roman bone intaglio

Roman Bone Intaglio



Journeying The Icknield Way from Goring to Wallingford

by Mary Kift

According to Dr Paul Hindle in his recent book 'Roads and Tracks for Historians' (Phillimore & Co. Ltd., 2001) this ancient track was originally probably very wide in places, possibly almost a mile in the Goring-Wallingford area. It did not begin as the ancient route we recognise today. '... Icknield was then ... an inter-twining of many paths ...' (G. R. Crosher, 'Along the Chiltern Ways', 1973). Now these tracks have become metalled roads in places and, in some cases, two, three or maybe four parallel lines of communication, though sometimes only a boundary or hedge line defines this ancient route. Interestingly, in this area Icknield was not taken over by the Romans in spite of their important local settlement at Dorchester, though this is not in the section under discussion.

We begin our journey at Goring. The Goring Charters (BI L i) quotes Hearne, the eighteenth century Antiquarian '... This church [Goring] hath pretty well escaped, being situated in a by-place, tho' formerly on a very great road, namely the Ikenild or Ikney Way.'

Having crossed the Thames at Goring, the track follows the line of the metalled road to Cleeve and through there up on to the high ground passing Grove House and farm on the left. There are cross ways. To the left a made up road runs down to the Thames Valley, while on the right is an ancient track once known as Green Lane and leading towards Woodcote, where it becomes Beech Lane. The hedge date on the Green Lane stretch gives an average count of 6.5 species, including spindle. The Eynsham Cartulary Bk 2, p. 122, mentions that in 1366 the Icknield crossed Green Lane near the Medieval Manor of 'Appelhangr', now Beech Farm. Hereabouts, on the same side, lies an interestingly named hill called Catsbrain. The same cartulary says, 'Ickeneld' crossed a field called 'Catesbrayn'. Also nearby is a group of Medieval fields called 'Childes Londes'. These belonged to an ancient family called 'Passelewes' certainly in 1220 if not before. They were woodwards and of some standing locally.

Journeying onward, the Icknield passes Icknield farm and then a dwelling called Kaffirs. Here the track leaves the road and crosses open hillside descending to the A4074, once another ancient line of communication called the Portway in some places and Red Lane in others. Crossing this, and still in open country, it soon reaches a thicket beside Layend Pond. Among the trees and bushes can be found a nineteenth century memorial to a member of the Reade family, who were lords of Ispden Manor. Here it crosses a minor road to Ipsden and goes along a bridle path going behind Larkstoke Stud and farm. There is a short stretch of hedge here with an average hedge count of 4 species.

Soon another road to Ipsden church is crossed. It is known by various names in different places, Clay Way, Church Way and Urquharts Lane. Once across this, the Icknield becomes very narrow and follows the line of the Trunk Ditch at Drinken Bottom along the edge of Cobblers Hill. Here another stretch of hedgerow gives an average count of 5 species. The Road from Hailey (Ipsden) to Crowmarsh is crossed to pass cottages at Forest Row alongside a very old and minor road, this now becoming the Icknield Way. Soon Grim's Ditch is crossed at Cart Gap. In this region hedges line the way on both sides, giving an average count of 5+ species on each side, including spindle. On past Blenheim Farm and Riding Centre, the Icknield shortly reaches the old Wallingford to Henley road and here we leave it as it heads for Swyncombe Downs.

This article was first published in SOAG Bulletin No.57 (2002). The SOAG Bulletin is published yearly and is free to members.