Monday, 21 October 2013

BETWEEN THE RIVER AND THE RIDGEWAY



Judge Richard’s Sat Nav took us in the most circuitous route to Faringdon in Oxfordshire. However the rain held off and after unloading the bikes and quick coffee we were off to explore six churches between the River Thames and the Ridgeway Path.

After ten minutes of hell on the busy A420 road we gained the back road to Shrivenham and the Parish Church of Saint Andrew. Ahead, high up, was the Ridgeway, which was to be our constant backdrop.

St Andrew’s is unusual building inside remodelled in the 1600’s (round arches on Tuscan columns!) and numerous monuments couple had just finished renewing their wedding vows. Ricardo and I were invited to share a piece of cake and a glass of sparkling Saumur in the south transept.

Onwards to Compton Beauchamp some six miles away and Saint Swithun - 13th century. This a tiny church in which local bigwigs invested heavily in restoration and embellishment.  Martin Travers, church artist and designer, in the 1930’s did the work. This is where the Arts and Crafts and High Anglican movements meet.

Suddenly, round the corner out of the village, the lower heights presented themselves as a vertical climb as we cycled, slowly towards Sparsholt along an up and down ‘B’ road.

In Sparsholt and excellent lunch in the Star Inn which also furnished us with hand cream and individual hand towels in the toilet.


The Church of the Holy Cross at Sparsholt was originally Saxon remodelled in the 13th and 14th centuries.  Inside the church are two women effigies and their elaborate tombs in a dimly lit transept - quite exceptional. Here we met another cyclist who was taking his pace and the number of churches visited much more seriously.

We were part of Ride+Stride in Oxfordshire. Each year this activity, in every English county, contributes much sponsorship money each county’s Historic Churches Trust.  These trusts in turn dole the dosh out for repairs and refurbishments. Eschewing the sponsorship bit Richard and I usually send a cheque.

Two miles further and we reached St Mary’s in Childrey. In the south doorway with its Norman dogtooth decoration – 11th century a lady of this tiny parish provided lemonade and biscuits. In the churchyard we sat on a bench looking northeast across the whole of south Oxford and down onto Uffington or next destination.

The church in Uffington is an English Gothic marvel and almost untouched.
We were provided with a nice cup of tea and access to the biscuit tin. Dedicated to St Mary, it is is known as the cathedral of the vale and has the rare feature of a hexagonal tower.

We cycled on back to Faringdon and called in at All Saints Church. We walked through the door (Norman) and were greeted by a nave arches with stiff-leaf capitals – lovely Early English decoration throughout. Some guest bell ringers were giving it what for in the bell loft above the central crossing we did not stay long.

We loaded the bikes for the drive home (direct route).