THE little Cotswold town of Northleach developed near the point where the Roman Fosse Way crossed a prehistoric trackway which now forms the High Street.

Bypassing Northleach to the west is Salt Way, which crosses another Roman Road, Akeman Street, not far to the south.

A little further west there runs another prehistoric salt way, known as White Way, which meets the Fosse Way at Cirencester. As you might expect, the surrounding countryside is well supplied with ancient monuments, including long barrows, tumuli, various types of earthwork and enclosure and the remains of several Roman villas and a temple.

Nothing quite so old survives in Northleach itself, but its streets are rich in architectural charm and interest.

The church of St Peter and St Paul is sometimes known as the Cathedral of the Cotswolds, its south porch acclaimed as the most beautiful in England.

Built circa 1350, then mostly rebuilt circa 1410, it’s a fine example of the Perpendicular style. The rebuilding was paid for by John Fortey, a wool merchant.

He died in 1458 and is buried in the church. In Fortey’s time, when Cotswold wool was renowned throughout Europe, this quiet little town was an important international market for raw wool.

Northleach gained its market charter in 1227 when it also established the Court Leet, which appoints law enforcement officers and is the earliest form of democracy in local government.

The market is still held every Wednesday morning and the court leet meets annually, but the positions are purely honorary these days.

The layout of the town centre has survived relatively unchanged since 1500 and most of the buildings are of 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century origin. Do explore the small alleys around Market Place, such as Church Walk, College Row, Town Row and The Green. Leave Market Place by the post office to find the church which, for all its size, is tucked away out of sight.

A little way along High Street from Market Place is Keith Harding’s World of Mechanical Music, which occupies Oak House, once home to a wool merchant and then used as a grammar school from 1589 until 1902. The museum houses a collection of musical automata such as barrel pianos, musical boxes and polyphons.

Local tourist information is available at Keith Harding’s Museum and also at the post office, and there’s a useful map by the bus stop in Market Place.

Northleach sits below the High Wold, an area of the Cotswolds where the relative bleakness of the landscape is compensated for by a multitude of attractive villages, four of which are included in this walk. Look out for the large sycamore tree which is a special feature of each village; the one at Farmington is particularly magnificent.

Each village is packed with characteristic Cotswold cottages and each has an interesting church.

St George’s at Hampnett is the most remarkable. The chancel is a fine example of Norman workmanship but in the 1870s it was entirely covered with pseudo-mediaeval paintings by the rector, the Rev Wiggin. Some people are appalled by them, but perhaps whatever they lack in artistic merit is made up for in entertainment value.


Start: Northleach, at junction of A40/A429 south-east of Cheltenham; grid ref SP113145. Length: 10 ½ miles/17km. Maps: OS Explorer OL45, OS Landranger 163.

Terrain: Undulating, mostly arable, good paths and tracks, byways and quiet lanes. Footpaths: Hard to fault.

Stiles: Four. Parking: Market Place.

Public transport: Train to Moreton-in- Marsh then bus 801, or train to Cheltenham then bus 801 or 853; or

Refreshments: Northleach.


1 Walk south-east along High Street, past the Red Lion, then turn left by Keith Harding’s Museum on to Farmington Road.

About 500m after passing under the A40 take the Monarch’s Way on the right and follow it into a valley.

Cross Sherborne Brook at the second footbridge and go uphill to a stile visible at the top. Continue across a field to meet a track and turn left past the Old Rectory. Pass St Peter’s Church then turn left through Farmington. Turn right at the green then shortly fork left on a gated lane.

2 Look for a boulder on the right with an arrow carved into it.

This marks the spot where the combined Monarch’s Way and Diamond Way leave the lane.

Follow the well-trodden path for about two miles across several fields. The only place where it’s possible to go wrong is in a large field bisected by a dry valley – go obliquely left without straying more than about 50m from the left edge. After that the path leads easily to Goms Hole and a junction with a resticted byway, the Sabrina Way. Turn left on this, leaving the Monarch’s Way and Diamond Way.

Ignore all branching paths, cross the A429 and continue in the same direction to Cold Aston. Keep straight on through the village.

3 Turn left at the far end of the village, opposite Hathaway House, still on the Sabrina Way, which is soon joined by the Macmillan Way. Proceed to Turkdean and turn left through the village. Soon after passing the church take a bridleway on the right and descend steeply to join a driveway. Follow it to a lane and turn right. Keep straight on at a junction, crossing the A40 and following a lane to Hampnett.

Walk the full length of the village.

After passing St George’s Church ignore a resticted byway on the right and proceed a few metres further to a footpath, the Monarch’s Way, which is easily followed across fields to Northleach.


Worcester News recommends the
use of OS Explorer Maps, your
ideal passport to navigating the
countryside. This walk is based
on OS Explorer OL45.