A walk or cycle in the Windrush Valley will take you on a journey through history – past ancient ruins, medieval villages, Norman churches and Elizabethan manor houses, each with an interesting story to tell – while providing picture-postcard views along the way.
The Windrush is so called because of the way it winds through the rushes, tall grass-like plants that line the river banks. The river starts in Gloucestershire, northeast of Taddington, and in its 40 mile journey flows through Bourton-on-the-Water, past the Gloucestershire village of Windrush, into Oxfordshire and through Burford – the setting of an annual Chamber Music festival –Witney, Ducklington and Standlake, before meeting the Thames.
The river played an important part in the woollen blanket industry in Witney from the mid-17th century, its fast-flowing waters used to power cloth-fulling mills. The region’s open grasslands and hill pastures are perfect for rearing sheep for wool, including the ‘Cotswold Lion’ with its distinctive woolly ‘wig,’ and blankets made in Witney were sold around the country for hundreds of years. Sadly, the town’s last blanket mill closed down in 2002, the woollen blanket having been well and truly replaced by the duvet.
It is sensible to check the local weather forecast before planning a walk or cycle in the Windrush Valley, as the river has been known to flood. However, for most of the year it offers a scenic journey through some of the loveliest towns and villages in the Cotswolds.