Blockley and Batsford Arboretum

The exotic legacy of a 19th-century diplomat adorns this part of the Cotswold escarpment




5 miles (8kms)

800ft (243m)
2hrs 15min

About the walk

England seems to be a country of trees. Walking through Gloucestershire you are surrounded by many native species, but when you visit Batsford Arboretum, you will encounter 50 acres (20.3ha) of woodland containing over 1,000 species of trees and shrubs from all over the world, particularly from China, Japan and North America. The Japanese connection The arboretum was originally a garden created in the 1880s by the traveller and diplomat Bertie Mitford, 1st Lord Redesdale and grandfather to the renowned Mitford sisters. Posted as an attaché to the British Embassy in Tokyo, he became deeply influenced by the Far East. Throughout the park there are bronze statues, brought from Japan by Bertie Mitford, and a wide range of bamboos. After the 1st Lord Dulverton purchased Batsford in 1920 his son transformed the garden into the arboretum we see today, with its 90 species of magnolia, maples, cherry trees and conifers. Batsford village is comparatively recent, having grown up at the gates of Batsford Park, a neo-Tudor house built between 1888 and 1892 by Ernest George. He built it for Lord Redesdale to replace an earlier Georgian house. (It is not open to the public but is clearly visible from the arboretum.) Batsford Church was constructed a little before the house in 1862, in a neo-Norman style. It has several monuments to the Mitford family and a fine work by the sculptor Joseph Nollekens from 1808. Silky Blockley This walk starts in the unspoilt village of Blockley. It was originally owned by the bishops of Worcester, but it didn't really begin to prosper until the 19th century. At one time no fewer than six silk mills, with more than 500 employees, were driven by Blockley's fast-flowing stream. Their silks went mostly to Coventry for the production of ribbon. Blockley's history is both enlightened and superstitious. It was one of the first villages in the world to have electric light – in the 1880s Dovedale House was illuminated through Lord Edward Spencer-Churchill's use of water to run a dynamo. In the early part of that same century the prophetess, Joanna Southcott, lived in the village until her death in 1814. The tower of Blockley's substantial church predates the silk boom by only 100 years or so, but inside the church are several imposing monuments to the owners of the local mansion, Northwick Park. At least two of these are by the eminent sculptor John Michael Rysbrack (1694–1770).

Walk directions

Keep the church and post office on your left and walk through the village, turning left at School Lane. Follow this down across a stream and up to the main road. Cross over and turn left on a short path signposted Quiet Lanes Footpath. Re-join the road at the bottom of the hill. Just before Lower Brook House turn right onto a lane, walking up for 0.25 miles (400m) until the lane bears left.

Continue ahead to pass to the right-hand side of a barn. In the next field, follow its right-hand boundary to another gate. Pass through to walk between pastures. Pass into yet another field, and after passing through the next gate go half right to a gate leading out to a road.

Go straight on and follow the road down to a crossroads. Turn right to pass through Batsford, to a junction from where you can visit the church on the right. After visiting the church retrace your steps to the junction and walk down the lime avenue. At the next junction turn right.

After 100 paces turn right onto a footpath and follow this through a succession of fields, negotiating stiles and gates where they arise. Batsford House will be visible above you to the right.

Finally, go through a gate into a large field at a signposted junction of tracks, then turn right to a gate just left of a lodge at a drive. Cross this (the entrance to Batsford Arboretum), pass through a gate and follow the path up the field to a stile. Cross and continue to a track. Follow this up until it bears left. Keep right here (Monarch's Way) to continue the ascent with the park wall on your right. Keep going until you reach a stile onto a road.

Cross the road to join a track, then go through a gate and pass through two fields until you come to a path among trees. Turn left, follow this downhill, then turn right over a stile into a field with Blockley below you. Continue down to a stile at the bottom. Cross into the next field and pass beneath Park Farm on your right. Cross a drive and descend to a stile. Keep ahead on a field path to a gate and stile, then follow a lane along the Duck Paddle, until you come to a road. Turn left at the Quiet Lanes Footpath, then where this ends cross the road carefully and return to your starting point in the village.

Additional information

Lanes, tracks and fields, many stiles

Woodland, hills with good views and villages

Some good long stretches without livestock

AA Walker's Map 8 The Cotswolds

In village street to west of church, north of post office

In Blockley on edge of churchyard, just off main street

There is no public access to the arboretum from Batsford village, but you will cross the entrance road on this walk. Vehicles can approach via the A44 between Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-Hill.

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About the area

Discover Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire is home to a variety of landscapes. The Cotswolds, a region of gentle hills, valleys and gem-like villages, roll through the county. To their west is the Severn Plain, watered by Britain’s longest river, and characterised by orchards and farms marked out by hedgerows that blaze with mayflower in the spring, and beyond the Severn are the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley.

Throughout the county you are never far away from the past. Neolithic burial chambers are widespread, and so too are the remains of Roman villas, many of which retain the fine mosaic work produced by Cirencester workshops. There are several examples of Saxon building, while in the Stroud valleys abandoned mills and canals are the mark left by the Industrial Revolution. Gloucestershire has always been known for its abbeys, but most of them have disappeared or lie in ruins. However, few counties can equal the churches that remain here. These are many and diverse, from the ‘wool’ churches in Chipping Campden and Northleach, to the cathedral at Gloucester, the abbey church at Tewkesbury or remote St Mary’s, standing alone near Dymock.