Warborough, just down the road from Dorchester in Oxfordshire, is not really on the way to anywhere. It’s not in the Cotswolds, nor is it located by the steadily-widening Thames which rolls by at Standlake. It’s not even on one of the sweet tributaries to Old Father Thames, like the Evenlode Or the Windrush, which meander through the county offering wild swimmers the promise of a dip in idyllic – if possibly not deep enough – fresh river water.
Maybe that’s why it’s managed to escape anyone’s attention this long. For this is a perfect English village, dating back millennia, A small slice of Eden hiding in the bullrushes away from the modern world.
To describe the place is to make bricks and mortar Ray Davies’ Vision of England immortalised and satirized in the 1969 classic The Village Green Preservation Society, and to offer a case study for WG Hoskins’ History of the English Landscape. I’m no local historian, by the way, so apologies if my observations are inaccurate in any way. I was distracted, you see.
Let’s start with the village green, Warborough’s open heart and gateway to fields and, beyond, the Thames valley and Vale of the White Horse. on the way here you might pass the picture postcard pub and what looks like a tithe barn. Replace goalposts and swings with strip-mined fields and pasture and you could have stepped back centuries. there’s nought more modern in the churchyard, where a Norman/early Gothic tower looms over a typically higgle-piggle house of worship. the Parish church has seen off the Wesleyan Chapel nearby, a reminder of a great revolution in faith from the nineteenth century that seems scarcely conceivable now.
Pub, fields, barn, green. Add ancient houses and no tourists whatsoever and you have a well-kept secret that makes for a lovely detour if you’re south of Oxford with time to tarry.