Faringdon, an historic market town in the beautiful Vale of White Horse, sits in the far south-west corner of Oxfordshire. Nestled between the River Thames to the north and the Ridgeway to the south, the town gives a promise of what is to come should you venture further into the heart of the Cotswolds.
This short walk follows marked footpaths across open meadows and farmland and includes a visit to the last folly built in England, which is surrounded by scarlet blankets of poppy fields in early June. From Folly Hill you can enjoy fine views of the surrounding countryside.
From Market Place walk down Southampton Street, over Hart Avenue and into Southampton Street (South). Continue straight on along the enclosed footpath and then Volunteer Way until you reach Park Road. Turn left and then after 50m cross the road to join the footpath opposite. Cross the A420 with care and continue straight on down to Wickleshamlodge Farm.
When you reach the farm turn left and head towards the dismantled railway line. After crossing old railway bridge bear left through the gap in the hedge and cross the open field. Turn left onto the track and follow it until you reach the kennels at Standford Road.
Turn left, cross back over the A420 and turn right to follow the path along the field edge. Climb up the hill heading for Faringdon Folly. At the top continue through the copse that surrounds the folly before descending to the road and your return to the Market Place.
From its vantage point on a limestone ridge Faringdon enjoys panaromic views across the Ock and the Thames river valleys. On the junction of important trading routes the town has been a centre for trade and travelers for many centuries. In the Domesday Book of 1086, Faringdon is recorded as a manor and a mill. The church of All Saints dates from the late 12th century. Its 13th century bell tower was damaged by a cannon-ball during the English Civil War. In the same century the town was granted a weekly market, which is held on the Tuesday of each week. The late 17th century Old Town Hall is the central focal point of the town and is the start point for our walk.
Close to four of England's most beautiful counties - Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire - Faringdon is a perfect base for exploring the region. The town has a variety of pubs, restaurants and accommodation and there are many places of interest to visit nearby. The National Trust properties of Buscot Park and Ashdown House are a short drive away and across the River Thames is Kelmscott Manor, the summer home of the artist William Morris. A network of paths and bridleways in the area, including The Thames Path and The Ridgeway national trails, make the town an ideal base for a walking and cycling break.
The Folly of Faringdon
Faringdon Folly, designed by Gerald Wellesley and commissioned by Lord Bernes, was the last folly to be built in England. Completed in 1935 the 104 ft or 32 metre tower has become a local landmark that can be seen from as far as the White Horse Hill, Berkshire Downs and the Cotswold Hills to the north. In common with Badbury Hill to the west of the town, it has an ancient ditched defensive ring. During the Second World War it was used by the Home Guard as an observation post.
How to Get There
The trail starts in Market Place, Faringdon (post code SN7 7HU, grid reference SU288955). The town is located just off the A420, 20 miles south west of Oxford. There are regular bus services from Oxford city centre and Swindon.