The tower of St James Great Horwood peers above the trees, as seen from the Winslow Road in March 2012. The tower is a landmark from many directions.
The ancient village of Great Horwood lies on a low ridge in the rolling clay country of North Buckinghamshire. Small streams run from east to west both north and south of the ridge. The village core is at about 390 feet (120 m) above sea level, around 50 feet (15 m) higher than the two streams to the north and south that effectively mark the edges of the village. In the extreme north-east of the parish, the land rises to over 500 feet (155 m) near College Wood. Because Great Horwood stands on higher ground, there are excellent views from the village and the tower of St James is a landmark for miles around.
Irregular older field patterns close to the settlements of Great Horwood itself and the hamlet of Singleborough to its north give way to larger, more regular fields elsewhere in the parish, divided by hedgerows. In the south of the parish a substantial area formed part of a wartime airfield called RAF Little Horwood, although half its area and all its buildings were in Great Horwood. Now fully back in cultivation, this area remains open and even bleak. To the north a different pattern becomes clear, and includes College Wood, a 129 acre (52 hectares) remnant of the medieval Royal hunting forest of Whaddon Chase. College Wood is named after New College, Oxford which held the lordship of the manor of Great Horwood for nearly 500 years. Apart from College Wood, most of this landscape is much less venerable than the settlements contained within it. Although there was some limited piecemeal enclosure during medieval and Tudor times, most of the landscape features and field boundaries in Great Horwood date from 1842 when the former open fields and common land were enclosed (described by Monica Jones inLandscape: Farms, Gardens & Allotments). Singleborough was enclosed separately in 1800.
Location and Communications
Great Horwood lies two miles (3.2 km) due north of Winslow, five miles (8 km) east-south-east of Buckingham and nine miles (14.5 km) south-west of Milton Keynes. The village is 55 miles (88 km) north-north-west of London. Adjoining parishes are Little Horwood, Winslow, Addington, Adstock, Thornborough, Nash and Whaddon.
Bletchley Road, now often known as the A421 trunk road but with Roman origins, runs east-west across the north of the parish. A busy and important route for east-west journeys across England, this road connects the A43 near Brackley with the M1 near St Neots, serving Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge. The B4033 connects the Aylesbury-Buckingham road at Winslow with the A421 at The Common. All other roads in the parish are unclassified.
The disused and partially-dismantled Oxford-Cambridge railway line is just a few yards south of the parish boundary. The last scheduled passenger service was in 1967 and the line closed completely in 1993. There are now plans under the East-West Rail banner to reopen the line between Bletchley and Bicester (the Bletchley to Bedford and Bicester to Oxford sections remain open), with a new station at Winslow.
The North Buckinghamshire Way and Midshires Way strategic footpaths pass through the village, and the parish has a network of public Rights of Way.
The bedrock geology around Great Horwood is comprised of Middle and Upper Jurassic marine calcareous mudstones of the Oxford Clay formation, with the Stewartby mudstone to the west and the overlying Weymouth mudstone to the east. Both are effectively devoid of fossils.
Laid over and concealing the solid geology are superficial undifferentiated glaciofluvial deposits of boulder clay, sand and gravel, giving rise to the characteristic soils around Great Horwood which are classified as ‘deep clay’. The historic village core is precisely situated on a glaciofluvial patch of less clayey soils. The heavy clay soils were perhaps a significant factor in the move away from arable farming to grazing in the late medieval period.
Springs and Wells There are several springs in the area and water has been seen rising in Spring Lane (hence its name, no doubt).
Until mains water was laid on during the early 20th century the people of the village relied on wells. Although many houses had their own wells, others had to rely on the seven situated around the village. They were located: in Winslow Road; at the top of the hill in Winslow Road; outside the Swan Inn; in Spring Lane; in Nash Road (the Common); two in Little Horwood Road, outside nos. 4 and 11. They originally had a chain and winch fitted over them for the villagers to attach their buckets and lower them into the well. Later several of the wells had pumps installed, making it easier for locals to fill their buckets. Only one now remains, without a mechanism, in Nash Road.
The streams to the north and south of the village and the Washbrook at the Winslow boundary all drain to Padbury Brook and eventually to the Great Ouse and the North Sea. Very few areas in the parish are susceptible to even superficial surface water flooding, and the flood plains of the streams are narrow.