Walking Around Deddington was the title of a series of articles by the late Ralph Elsley published in Deddington News in 1994. This updated version was compiled some years later, but still well before the era of mobile phones and GPS.

Walking Around Deddington

'Walking around Deddington is not the same as walking round Deddington. For some years after I retired I walked round Deddington and it was a pleasant if not very taxing exercise, with its own peculiar rewards. I was constantly meeting and getting to know people; I could appreciate the drastic reduction in the flow of traffic when the M40 was opened, and then measure with growing apprehension how it was building up again. In an editorial for Deddington News ten years ago I commented upon the things to be observed on my daily excursions: "some slight modification to the skyline, some quiet infilling, some indication of a change of tenure, some regrettable closing or hopeful new opening: all of which are part and parcel of the tranquil and essential drama of village life."

'Such sallies, however, were not without some element of risk. I twice witnessed accidents at the traffic lights - on the second occasion at 50 yards' distance I saw an enormous articulated lorry suddenly jack-knife slap-bang into the side of the library. I never felt quite safe on that corner afterwards.

'A year or so ago I had cause to take more vigorous exercise, so now I have extended my range and seriously taken to walking around Deddington. I meet far fewer people, but there is ample chance to commune with nature, and on the whole there is no great risk. Ken Hart tells me of the nasty shock he had when a hidden rook-scaring device went off behind a hedge he was passing, and I recall with anguish tripping and falling into a bed of nettles in flimsy summer attire. Moreover, one is a little apprehensive about chance encounters with strangers in remote spots (I always leave my wallet behind just in case). There can be no doubt, though, that the variety and scope of travelling further afield are ample rewards for the extra effort and possible hazards involved. Coming shortly, there will be a map which covers all the routes that I regularly take and which are listed here.

'I aim to walk five miles a day and there is plenty of choice. Based on this plan, a series of walks is listed below, with a separate sketch with notes and observations. The distances will be from three to six miles and I shall indicate how long they may take. In the course of a year I have found that conditions vary enormously according to the season. The best walking tends to be in the drier summer months (when it is not too hot) or in the crisp clear winter days when the ground is firm and clean. I discovered, to my surprise, that the late spring and early summer can prove difficult as the luxuriant growth of grass, weeds and nettles (and even tree branches) can sometimes present a virtually insurmountable obstacle. It is also wise to check the force and direction of the wind when deciding which route to take. For this our church is an invaluable help with its resplendent vanes. I shall also bear in mind in my recommendations that some gradients - depending on the walker's condition - may prove rather too much, especially at the end of a long and tiring walk.

'Deddington starts off by being pretty high up in the world and what goes down has also to come up, sometimes rather sharply. Inevitably there is, and it is part of the pleasure, an unpredictable element in such venturing forth. It can be quite disarming how familiar landmarks can shift or disappear overnight: tractors may suddenly transform an easy walkway into a challenging quagmire - in fact only today in a narrow lane I found myself confronting a flock of sheep being driven to drier pastures. It is not always easy even with map in hand to find one's way - the signposting is pretty desultory. It took me weeks to locate Bowman's Bridge, and once or twice I have emerged from an unmarked track past a notice declaring that all along I have been trespassing. I did this last summer in the New Forest, and read too late on the front of the signboard "Beware Adders"!

'In conclusion let me recommend for those who would like some exercise without wellingtons or walking boots the splendid new footpath to Hempton. It takes about 25 minutes each way, and if you want another 25 minute extension on clean roadway you can turn down to the left to Tomwell Farm half way along. There are some beautiful, open views on the right as you go out, but I will now leave it to you to make your own discoveries.'

1. The Short Circuit
2. On the Western Circuit
3. The Grand Tour
4. North & South
5. Pastures New
6. The Quiet Waters By
7. Last but not Least
8. Conclusion

    To live in Deddington's my privilege:
    Yet I was twenty years in residence
    Before I found my way to Bowman's Bridge,
    Or walked abroad, braving the elements,
    To find what Cherwell Valley had to yield,
    In shape of such sweet pastoral delights,
    To one prepared to venture far afield.
    Now they have all become familiar sights:
    Beguiling country-lanes provide the means
    (Green Hedges, Cosy, Chapman's and Snake Hill)
    To make my daily trek through lovely scenes
    And drink in beauty 'til I've had my fill.
    And there before me once I'm homeward bound
    Stands high that noble tower with pennons crowned.
    Ralph Elsley