Banburyshire Rambles Photo-Journal

Paul Mobbs’ photographic record of his walks around ‘Banburyshire’ and ‘The Irondowns’, and occasionally, as part of his work around Britain, the areas beyond.

Banburyshire’s Ancient Sites:
Banbury Lane

A Medieval and possibly pre-historic route, Banbury Lane traces a straight-ish north-east/south-west route following the form of the landscape through Northamptonshire, to the crossing of the Cherwell in Banbury, and then off towards Whichford Heath, The Rollright Stones, and the Cotswolds beyond.

Summary for ‘Banbury Lane’:

Location: Medieval or earlier drove road, Northampton, Banbury, Stow-on-the-Wold

Type: ‘Ancient tracks & Lanes’.

Condition: A few off-road sections in Northamptonshire, but otherwise surfaced roads.

Access: Public roads and byways.

Further information: Local Drove Roads.

Walks posts for site: {none yet}

As a cycling route, Banbury Lane is a wonderful line to take through the landscape – mostly following ridges through the countryside, passing through very few places along the way. It doesn’t really connect to the modern transport network, running south-east to north-west. It follows a more ancient corridor that traversed the country from the east of England to The Cotswolds.

From the Nene Bridge in Northampton, Banbury Lane goes south-west towards Rothersthorpe, crossing Watling Street at Pattishall. Then it meanders through the rolling South Northants landscape, occasionally ‘off-road’ along byways, or narrow surfaced roads running between broad verges, until Culworth – where the landscape changes to the steeper ridges of The Irondowns.

Descending Thenford Hill, and crossing the clay plain past Middleton Cheney, it enters Banbury from the east. Today that’s on the Nineteenth Century turnpike route (the A422) down Blacklocks Hill, though before it may have gone past the village of Overthorpe and through Nethercote.

The crossing point on the River Cherwell is certain. This has been the crossing on the river since Saxon times. Today two stone arches of the Medieval bridge can be seen buried beneath the Victorian brick bridge, which crosses the Mill Stream in Bridge Street. Passing Banbury Cross, it leaves the town via West Bar, where the Medieval ‘White Cross’ once stood beside the road (like the others, destroyed by Puritans around 1600).

Beyond Banbury the route follows a long, undulating ridge line: From Broughton Castle, to Tadmarton Heath, to Whichford Heath.

At Great Rollright Banbury Lane crosses The Jurassic Way, and merges with the ‘Cotswold Ridgeway’ as it passes The Rollright Stones. Beyond Great Rollright the raised course of the lane can be seen crossing the fields parallel to the modern road.

Passing the Rollright Stones and then Chastleton Barrow, the route carries on across the Evenlode valley to Stow, Naunton, and Seven Springs (one source of the River Thames), ultimately ending on the ancient route along the Cotswold escarpment at Birdlip – near the ancient settlement at Crickley Hill.

As noted above, to travel the route the best option is a bicycle. Cutting between major roads the lane has become a bit of a rat-run, and walking along certain sections of the road is a tad dangerous.

What’s really interesting about the route, though, is that it shows how over time priorities, and hence the literal and metaphorical direction of travel, change:

Today England is London-centric, and certainly since Medieval times travel routes have reflected that priority – radiating out from the London area;

Banbury Lane represents an earlier priority, during the time of the Saxons and Danelaw – towards the East Anglian coastline, and beyond to Europe and Scandinavia.

Locally, walking the route also shows how settlement and transport patterns have changed with land inclosure, and the development of the ‘modern’ roads network with the turnpike roads of the late 18th Century.

For example, from the crossroads above Overthorpe the road curves left into the village, while a footpath goes straight on towards Nethercote. Following that footpath, you can see in the field the clear outline of an older wide trackway that traces a route between the ridge and furrow around the hill. On the far side of the hill it meets another track that diverges on a less-steep course down the hill than the modern Overthorpe Road, and then heads off into Banbury.

In a very general sense, Banbury Lane is a nice route through the countryside that passes some historic places. Look more closely, though, and the visual clues, and the historical development of the villages along its route, give a picture into how patterns of human activity change over ‘deep history’and by extension, that what we might consider permanent in the world today is really only transitory.