Explore our area
Shipston is the small Midlands market town that’s convenient for everywhere, from Birmingham and Stratford through to the Cotswolds, Oxford and on to London. But while you’re here, explore the local area – we don’t hide our ‘hidden’ gems, we all know they’re here. We’ve got beautiful villages, we’ve got farm shops, we’ve got stunning rural churches, we’ve got peaceful walks and cycleways, we’ve got village pubs, we’ve got stone circles, we’ve got woods, we’ve got ancient history – in fact, we’ve got the perfect, traditional English rural life. Here’s a taster to see what’s around and about.
Alderminster is a beautiful small village not far from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire and sits on the edge of the River Stour. The village is divided by the A3400, the through route between Stratford and Shipston-on-Stour.
Many of the houses within Alderminster date back to around the 1820s and were originally built for the workers on the Alscot estate. A few of the houses are Georgian in style, with one cottage believed to date back before the English Civil War.
Little is really known about the history of the village, with some believing that it was originally positioned on the top of the hill overlooking the current site, moving down to the edge of the River Stour around the time of the Black Death.
At its heart is the church of St Mary and the Holy Cross, parts of which are nearly 1,000 years old. It stands on the west side of the road near the centre of the village. The track of the derelict Stratford to Moreton-in-Marsh railway, one of the earliest lines in England, passes through the parish by the roadside. Goldicote House, the residence of the Hon Claud Berkeley Portman, with its fine grounds, is situated on the Banbury Road, three miles north of the church.
And for English dining at its finest, don’t miss the Bell!
Brailes Hill is a noted landmark which can be seen for many miles around. The group of beech trees on the summit make it a distinctive sight. As the hill is private property, the only time the summit can be walked is on the day of the Brailes Three Hills Walk, which takes place every May Bank Holiday Monday and raises funds for the village school and the sports pavilion.
The village itself is made up of Lower and Upper Brailes, and is found on the Warwickshire/Oxfordshire border three miles east of Shipston. From Shipston, follow the signs to Banbury over the bridge, Brailes is four miles up the hill.
It is within the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and you can take advantage of the stunning scenery by walking the well-maintained and well-used network of footpaths around the village. A map of these walks is mounted on the village hall.
As well as the Three Hills Walk, Brailes also holds its annual flower and horse show – on the second Saturday of August – which is always well worth a visit. Accommodation, good food and entertainment are provided at both of the village’s pubs, the George and the Gate.
The rectory farmhouse in the village was the birthplace of William Bishop, the first Roman Catholic bishop in England after the Reformation. Directly off the B4035 Shipston to Banbury road, the imposing 14th Century church of St George’s is the glory of Brailes, reflecting its past prosperity. Its bells are still regularly rung – campanologists note, come to experience the unique sway of the tower when the peals go full swing!
Cherington lies three miles southeast of Shipston. Take the London Road (B3400) out of the town and follow the signs to turn left. The parish church of Saint John the Baptist has 13th Century features, including the Gothic east windows of the chancel and the lower stages of the bell tower, and is well worth a visit. Moving through time, the upper stages of the tower are 15th Century, as are the perpendicular Gothic clerestory and roof of the nave. The church tower had three bells until 1842, when one was recast and two more added to make a ring of five, and all were rehung. In 2006 Taylors Eayre and Smith recast one of the 1842 bells, cast another to increase the ring to six and rehung them all.
Cherington House is thought to date from the 17th Century, and Cherington Mill is on the River Stour.
This is a beautiful area for ramblers and there is a lovely walk between Cherington and Lower Brailes. The Cherington Arms is a favourite stopping place for walkers – tarry for a pint and you will see why.
Ettington was once two settlements, Upper Eatington and Lower Eatington, on the turnpike roads from Stratford to Banbury and Warwick to Moreton. Head towards Stratford from Shipston and Ettington is on the right – you’ll see the hotel from the road.
Ettington Park has been home to the Shirley family since the Domesday book, the census commissioned by William the Conqueror. The estate and fine house is now a four-star hotel and conference centre which was built between 1858–62, now a good venue for Sunday lunch. It is a fine example of the French and Italian Gothic style of architecture promoted by John Ruskin, a poet, artist, critic and social revolutionary, and ardent conservationist of the day. The last Shirley resident, Sewallis, the original family name from the Domesday Book, was the founder of the Kennel Club. Ettington Park Hotel is itself renowned as being haunted and was investigated for the first time by Midlands’ Ghost Hunt Company ‘Eerie Evenings’ on October 31, 2009.
One of the oldest buildings still in existence is a Quaker meeting house that dates back to 1684. The village church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and Thomas a Becket.
Great and Little Wolford
Great and Little Wolford nestle in the rolling hills of the North Cotswolds between Chipping Norton in the south, Shipston in the north and Moreton in the west. Head out of Shipston on the London Road towards Oxford and after two miles or so turn right into Little Wolford. You’ll see the tiny lodge, designed by Blore (Buckingham Palace’s architect) – about the only thing of the Wolfords that can be seen from the road.
Most of the two villages are built from Cotswold stone, or a combination of stone and handmade brick (sourced from the valley that separates the two villages.
Little Wolford is higher than Great Wolford, so stop to admire the stunning farmland scenery and the far-reaching views. Move down to Great Wolford and think bespoke furniture, think mosaics and think the cosy, beamed 16th Century Fox and Hounds inn, serving food and local ale. Sit with a pint in these tranquil villages and ponder why rain in the west drains down to the River Stour in the west, while rain in the east runs off to the River Thames and on to the English Channel.
Historically the villages were owned by different estates – Lord Redesdale of Batsford Park owned Great Wolford until it was sold in 1924, whereas the Weston Estate owned Little Wolford. The villages have both expanded slowly over the years and retain the quiet charm of peaceful Cotswold life. You can’t get more traditional and quintessentially English than this!
Halford is a parish that lies on the River Stour, four miles north of Shipston. Head towards Stratford from the town and turn right at the roundabout on the Fosseway. Whereas the name refers to an old ford at this spot, now it’s a noted bridge!
This important bridge across the River Stour at Halford was the site of a famous skirmish during the English Civil War on March 6, 1645. Troops’ clothing was very important and the Royalists raided a supply convoy travelling from Gloucester to Warwick as it crossed the original narrow bridge, seizing more than £10,000 of cloth and 120 horses.
History is remembered in August at Halford in a more colourful way – the Feed the Rats ceremony. One you have to see to appreciate and find out why the rats have to be placated!
Accommodation, food and all refreshment is available at the Halford.
Idlicote – turn right just out of Shipston on the road to Stratford – is a small village set between tributaries of the River Stour and surrounded by picturesque countryside, rolling down to the White Horse Vale to the east and the Stour Valley south of the village. This is the place for beautiful walks and stunning architecture.
Several miles of public footpaths pass through the village and surrounding farmland, including the Centenary Way, a 93-mile route that starts in Kingsbury Water Park and ends in Upper Quinton.
Most of the village’s 35 houses, centred around an attractive duck pond, are built of red brick, Blue Lias or Hornton Stone. Outstanding buildings include St James the Great church, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book and consists of a chancel, south chapel, nave with a north porch and a south aisle. Idlicote House, which is mainly late Georgian with substantial Victorian remodelling, has an unusually large dovecote of white stone with red Kenilworth stone dressings, ogee windows and an embattled parapet about a pointed roof, which can arguably be attributed to the Gothic revival architect Sanderson Miller.
William Underhill, owner of the Idlicote Estate, famously sold New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon to William Shakespeare on May 4, 1597. Fulk, William’s eldest son, was so enraged by the sale that he poisoned his father in July of that year and was subsequently executed at Warwick. Legend has it that every year in early July an apparition of William Underhill roams the grounds of Idlicote House audibly bemoaning his son.
Ilmington is about two miles north of Shipston– head towards Stratford from the town and turn left shortly after the roundabout. It’s a beautiful village, mainly built of warm, honey-coloured local Cotswolds limestone, nestling at the foot of the Campden hills, in particular Windmill Hill, is surrounded by green fields and classed as part of the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty.
Being totally unspoilt, with old stone cottages and a village green, it has an old church where bells still ring out over the orchard. Accommodation is available at the Howard Arms, food is available here and at the Red Lion.
There is a restored Manor House, the beautiful gardens of which are normally open to the public twice a year.
The Norman church of St. Mary is set beyond a quiet, small pathway. Once through the 16th Century porch and into the church you will find splendid oak pews and other furnishings. These were installed in the 1930s and are the work of mastercraftsman Robert Thompson (Mouseman), whose descendants still produce stout oak furniture in his original workshop in the small village of Kilburn on the North Yorkshire moors. Thompson’s furniture includes the unique signature of a carved mouse – and there are 11 mice carved on the Ilmington oak within the church. Count them!
Little Compton, on the A44 between Moreton and Chipping Norton, was originally located in Gloucester, but in 1845 was transferred to Warwickshire. The houses in the village are mainly of ragstone with either thatched roofs, slates, pantiles or stone tiles.
The manor house, consisting of three storeys, faces south and stands to the west of the church. There is a wing dating from the early 16th Century and a further wing containing the entrance hall and main staircase that was added in 1927.
The village is hilly – so look out for stunning views and stiff walks! Accommodation at the Red Lion or B&B at the Old School.
Long Compton, found about five miles out of Shipston on the London Road heading towards Oxford, can trace itself back to Saxon times, with the first dwellings believed to be on ground next to what is now the parish church. Local evidence of Bronze Age and Roman settlement is coming to light.
The village lies within a conservation area and the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In medieval times, Long Compton had a market and a fair, and St Augustine is said to have preached here in the 15th Century. Many visitors come to visit the nearby Rollright Stones, three groups of stones with an intriguing history.
It is a good centre for walking in the beautiful countryside – as well as the local area, there is the Macmillan Way and the Shakespeare Way. Accommodation is available in the village and refreshments from the Red Lion.
The Millennium Garden was built to celebrate the arrival of the new millennium. It shows a chronology of important events over the last 2000 years and is planted with snowdrops in memory of those from the village who died in the First World War.
The Lychgate was originally the end of a row of cottages demolished early last century. Some of the older residents remember the room as a cobblers. It is now the home of the History Society Archive and is sometimes open to the public on Sunday afternoons in the summer, to coincide with teas in the Church – well worth a visit, the cakes are delicious!
Four miles north of Shipston, heading towards Stratford, is Newbold.
The 16th Century White Hart, in the centre of the village, is a coaching inn with open fires, flagstone floors and oak beams serving home-cooked food and that can comfortably accommodate 50. Or you could try your hand at ‘Ring the Bull’, a traditional pub game where you have to hook the ring over the hook in the bull’s nose!
A must-see is the magnificent, recently installed stained glass window at the back of the Church of St David, the entire cost of which was raised by village resident Lady Christabel Watson by walking the 600 miles from Gibraltar to the shrine at Santiago de Compostela.
Newbold has its own Infants Primary School, a superb modern and busy village hall, and bowls club, while the Newbold Sea Scouts have their base on the river just north of the village. And don’t miss the Talton Mill farm shop, just on the Stratford side of the village, for local produce.
Stretton – from Shipston head towards Stratford, go left on the roundabout towards Moreton and turn right after the petrol station – has a mix of 17th Century Cotswold stone farms and houses with later red brick dwellings, on the Roman Fosse Way. St Peter’s Church was rebuilt in the decorated style in 1841. The 17th Century rectory has a fine Tuscan porch.
Two manors are listed in the Doomsday book of 1086, of these only one remains, adjoining the imposing Stretton House on the higher ground (125m) of the village. While the lower ground of the village is heavy clay the upper parts are sand and shingle. During commercial extraction of sand, important graves of the Roman-British and Anglo-Saxon periods were uncovered, featuring interesting skeletons and personal belongings. These burials were the result of internecine warfare between local tribal factions.
Until recently the village consisted of several farms, with housing for local residents tied to the land and the trade association of the rural economy, such as shops, the post-office, school, inns, blacksmiths and three religious buildings. However, of these only the church and the Plough Inn remain and are still used for their intended purpose. A new imposing village hall was built in 1990 to replace the post-war wooden hut.
Tidmington, on the right just out of Shipston heading towards Oxford, consists of a few scattered houses, mostly modern. Near the church to the east of the high road is Tidmington House, a large, three-story stone building of c1600, much altered and added to in the Queen Anne period and refronted on the west later in the 18th Century. The three gables on the east with their stone-mullioned windows are of the early date, while there is a Queen Anne brick addition on the north and a wing at the south-east with a semi-circular termination. The wooden balustrade verandah on the south side of the house is of the same date as these additions. The later west front has projecting wings at either end, the recessed central space being occupied by a Tuscan portico, over which is a Venetian window.
Going out of Shipston towards Stratford you will come to Tredington, a small village consisting of a school, a church and a pub.
But look closer at the village church, St. Gregory’s, and you will see it has bullet marks on the front door from the English Civil War! It also boasts the tallest spire in Warwickshire.
Tysoe is a village of three parts – Upper, Middle and Lower Tysoe – situated on a hill. Get there from Shipston by heading towards Stratford, turn right at the roundabout and go through Halford, then bear right up the Fosseway. Turn right on the A422 towards Tysoe.
The parish church dates back to the 11th Century and is dedicated to St Mary. All three of the villages contain several 17th Century buildings. The village primary school was opened in 1859 and Joseph Ashby, the agricultural trade unionist, was born here, also in 1859.
Whichford lies in a secluded valley six miles south east of Shipston. From the town, head towards Oxford and turn right at Long Compton. It has a Norman church, where much of the original building remains, including a Norman font.
The village has a rich history and is mentioned in the Domesday Book.
One major reason to visit is the Whichford Pottery, where you can make your own pot or buy from the resident potters’ showroom. At the heart of the village is the village green, which hosts classic car events organised by the nearby Norman Knight pub, which also organises music events and boasts its own micro-brewery.
Whichford features picturesque woodland, which is a site of special interest. But it also has the ancient Whichford Castle Moat – the Norman castle has long since fallen down, the stones were used to build the east wing of the village Church of St Michael, but the moat remains and is still enjoyed by those who like to camp in the grounds.