WALK TO THE SITE OF ORPHEUS ROMAN PAVEMENT
Distance 5.5km 1-1.5 hours
This walk is fairly easy it takes you along quiet lanes and footpaths through fields and both North and South Woodchester village, passing two pubs, a village shop. Interesting buildings, old trees and valley views.
The Romans were in Woodchester from the 2nd Century and built an extensive and important villa complex here in the 4th Century. Woodchester would have been on an important trade route situated between the Roman towns of Bath, Cirencester and Gloucester and the sheltered valley would have been considered an ideal spot for an elegant residence.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to see of the old Roman villa complex only an interesting weathered old information board. The famous pavement still lies buried under the churchyard but the whole site is very atmospheric with some mediaeval church ruins and old yew trees and it is easy to imagine why this valley was a favoured site and to feel the echo of history.
> START from Woodchester Valley Vineyard Tasting Room walk downhill, enjoying fine views over the valley, to meet Convent Lane and turn LEFT
>Walk down with high wall of the Convent on right side and vineyard on left, then houses on both sides, continue steeply downhill.
>As road curves down to the right pass directly next to Cotswold stone house wall on left with tall fir tree ahead- shortly after turn LEFT through metal kissing gate, pass pond and Redwood trees
>Go through a wooden kissing gate and cross tarmac drive
> Go through another metal kissing gate, enter field (usually has horses in) follow well-worn path ahead towards large tree then diagonally up to left corner of field with step through metal stile. (There is a bench to stop and enjoy the view of the Amberley vineyard and industrial heritage mill buildings in valley below.)
>Walk up a few steps to road and turn RIGHT, passing houses on both sides go along and downhill to meet a road
> Turn LEFT to pass water well coming out at spring line, continue ahead through village with charming houses till you reach a half-timbered house on the left and a meeting of four ways named “CORNERWAYS”. (You may want to detour slightly to visit THE RAM INN a pub with fine views, it is downhill to the right, it has been recorded as an inn since 1766.)
At “CORNERWAYS” you have two options, A) a short but steep diversion uphill and down for some nice views and a walk past an impressive old oak tree or B) an easy walk along with good trees too!
>STEEP UPHILL OPTION A- At “Cornerways” crossroads turn LEFT and go steeply uphill, at fork go LEFT up, up, up with houses on both sides for 150m until just before the wood at the top you see a footpath sign on the right- pointing at a narrow path between two houses.
>Turn RIGHT along narrow path and Left at end to emerge over stile into field
>Follow path ahead along top of field and enjoy the broad view of the valley, a good spot for a rest
>Path turns RIGHT diagonally downhill to a stile at to right of stables
>Cross lane and continue ahead down steps on path between gardens to another stile
>Enter the open landscaped parkland of Woodchester House with many interesting old specimen trees, pass magnificent old oak tree on way downhill
>Cross wooden bridge over little stream, climb up and through metal kissing gate, through metal kissing gate
>Continue uphill slightly left to metal kissing gate, walk along through copse
>Exit through metal kissing turn LEFT to emerge onto tarmac road with church on right and continue straight ahead to re-join main walk
>EASY OPTION B at crossroads “Cornerways” four paths meet- continue on track STRAIGHT AHEAD following footpath sign with dry stone wall on your left i.e. neither uphill nor downhill. (You may want to detour to The RAM a pub with fine views, it is slightly downhill to the right, it has been recorded as an inn since 1766.)
> Through metal kissing gate, continue straight ahead slightly downhill, footpath goes up on grass to LEFT of road and passes Woodchester House entrance gates on left
>Continue straight ahead down and up through a series of three kissing gates- through lovely parkland with old trees
>At Metal kissing gate emerge onto tarmac road and continue straight ahead with church on the right
BOTH OPTIONS A and B NOW JOIN MAIN WALK
>Continue straight ahead with churchyard on right, pass trees, then follow long Cotswold stone wall on left then pass the ROYAL OAK INN (recorded as an inn since 1781)
> At road T junction turn RIGHT going downhill, to the Village Shop on your left
>Shortly after shop, at phone box (with defibrillator) turn LEFT into field with footpath sign SITE OF ROMAN VILLA
Option for a short walk to visit the OLD FLEECE pub and restaurant continue downhill to T junction with road in valley floor turn LEFT along pavement after around 250 metres there is a traffic light pedestrian crossing. Cross here and the OLD FLEECE is in front of you. The characterful building is a 250-year-old former coaching inn.
>Go through metal kissing gate and continue straight ahead on left side of field. You are now entering the site of an extensive Roman Villa complex from the 4th Century-this sheltered valley with good sun was an ideal spot
>Exit left side of field by kissing gate, along a narrow path and a second kissing gate- turn RIGHT- road bends right towards old stonewall and stone pillar on left with an interesting information board and illustrations of the large Roman Villa complex and Orpheus mosaic. The great pavement design centres on the Greek myth of Orpheus god of music charming the birds and bees with his lyre. It was first excavated in 1793 and last in 1968 it is the grandest known mosaic floor north of the Alps. It now lies covered over, for preservation, in its original site in the churchyard. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument
> Glimpsing over the churchyard wall you can see a beautiful avenue of Yew trees leading up to an arch and a window the last remains of the old mediaeval church.
A few steps head on the LEFT you may wish to enter the churchyard by stone steps to the left of the metal gate. (Note that this is still a consecrated site and that the Parish Church warns that the remains are old and could be dangerous)
After looking around the atmospheric site either return along the same route you came from or there is an option to do a longer walk here if you want to climb up the hill to the viewpoint or visit the BELL INN at Selsley. Or for a short walk to visit the OLD FLEECE pub and restaurant return to road and turn LEFT downhill at T junction with road in valley floor turn LEFT along road after around 250 metres there is a traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing. Cross here and the OLD FLEECE is in front of you. The characterful building is a 250-year-old former coaching inn.
>LEFT through two kissing gates, through field
>RIGHT at road, walk uphill 175 metres passing interesting stone walls
>LEFT onto Church Road pass Royal Oak Inn, long stone wall and church
>Go through metal kissing gate ahead, follow footpath down and up through another three kissing gates
>Pass Woodchester House entrance gates on your right, continue along drive and then path beside stone wall
>At “CORNERWAYS” four ways meet-continue straight ahead, slightly left and uphill, on road through village
> FORK RIGHT at well, slightly uphill
>Turn LEFT to enter field by a metal step through stile
>Cross field diagonally down to kissing gate
>Cross tarmac drive, go through a kissing gate, follow path up through field and another kissing gate
>Turn RIGHT and follow road uphill and around to Woodchester Vineyard
> Turn RIGHT at vineyard entrance and follow stone road uphill back to the Tasting Room to enjoy a well-earned glass of wine!
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