Things to do in Letcombe Regis, Oxfordshire
Letcombe Regis existed as a village in the Domesday survey of 1086, and the shared name, originally "Ledecumbe", comes from the "lede in the combe" - "the brook in the valley", an apt description!
The Regis part shows that the manor house was originally a royal one. There are no royal connections any more, although the village currently has no less than three manors. The Old Manor is a late Georgian building, which stands on the site of a medieval hunting lodge.
There is also Antswick Manor, a largely Victorian building erected by the interestingly-named "Boss" Croker; and finally the more recent building formerly housing the Letcombe Laboratory, a commercial enterprise, now defunct, and being rapidly replaced by Richmond Villages a company that builds and runs retirement villages in the UK.
To the right are a group of charming cottages, the newer of the village's two cemeteries, and a footpath that leads through the old laboratory site.
The Church, St Andrew's, is a 15th century building with a massive 13th century tower, and some remnants of 14th century stained glass. There is an obelisk in the churchyard, which stands as a memorial to a Maori chief, George King Hipango, who died of tuberculosis at the vicarage whilst training to be a Christian missionary. He was only nineteen.
After two lovely chocolate-box thatched cottages on the right, you will be confronted by a run of what are possibly the ugliest houses in Oxfordshire: an essay in angular red brick. If you find these mildly distressing, take the small turning opposite, and admire the equally terrible square, flat-roofed blocks of flats, and give thanks that the seventies are gone for ever.
At other times there have been more pubs. The Sparrow is now a private house, the former landlords having moved to The Hatchet in Childrey and there is a reference to a "Prancing Pony" in the early 2000s, but this may have been an alternative name for the Sparrow.
Up until at least 1960 the village had a post office but alas, like so many smaller villages, these facilities have now been lost forever.
At the next sharp bend there is a junction the turning to the right, Court Hill, leads steeply uphill and on to another section of the Ridgeway. Formerly there was a Youth Hostel at the top of the hill, but in the mid 2000s this was closed, and the buildings were used as tea-rooms.
Straight on at the junction is a short road, which peters out into a footpath leading a mile and a half across the fields to Wantage. It is quite clear on a map that this is an ancient track, and no-one quite knows why it never became the road to Wantage!
If you have some puff left, continue walking over the bridge, and instead of following the main road round another sharp turn to the right, walk straight on and up the steep lane. After a while, there is a beaten earth track on the left: this is the remains of the old roman road, which used to lead to Wantage from Lambourn. Follow this track as it leads around the village at some height, giving good views across the valley. There are three footpaths leading back down to the village; the second one brings you out on the Bassett Road, near to the Village Hall, via the newer cemetery.
One of the best ways to appreciate Letcombe Regis is to stay in the village (the Greyhound Pub offers accommodation, and Brook Barn supplies up-market b&b) and to walk around and through the village, on to Letcombe Bassett, up to the Ridgeway, to admire it from above.
Description by Lucy Cassidy
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