Snowshill is an idyllic Cotswold village that, being tucked away in a valley served only by minor roads, doesn’t attract quite
the same tourist crowds as some of the other Cotswold honeypots. The houses are all built of the local stone, a glorious mellow limestone that appears to glow in the sunlight at certain times of day.
The roofs of the houses here are also mainly constructed
of honey-coloured Cotswold stone, so there is a delightful sense of unity and of all the houses belonging to this particular place.
This walk provides an opportunity to explore the surrounding countryside and enjoy spectacular views from the edge of the Cotswold escarpment. It starts at the car park at the eastern end of the village, which also serves as the entrance to Snowshill Manor.
The Cotswold Way
After a gentle stroll down the main village street, continue straight on at the road junction down the tree-shaded lane. At the next junction, turn right up the road between banks and hedges to a dip in the road.
Go through the gate on the left to take the footpath that leads uphill towards the middle of the woodland. The path runs through the wood and emerges at a stile and continues on to the broad track that is part of the Cotswold Way.
Views of the vale
Follow this track round to the right and it is now that you get those magnificent views out over the Vale of Evesham. Where the way divides and the waymarked route turns sharply to the left, turn right down the side of the woodland and then carry on downhill alongside the next woodland.
Look out for a kissing gate that leads to a path heading downhill beside the fence. It then meanders through a patch of woodland, crosses a stream and climbs up the opposite slope to a wide spreading oak. From here, the path heads back to the road at a stile near the car park.
No one should visit Snowshill without also going to see the remarkable manor house. At its heart is a Tudor house built around 1500, largely rebuilt a century later and extended again in the 18th century, when the new south front was added. The whole house is a warren of interconnecting rooms and differing styles, with Tudor plaster ceilings in one room, followed by Regency elegance
The terraced garden is equally delightful, laid out as a series of rooms in a traditional English cottage garden style that very much represents the taste of the Arts and Craft movement that flourished in the region in the early years of the 20th century. It also contains a medieval dovecote.
These features alone would make it hugely attractive to anyone who enjoys the pleasures of a grand, yet not ostentatious, English country house and its gardens. But it is not that alone that makes Snowshill special.
In 1919 it was bought by an artist and architect Charles Wade, who made the restoration of the house into his lifework
and who also had enough money to develop his other
great love: collecting. Some collectors specialise, but not Charles Wade. He bought anything that caught his fancy, provided it satisfied his main criterion: it had to be well made.
He collected everyday articles, many connected with the local woollen industry. He bought early bicycles and musical instruments; glass bottles and bones carved into elaborate models by French prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars. He even acquired suits of Samurai armour. He filled every single room of the house with his treasures and gave each room a name. Top Gallant, for example, is crammed with things connected with the sea.
The collection was so vast that there was no room for Wade himself: he lived in the little cottage just a few yards away. Snowshill actually deserves that often-overused description: it really is unique.