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Rambling: Don't be sheepish here.

Byline: Richard Shurey

The derivation of many of our delightfully-sounding English country names are difficult to determine. But Shipston-onStour is different. This was indeed a sheep town (with a Sheep Street) in the centre of the rich pastoral Feldon -with one of the greatest markets in the land.

Here sheep were washed in the river in early summer before being driven up to the exposed Cotswold heights after lambing.

Shipston's wool-based wealth is expressed in the many splendid Georgian houses we see today.

There are many narrow streets with interesting buildings and old inns but there are also large new housing estates and one only hopes that the character of the town will not be marred.

There is constant talk of the necessity or otherwise of a large supermarket which would kill for very many of the little shops of the town centre. There are still two butchers' shops.

Several of the inns remain that were originally coaching inns. The town was feudal before the arrival of the regular long-distance stagecoach traffic. The modest 15th century church tower overlooks the town.

There are many other interesting buildings including the former Friends Meeting House which is now the library. The former council offices are now well-converted apartments. The Manor House with a battlemented front looks intriguing and rather secretive.

There is still a Station Street but the railway is no more. The town was once the terminus for one branch of the horse-drawn railway from Stratford. The first part of the railway was completed to Moreton in 1826 but Shipston had to wait another ten years before the line was extended.

From the car park near the river bridge cross the water (Map 151/260405). Go over Fell Mill Lane -fell is the matted wool of a fleece. Within a few steps cross the road to a step stile. In the pasture follow the well-used path to a stile with the meandering Stour on the right.

Keep the direction over the next field to a far stile next to a gate in a corner. We are now at Barcheston. Away to the left is the church, famous for its Pisa-like tower. The tower has leaned one foot in 50 for many centuries but unlike the Italian tower it has not increased the lean for 200 years.

Barcheston is a place famed for the creation of wonderful tapestries. In 1554 William Sheldon sent his son Ralph to Flanders to learn the art with the result that in 1561 he set up his looms at Barcheston.

Over the stile we go left along the lane. (To the right is Manor House Farm where William Sheldon set up his looms).

Within a few steps take the signed path on the right. The path over the open field is clear to a stile where paths meet. Keep ahead. Now in a pasture with the river still just to the right make for the gate in the far right hand corner of the field in the hamlet of Willington.

Maintain the heading along a hard pathway to a lane by houses. Keep the direction, also where the lane twists sharp left. Walk along a shady path and cross a brook. Maintain the heading past houses to climb a stile by a pool.

Still keep ahead now alongside a right hand border of a field. In a corner go left then at once right over a stile. In a large sheep pasture with signs of medieval strip farming keep the old direction to a far step stile. In an arable field walk along the left hand border to a lane at Burmington.

Turn left. We pass a hall which was once the village hall. A few steps further is the way to the church. There is the stump of an ancient cross in the churchyard then we find a charming little church with a small pyramid-capped tower. We read that the building was all but ruined in the late 17th century.

Follow the lane through the village to a crossroads. Turn left. There are now lovely narrow lanes. Keep ahead at junctions including crossing the B4035. Just past the next junction take a signed path on the left. The track leads to an arable field. Follow the well-walked path over the open field to a new kissing gate. Maintain the heading then walk through a plantation of trees and follow the path beyond to a road. Turn right to the car park.

Fact FileMap: 1:50,000 OS Landranger Series No: 151 Approach: A3400 to Shipston-on-Stour Parking: Free car park by the river Refreshments: Cafes and Inns Shipston

CAPTION(S):

There are a wealth of pretty buildings in Shipston-on-Stour
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 12, 2004
Words:782
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