A "Secrets Of" Guided Walk
The village of Oving sits high on a hill above Aylesbury Vale. There’s a Roman road, two squatter’s cottages, and amazing views.
In this walk there’s a couple of sections you can choose not to take, but you’ll miss out on the views if you do. The whole walk is just over two miles, but without the two sections (see map) it’s under a mile.
There’s parking to the left of the early 17th Century Black Boy pub. From there, walk back past the pub to the junction.
On the right of the pub is a lane that leads to the Hossil, or horse hole; a pond that’s said never to dry up or freeze.
The Hossil is just a pond, but it’s fed by at least one of the springs on the hill top. Oving stands on the edge of two watersheds. To the North, water runs into the Wash via the Great Ouse. To the South, streams eventually feed the Thames. The springs were used until mains water came to the village in 1939.
The Nave and chancel of All Saints church are Early English, built in the early 13th Century. The South aisle is also 13th Century, but later. Inside, it has a 14th Century ogee arched tomb recess with a tiny window at the apex.
The window was probably originally a low-side window and the tomb recess came later, centered on the window. Nobody knows the purpose of low-side windows.
There are signs of there once being a North aisle too; but it was destroyed in the 16th or 17th Century. Inside, the evidence is there in one complete arch and part of another at the East end of the nave. Outside, a blocked off North door has the remains of an arch above and to its left.
The tower dates from the early 16th Century, but there’s a date on the parapet; 1674.
North of the church you can see the East half of a defensive circular bank; a ringwork, surrounded by a dry ditch. The date of it is uncertain; somewhere between the 5th Century (Saxon) and the mid 16th Century (Medieval).
It would have had buildings on it. The best place to see it is from the far left corner of the churchyard.
From the churchyard entrance, take the higher path opposite. Across the road is the timber framed 17th Century Magpie Cottage. A pair of straw magpies sit on the slope of the thatch.
If you’d like a shorter walk you can miss this next section out and instead turn left along Dark Lane instead at the end of the path.
At the end of the path cross the road at The Green and walk down Manor road, between Thatched Cottage (17th to 18th Century) and the Manor House, which seems much newer but was originally 17th Century too.
At the end of Manor road take the public footpath up to the corner of the field. You’ll find a bench that’s been there a long time; see if you can find the date carved into it. To the West is the vast bulk of Quainton hill.
Follow the footpath to the right, along the hedge. You are now walking along a Roman road. You can see right across the Vale of Aylesbury to your left, and the Chilterns are on the horizon.
Down to your right you can see the small, white, thatched Shepherd’s Cottage on the lane. This is a squatter’s cottage and I’ll tell you more about that later.
The footpath comes out next to a curious and tiny brick built cottage. The course of the Roman road turns to your right, follows the lane through Pitchcott, then head across the fields to Akeman Street (the A41) at Fleet Marston.
There’s no footpath along this lane, and you can’t see much of the squatter’s cottage from the road anyway. It’s better to return along the footpath, but when you get back to the bench, follow another footpath that goes to your right, along the post and rail fence.
At the end go left up New road, but first look at the gate you’ve just come through; there’s a dedication. At The Green, turn right into Dark Lane.
The three story building on your left is the Old Butcher’s Arms pub. On the right a little further along is Oving House. Completely remodelled in 1741-43, it was originally 17th Century.
Just beyond is the 18th Century Old Coach House. You may have heard a bell chiming the hours as you’ve walked round Oving, and the bell is in the clock on the roof.
At the end of the Dark Lane keep going along the broad public footpath. Bear left at the end. At the junction you can either carry on past the 1920s finger post direction sign where it points you to North Marston, or cut your walk short by turning left along Church Lane.
If you go left, look out for the village pump on the right, at the highest point of the lane. There’s nothing particularly unusual along Church Lane, but it is very pleasant.
If you go past the finger post you are now walking along Bowling Alley. Just before you get to the recreation ground is Cumberland cottage, on your left. Like Magpie Cottage there are a couple of birds modelled into the roof, though I’m not sure what they are. This cottage is partly of brick, partly of stone.
A bit further on opposite the recreation ground are two cottages and a barn joined together in one long building. Strangely they are not listed buildings.
But Foxgloves just a bit further along on that side is listed. It isn’t very old, being built in the early 19th Century, but it’s made of witchert. That’s a sort of earth construction like the Dorset cob houses, but made instead from decayed limestone. It’s undergoing extensive building work at the moment.
The old chapel opposite has a date in the stone over the old front door, 1869. At the end of Bowling Alley, look to your right. The second road opposite, Meadway, follows the line of the same Roman road you walked on earlier. That road ends over five miles away, at Stewkley.
Head left. You’ll recognise Ammonite Cottage ahead; it’s in the first and last photos. It is the second squatter’s cottage in Oving.
There was once a rule: if you could build a house on a piece of land overnight and have smoke coming out of the chimney, “a hearth and a roof in 24 hours” then you could not be turned out.
Ammonite Cottage was built, or more probably, thrown up, in about 1800. If you look on Google StreetView you’ll see it was recently in poor condition, but it looks great now. Shepherd’s Cottage is about the same age.
On the other side of the road to the cottage is a public footpath. It takes you to the corner of a field that’s pretty much at the top of the hill.
There are great views. The nearest landmark is North Marston Church, but much further away you might be able to spot the white painted Mursley water tower. It’s about 45 degrees to the right of North Marston. The footpath leaves the field by the far corner, going across the left and furthest edges.
In the next field go left, though the gate. You’ll see the church tower in front of you. The footpath bears to the left, and bring you out on Church Lane. Turn right and return to the start.
Time this right, and The Black Boy pub will be open.
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