Riverside in the Eastleaches

Two churches, just a stone's throw apart across a narrow stream.


The Eastleaches


4 miles (6.4kms)

300ft (91m)

About the walk

Eastleach Turville and Eastleach Martin, sitting cheek by jowl in a secluded valley, carry an air of quiet perfection. And yet these two Cotswold villages are quite distinctive, and each has a parish church (though one is now redundant). St Andrews in Eastleach Turville faces St Michael and St Martin’s across the narrow River Leach. Their origins lie in the development of the parish system from the earliest days of the Anglo-Saxon Church.

The English parish has its origins in the shifting rivalries of Saxon England, for the one thing that united the various Saxon kingdoms was the Church. The first ‘parishes’ were really the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Christianity, the new power in the land, not only saved souls but also secured alliances.

The Pope’s aim was to invest more bishops to act as pastors who would try to convert people, but at the same time their appointments were useful politically, helping to smooth the way as larger kingdoms absorbed their smaller neighbours. The number of appointments would also depend on local factors. Wessex, for example, was divided into shires and so a bishop was appointed for each one. Later the Normans appointed archdeacons, whose job was to ensure that church buildings were maintained for worship.

Over the centuries the assorted conventions and appointments that had accumulated through usage coalesced into a hierarchical English Church. For a long time, however, control was not tight. Missionaries, for example, would occasionally land from Ireland and found their own churches, quite independently of anyone else. Rulers and local landholders were certainly influential in the development of the parish system, but many parishes also derived from the gradual disintegration of the local ‘minster’, a central church on consecrated ground that controlled a group of client chapels. As population and congregations grew, the chapels themselves became new parish churches, with rights equal to those of the minster. This included the right to bury the dead in their own graveyard, and the administration of births and marriages.

With the passage of time and the establishment of a single English kingdom, the parish diminished to something akin to its modern size. By the 10th century, the parish had become the accepted framework for enforcing the payment of tithes, the medieval equivalent of an income tax. By the 12th century, much of the modern diocesan map of England was established. So, in the Eastleaches all these developments mean you find two parish churches virtually side by side. With politics, power and bureaucracy all playing a part, it’s likely that the pastoral needs of the community were quite low on the list.

Walk directions

From the memorial cross in Eastleach Turville, walk along the road with the river on your right. After a few paces, locate a path on your right to cross the clapper bridge and follow the path into the churchyard of Eastleach Martin. Pass to the right of the church and emerge at a road.

Turn left and then turn right at a junction, finally taking the lower road in the direction of Holwell. Walk on for perhaps 600yds (549m) to where the road begins to rise steeply. Turn left here, pass through a gate into a field, and follow an obvious grassy track at the base of a slope for 0.5 miles (800m).

This will bring you to a gate at the corner of Sheephouse Plantation. Go through the gate and continue ahead, with the woods to your right. Continue to a gate at a field – do not go through this, but veer left with the field and a dry-stone wall to your right. Soon you will reach a small area of scrubby trees; turn right here over a stile into a field and turn left.

Continue, passing through gates, until you come to a gated bridge on your left. Do not cross this, but continue forward towards a small gate at the edge of woodland. Go through and follow a woodland path until you reach a crossroads of tracks.

Turn left and follow the track up out of the woods and across a field until you come to a road at the bottom of the slope. Turn left here, cross Sheep Bridge opposite the cattle grid on your right and, just before a turning to the right, go left into a field.

Bear right along the valley bottom, then left and right again. This will bring you to a gate. Go through it onto a track, and soon pass the gated bridge again. Go through a gate and follow the wall on your right as it curves up to another gate, then stay on the same line through gates until you reach the gate into the last field bordering Eastleach Turville.

Walk diagonally across this field, heading for a gate just to the right of a prominent horse chestnut tree. Join the lane here, and keep left at the fork to return to the starting point at the memorial cross.

Additional information

Tracks and lanes, valley paths and woodland

Villages, open wold, narrow valley and streams

Sheep country – dogs on lead at all times

OS Explorer OL45 The Cotswolds

On-street parking in Eastleach Turville

None on route

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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.


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