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I walked north from Kingston Bagpuize to Newbridge in May 2015 because I was giving a talk on Welsh Drovers to a local history society.  A lot of beautiful countryside, but droving seemed out of place in the gentle Upper Thames Valley.


Then I found Bullockspits1 Lane – it starts at SU 394961 – which had the hallmarks of a drovers’ road (#1), and that merged, after a squiggle or two, into Harris’s Lane then Cow Lane (#2).  And just north of the river 150 years ago, between Aston and Yelford, there was a "Cow Common" (next to a "Sheep Common"!).  What were these bovines doing in the land of sheep?1 


Chapter 2, (4 years later): we were looking at the 1890’s 25” map of the area and spotted a Little London at SU 392979 (#3).  A Welsh drovers’ settlement or mustering point on this north-south route?  I asked John Trimmer (website - as I usually do when in doubt - and he said Newbridge was in cattle country and on the drove road to Abingdon & London.  Possibly no tolls to cross the river here, as opposed to the hefty ones further east.  At Duxford2 the crossing may even have been walkable in summer...2


Then something else clicked: Wales to Gloucester to Cirencester to (for Heaven’s sake) Portsmouth, where the navy had hungry mouths to feed. 

I had walked in the wrong direction but at least I’d been on a drovers’ road. 


The bridge is beautiful3.  Originally, in marshier times, it had 51 arches and was over 700 yds long.  Now it has 12 with a pub at each end (#4).  And I surprised a hare, which is always memorable, but he/she was too fast for the camera.  Well, of course!  (You can see a brown spot on the path if you look hard at #5.)

1 Ann Cole has informed me - a page needs restructuring after her emails! - that Bullockspits (bullock pits) is mentioned in 1761.  There is a Bullock's Farm in Fyfield (1m ENE of K.B.) and tenants named Bullock go back to 1595, but that was well after most trade surnames had been assigned.  Also in Fyfield she has found a (pre-1800) field called London Waye.  Thank you once again, Ann.
2 Walking across the Thames at Duxford is slippery but easily possible in summer months because a concrete floor has been laid across it.  Wild life charities hate it because it prevents fish reaching their spawning grounds.

3King John had ordered the monks – were monks the only clever ones in the land? – to build three bridges across the Thames to improve links between the Cotswold sheep farmers and wool towns like Wantage & Newbury.  Lechlade was the first, then Radcot, finally Newbridge (hence the name).

Newbridge-on-T. image 1
Bullockspits Lane
Newbridge-on-T. image 2
Cow Lane
Newbridge-on-T. image 3
LL at Southmoor
Newbridge-on-T. image 4
The Bridge
Newbridge-on-T. image 5
Vanishing Hare