Church Road and along South Street the other feature that stood out for me was the variety of housing styles. Whilst I’ve included a few photographs of picture perfect thatched cottages (of which there are many) there are also converted barns, retirement bungalows, modern estates, a caravan park and houses straight out of Grand Designs.
Just before the turn into Watts Lane there’s a chance to see the Blewbury Wagon. Housed under a traditional shelter the wagon was built in 1895 and subject to recent extensive restoration. It is now used on special village occasions and on permanent display in the grounds of Orchard Dene.
The grounds of Orchard Dene are also home to an outdoor amphitheatre where the Blewbury Players put on a yearly summer show.
St Michael’s Church
From Watts Lane a footpath leads to St Michael’s church and churchyard. The church is primarily Saxon, with some Norman additions. An information board in the churchyard notes that until relatively recently a bell was rung at 8pm every winter evening in order to guide people down from the nearby Downs.
It was lovely to see that the churchyard is managed for wildlife, with four different habitats maintained. Indeed the whole village appears to be environmentally aware, thanks to Sustainable Blewbury. They are an active group, running a regular talk programme, climate change initiatives and environmental activities such as hedge laying and apple juicing.
Around the churchyard are the almshouses and The School House. The almshouses were originally built to house the oldest and most deserving men in the village. Women may be pleased to know they can also be considered, following a rule change in the 20th century.
The School House was built in 1709 to educate poor children. Boys were taught downstairs, girls upstairs. It was used until the new village school was built in 1970.
Kenneth Grahame plaque
From the church I followed one of the village footpaths, along Curtoys Lane, out on to Westbrook Street. I turned right and walked along to Bohams House. Hiding beside an overgrown plant is a blue plaque to Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows, who lived here from 1910-1920.
Turning around I walked back up Westbrook Street towards the London Road, before turning left onto another village footpath. This led into Watery Lane and up to Nottingham Fee. Blewbury has over 70 listed houses and structures; the ones around Watery Lane were some of my favourites.
The top of Nottingham Fee meets the London Road, near to the starting point of this walk. If you’re in need of a drink I suggest you turn right for a trip to the Style Acre tea room at Savages (although do check current opening days/times first).
So that’s my walk of Blewbury complete. Impressions? A thriving village with an active community, my kind of place. Just to balance this view I checked the village Facebook group and it looks like they also have the usual problems with dog poo, poor broadband and litter. Nowhere’s perfect!
Walks further afield
If you’re looking to extend your village walk the two best options are Blewburton Hill or the chalk pit.
Blewburton Hill is an Iron Age Hill fort. The route starts from the farm track off of Bessel‘s Way (just opposite Bessel’s Lea Road). There’s a trig point on the summit, situated between two fences.
The chalk pit walk follows the track up Rubble Pit Lane, off London Road, just opposite Westbrook Street. It heads steeply uphill and can be very muddy and slippy after wet weather. However, once you reach the chalk pit there are great views of the surrounding countryside (and Didcot), and a couple of helpfully located memorial seats.
It’s possible to incorporate both of these into longer walks but the easiest route back to the village is to retrace your footsteps and return the way you came.