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Northleach and The Old Prison
Northleach and The Old Prison
A short leisurely circular walk that circumnavigates much of the town.
What a fascination little Cotswold market town Northleach is. Its close proximity to the A40 makes it particularly accessible, but unfortunately many ‘would be’ visitors drive on towards Cheltenham without taking the slip road which would lead them to this delightful medieval town.
This walk begins at the Market Place where limited parking is available. Start this leisurely walk by following the High Street westwards, passing the Wheatsheaf Hotel on you right, admiring the ancient architecture as you go. Continue walking for about an eighth of a mile (perhaps less) until you come to the A429, which is the Fosse Way. Here you will discover the Old Prison on the opposite side of the road to your right. This imposing 18th century building is a colourful piece of Cotswold history, built at the time when petty offenders (both men and women) were locked up alongside hardened criminals. It has gone through several reincarnations since then, but sadly it is now awaiting a new owner, so stands half empty as various tenders are considered, including one from the Friends of the Cotswolds.
Among its attractions that can still be seen at the moment is a nationally significant collection of wagons, carts and farming equipment collected by the late Olive Lloyd-Baker, which remains on display in a covered area of the garden at the back. Unfortunately the café is closed now and only one room devoted to the Cotswold Conservation Board remains open to the public, but it is a room worthy of a visit as a series of imaginatively designed information panels can teach visitors a great deal about the Cotswolds.
This season there will be a number of activities taking place at the centre including taster days in blacksmithing and a Jubilee themed treasure hunt. The centre will be open until October Wednesdays to Saturdays.
Friends of the Cotswolds are fighting to buy this fascinating building. Their intention is to turn the Old Prison building into a facility for both locals and visitors, which celebrates the very essence of the Cotswolds. The Friends see it as a national treasure which could become a hub for the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where the general public can be trained in rural skills. They certainly do not want to see it being converted into a hotel, supermarket or block of flats. The Friends need all the help they can get to obtain this building, so any pennies you can give towards this cause would be much appreciated.
Having visited the Old Prison, cross the road and return the way you came until you spot the imposing Cotswold Hall building with its overhanging clock on the right hand side. Turn into Antelope Lane that stands beside the hall. This is a stone-walled pathway, that will take you past the Old Chapel burial ground on your right.
When you reach the top of the pathway, which leads to an open field, a detour to Northleach’s historic church St Peter and Saint Paul is highly recommended, before following a well-worn path across this field. Continue on this path for a few yards until you come to a metal kissing gate and the corner of the Churchyard. If you plan your walk so that you reach this area at noon, 3pm, 6pm, or 9pm you will hear an eight-bell carillon which plays three verses of ‘Oh Worship the King’ to the tune of Hanover.
Return to the open field and head for the brow of the hill until you come to a wooden stile and path that lead to a wooden bridge crossing the River Leach. Veer slightly to the right and follow the river, which at this point is just a narrow stream. You will also discover a small pond which is usually popular with native water fowl. Carry on up the slope until you reach a farm gate and stile. Cross the stile, turning left along the narrow lane and follow it to the junction with School Hill. After passing the Primary School on your right turn left into the area that leads to the Recreation Ground. If you follow the left hand side field boundary you spot the River Leach again, which flows past a line of attractive well-tended gardens. Walk along the river bank until you reach a small footbridge almost opposite the tennis courts that will take you into Meadow Lane and then the Market Place and The Sherborne Arms where you can stop for refreshments. Obviously far longer walks can be taken in the Northleach area, but this short amble will provide a taste of the town.