The Cotswolds sundial trail
first to Swindon, then to Gloucester/Cheltenham on the A417. Turn off at the roundabout signed A429/A417 ‘Fairford’, and then an immediate right fork takes you to ‘the Ampneys’ and Fairford.
The village of Ampney St. Peter (SP 081015),our first stop, provides two sundials. The first (1703) on a house to the left of the road up to the church and the church sundial itself. The church dial is unusual in having only dots marking the hours and no numerals. It is speculated that this indicates a very early dial based on mass dial practice. There are also two scratch dials on the south wall.
Next stop, Fairford (SP 151012). A large ‘wool’ church, the prosperity of local merchants providing a significant building. Its glory is its stained glass which is well worth visiting on our journey; one good mass dial on a south wall buttress is the only apparent dial. There is also a memorial to ‘Tiddles’ the church cat.
Burford offers plenty attractions as a small Cotswold town and is a good place to stop for refreshment. If it is a lovely sunny day, a diversion to Swinbrook (turn right halfway down Burford Hill) yields the home of the Mitfords, the River Windrush and a church with a dial over the door.
Returning to Burford, the A424 is temptingly direct but the minor road through Taynton and the Barringtons offers the chance to approach Bourton through the Rissingtons although the hills down to the Windrush valley are quite steep.
At Bourton-on-the-Water (SP 167209) it will be busy; as a noted Cotswold tourist attraction you will find tea-rooms and a large car park. Walking down to the village from the car park you come out by the Dial Post Hotel complete with magnificent cube dial (illustrated right) and its three fancy gnomons. There is also a humble pedestal dial on the front lawn. A few yards further on and to the right is a vertical dial above the doorway of the Chestnut Gallery gift shop. It is in a very sad state and must be of very soft stone.
Southwards along the A429 The Fossebridge Inn for refreshment if necessary, and then, at Foss Cross (SP 068093) just after the next crossroads a right turn (‘Calmsden and North Cerney’). It is a narrow road to Calmsden (SP 045086) and, going down the village hill, on the right is a horse trough and above it a column bearing the very weathered remains of the village dial. The gnomon roots are just visible, otherwise it would be almost unrecognisable as a sundial.
North Cerney (SP 018078) church with saddleback tower and mysterious wall carvings has two sundials, a vertical one and a rare (only two others known - Rye, Sussex and Edlingham, Northumberland) bracket dial. The root of the gnomon is still there set in lead and pointing accurately at north. Also two scratch dials by the small tower door.
An optional extra here is Daglingworth (SO 993050) to see the famous Saxon dial. The easiest way is down the A417, then turn northward again and left fork to Daglingworth. The Saxon dial is inside the porch and there is a two faced ‘prism’ dial over the porch door.
Head out of Fairford on the A417 and fork left to the Eastleaches (SP 202053). Eastleach Martin and Eastleach Turville together form a Cotswold beauty spot and have a church each. Each has a cube dial but the one at Turville is a dreadful warning about ‘restoration’, having all three gnomons ‘south shaped’ in stainless steel. Both churches have scratch dials comprising a total of about eight at the last count, all facing south.Take the Burford road and, if you find Westwell (SP 223100)village on the way there, the church is worth a visit, having an unusual cube dial set into the wall instead of free standing as usual. Also we have a Saxon dial, carved on the tympanum over the door within the porch.Locally, there are two (or three) more Saxon dials in Gloucestershire at Daglingworth, Saintbury (and Stowell) (SO 993050, SP 117395 and SP 1173950), the first two being carved in relief.
Bourton’s other two dials are on the road east (to Birdland). Drink at the old New Inn with its 1712 Silas Wells vertical dial (fig. 2) or take afternoon tea at The Painted House opposite with an ornate 1660 pedestal dial in the garden
. Now we turn south and head back towards Cirencester. It is probably easiest to head towards Cheltenham/Cirencester by driving up to the A429 and turning left, follow to Cirencester and then a left turn (SP 155204) takes you to Farmington and its church. There is a sundial and a scratch dial with, unusually, numbers round the edge. Return to the A429 just above the A429/A40 (SP 114155) roundabout and take time out at Northleach if you like; (large ‘wool’ church and two or three museums).