Stow on the Wold campaign 1646
Charles I's military situation in the spring of 1646 had become increasingly desperate. He attempted to maintain troops in the field whilst waiting for the arrival of relieving forces, from Ireland, Scotland or France, troops that in reality would never arrive. Charles appointed the veteran commander Lord Jacob Astley as Lieutenant-General of the royalist forces in the West and the Marches. Astley gathered together forces from the surviving garrisons in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and many reformadoes from regiments that had been disbanded with the decay of the royalist army. There were raw recruits among their number but, even amongst the ill-paid and ill-fed experienced soldiers, morale must have been desperately low.
Astley with his ragged band of some 3,000 men, comprising about 1,000 horse and 2,000 foot, advanced from Bridgenorth towards a rendezvous near Oxford. But the plan became known to parliament, and troops were brought together to intercept Astley.
A combined force of some 2,300 parliamentarian horse and foot, under Colonel Thomas Morgan, were assembled at the garrison at Evesham to intercept the royalists. In addition, Sir William Brereton, commander in the North West, had also set out with 1000 horse from Lichfield. Having played cat and mouse for the bridges and fords of the Avon for several days, probably at Pershore or Evesham, Astley finally crossed the river by the bridge at Bideford on the 20th March. Morgan had withdrawn to Chipping Campden to lure Astley to cross and so force an engement. However, Morgan had no intention of engaging before Brereton joined him and contented himself with skirmishes against the royalists to slow their march.