Cotswold Ways Walk: A May mooch to Snowshill and Broadway Tower

Snowshill: The perfect village

Snowshill: The perfect village - Credit: Kevan Manwaring

Walk in the footsteps of Victorian Arts and Crafts visionary William Morris to the picturesque village of Snowshill and Broadway Tower with its splendid views

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower - Credit: Kevan Manwaring

Influential poet, novelist, essayist, designer, socialist and chief animateur of the Arts and Craft William Morris (1834-96) had a significant association with the Cotswolds. He called Bibury ‘the most beautiful village in England’. As a child he visited the magnificent edifice of Broadway Tower (the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown, it was completed in 1798 with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt) and as an adult he returned to it with his fellow Oxonian and friend Burne-Jones, where they met for a midweek breakfast as they used to do back in their rooms in Oxford.

A pretty row of cottages at Snowshill

A pretty row of cottages at Snowshill - Credit: Kevan Manwaring

In 1871 Morris took a joint-tenancy of the beautiful Kelmscott Manor on the river Thames with the poet Rossetti (who also frequented the tower) and his former home now houses a magnificent exhibition about his life and works. Talking of beautiful houses and collections, the nearby Snowshill Manor, a Tudor manor house, adjacent cottage and 14 acres, was the former home of Charles Wade, a famous collector (and like Morris, an artist, poet and craftsman), who purchased the house after serving in the First World War. There he built up his extraordinary collection and turned the farmyard and cottage garden into an Arts and Crafts garden (with the assistance of M H Baillie Scott). His collection was housed in the manor, while he ensconced himself in the small Priest’s House opposite. In his 60s, he met and married a vicar’s daughter, Mary Graham, and hosted many famous visitors at Snowshill including the authors J.B. Priestley and Virginia Woolf. Before his death Wade arranged for Snowshill to be passed on to the National Trust, who manage the house and garden to this day.

Up the hill, Broadway Tower boasts not only the magnificent tower with its Morris exhibition and stunning views, but also a delightful café, gift shop, shepherd’s hut and, um, nuclear bunker. A relic of the Cold War, when a network of such sites were created across Britain, it was personneled by men and women of the Royal Observer Corps; they would be expected to spend 3 weeks below ground during a Nuclear Exchange. Today, visitors can be guided around it by volunteers, all former employees of the ROC. After the narrow confines of the bunker, a visit to the tower is recommended (unless you don’t like heights)! (Please note that Broadway Tower is not managed by the National Trust as mentioned in our video below).

First view of Snowshill

First view of Snowshill - Credit: Kevan Manwaring

The walk

1. From the centre of Laverton had east passed Trotts Cottage and Hill Farm. Where the lane ends continue onwards through the trees, heading upwards towards the ridge.

2. Push the hill until you reach a footpath crossing the trail. Turn left here, following the contour.

3. Head north-east along this path until you reach a centre ‘t-junction’. Here turn right following the edge of the ridge.

4. Head southwards along the edge of Snowswood.

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5. Skirting the right of Great Brockhampton Farm, cross the lane to the property, and continue along the footpath opposite, now heading eastwards (then southeast) towards the hillside village of Snowhill, which you will glimpse ahead of you.

6. Enter the pretty, but haunted village* of Snowshill, passing the church of St Barnabas. You may be tempted by the Snowshill Inn, or the Wade collection of Snowshill Manor and Gardens.

7. Head out of the village from the southeast corner of the churchyard, up the steep lane, crossing the crossroads and pushing up until the lane levels.

8. When you reach a horsefield, take the footpath on the left which runs along the edge of the field. The footpath is a bit steep and muddy in places so you may have to weave amongst the hillocks before resuming it. Continue heading northeast.

9. When you reach some trees on the edge of a slope turn right and make your way along one of the trails northwards.

10. If you take the track that runs along the bottom of the wood, you’ll need to turn right up the hill before you reach the house of Middle Hill, but before you do, turn back to enjoy the view across the wooded vale. Can you spot the stag memorial?

11. The path joins Buckle Street briefly, heading north, before you arrive at Broadway Tower, with its converted barn café and gift shop. Grab a cuppa and a ticket for the tower and bunker.

12. After visiting the attractions at Broadway, take the metal gate at the far end of the field, left down the hill, following the Cotswold Way towards Broadway in a northwest direction.

13. Before you reach the village of Broadway, take the path at the footpath junction left and skirt the edge of the village, keeping to the right of a small stream. Head towards the church tower.

14. Cross a couple of footbridges until you eventually emerge out onto a metalled lane, Snowshill Road. Turn right here, pass Pemberton House and Parsonage Cottages; then take the footpath opposite.

15. Cross a couple of fields, before emerging onto West End Lane. Turn right, then take the first footpath on your left.

16. Head southwest towards Broadway Coppice. Take the footpath that runs along the bottom of this, heading southwest.

17. Emerging from the trees, you should see Buckland ahead of you. Make your way towards this pretty village.

18. Enter the village by Woodbine Cottage. Take The Lane through the village.

19. Turn right and take the first footpath on your left, and head towards Laverton.

20. Arrive at Laverton. Well done!


Distance: 8.64ml / 13.90km

Time: 3-4 hrs approx. depending on pace and time at Snowshill and Broadway.

Level: Moderate fitness required. Some hills. Suitable footwear essential. Walking pole/s and compass advised.

Parking: Laverton village.

Toilets: Snowshill and Broadway.

Refreshments: Snowshill Inn; Broadway Tower.

Map: OL 45 The Cotswolds (Burford, Chipping Campden, Cirencester & Stow-on-the-Wold)

Transport links: From Winchcombe.

Kevan Manwaring is a Stroud-based writer and storyteller. He is the author of Oxfordshire Folk Tales and Northamptonshire Folk Tales, a contributor to English Folk Tales and editor of Ballad Tales, all from the History Press. He teaches creative writing for the Open University and the Stroud area.

Find Kevan on Twitter! @bardicacademic

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