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Chimney Meadows & The Thames ~ a tranquil, flat walk of 5½ miles (including ½ mile return walk to two hides), with options to extend the walk to 8½ miles, 10½ miles or 13½ milesStart/Parking: Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve Car Park, reached by lanes from Cote or Aston. G.R. SP 353012. Wear stout footwear. Binoculars useful. N.B. Dogs on leads between Car Park & Thames due to sensitivity of Nature Reserve.
Time: Allow 3 hours (incl. visit to hides), 4½ hours (8½ miles), 5½ hours (10½ miles), or 7 hours (13½ miles), all excluding stops.
Cross small footbridge opposite car park & go immediately left on permissive footpath following lane. When re-join lane at sharp right bend go right & at T-junction go left through gate (S.P. Bridleway Duxford). To visit the two hides leave lane on waymarked path (boardwalk) on left just before sharp right bend. The hides contain information including sightings, with a pair of binoculars in the 2nd (main) hide.
Continue on lane past picnic tables on right, then bear right to cross bridge over Thames. About 20 paces beyond bridge go left on Thames Path alongside the leafy Shifford Lock Cut, constructed end C19 to avoid a very meandering section of the river (see map). Shifford (‘sheep ford’), less than a mile away across the river, is now only a few buildings including a farm & small church; however, in King Alfred’s day it was a township bigger than Oxford, with a meeting of Parliament taking place here.
Cross footbridge( over the original Thames navigation). Should you wish to extend the walk to 10½ miles go left here along Thames Path all the way to Newbridge (Rose Revived & The Maybush), returning by same route. Otherwise, go right on waymarked path along another leafy stretch of the river, with kingfishers often seen (or heard). When reach bridleway go right just a short way to reach the Thames at Duxford Ford, the only purpose built ford still on the river-a delightful spot. It’s hard to imagine there was once a ferry point & busy wharf here.
Re-trace your steps & continue on bridleway to reach the hamlet of Duxford. Go right along lane, passing 1 particularly fine thatched house, & at end of lane go straight on with farm buildings on right, & pass between trees, crossing brook. Keep to bridleway (track) which bears right here then soon left. After passing between hedges bear right (not sharp right) on grassy track alongside fence. At field end Buckland Park & church are seen ahead to left (see walk in Summer Newsletter). Go sharp right here then pass through 1st gap in hedge on left & then sharp right, keeping to grassy track, to pass between hedges & across brook. Now go sharp left alongside brook & when reach thick hedges with trees go sharp right between trees to reach Tenfoot Bridge over the Thames. There’s a lovely view from here across Chimney Meadows, with the meandering river weaving its way through the scene. This bridge was built in the C19 when a former weir was removed, & gets its name from the weir’s flash opening of 10 feet through which barges passed.
Cross on to Thames Path. To extend the walk to 8½ miles (or to 13½ miles if you walked to Newbridge) go left here to Tadpole Bridge (The Trout), returning by same route. Otherwise, go R. Where path & river bend sharp right, just beyond the 1st of two WW2 pillboxes, look back to see Buckland House. There are several pillboxes along the Thames, built due to the threat of invasion. This is a good stretch to hear the distinctive sound of the curlew (and, if lucky, see 1 or more). When you reach the bridge you crossed earlier go left to return to your car.
Should you wish to visit the peaceful location of Shifford church (another lovely picnic spot) then follow signs to Old Shifford from Cote (passing the fine old Cote House on right) or from the B4449 towards Brighthampton / Standlake.
Russell and Anne Cherry.
Buckland & Littleworth ~ a choice of walking 4¾ miles or 6 milesStart/Parking: Car Park at Memorial Hall, Buckland. G.R. SU 344980
Time: Allow 2½ hours (shorter walk) or 3 hours (longer walk), excluding stops. Wear stout footwear.
Up to the 2nd World War most of Buckland’s cottages were in one ownership, with the majority of the villagers working for the estate. It is a very attractive village and this walk takes you through the village to see the fine cottages, many of which are thatched.
Leave car park exit by red telephone box & go left along road. Ignore left fork after 30 yards or so. The older church, set back up lane on right, is currently closed "until November" for roof repairs; it contains Norman & Early English architecture & two rows of manorial box pews & is well worth visiting.
Continue along St. George’s Road & past 'the big house' - Buckland House (built in the mid C18) and its parkland on the right. You will only get occasional glimpses of the house when the trees are in full leaf, but the grounds are usually open over some weekends in spring for a delightful lakeside walk with masses of daffodils, etc. There is also a fine icehouse.
When you reach road junction (fast & often busy) cross with care & go ahead on bridleway between trees. The horizon on the left is the Ridgeway, with White Horse Hill / Uffington Castle the highest point to the right ; if the light is ‘right’ you will be able to spot the White Horse just below the top. After passing St. Hugh’s School / Carswell Manor on right you reach road. Now go right for 50 yards then left on bridleway (opposite Carswell Manor exit), through fields to reach metalled drive (point A on map). If opting for the shorter walk go left here to reach the A420, & now ignore the next two paragraphs to continue with route description.
If you wish to extend the walk to 6 miles then from point A continue straight ahead on waymarked footpath. As you will be returning here by same route be sure to familiarise yourself with every ‘twist & turn’ along this stretch as the return route is not described. Pass through large field, with Folly Hill (and folly atop) ahead ; this will be the subject of a walk in a future Newsletter. At field end go right for 50 yards, cross stile at next way-marker, then bear left with Littleworth village ahead, to drop down gently. Pass to left of group of tall trees & drop down to cross stile by brook, then cross 2nd stile into field & continue ahead by fence on right. Pass through gate & go left on wide grassy path then bear left after 30 yards alongside fence to reach Littleworth, with church ahead & red ‘phone box to left (with convenient seat by it!).
The church is worth visiting & inside are some interesting leaflets, one being “Exploring nineteenth century Littleworth - who rebuilt it and why?”. You may now wish to explore further. Another leaflet gives the history of the church, which dates from 1839. Now re-trace your steps back to point A on map, then go right to the A420.
Cross here with great care (!) & continue along peaceful country lane through farmland with White Horse Hill seen ahead to right. At end of long straight stretch go left on waymarked bridleway where lane bends sharply right. After this first large field go straight ahead at crossways & maintain this direction, passing through Carswell Golf Course & mixed vegetation, with fine grasses, pines, rhododendrons & foxgloves.
At grassy crossways at the end of the wood on the left go left alongside fence with field now on your right, bearing right beyond gate onto firm track to pass the quaint old dovecote on right. Keep straight on, along lane to reach the busy A420. Again, cross with great care, go over stile & cross 2nd stile on right immediately past the lodge here (way-marked). Buckland House is glimpsed across parkland on left. You now return to Buckland, & when you reach road go left for 25 yards & take lane to right (Summerside), leading to Orchard Road to bring you back to the car park. Near the ‘phone box is a map of Buckland village & its surroundings.
There are two excellent hostelries nearby - The Lamb in Buckland and The Trout at Tadpole Bridge - by the Thames 2 miles away on the road to Bampton; both are very popular so if you plan to eat at a ‘busy’ time it is advisable to book a table.
Russell and Anne Cherry.
Cherwell Valley, Oxford Canal & Merrymaking
Distance: 4½ miles. Allow 2½ hours. Wear stout footwear.
Parking / Start: North Green, off Heyford Road (opposite duck pond), Kirtlington. G.R. SP499198
Walk away from Heyford Road and just past North Green and go right along Crowcastle Lane. Pass through gate then keep in this direction (i.e. ignore all routes to left or right) including later between buildings onto wide grassy bridleway between hedges. Drop down, pass through gate then go straight ahead by hedge to later drop down to metal gate at the small settlement of Northbrook.
Northbrook House (demolished 1750) was the former seat of the Dashwood family before they moved into the newly completed ‘big house’ in Kirtlington park in 1746, where the Dashwoods lived until the beginning of the C20. Sir James Dashwood twice served as M.P. for Berkshire in the mid C18. The Dashwood chapel in Kirtlington church has memorials to family members.
Go beyond gate for 25 yards then bear sharp left to bridges over the Oxford Canal (completed 1789) and River Cherwell. The route is left here, this side of canal to metal gate in field corner, but before proceeding do cross the canal and river into large field to see the fine older bridge over the Cherwell with its 3 arches spanning the water. So, back through gate and go ahead by fence above canal for 100 yards or so then cross stile on right to drop down to Northbrook Lock. Cross lock and go left on towpath with the river close by. This is a pleasant, tranquil spot for a stop.
You now stay on towpath for nearly 2 miles, on a quiet leafy stretch of the Oxford Canal where kingfishers are often seen. You soon pass a ‘DIS’ post ; these posts were placed on approach to a lock and go back to the days of working narrow boats, when the first boatman arriving at the post could ‘claim’ the lock. The canal leaves the river for a while but they return side by side later. You later bear round right to at Pigeons Lock just beyond Flights Mill on right (site of a mill since early C13—currently undergoing alterations). The Three Pigeons (red tiled house) was once a pub. This is another pleasant spot to rest.
Cross canal bridge and go up lane for ¼ mile. Shortly after passing beneath electricity wires enter wood on left (before building ahead on right). Keep to undulating path following canal (i.e. ignore all paths to right) to reach open area with seat and perhaps a narrowboat or 2 moored up. It’s hard to believe that there was once a busy coal wharf here, also a thriving cement works before the Shipton works (long since closed) started up almost 100 years ago (Bunkers Hill).
Go up the flight of steps here then continue climbing on path with steps/handrails to reach the top—a grassy area where orchids thrive. You now look down on Kirtlington Quarry (a Site of Special Scientific Interest), where dinosaur bones were discovered and many fossils can be seen; note the maze too! Another lovely spot to rest awhile, looking across the Cherwell Valley with Tackley’s church.
Keep to the high path to pass through spinney back onto lane, then go left back to car. There are 2 hostelries in Kirtlington, The Dashwood and The Oxford Arms, plus the award-winning village stores.
An up-coming event for which Kirtlington is famous is the Lamb Ale Festival. Historically, wheat was grown to make a cake and barley to make beer. On Trinity Monday village maids, with their thumbs tied behind them, ran after a fat lamb and the maid who caught and held the lamb with her mouth was declared ‘Lady of the Lamb’. Morris dancers took part in the Feast and the men carried the lamb on their shoulders to the farmhouses where beer and money was given to the dancers to help pay for the Feast. Nowadays the Lamb Ale Festival is a weekend of celebrations with a procession, dancing, many Morris sides, food and, course, plenty of drink! This year’s Festival is taking place over the weekend of 1-3 June and is well worth visiting.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Snowdrops, Upper Glyme Valley via Heythrop Park and deserted medieval villageA lovely country walk in any season, but particularly at snowdrop time.
Distance: 7½ miles. Allow 4 hours. Wear stout footwear. Muddy in places after rain.
Start / Parking: Church at Church Enstone - respectful parking by wall opposite cemetery on Little Tew Road. G.R. SP380251
Go left at far end of churchyard wall on wide grassy path with house on your right. At end of churchyard go right at T-junction and stay on waymarked path in this direction, soon entering open country. The path bears left alongside fence, drops down, then climbs. Continue on well-defined path through long field and cross stile in hedge. Go straight ahead, soon dropping down steeply, and at bottom of dip go left through gate.
Go right following road and later pass Wilderness Grange on right, then at crossways just beyond left bend go left on track; if you reach Talbot Hall (The Centre for Homeland Security) on left you have gone too far! Go right in front of golf course green, following “Next Tee” signs into wood. Note the Bathing Building and Octagonal Pool on right, which date from the beginning of the C18 when Heythrop Hall was built for the 12th Duke of Shrewsbury, Charles Talbot.
Continue straight ahead on waymarked route to reach track with bridge over stream on left. Go left here, then immediately right on climbing path, pass through gate into field to reach 2nd gate. Cross onto drive with building on right and take 1st right (drive) to soon pass buildings on left. Continue through avenue of trees on firm track, soon leading to open country, then track bears sharp left and soon sharp right by row of tall conifers.
Along here note the church over your right shoulder, dating from the late C19 when the new owner of Heythrop Hall designed the model village of Heythrop. The old (now redundant) church stands in trees to the right of the present church and has a superb Norman doorway; this is well worth driving on to later. Also look back to see the top of the ‘big house’.
The now grassy track passes alongside trees, and where trees end go sharp left (with 'Private' sign on your left) on grassy track to reach the A44 beyond Chalford Barns. Cross and go on track to left of Chase House. Pass dwelling on left and drop down alongside wall straight ahead. Follow waymarked route, climbing with golf course on right, go sharp right then soon sharp left on grassy track between fence and trees. At end go left at T-junction, dropping down to pass Nature Reserve on left. Bear sharp left (often wet/muddy here) then immediately bear left again through metal gate. Keep to grassy track through the upper Glyme valley until you reach gateway and fence, where go left across bridge over river then right through gate, and now continue ahead to reach lane by lakes. You might see black swans here.
Go right along lane, climbing, and go left on 1st drive between barns/buildings, and follow waymarked route, then pass through gate on right and follow route in same direction across field. Drop down to track beyond gate (often wet/muddy) and go left, staying alongside hedge beyond next gate.
You soon reach an area of mounds and undulations on the left. This is the site of Nether Chalford village, abandoned not due to the plague, but after the land was acquired by Oriel College, Oxford at end of C15 and converted from arable fields to pasture for sheep grazing.
Maintain your direction, passing through more gates, and pass Stone Farm onto metalled drive to reach minor road at Lidstone. Go left here, dropping down steeply, bear left over bridge then take footpath (S.P. Church Enstone 1½) on right, just before house on left. Go through wood with the Glyme on right into open field, then follow waymarked route to pass alongside top edge of wood ahead. Now bear slightly left across field to reach A44 by waymarker (at point where field starts to drop away ahead).
Cross and stay on waymarked path beyond drive across fields. When reach fence near end of 2nd (large) field cross on right and go immediately left. Continue straight on beyond wall at crossways, across large field with buildings ahead. Pass through hedge and later go alongside fence on R, cross drive by lodge and drop down through trees to Mill Farm. Pass in front of farmhouse on lane, crossing the Glyme, climb and at top bear left to church to pass through churchyard (lovely at snowdrop time) back to your car.
A local 'character', Montague Abbot ('Old Mont'), was a carter and lived in nearby Fulwell, and was the subject of Sheila Stewart’s book, Lifting the Latch. He is buried in the cemetery opposite.
The Crown is the local hostelry, serving excellent food and drink!
To visit the old church at Heythrop, continue along the Little Tew road for a mile or so, turn left for 2+ miles, then left at T-junction and park before sharp right bend at far end of Heythrop and walk left beyond present church.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Circular walk from WestwellDistance: A choice of walking 5½, 7½ or 8¼ miles on quiet, minor lanes & various public rights of way. Allow 2½ hours, 3½ hours or 4 hours respectively.
NOTE: Avoid in very wet conditions, particularly the longer walk. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Westwell village, reached by lane on left from A40 nearly ½ mile past Burford roundabout. At lane end / junction go right & park considerately on left on road just beyond the War Memorial & pond. G.R. 223099
Westwell has a fine church, set on high ground above the pond, & is worth visiting. Also note the War Memorial which incorporates the brass figure 1 from the clock of the Cloth Hall at Ypres.
Walk back along the lane by which you entered Westwell (S.P. Burford). After a long stretch with wide grass verges the lane bears right & drops down, then climbs & bears left to reach first house on left. Go right here on footpath (S.P. Signet) with wall then fence on left, then bear sharp left beyond gate. Later, cross stile by gate into a shallow valley which can be bone dry in summer or very soggy after lots of rain. The path soon crosses stream to left & climbs to pass to left of house ahead, then drops down right to follow alongside fence. Cross further stile then pass through small conifer plantation & cross stile into field. Continue straight ahead to pass through gate on right beyond Clouds Hill Cottage, to join metalled lane (restricted byway) near A361.
Now go sharp right (S.P. Holwell), then continue ahead uphill on stony track. At end of track go straight ahead on grassy track alongside wall, later dropping away from wall then climbing by fence. If you hear the sound of a steam train along here, this is the train giving rides in Cotswold Wildlife Park over to the left.
You soon reach Holwell, a delightful peaceful settlement. Walk along the lane to reach the lovely little church on the right & pond ahead - a perfect spot for a stop. Now pass to left of pond (on restricted byway) & soon bear left at fork ('Private. Keep Out' sign to right). You now have wide open views. Pass through farm buildings (note old pump on right) on to metalled drive to meet lane (A). For the 5½ mile walk go right here to return to Westwell, 1½ miles away.
For a longer walk continue straight ahead to crossroads where go left, with the Ridgeway on horizon ahead & round to right. When you reach lane junction on left by house go right on waymarked bridleway; this is Akeman Street, the Roman road between Corinium (Cirencester) & Verulamium (St. Albans). You then reach minor lane (B). For the 7½ mile walk go right here to crossroads just beyond wood, where go right, then straight on at next crossroads, & be sure to bear left at junction with metalled drive to Holwell Downs Farm, to take you back to Westwell.
If you plan to walk the longer route then cross lane(B) & continue straight ahead to reach gate (with waymarkers) & wall. Go right here (in front of gate) for a short way then drop down left on track. At the bottom (wet / muddy after much rain) go right at crossways on waymarked bridleway, climbing gently. When you leave wood cross track to follow alongside wood ahead with open field on right to reach lane. Now go right & go straight on at next 2 crossroads, then bear left at junction with metalled drive to Holwell Downs Farm to return to Westwell.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Church Hanborough - City Farm - Freeland areaDistance: 4 miles, excluding short detour to Freeland pub. Allow 2 hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Outside churchyard opposite Hand & Shears pub, Church Hanborough. G.R. SP426128
A walk over farmland & meadows, including proposed development site at City Farm (off A40 at Eynsham roundabout).
From church go right along road & at sharp left bend go on minor lane opposite (Footpath sign ‘Eynsham 2½’). At lane end go through gate ahead & keep in same direction on way-marked route. At opening on left you get a good panorama, back to Blenheim’s parkland, across to the wooded Bladon Heath & the low ridge dropping down to the right to Cassington church spire, with Wytham Great wood further to the right. When you reach the barns in field on right be sure to go straight ahead by hedge on left (i.e. not round to right), to soon pass through gate & stay by hedge ahead, dropping down then bearing right to pass through gate. Go straight ahead on path to soon follow alongside fence on left with City Farm ahead. Cross track near fence end, cross brook & go through gate into field with farm buildings ahead. Bear left to pass through metal gate by wooden gates onto track & go right here. Pass buildings on right, go sharp left on drive & after 100 yards or so take signed footpath on right by gate & hedge, keeping hedge on your left.
Pass the mounds & site office of landfill site on right & go through metal gate on to grass bridleway. Go right & pass through 2 large gates & at junction by telegraph pole bear right for about 20 paces & then right again between trees to stile. Continue straight ahead by hedge on left with Church Hanborough’s spire ahead & City Farm over your right shoulder. Cross further stile then wobbly footbridge (Take care - it’s been reported!) into field corner. Now bear left alongside hedge on right, cross stile then reach 2nd stile in field corner straight ahead, just beyond metal gate / enclosure on right. Go a few steps through small coppice into field on left then bear right alongside hedge & go right in field corner to soon reach footbridge (Care here too - missing middle plank, also reported!) over brook into field.
Go straight ahead with hedge on left, through gate, then 2nd gate in field corner. Go sharp left here by hedge with a lovely wild flower meadow (June) on right, including yellow rattle, ox-eye daisies, ragged robin, buttercups, white & red clover, & assorted grasses. Go through gate ahead, then straight on passing alongside then through edge of a mixed wood (Vincent’s Wood) into open field. Go straight ahead, then pass gate in field corner & go right on wide track to reach seat by pond at The Green, Freeland.
The route is right here, but you may wish to make a short detour along the road to visit The Oxfordshire Yeoman pub, originally a squatter cottage, which serves good 'pub grub' and / or Freeland church (a Victorian gem with C.13 style wall paintings).
So... follow footpath (signed ‘Church Hanborough’), passing through gate to right of house drive, & stay by hedge on left to drop down & pass through gate, then continue ahead & cross stile on left in bottom corner of long field. Keep by wood on left then bear right on gentle rise to go through gate by 2nd oak tree & then bear right to gate by telegraph pole, with the lovely setting of Church Hanborough’s spire ahead. Go left & drop down to gate onto minor lane & now go right uphill back to your car with the Hand & Shears pub conveniently placed!
The church is well worth visiting. It includes features of Norman( early C.12), Early English (early C.13) & Perpendicular (C.15) architecture, plus a fine rood screen, pulpit & font (all C.15). Also, don’t miss the Norman carving on the outside of the north door (Disabled entrance), of St. Peter, with a key, a lion, a lamb and a cock at his feet.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Ducklington & circular walk via YelfordDistance: 6 miles. Allow 3 hours, excluding short walk to fritillary meadow. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Near school in Aston Road from A415 into Ducklington village. Go right. SP358075
After admiring the setting of Ducklington church and old (Victorian Gothic) school across duck pond go right along Standlake Road and about 100yds before road rejoins A415 go right on bridleway (SP ‘Yelford 1¾’). Cross busy A415 with care and continue straight ahead on tree-lined drive, and at end of trees go sharp left then bear right by grey stone wall beyond buildings on right.
Pass farm buildings on right and through gate then immediately left onto gravel track (bridleway) between fences, with Cokethorpe Park (now school) ahead. The ‘big house’ was built from 1709 for Sir Simon Harcourt of Stanton Harcourt, the Lord Chancellor. Stay on this distinct track, bearing right by hedges where fences end, heading towards wood (Home Wood), passing another wood on right. Go sharp right by Home Wood and when leaving the wood the track bears sharp left with hedge close by on left, sharp right. Ahead is Aston church spire with Bampton’s round to right.
Cross track and go through gate, bearing slightly left on waymarked route with hedge on left. Go through gate at end of field, then go diagonally right to gate to right of hedge ahead, then left by hedge a short way to join lane by seat at Yelford. Go straight on through village and shortly after sharp right bend go right (opposite footpath sign) to visit the lovely, tiny, hidden church. Sir William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons during the C17 Civil War, bought the Yelford estate around that time and the family retained the estate for the next 300 years.
Return to lane and go right for ¾ mile, cross Aston Road (care - fast traffic here) and go straight on for further 1¼ miles. Then, at a left bend near farm off to left beyond metal gate, go right on footpath (SP ‘Ducklington 1½’) and stay by hedge on left. When reach gateway and waymarker go diagonally right across field, passing just to left of clump of five trees, to waymarker and footbridge in bottom hedge. Now go slightly right across field to stile in fence just to right of low cattle water trough below rising ground to right. Cross, go straight on slightly rising ground, through gateway, to metal gate ahead to left of clump of trees.
Go diagonally right here, over highest part of field, and stay on same line to drop down and cross stile and go through metal gate in top corner of field. Cross farm drive, then two waymarked stiles into field and now bear right by hedge and through gateway. Now go diagonally left away from wood, cross waymarked stile in fence, to reach stile in field corner near end of line of conifers. Go right on drive a short way, then straight over at crossways and pass cottages and bungalow on left and join the busy Aston Road. Go left on grass verge and cross A415 (great care here!) to return to your car. A snakeshead fritillary is depicted in a stained glass window in the Ducklington church, which is worth visiting.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Snowdrop walk in Dorn Valley, with Barton AbbeyDistance: 5 miles. Allow 2½ hours, excluding stops. Wear stout footwear. Avoid in flood conditions.
Start / Parking: Steeple Barton church, near Middle Barton. G.R.: SP 448249
Continue along bridleway beyond church and pass the grounds of Barton Abbey on your left. The track becomes grassy and wide, and after you drop down and the track bears sharp right into open field continue straight ahead at blue waymarker next to an active badgers’ sett; badgers have been present here for many years. Stay alongside hedge on your left, go through small gate ahead then bear right with River Dorn on left. This is an idyllic spot.
Pass through metal gate beyond narrow arm of field. It can be wet along here, but - except in severe flood conditions - is usually passable by keeping to right. Go ahead, bearing right to pass some sweet chestnut trees (delicious - you’ll have to return in the autumn!). Enter and walk through long field with large barn (Purgatory: ‘lands requiring painful and tedious labour’) higher up on right, to reach gate in far corner. Go onto track beyond gate and continue ahead by the Dorn (it can get quite muddy here). Climb gently into open field and stay close to wood on right, dropping down to reach minor road beyond gate at Tittenford Bridge - a lovely peaceful spot, and the felled tree trunks also beckon a stop!
Go left along road, climbing then, after road levels out, go left on track (bridleway) just before National Cycle Network (Sustrans) signpost. Stay on this track passing farm buildings and cottage on right, then later - at bottom of dip in wood - go straight ahead to join metalled lane by fence. Now maintain your direction and where lane bears left look over low stone wall on right for what is usually a fine show of aconites and snowdrops.
Continue straight ahead on track beyond Beech Cottage on left, where lane bears sharp right, with wood on left, where hopefully you will be rewarded with lots of snowdrops. Stay on track beyond gate, bearing gradually right to follow alongside fence, and Barton Abbey (private) is soon seen below on left. The track bears left then soon right by fence to pass behind the fine thatched cricket pavilion, and later pass through gate to reach drive / entrance gate to Barton Abbey.
Go right here (NB: not sharp right to large gates) to join lane and then go left. Stay on lane which then bears sharp right downhill, then left, cross river (Dorn) and at sharp right bend take footpath (waymarked) to left heading towards cottages. Bear right in front of cottages and go through small gate then bear left across field to enter churchyard via gate just below church. Go left in churchyard and continue in this direction away from church and pass through metal gate in corner of churchyard. Now go left on path which then bears right, and at marker post drop down to left to cross footbridge to reach lake. Go right for just a few paces for a superb view across to Barton Abbey.
Barton Abbey (the ‘big house’) has never been an abbey. Originally built in early C16, but mainly Victorian, it was rebuilt and named by the Halls, the brewing family. For the past 90+ years the Flemings have owned the house and estate - Ian Fleming of James Bond fame being a relative.
Retrace your steps to return to your car via the churchyard.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Cherwell & Oxford Canal to Thrupp, Shipton-on-Cherwell, Hampton Gay & Hampton PoyleDistance: 4 miles. Allow 2 hours, excluding stops. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Car park behind St. Mary’s Church, Kidlington. G.R. 497148
Go through gate near far right corner of car park and keep straight ahead to reach meadow, then go ahead (slightly left), through gap then straight ahead to join riverside path where go left. Stay by the Cherwell and when you enter woodland, bear right nearer the river. Later, pass under railway bridge to reach Annie’s Tea Room on right, offering good selection of home-made lunches and other goodies!
Go ahead and go right in front of Thrupp lift bridge on Oxford Canal where well-placed seats invite a stop. The Oxford Canal was constructed to bring coal from the Midlands to London via Oxford and the Thames, and the canal reached Oxford in late 1789, 20 years after work began at the Coventry end. Stay on towpath passing moored boats with the Cherwell on your right to reach bridge at Shipton-on-Cherwell, where the church is worth visiting.
Go right at bridge, over stile and second stile soon after and bear left in open field to cross river. Now go left through next field to pass under railway bridge, then bear right rising gently to gate to left of church with the spire of St. Mary’s ahead. This is Hampton Gay. Below on your left stood a flourishing paper mill, producing a ton of paper a day in the C19. There were plans for a new canal from the Oxford Canal nearby to the Thames near London, but the opening of the Grand Junction (Union) Canal from Napton and Braunston through to Brentford Docks in 1805 gave a more direct route from the Midlands to London, starting a decline in traffic volume on the southern section of the Oxford Canal.
Near this tranquil spot was also the scene of what was then the worst railway accident in history with over 30 killed and 60 injured. Around mid-day on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve 1874 (deep snow and penetrating frost) several carriages on a Paddington to Wolverhampton train came off the rails with many going down the embankment, some coming to rest in the iced-up canal.
Enter the churchyard, pass in front of church and bear right to see the last in the row of headstones, that of 19 year old Benjamin Taylor of Wolverhampton whose life ended abruptly here on that fateful day.
From the church go alongside fence, with the ruins of the Elizabethan Hampton Gay Manor which was destroyed by fire in 1887, and never rebuilt, on the left. At the time of the fire the Manor was sub-divided and the owner of the paper mill lived there. The mill owner had already received insurance money following fires at the mill and the insurers were apparently suspicious about the Manor fire and no money was paid out. Beyond the ruins was once a prosperous village but following agricultural depression the population declined from around 100 to just a handful today.
From the trees in front of the ruins, go right on slight ridge, pass pond on right and go alongside hedge to gate / stile by lone tree. Cross next field and stile in hedge and go on to two footbridges in trees, then bear slightly left on rising path and cross two stiles in hedge. Bear slightly right across large field to stile to right of fences junction, then go right to stile by gate beyond farm buildings. Cross and go right, cross stile and another stile to join lane by church at Hampton Poyle. Inside the church is a C14 monument to Walter de la Poyle and a 2ft. high brass, dating to 1424, to John Poyle and his wife.
Go over stile across lane from church into field, bear left to stile in field corner, then go slightly right ahead to way-marked footbridge. Now go right by hedge, cross river and go straight ahead with meadow on right. Later, path bears left over footbridge by pond then sharp right back to car park.
St. Mary’s Church, with its 171 foot high spire, has a Norman font, a fine rood screen, C13 misericords and two C15 bench ends. Teas, coffees and cakes are served here on summer Sunday afternoons between 2.00 - 5.00pm. Also note the row of gabled almshouses near the church, which were left to the village by Sir William Morton, a prominent Royalist in the Civil War. Over each window is the name of a member of his family, and his arms and crest are on the end of the building.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Glyme Valley & old routeways, with fine landscapesDistance: 4½ miles (or 5½ miles with optional extension). Allow 2¼ hours (3 hours for longer walk), excluding stops. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Layby in Rosamund Drive, off Manor Road via Vermont Drive, Old Woodstock. G.R. 441172
Walk back along Rosamund Drive to the end and take footpath alongside wall by play area (‘Wootton 1½’). Pass through edge of play area into open field then fork right on path alongside tall fence and continue on well defined path across field, then pass through hedges and continue ahead passing to right of buildings. Cross track, following waymarker, with Wootton church straight ahead.
Drop down with River Glyme below on right to reach road. Cross and continue straight ahead through narrow field keeping close to two woods on your left. Keep straight on beyond metal gate, through open field, then pass through narrow gap in hedge a few yards to left of telegraph pole. Continue ahead alongside hedge on your right and pass through small gap in hedge in field corner beyond telegraph pole. Cross track, pass between ‘The Cottage’ on left and hedge on right, then go through gate by waymarker.
Now go immediately right, staying high up and pass just below large house, and maintain this direction with River Glyme below on your left. This is a lovely spot to take in the setting. If you haven’t seen any red kites by now it will be surprising. Pass through gate into Long Meadow Local Nature Reserve, created as part of the Millennium celebrations. Walk through this woodland and continue ahead on high path, passing picnic table and seat, then drop down gently to enter meadow beyond gate. Cross meadow to gate and cross river by footbridge at another lovely spot - a typical kingfisher spot.
Now pass between small pools to reach the buildings of Hordley. Go ahead on metalled lane, and where lane bears sharp left, take waymarked footpath on right, which soon passes through small gate into open field. Cross field to reach road junction by bottom left corner of field, near buildings. Cross road on your left (care, as can be busy), then take waymarked footpath (Oxfordshire Way) by cottage into open field. This is the course of Akeman Street, the Roman road between Corinium (Cirencester) and Verulamium (St. Albans). At crossways before gate it is decision time! For the shorter walk go right here to reach road, and ignore next paragraph to continue with route description.
If opting for the extended walk then go through gate and straight ahead through open field and pass through hedges, continuing ahead to reach waymarked crossways just beyond gate. Go left here on bridleway between hedges to reach bridleway junction. Now go left to reach road.
Cross road with care and continue ahead alongside hedge and beyond waymarker to reach 2nd waymarker. Bear right here and continue ahead on well defined route (bridleway) above the Glyme valley on your right. This is one of many ‘green lanes’ (old routeways) in this area.
Later, continue ahead on metalled lane and when reaching buildings continue past Green Lane on left where lane bends round to right, and take next right (Glyme Close) and follow path round to left in front of flats, then bear right to reach gate by garages. Now go left on path through water meadows, staying alongside river Glyme, to reach road by The Black Prince pub, another good place to stop! To return to your car go right past pub, uphill to traffic lights and bus stop, pass through opening on right into Westland Way then bear left back to layby.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Begbroke & BladonDistance: 5 miles. Allow 2½ hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Begbroke Church (St. Michael’s Lane) G.R. 468139
Walk back along St. Michael’s Lane to junction and go right along lane, climbing gently. At lane end go over cattle grid through gateway and continue ahead on broad track, climbing steadily. Look back at top (before bend) for a fine view, including the slender spire of St. Mary’s Church, Kidlington (‘Our Lady’s Needle’) to the right and Graven Hill near Bicester straight ahead.
Stay on this track which bends left then continues alongside wood, then over cattle grid, with Wytham Hill and Great Wood ahead, Cassington church spire below to the right, and the Ridgeway on the distant horizon. Continue to the house (Spring Hill), then at end of hard track go right on broad grassy track to join hard track through opening in hedge beyond telegraph pole.
Go right on track, with spire of Church Hanborough seen half left. Pass hedge on left and descend to 2nd hedge on left. Now go straight ahead on grassy track around field edge with hedge on right. At end of field path bears sharp left to bring you to footbridge on right (by oak tree) after 50 yds. Cross here (way-marked) and continue ahead alongside hedge. Pass through wide opening in hedge ahead, then maintain your direction passing to right of hedge ahead. The wood on the right is made up of Worton Heath and Bladon Heath. Continue slightly left across field to wood corner, then follow alongside wood to reach road by Burleigh Lodge.
Go right on road for about 250 yards, then take way-marked footpath on right to Bladon, keeping a hedge on your left all the way. You have a glimpse of part of Long Hanborough to your left.
When you reach lane at Bladon, go straight ahead then, just before end of lane, take lane on right which soon passes Crescent Cottage on left. At end of this lane the route is right along Heath Lane, but it is well worth making a short detour along Church Street opposite to St. Martin’s Church to see the Churchill Memorial Window which was unveiled by the Duchess of Cornwall in June, and also the graves of Winston Churchill and other family members.
Walk up Heath lane and at top go left a short way to way-markers by metal gate. Now go right on path through middle of long narrow field, with the Beckley transmitter mast on horizon ahead and Brill Hill / Muswell Hill to its left. Go through gap in bottom hedge and continue ahead through middle of field to gap in middle of bottom hedge (marker post).
Look ahead to Begbroke Church, just to right of Beckley mast, and now head for small gap in hedge to left of mast, and from there make for stile in hedge to right of church. Then pass to left of tall oak tree in next field and go sharp left on track between wall and buildings to return to the 1,000 year old St. Michael’s Church, which is worth visiting to see the fine Norman doorway and chancel arch.
Russell and Anne Cherry
South Leigh & Rushy CommonIt is suggested that this walk is not undertaken after heavy rain, when some of the paths can get very muddy. Wear stout footwear even in summer when the ground can be hard and uneven. Binoculars are useful.
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: allow 2 hours
- Leaving the village on the Stanton Harcourt road, take the footpath on the right just beyond the South Leigh sign past the front of Tar Wood Lodge and through the gate with the yellow arrow. Continue ahead keeping Tar Wood on your right. As you pass under the pylons you will see Wytham Hill and Great Wood, then Boars Hill to you left. Tar Wood is a mixed wood with elder on its edge. Follow the hedge and look back to see Eynsham Hall Park beyond College Farm.
- Continue straight ahead when joining the distinct track with a gate in the hedge on your right. The track to the left leads to Stanton Harcourt. After passing beneath a large oak tree look through the gap on your right where you may see many peewits, which nest on the ground. There are various birds here including long tailed tits, blue tits, chaffinches, and larks overhead.
- Turn right when you reach the Stanton Harcourt to Cogges road for about 200 yards then take the footpath on the right just before The Firs. This track climbs gently between mixed hedges including dog roses, with rosebay willow herb and cow parsley. Rabbits and hares can be seen along here. When reaching the opening bear left keeping the hedge on your left then continue straight on passing the gap on your left, head for the pylons. Look out for buzzards overhead and deer prints on the ground. You will soon join a track through a plantation with pines on your left.
- At the end of the plantation you join another track where our route goes to the right, but a short detour to the left brings you to an oak tree and memorial to Arthur Stanley Colson (a local farmer) and to see the disused buildings of Tar Farm which was built for the Eynsham Hall estate in the 19th century. Retrace your steps to the track continue for 50 yards then fork left with the hedge on your left. We heard a barking fox from here one evening. You can see the buildings at Church End from here.
- Before the track bends to the right (before the pylon) go through the gap in the hedge on the left, look for the yellow footpath marker which may be hard to see in the summer growth. From here take the path at right angles keeping the large open field on your left and hedge on you right. Make for the stile ahead cross this and then the next one and continue down the hill. Tar Farm is on your left with Tar Farm cottages below. At the bottom hedge, look out for the footbridge which can be hidden, to the left. Cross the bridge and join the grassy track.
- Stop here. The lake ahead was a former gravel pit and is now part of Rushy Common Nature Reserve. The lake is currently being restored as a haven for wildlife. At present the reserve can only be viewed from here but plans are being made for a car park and hide. This is part of the Lower Windrush Valley Project, as is Standlake Common Nature Reserve. For further information on either site contact Alison Hopewell on 01993 814126. You might see Canada geese, heron, mallards, shellducks, gulls, tufted ducks, swans, coots and moorhens. Turn right on the grassy track and continue until you get to the railway track. Look out for deer, foxes and on a sunny day lots of butterflies.
- Cross the track and continue ahead following the blue marker into Moor Lane and you will come out into South Leigh opposite White Cottage (8).
Russell and Anne Cherry
Hardwick & The WindrushGo up Moor Lane continuing straight on past the blue marker keeping the hedge on your right. Cross the old railway then keep straight ahead on the left edge of the long field next to hedge, through gate then beneath the pylons. Rushy Common and lake are on your right.
Stay on the grassy track to the road which you cross, then follow the path opposite left round the gravel workings. Follow the waymarkers passing another lake on your right. You may see waders, herons and grebe here. You then cross a branch of the River Windrush by footbridge, follow the grassy path to the right around the large lake. The lake is now managed as a fishery but is a haven for wildlife and you can always see something of interest. When you reach the far side of the lake look out for a post on your right, there is a marker but on the other side of the post so don't miss it.
Go over the footbridge and left around the next lake (the path has been cleared now but in high summer there are lots of nettles so mind your legs). Cross the stile into the field and head for the metal gate in the left corner. There is an information board here.
A short detour across the river and through the paddock will take you to the hamlet of Hardwick. This is an idyllic little spot at any time of year. The mill is supposed to date back to 1279 but most of the surviving building is 18th Centuryy with earlier masonry and a late medieval stone doorway. The mill floor contains pieces of a large gravestone with a monastic symbol of c. 1300 perhaps from Eynsham Abbey.
Back to the information board. Carry on along the permissive path to your left, follow the meandering Windrush until you reach the castellated Fish House (another magical place which looks fantastic in the autumn light). This has a long and varied history probably as a medieval mill (used as a fulling mill then later as a corn mill and at some time as a fishery). It has a date stone of 1723 but this was possibly from when the square tower was adapted after Cokethorpe House was built in 1709 for Sir Simon Harcourt. The adjacent cottage was added in the 19th Century.
Now walk back along the river a short distance to the blue marker and gate on your left and head straight across the field to another gate, go right then left along the side of yet another lake. Cross the footbridge but stop here to look at Gill Mill, another ancient mill on the river. Continue straight ahead on the grassy track and gravel drive and on to the road. Turn right and carry on along the road taking the footpath (on your left) just past Tar Farm Cottage.
Continue up the farm track through the farm buildings and keep on the track bearing left, then fork left behind the next hedge on the left. Continue then turn right at the hedge ahead heading towards fir trees where you bear right (yellow marker) into field then very soon go left between trees. Look out for hares across the field here. In the corner of the field ahead go through the opening in the hedge and drop down past a solitary oak tree to a gap in the hedge. Turn right and follow the hedge to a young plantation of mixed trees where you turn left for 25 yards to bear right on the path through the trees to emerge on to the road at The Old Crossing.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Eynsham Hall Woods - 4 milesWalking towards the church from the village hall, take the road on the left past the seat on the green with the old vicarage on your right. After passing Glebe House and Keble House take the footpath diagonally across the field on the left, passing to the right of a solitary oak tree, to the stile just beyond the wood, 'Furzy Breach' - a good bluebell wood.
Now head straight down the field, parallel with the wood to the stile in the hedge ahead, then straight across a narrow field to the next stile and from here make for the stile by the water trough. Look out for the next stile 50 yards ahead in the hedge on the left, then head for the hedge to the left of the white gate. From here it is worth making an extension to the circular walk by crossing the A40 by the road bridge and passing the farm and stables and following the bridleway straight ahead. Stay on this track skirting Eynsham Hall Park on your right. This is as near as you can get to the Hall on a public footpath but it is certainly worth a visit if you have a chance sometime. For more historical information visit the British History Online website here.
The first hall was built by James Lacy (1774) or his son Willoughby. It was much altered by 1870 by James Mason and was described in 1878 as "magnificently furnished". But the Hall was then demolished by J. F. Mason after his father's death in 1903 and a new and larger house was completed by 1908. Its new owner in 1929, Michael Mason, disliked the new hall calling it a "vulgar barracks". Since WW2 it has been occupied by Barclays Bank, the Air Ministry and is now used as a conference centre.
The Museum of English Rural Life which is in Reading, holds some accounts and photographs from the 19th and 20th century of Eynsham Hall which I am sure would be most interesting to anyone keen on local family history.
Back to the walk - the wood is full of wild life and the trees can be beautiful in the autumn but if you carry on the track will come out on the A4095! so it is best to retrace your steps back past the farm and over the A40. Turn right through the white gate and follow the hedge passing the South Leigh footpath sign, bear left on the track and left away from the road.
There is a good view from here of Wytham Woods, Twelve Acre Farm and Eynsham Church Tower with Boars Hill to the right and The Ridgeway on the skyline. Continue straight ahead across the field through the gate opening in the hedge, then go uphill on the track to the right of the conifers (look out for deer tracks here).
The right of way now follows to the right of the hedge straight ahead to join Chapel road opposite Shuttles. Turn left along the road and when you get to the footpath on the left opposite Old Farm take this diagonally across the field back to the village hall.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A Circular Walk to The Fox in Stanton Harcourt - 4.5 miles from the football fieldAllow: 2 hours (not including pub stop).
Walk along the Barnard gate road and take the bridleway on the right at the crossways beyond the drive to The Manor House and Field House.
Stay on the broad track passing Warners farm on your right to reach the Stanton Harcourt road.
Turn left along the road and at the left bend beyond College farm take the footpath diagonally across the field on the right.
Immediately on entering the wood fork right then head across the fields to Friar Farm. Pass between the farm buildings on track then metalled road to the roundabout.
Go straight on here towards Stanton Harcourt (we will be doing another walk around the village here in the future) to arrive at The Fox public house where they have a child friendly garden.
From the pub turn left on the roadside path towards Stanton Harcourt then cross the road and take the footpath on the right immediately before the bungalows.
Stay on this grassy path, cross the busy B4449.
Go straight ahead, pass the plantation on your right and when reaching the hedge go through the gap in the hedge on the left.
Turn right immediately and bear right across the field heading towards Tar Wood with Blue Barn on your right and a view beyond to College Farm with Eynsham Hall Park in the distance.
When you reach the track bear left to join the track by the metal gate and hedge. Turn right here to pass Tar Wood on your left to rejoin the Stanton Harcourt road and back to South Leigh.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Eynsham Abbey Ruins and the Fish PondsThis walk can start either from South Leigh or, if you want a shorter stroll, park at the Station Road car park in Eynsham and just do the Abbey and Fish Ponds walk. The whole route will take about 3 hours and is about 6 miles.
Starting from South Leigh, walk down the Barnard Gate road from Crossing Cottage and straight on to the bridleway as the road turns left. Across the bed of the old railway track, follow the hedge on your left and up the path through the gap in the hedge and head towards the cottages known as The Nunnery, although there is no evidence that there was ever a nunnery here, only a railway cottage, as the Fairford line to Oxford ran this way, just to your left.
Here you come to a tarmac road, which you follow until you get to the next couple of cottages, Newfield and a cross roads of paths. Straight on is Eynsham, to the left is the road to Twelve Acre Farm (which we covered in another walk) and the footpath we take is to the right.
Following the path with the hedge on your left, carry on through a kissing gate on the left. The path takes you by a wood and lake which is private. The path now is following the course of the old railway, with lots of wildlife and wild flowers and a host of butterflies in the summer. At the end of this section the footpath directs you left and right around the edge of the industrial estate which was once Eynsham Station.
There is plenty of information and wonderful photos of this area on the various websites about Eynsham.
On this site a Sugar Beet factory was set up in 1927 to develop a method of drying sugar beet as a means of preservation. Unfortunately this proved to be impractical and the factory soon closed.
Eynsham Station made news in December 1927 when two fugitives, on the run from police after murdering an Essex policeman, staged a hold-up at the station. Frederick Browne and William Kennedy managed to drive their car along the track from South Leigh direction late at night and, on entering the station, met the porter Frederick Castle. Browne and Kennedy, tying him up after an unsuccessful attempt to steal from the station safe, left Castle in the cabin at the end of the yard.
At the end of the footpath you come out into Station Road from where you turn left walking along to the car park (for the Abbey Ponds Walk) which is on your right.
A map can be downloaded via the Eynsham Online website here to accompany this walk which takes you by means of six illustrated stone plaques around the remains of the former abbey (1005-1538).
The fish ponds have now been restored into a delightful wildlife area. On your way the plaques show how the area would have looked and how they were used by the monks to supplement their diet with fresh fish. The path follows the Chillbrook which was diverted in past times. The trail takes you around the playing field and into High Street past St. Leonard's Church, which is well worth a visit and on down Acre End Street. From here we walk straight over and down Chillbrook Road, after about 1 mile this will bring you back to The Nunnery where you retrace your steps back to South Leigh.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A walk around the village (a shorter one of just 2.5 miles)Walk along the Barnard Gate road, passing the drive to Field House, then take the restricted byway on the left up the field to Bonds Lane. Fork right at the post just past Field House (yellow marker) into field. Then straight on alongside a hedge on your right. When you reach the hedge ahead, bear right through gap in hedge and keep to the left of the hedge to join the Barnard Gate road. Turn left along the road to Green Farm. Take the path on the left just before the farm barns. Over the new stile then head diagonally left across the field to cross the gate before field corner. Cross footbridge on the right then go diagonally left to crest of the hill to cross another stile beyond the hedge on the left with a tree plantation on the right. Again head diagonally across the field heading for Holyrood House, passing the 4 storey Glebe House on your right (Say hello to the donkey!).
Go over the stile and follow the path alongside the wall in the churchyard. Go down the road, passing the Old Rectory on the right, then bear left to Bonds Lane. As soon as you reach the green lane go over the stile in the hedge on the right. Go diagonally across the long field and cross the 2 stiles to the left of the 2 oaks. Continue across big field to a stile in the hedge on the left. Don't cross this stile but bear right on the path down to Holmans Farm. Stay on the path by the fencing behind, and to right of the building. Then go down the drive to bring you into Station Road.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A scenic walk to Rushy Common and Moor LaneDistance: 3.5 miles
Allow: 2 hours
Our series of walks from South Leigh, featured on other pages, have covered virtually every right of way within or leading from the village.
The accompanying map shows just how fortunate we are with this network of walking routes right on our doorstep - the continuous line represents paths included in all the walks, and the broken lines are the odd "missing links"!
So, you don't necessarily have to walk for several miles, you can simply adapt your own walk from any segment of the map to suit your needs. Keep walking the local paths to help to keep them clear! As previously mentioned it is advisable to wear stout footwear at all times, even if it not wet it may be uneven.
We intend to include some of our favourite short walks in the surrounding area (only a short drive away) in future issues, including the Windrush Valley around Crawley and Minster Lovell Ruins, which we hope will be of interest.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Windrush Valley, Old Blanket Mills and Minster Lovell Hall RuinsDistance: 5.5 miles.
Allow: 2½ - 3 hours (excluding pub stop).
N.B. The Windrush valley is very prone to flooding after heavy rain. Start point: lay-by on the right of the Minster Lovell road (B4047) from Witney town centre, above the old blanket mill chimney. GR 351103.
Take the footpath marked Crawley from the lay-by, continue straight on down to the bottom junction, then go left and immediately right on the path through trees down to the Windrush. Go left over the fence / stile and follow the path alongside the river for about half a mile to reach New Mill.
If you are interested in the history of the blanket industry in Witney, there is an excellent booklet published by the tourist information office. It is called Witney Wool and Blanket Trail. There is still a wealth of sites to visit in the town and along the river.
After enjoying this peaceful spot follow the path back away from the river to the ridge above the gateway. Now turn right staying this side of the hedge (fine view of New Mill here) to drop down to the metal gate / stile. Go left here up the field alongside the hedge, where you will have a good view of Crawley Mill to your right. Cross the road and continue straight ahead on the path to wood, where the path bears left and drops down to a stream in the Windrush valley again.
Continue straight ahead alongside the stream (ignore the track up the hill to left), pass through all the waymarked gates and enter the wood just above the Windrush. Now carry on ahead (again ignoring paths to the left) and bear right (yellow arrow) to the Windrush and a lovely view of Minster Lovell Hall ruins.
Cross the river by the footbridge then head for the ruins. Take time to explore the ruins in their wonderful setting, and it's also worth making the short detour to see the dovecot by following the path as directed.
The fortified manor house was the home of the Lovell family from Norman times until 1487, built by William, Lord Lovell and the final owner being his grandson Francis, Viscount Lovell. In the wars of the Roses, Francis supported the Yorkists, and after the battle of Bosworth Field he fled to the Low Countries. He returned only to be defeated at the Battle of Stoke. He escaped again and, according to legend made, his way back to Minster Lovell, where he was hidden in a secret vault and looked after by a faithful and trusted servant. Fatefully, the servant died and Francis starved to death interred in his ancestral home. Over 200 years later a secret chamber was uncovered to reveal a book open on a table with a skeleton sitting in a chair.
Leave the ruins by the path to the church (well worth a visit) then go into the minor lane from the churchyard and go left to join the lane by the parking area. Our route is now right along the lane but another short detour to the left, to see the buildings down to The Swan and The Mill, is also worthwhile. Immediately after passing the de-regulation signs, take the path on the right, first diagonally across the field (look back for another view of the ruins) then alongside a wall to climb up through the trees to enter a minor lane into Crawley. Stop up here to look across the Windrush Valley with Crawley Mill straight ahead and Crawley Bridge to the left. Now drop down to the centre of the village where The Lamb, to your left, is well worth a visit!
From the centre of Crawley bear right on the road across the Windrush at Crawley Bridge (traffic lights) near Crawley Mill. A short distance over the bridge, take the path on the left which brings you to the gate you reached earlier. Go straight ahead, this time keeping below the ridge with the meadows on your left, through a gateway, behind a line of pollarded willows and through another gateway. Go over the stile above the fence you crossed earlier. Follow alongside the fence on your right, and then turn right back on the track to the lay-by.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Around Farmoor ReservoirDistance: 5 miles.
Allow: 2½ hours.
A circular walk around Farmoor Reservoir with fine views across the reservoir and also across the Thames and its meadows. Stout footwear needed. Path can be muddy in places after heavy rain. Dogs allowed. Bring binoculars.
Start. Park by the 2nd 40 mph sign, before entering Farmoor village from Eynsham (room for 4 cars).
N.B. There are 2 shorter walks of 1.7 miles and 2.4 miles on tarmac around Reservoirs 1 and 11. For these, park in the car park through gate 3 shown as 'P' on the map (there is a charge for parking here). Dogs are not allowed on these walks.
Cross the road and continue ahead taking the path on the right (Thames Path) just before left bend. Cross the stream by footbridge then bear left up hill to trees and your first glimpse of the reservoir to the left. Go right here on river side of trees with Pinkhill Lock below, then bear right across metalled road. Follow signed path to Pinkhill Meadow Hide and continue following blue markers past hide (locked - access via permit and key) and past Inlet works ('Danger' sign). Then bear left away from the river on a good path and continue in this direction (further blue marker), then path bears right.
As you climb you get a good view across reservoir and also across the Thames with Stanton Harcourt church beyond and South Leigh (Church End) further round to the right. Continue in same direction on grassy path parallel with reservoir, ignoring detours to left or right. When you reach track and padlocked gate, cross over and down to the river, then left, still following the blue logo signs. When you reach the information board and seat, turn left away from the river, passing Lower Whitley Farm on the right. Cross footbridge on left a short way along the road then follow grassy path which drops down through a wood back onto the road.
Now go left along the road and turn left on marked path shortly after passing picnic area, then go right on grassy path around reservoir. When you drop down to corner of field go straight ahead past toilet (key access) to enter car park. Leave car park past kiosk Gate 3 then go left on grass verge and pass behind the hedge alongside brook (we saw a heron here), pass Gate 2, go behind further hedge and then take the path on the left through gate just beyond Gate 1.
Continue alongside brook with Farmoor village on your right and pylons overhead. At the end of this straight section go left over brook, along path and right into field (waymarked sign) and up the rise to reach the plantation again. There are seats up here so why not rest awhile, or drop down to visit Pinkhill Lock, which once served Eynsham. Return to your car by the same route.
There is an excellent website to accompany this walk and encourage further exploration of the Thames, with old paintings and photographs, poems and extracts from the writings of various authors here.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Thames and its meadows near EynshamDistance: 3.5 miles. Allow 2½ hours, excluding a pub stop.
Park: in Wharf Road near The Talbot Public House, Eynsham.
Wear: stout footwear and avoid in flood conditions.
Follow the footpath through the car park beyond the Talbot and continue on the grassy path alongside Wharf Stream. Go through the kissing gate then bear right following the fence and stream. Cross 2 stiles and shortly afterwards cross the stream by the footbridge. (The Eynsham Record have now put all their articles on line and in the 21st edition 2004 there is an article by Maureen McCreadie: 'The History of the River Thames at Eynsham', which is well worth reading for lots of details and pictures about the wharf which once was here).
Don't go through the gate immediately in front of you, but head across the field away from the fence and go over the footbridge and weir at Eynsham Lock. Take time to read the information board to your left before walking right on the towpath beneath Swinford Bridge, then continue alongside the Thames until reaching the boatyard near Farmoor. Go left here on the concrete road to the B4044 then turn right for 200 metres and right again on the Thames Path back to the river. Keep alongside the Thames to Pinkhill lock, then follow sign left of hedge and cross the lock. Pinkhill Lock makes a pleasant spot to stop.
Leave the lock on the path through the horse chestnut trees and cross the footbridge at the weir. Go right on the footpath in the field, staying alongside the fence and through the kissing gate in the corner. Now keep to the obvious path between vegetation and cross footbridge shortly after passing under pylons. Follow alongside the fence on the right then ahead through yet another kissing gate! and on the path through more vegetation into the open field. Now go alongside hedge to reach the lane.
Turn right here. Then shortly after crossing the metal bridge over the stream, go through a kissing gate in the hedge on your right. Continue across the fields to join the B4449 where you turn right and walk back to the roundabout and on to the Talbot (which is usually open all day) for a well-earned pint!
Russell and Anne Cherry
North Leigh & Wilcote ~ a rural walk with excellent views and 2 fine churches.Distance: 4 miles.
Time: Allow 2 hours. Stout footwear needed.
Start / Parking: In centre of North Leigh, on left near telephone kiosk in Common Road (first left on A4095 after Madley Park junction)
Continue to village centre with old windmill on the right and The Masons Arms PH opposite. Take the road to left and continue straight ahead past Church Road, and on to the lane, where the road forks left. This metalled lane becomes a track. Ignore all the paths to the left (New Yatt) or right (farm) until you reach a fork in the paths where you go right and continue alongside hedge (on your left) with Shakenoak Farm on your left and wood (Holly Grove) ahead. There has been an archeological dig done in this area as it was the site of a villa and now of course the farm in renowned for its award winning mustards and pickles.
Keep on the obvious path through the wood until you reach lane. Go right up lane to Wilcote and continue a short way past Footpath sign to visit the little church, with its well-placed seat!
Re-trace your steps along the lane from the church and take the footpath on the left and follow this around Wilcote Grange where the path bears right on a broad grassy track. The former fishponds lie to the south of the Grange. A fine avenue of old pollarded ash trees stood here until only a few years ago, some do still survive, and this spot offers an extensive view including Bridewell Organic garden to the left, North Leigh Church ahead and, if clear, Stokenchurch Hill (tower) on the horizon. Carry on down to Lady Well (the site of ancient fertility rites) and into next field. There is a fascinating history written on this website about Spanish Liquor Day in the Wychwood Forest but it also mentions Lady Well at Wlicote. It seems to have been an ancient, possibly pagan practice associated with the wells in this area.
Here the path goes diagonally left across the field and continues in the same direction to pass alongside Bridewell farm on your left. Go left in front of the house and at crossways go right on bridleway uphill alongside hedge. At the top bear left to pass behind Field Farm on to the metalled lane to North Leigh Church. The British History website here has a lot more information.
After entering the church to admire the medieval wall paintings and read the church's history, leave the churchyard away from the minor road, taking the left path across the large field behind the houses and gardens on your left, to finally pass between buildings to reach the road you walked along earlier. Now go left to return to your car.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Cumnor & Farmoor Reservoir ~ extensive views over Cornbury Park & the Evenlode valley, & with two pubs!Distance: 5 miles.
Time: Allow 2.5 hours. Stout footwear needed. Can be muddy after rain, particularly part of the stretch from Thames to Cumnor.
Start: Cumnor Church
Walk along Denman's Lane (metalled road) opposite the church by the road junction, then past the houses on the right and at the guide post beyond the hedge on left, go diagonally across the field on the left (marked 'Farmoor').
Continue in the same direction across the track then alongside a row of conifers. Farmoor Reservoir soon appears ahead with South Leigh (Church End) just below the horizon beyond and Eynsham Hall Park to the right. Farmoor village is straight ahead with the wooded Wytham Hill to the right.
The path bends to the right past a seat then continues downhill with the wood (Denman's Copse) close on the right. Go through the gateway, under the pylons and alongside the hedge to field corner with gateway. Cross the stile in the hedge on the left behind the gate, then keep alongside the hedge (as waymarked). Cross the next stile then bear slightly right to the stile / gateway across the field (to right of trough), and now go straight ahead alongside the hedge on the right. Continue alongside the brook to the stile in field corner by the road. Take care here as you walk 50 yards to right along the road then cross to go down Lower Whitley Road on the left. Cross the footbridge and stile at the end of the road then go left uphill alongside the fence ahead of you.
At the top of the slope Farmoor Reservoir is seen on the right. Keep to the path by the fence bearing right, then go through the kissing gate, past the picnic area and car park, then shortly afterwards go left to join the road. Go right along the road which bears left then right.
Now take the path on the right (Countryside Walk) through a small woodland then up a grassy slope by a fence where the reservoir soon comes back into view on the right. Continue along here to join the road then go right and straight ahead past farm and buildings on the path through a small gate. This brings you to a seat by the Thames - a good place to stop. The route is now left here on the towpath alongside the river on your right. Stay close to the river to finally reach Bablockhythe (opposite The Ferry Inn). This is an ancient Thames crossing - a Roman ford and later a ferry point for about a thousand years.
Now go along the track on the left away from the river, then after a short distance take the bridleway on the left (waymarked 'Cumnor'). Continue between the hedges and woodland gently climbing and into the open where the track bears right beneath the pylons, then straight ahead past the farmhouse (Long Leys) on your right. Continue straight on at the next junction on a metalled road and when you reach the buildings (Cumnor) the road bends sharply left. Now take the path on the right by the thatched cottage (No. 43) into the playing field. Go immediately left by the thatched cottage and alongside the hedge, then through a kissing gate in the corner. Continue straight on and turn right at the next path junction to emerge in a lovely old corner of Cumnor with its duck pond. Now go left to the road junction then right to the church. Before returning home, be sure to visit the church to see the statue of Queen Elizabeth and learn about the Queen, Robert Dudley and the mysterious death of Amy Robsart at Cumnor Place in the 16th century.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Thames & its meadows beyond Eynsham with views from near Wytham WoodsDistance: 6 miles.
Time: Allow 3 hours. Stout footwear needed.
Start: Wharf Road off B4044 between the roundabout and the Talbot pub.( GR 439089)
Walk past The Talbot (for now!) following the road over the stream, then after 50 yards go left on the footpath through the gate then bear sharp right across the field to the right of telegraph pole and cross stream by stone bridge, then cross the Thames by the weir ahead (good views of Swinford Bridge to the right - built by the Earl of Abingdon of Wytham Abbey in the late 18th century and, until 1936, formed part of the main route from London to South Wales).
Cross Eynsham Lock and go left on the Thames Path to reach the wooden gate. Go sharp right through the gate and the path swings left parallel with the river along the edge of Wytham Great Wood.
Cross the stile into the green meadow and continue straight ahead alongside the fence, gradually bending away from the river. Soon after passing the edge of the wood, go through a gateway on the right and up the track which rejoins the edge of the wood, where it bears left, then right. Look back to Cassington and its church, with the spire of Church Hanborough on the skyline to the left and wooded Bladon Heath on the horizon to the right. Further to the right you will see the top of 'Smokey Joe', the redundant chimney of the old cement works near Shipton on Cherwell. After you turn right, Beckley mast is away on the left with Shotover Hill beyond the John Radcliffe Hospital to the right.
Shortly after the track swings left away from the wood, cross the stile on the right and follow the hedge straight ahead (as waymarked) and through opening and cross stile in field corner, then carry on straight ahead by hedge. Go through opening in hedge ahead then go immediately left alongside hedge. Part of Wytham village is now seen on the right. Cross the lane on the footpath (track) to Wytham Mill. Go past the recently refurbished mill, looking at the fine barn on the right, then cross stream by bridge and go right diagonally across the field. Cross the next stile and continue to rejoin the Thames Path near the A34.
Now go left along the Thames to reach King’s Lock. Note the crest of the Thames Conservancy on the lock keeper’s cottage, a good place to stop at the picnic table here. Just beyond the lock, note the water channel on the right and the board directing navigation to the Oxford Canal (about half a mile away). The 4th Duke of Marlborough was a large shareholder in the Oxford Canal and in 1790 he instructed the building of a link between the canal and the Thames here, over land within his estates, enabling him to serve the whole of the upper Thames Valley. This improved his income from the canal and Eynsham, 3 miles away, was to prosper from this link - known as 'Duke’s Cut'.
Now keep to the Thames Path into the meadows with Wytham Great Wood on the left and Cassington Church spire ahead on the right. Further on the River Evenlode joins the Thames on the right. When you reach the narrow corner of the meadow by the wood go through a metal gate near the river and stay on this path back to Eynsham Lock. A short detour ahead to see the impressive Swinford Bridge is worthwhile. You can then return to the car along the road, or for a quieter walk back across the meadows. Either way, you will have earned a stop at The Talbot!
Russell and Anne Cherry
An 'easy level' Thames walk from Northmoor with a choice of three pubs!Distance: 5 miles
Time: Allow 2½ hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start: Northmoor Church (GR 421029)
Walk east through Northmoor and take the first footpath on the right from stile and metalled gate. Stay on this good track passing through another gate, then where the hard track ends by hedge opening on left, continue straight ahead on grassy track through another metalled gate. Now bear right across field to reach the Thames and then go right alongside the river.
You will soon arrive at Northmoor Lock where the route is straight ahead on the Thames Path with the lock on your left. However, a short detour across the lock is worthwhile to see the paddles from the earlier weirs. These paddles were used to hold the water back and before the building of pound locks these weirs had to open to let the traffic through.
The removal of paddles resulted in a surge or "flash" of water and once this had quietened down, the boats would be steered or winched through the weir - hence they were known as 'flash locks'.
Continue alongside the Thames to reach the footbridge linking Appleton with Northmoor across the fields. Footbridges such as this were built around the mid 19th century where the old weirs were removed, and where walking routes from village to village or workplace had become established.
Stay on the riverside path all the way to Newbridge, and its two pubs. Despite its name, this bridge is one of the earliest on the Thames dating from the late 13th century and built with stone from quarries at Taynton, brought down the Windrush which joins the Thames here. The bridge was the scene of a civil war battle when Royalists prevented Parliamentarians from reaching Faringdon. It is just 6 miles from here to Abingdon by road, but 20 miles by river!
Walk on to Moreton Lane beyond 'The Rose Revived'. You can walk along this narrow lane back to Northmoor, but for a pleasant alternative take the footpath opposite the pub car park (signed Northmoor 1.5 miles) across field to footbridge over stream, through a mixed plantation and across an open field. Where the track bears sharp right immediately beyond the pylons, go on the path straight ahead through a narrow wood, then go right in the field and left on the track for about 90 metres to hedge on right. Now go right alongside the hedge.
Continuing through a large gap in the hedge, keep alongside the hedge to the field corner, through a gap and cross a footbridge on to the lane. Go left along the lane and at the end of the straight section, go right on the lane (Church Farm) for 25 metres, through the metal gate (foot path sign), cross footbridge through a small wood to 2nd footbridge. Bear right across field to metal gate in fence, then continue straight ahead to field corner to reach the road by 'The Red Lion' (not open all day) with the church a short distance beyond.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A Walk from Delly End along old byways on the fringe of the ancient Wychwood ForestDistance: 5.5 miles
Time: Allow 2½ / 3 hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start: The Green, Delly End, near Hailey.
Parking: On the right, before the Green from B4022.
Take the left fork by Delly Green with its fine trees and memorial at the far end. Continue along the lane which turns sharp left and further on where the lane goes sharp right, continue straight ahead on the byway (Wood Lane). When you reach the metalled lane continue ahead, bearing left to join the B4022. Cross over with care. Go along the private road to Chasewood Farm.
You now reach a track which is the course of the Roman road 'Akeman Street' which linked Cirencester to Bicester. Go left along the track with fence on right and open fields on left. You will soon see the spire of Leafield church on your right, and Didcot Power Station over your left shoulder with the Ridgeway above Wantage to White Horse Hill on the horizon. The two concrete tracks you cross here were part of a World War II airfield, one of several created on flat, open land such as this. You will also see Witney Church on the left.
Drop down to the road then go right (sp. Orchard Farm). After about 300 yards where the lane swings sharp left, continue straight ahead on the byway and when you reach the lane and cottages go sharp right along Pay Lane (byway) and continue through the wood.
Cross the B4022 with care and go along the byway (St. John's Lane) Shortly after entering the wood you will see a section of recently reconstructed dry stone wall, undertaken by volunteers from the Wychwood Project.
You have a choice of continuing along the by way until you reach the road, then turn right back to Delly End, or at the end of the wood take the footpath on the right (yellow way marker) alongside the wood, then left between the fences across the fields to the road and right back to your car.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Windrush, its meadows and Tar Lakes
Distance: 3 miles
Time: Allow 1½ hours. Wear stout footwear, even if dry.
Start: Tar Lakes car park on Cogges Lane. GR: 381072
Walk on the gravel path from the car park to reach the gate by the road. Cross over and go through the gate to the right, not through the gate to Tar Lake. Cross this field diagonally then cross the track and go over the footbridge on to the gravel drive. Now go left with lakes on both sides and where the fence ends carry on the grassy track to the wooden bridge across the River Windrush.
It's worth pausing here to admire Gill Mill on your left. Bear right beyond the bridge on the grassy path, which soon swings left between fences to reach a gate. Now go right for a few yards then left through gate into open field. Go right on the track and through the gate. Now left on path diagonally across the meadow to reach a gate then through the next gate and follow the path along the Windrush. The river divides at Witney and flows as two courses across these meadows and rejoins near Standlake.
You will soon reach the Fish House, once probably a medieval mill, used as a fulling mill and later a corn mill, and at some point as a fishery for Cokethorpe House. There is a date stone of 1723 but this is possibly from when the square tower was adapted after Cokethorpe House was built in 1709 for Sir Simon Harcourt. The adjacent cottage was added in the 19th century. There are some wonderful Henry Taunt photographs which can be viewed here.
Continue along the riverside path until you reach an information board by the gate. The route is through the gate but it is worthwhile making a short detour across the bridge and across the field to Hardwick Mill. The mill goes back to the late 13th century but this building is mostly 18th century with earlier masonry and a late medieval stone doorway. The mill floor contains fragments of a large gravestone with a monastic symbol of 1300, possibly from Eynsham Abbey.
Return to the information board and go through the gate into the meadow and across to the metal gate in the field corner. Now continue between the hedges with the lake on the left. The path swings left then right across the footbridge to reach another gate. Now follow the grassy path to the left and around the lake before reaching the wooden gate and crossing the Windrush again. Continue straight ahead. Cross the footbridge over the gravel workings to another information board on the left. Go left here on a permissive path alongside the lake. Cross the Cogges Lane and back along the gravel path to the car park. It is worth obtaining a hide key from Jane Bowley at the Lower Windrush Project. There is a small charge but yours to keep. The key gives access to the bird hide here and at Standlake.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Windrush Valley - The Mitfords' locality with two pubsDistance: 5 miles
Time: Allow 3 hours (to include church visits).
Start: Park in lane with avenue of trees (signposted 'Swinbrook') on entry to Asthall (from A40 roundabout west of Witney)
Walk back to junction and go left on the road (signposted 'Asthall Leigh') bear right at the Maytime Inn then bear left over the bridge across the Windrush. Take the footpath on left immediately over the bridge (Swinbrook) and you will get a fine view of Asthall Church and the Manor, the home of Lord and Lady Redesdale and their children including the six Mitford sisters, between 1919 and 1926. The path bears slightly away from the river to the stile in the hedge to the left of a group of small trees, then again bears slightly right away from the river then alongside a wall to stile/gate, and then straight ahead towards buildings (including The Swan) at Swinbrook. Follow alongside the wall on the left to reach the road opposite the pub.
Go right along the road ignoring two right turns, and also ignore the footpath by the postbox, but go up the steps 25 yards further on into the churchyard. Note the wool bale tombs here. Also enter the church to see the Fettiplace effigies and the window containing fragments of old stained glass from damage to the church in WW2. Turn right on leaving the church to pass the graves of the Mitford sisters, Nancy, Unity and Diana, also Alexander Moseley (Diana's son by Oswold Moseley) with sister Pamela's grave further to the right near the fence. The only surviving sister is Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (of Chatsworth).
Leave the churchyard by the white gate and follow the narrow path between stone walls leading to open fields. Continue straight ahead on a well marked path to St. Oswold's church, Widford, built on the floor of a former Roman Villa (now covered following souvenir collecting). The wall paintings date from the mid 14th century.
Retrace your steps a short way and take the path up the valley behind the church on to the lane. Go right along the lane for 300 yards or so and take the grassy track on the left (first off the lane). This drops down and bears right to a metalled gate, then continue straight ahead uphill on a broad track which then bears left. The Ridgeway can be seen on the horizon to the right. Continue alongside the stone wall then drop down to another metal gate and join the lane. Carry on down then bear right at the cottages to the sign post. Go left here (signposted 'Fordwells') and the lane climbs gradually. When the lane levels out, take the bridleway on the right, alongside a stone wall. Continue straight ahead to reach the road junction, where cross and go downhill back to Asthall. Another pub awaits you, but before returning home continue past the pub to visit the church next to Asthall Manor (private). On leaving the churchyard the lane to the right leads back to the car.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A walk around the lanes and paths of Wychwood ForestDistance: 6 miles.
Parking: on the road in the village of Chilson
The walk starts by taking School Lane on the left, past the old school house and following the path straight on into the field, with the hedge on your right. Stay on the path around the edge of the field and keep following as it bends to the right. At the hedge, turn right then immediately left through a gateway then take the track diagonally left across the field towards Ascott-under-Wychwood and into the lane.
Turn left along the lane through the hamlet of Ascott d’Oyley passing Yew Tree Farm on the right. Carry on, past the excellent village shop which sells a variety of local produce and at the junction walk across to the village green.
The tree has a seat and a plaque giving the names of 16 women who have become known as the Ascott Martyrs. These women attempted to dissuade Ramsden men from taking the jobs of local men, who had been sacked for membership of the Agricultural Workers’ Union in 1873. The women also tried to encourage the Ramsden men to join the union. Their punishment was to be imprisoned in Oxford Gaol, but this sentence caused a riot outside the court in Chipping Norton and their sentences were remitted by Queen Victoria and the women were said to have received a red flannel petticoat and five shillings from her. The union presented them with blue dress material and £5 each.
From the village green, turn left up the hill out of the village towards the junction with the B4437. Cross over the road and along the lane for about 1 mile to pass through Kingstanding Farm. Carry on along this peaceful way noting the tall spire of Leafield Church ahead of you. To the right the track swings to the left and it can be very muddy here. When you reach the road, turn left and follow it keeping the ancient Wychwood Forest on your right.
Wychwood takes its name from the ancient Saxon tribe of the Hwicce and at the time of the William the Conqueror, the forest was one of four Royal Hunting forests covering the majority of West Oxfordshire. The Wychwood Project aims to preserve and maintain and celebrate what is left of the woodland and surrounding villages which includes, on its fringes, South Leigh. More information can be found on their website and how to join them and help the project.
After about a mile you will find a path on the left through a wooden gate marked “Circular Walk Footpath”. Take this path uphill along the edge of the forest. Keep right and cross Stag’s Plain clearing. Bend left and then right and continue on the path through the woods.
Try this walk at different times of year, for bluebells in the spring and autumn for the wonderful colours of the beech trees.
The path descends out of the wood and the views over the vale are beautiful looking towards the villages of Puddlicote, Chadlington and Dean.
There are some lovely walks through these villages, including The Wychwood Way.
Keep following the path down towards the cottages at Chilson Hill crossing back over the road, right and then immediately left down into Chilson village, past the seat on the right and the old Primitive Methodist Chapel on your left. Past the School Lane entrance and back to the car.
Russell and Anne Cherry
A circular walk from Crawley to Delly End and back via HaileyDistance: 5 miles. allow 2½ hours
Parking: in front of Crawley Mill Industrial Estate near Crawley Bridge (GR 339116)
Walk over Crawley Bridge to the village centre and cross the road to take the minor lane uphill (Foxburrow Lane). After the lane swings round to the right, go left along Priest Hill Lane to reach B4022 at Hailey. Cross here with care and go on to Delly End, where go to the right of the green along Whitings Lane for ¾ mile and then take first lane on the left which passes ‘Gigley Farm’ on the left. At lane junction go left and stay on this lane which later bears sharp left and then right back to Delly End green. Return to the B4022 and now go right with care for 100 yards or so, then take the lane on the left for about ½ mile, and when you reach the road junction, go left back to Crawley.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Wychwood countryside & Evenlode valleyThis walk includes some stretches of the Wychwood Way and suggests a short detour (by car) to visit a fine church with medieval wall paintings.
Start: Chadlington church (G.R. 333220)
Distance: 4½ miles. Allow 2 - 2½ hours, excluding stops. Wear stout footwear, whatever the weather.
From Chadlington church walk along the road away from the village centre and soon after the road bears right, take the bridleway on the left between two hedges. Go through gate and continue down hill near to the hedge and cross a brook. Climb up through a meadow close to the hedge on the left. Go through two gates on to metalled lane opposite Dean Manor then turn right. At junction after 100 yards, go right on road through the hamlet of Dean and at next road junction go right for 50 yards then left along 'Grove Lane', past Grove Farm and the former Dean Pit Recycling Centre then, after a further 200 yards, turn right through gate on bridleway into Dean Common Community Woodland, created on a former sand and gravel pit.
The route continues straight ahead through the woodland, crosses a brook and then descends past two woods (Greenhill Copse on the left then Little Wood on the right), with the tower of Chadlington church across the fields on your right. When you reach the road, go straight across on the bridleway (Wychwood Way / Oxfordshire Way) following hedge on right. Cross the brook, bear sharp right and shortly afterwards sharp left with hedge on right.
Wychwood Forest is seen on the skyline to the left, and the hamlet of Shorthampton with its fine church below. After 200 yards go through a small gate then through a metal gate immediately on the right and follow path alongside hedge, go through two gates onto lane to pass to the right of Lower Court Farm at Greenend. Continue straight ahead to junction where go right for ¼ mile and take next lane on the left, with a seat on the corner by the brook.
This is Brookend, one of several ‘ends’ that make up the sprawling village of Chadlington. After 100 yards take footpath on the right which follows the brook to Millend. When you cross the brook be sure to bear left alongside the hedge, go through a gate and when you reach lane go right to the Tite Inn - a fine hostelry. Take footpath opposite pub, passing behind (and through!) some lovely gardens to reach the road. Go along the road opposite (Church Road) and at the Bowls Club the route is right to next junction then left back to the church (Eastend).
The broad track to the left is an ancient one (Green Lane) and part of the Wychwood Way. Chadlington church is well worth visiting - look for the green man on the road side of the building.
Detour (by car): When returning home from Chadlington village centre, turn off right before reaching the B4437 to visit the little church at Shorthampton, which has some fine medieval wall paintings with a detailed book on them. This is a very pleasant, peaceful spot with fine views over the Evenlode valley.
Russell & Anne Cherry
Blenheim Park Estate, Roman Road and Villa and Medieval Wall PaintingsStart: Combe green. G.R. 412159
Distance: 5½ miles. Allow 3 hours. Wear stout footwear, whatever the weather. N.B. Impassable when floods!
Cross the green from The Cock Inn and continue on lane past church and red telephone box and then lane bends right past cricket pitch and Methodist chapel. Go just past deregulation sign then take footpath on left ('Combe Steps'), which bears slightly left from lane then goes alongside hedge (waymarked) to reach wall. Go left alongside wall for 75 yards and go right through wall opening into Blenheim Park Estate. Now go left on track for a few yards, and then fork right to drop down into narrow field. Go left here for 50 yards or so then bear right on broad track uphill through trees, and continue straight ahead on waymarked path alongside hedge. After passing open field on left, go left on track alongside wood which then bears right. Go through small gate on left (waymarked path) to follow wooden fence on left, at the end of which go through gate and continue straight ahead alongside wood for 50 yards and then bear left through wood to join track.
Now go right for 200 yards then left on waymarked path to leave Blenheim Park Estate at Stonesfield Steps (up and over wall). Go straight ahead with the hedge on your left. You are now on Akeman Street, the Roman road which ran between Cirencester and Alcester (near Bicester) and on to St. Albans. This section of the old road now forms part of the Oxfordshire Way and also the Wychwood Way (see this article for further information). Cross road and maintain your direction alongside hedge, firstly on left, later on right. As you start to drop down slightly a Roman villa once stood in the field beyond the hedge on your right. Cross road and continue straight ahead and later go through two metal gates to reach the footbridge across the River Evenlode. A well placed tree trunk here makes this a very pleasant spot to rest.
Cross river, go across field, through gateway, then bear left uphill and then keep to right of hedge to join track. Now go straight ahead to reach bridge over railway. Look back to see the tower of Stonesfield church (also dedicated to St. James the Great) on the hill. Continue on track beyond railway for 200 yards then go left to pass through gate to left of the remains of North Leigh Roman Villa. It is well worth making the very short detour to visit the villa site, particularly the pavement under the covered area.
Now continue on path to left of villa, alongside hedge on right, through gate, then straight across field to pass under railway bridge alongside the River Evenlode. Cross stile, follow alongside river to footbridge which you cross, then go right on track, through gate, then bear left to reach Lower Westfield Farm. Don’t go left here, but pass in front of house with barns on right and stay on lane to bring you back to Combe.
Pass some stone cottages then go left along Chatterpie Lane for about 150 yards then, after lane bears left, take footpath on right (just before West Close Farmhouse) and continue straight ahead on road which returns you to the green.
You have earned a drink at the recently re-opened Cock Inn, a very pleasant hostelry, but please note that at the time of writing no food is being served as the chef was recently knocked off his bicycle!
Before returning home, a visit to the church will reward you with the sight of the wonderful medieval wall paintings, including the incredible Doom painting; don’t miss this.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Combe and the Evenlode valleyStart: Combe green. G.R. 412159
Distance: A scenic route of nearly 4 miles (allow 2 hours) which can, if desired, be linked to the walk in the Autumn 2013 edition of South Leigh News to provide a ‘figure of 8’ route of 9½ miles (allow 5 hours). N.B. Wear stout footwear. Avoid in flood conditions.
Facing the Cock Inn from the green go left along the road in front of the pub then bear right (S.P. Long Hanborough), fork left at West End and pass the school. Continue along road to sharp left bend where go straight ahead on footpath (track), cross over the railway, then as the path drops down to a gate take path on right, downhill to cross the River Evenlode at footbridge.
Now go diagonally left across field to bend in river, then head away from river across field to footbridge (not gate). Continue on path through edge of wood, cross another footbridge and follow stream on the right. The wood on the left here (Abel Wood) has a fine display of ransoms (wild garlic) in late spring.
After the path climbs and bears left, fork right at marker post, downhill, cross footbridge, and enter field. Now go straight ahead with hedge on left and buildings ahead. Continue uphill to get a good view to Combe away to the right. When you reach track, go left for 75 yards and at next crossing go left, pass 'Thatch Cottage', then bear right on path to left of 'Chilburn'. You are now at East End, North Leigh.
When you reach waymarked post go straight ahead, through gap in hedge, and continue to right of line of telegraph poles across field to join track before hedge. Now go left on track which drops down to edge of Abel Wood. Ignore first track on left and also next fork right, and at waymarked post go straight ahead uphill on track (bridleway) keeping the wood on your left.
At end of wood go left on track keeping wood on left and buildings on right. Stay on this track to exit wood into field and go straight ahead on broad grassy track with a wood on your right. The track drops down and bears right into the meadows of the Evenlode valley with Combe (part) on the hilltop ahead to the left. Continue on waymarked path alongside edge of wood until you reach gate on left with a field of young trees, and footbridge on right (waymarked).
Go right here then left on path alongside fence on your right. After about 150 yards you will join the River Evenlode. Go straight ahead, climbing gradually, to join road. Go left on the road with care and stay on the road which swings sharp left to cross the River Evenlode and then passes the entrance to Combe Mill (well worth visiting on its 'steam days'). Go under the railway bridge and continue straight ahead (S.P. 'Combe East End').
Climb steadily to pass wood on left with cottage opposite, and later farm buildings and cottage on the right. About 30 or so yards past this cottage, take field path on left (S.P. 'Combe 1'). This is part of the Wychwood Way. The path bears left across field then left behind hedge. Now go right alongside wood with open field on left, and at bottom of dip go right (by a telegraph pole) through hedge, to see Combe church ahead of you. Go right here alongside wood then bear left at end of wood across narrow field to pass through hedge and bear slightly uphill across field heading straight for the church.
Walk through trees on edge of the cricket pitch and enter the churchyard. Before you visit the pub be sure to pay the church a visit to see the very impressive medieval wall paintings, including the Doom painting. Then continue through the churchyard and pass the old pump to return to the green.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Bluebell Wood walk - Pinsley WoodStart: Parking area outside churchyard, Church Hanborough. G.R. 426128
Distance: 2½ miles. Allow however long it takes you to enjoy the carpet of colour! Wear stout footwear as can be muddy in a few places after rain.
Spring is here and the bluebells will soon be flowering, so why not take this short, circular walk to enjoy this seasonal delight.
From the parking area outside the churchyard opposite the Hand & Shears pub in Church Hanborough, cross the road and walk a short way to left of pub. Take the footpath signed off to the right and follow alongside a fence, into an open field and enter the wood (Pinsley Wood). Familiarise yourself with this location for when you come to leave the wood after completing the circuit!
Now turn right and follow the path around the wood boundary, always staying in the wood - so ignore any paths exiting the wood as well as paths or tracks leading off to the left into the wood interior. The best areas for bluebells are generally at the top end of the wood, and close to the path.
Leave the wood at the same point you entered it, and return by same route back to pub, church and car parking area.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Blenheim Park including parts of Akeman Street & Wychwood WayStart: Combe Green. G.R. 412159
Distance: 7 miles. Allow 3½ hours.
N.B. Blenheim passes are NOT required for this walk as this route keeps to rights of way. Wear stout footwear.
Cross the green from The Cock Inn and go along lane towards church. Take footpath on right just beyond red telephone box and enter churchyard. Bear left through churchyard and continue in the same direction along edge of recreation ground a short way then bear right through trees into field. Follow waymarked path across field, pass through hedge, and on to right of wood and through gap in hedge by telegraph pole, with Hanborough on skyline straight ahead.
Now go left alongside wood and through gap in hedge ahead. Follow waymarked path across field to reach lane to left of farmhouse. From here you have two choices. You can either go left on lane then right at junction, continuing on the Wychwood Way you have been following so far, to reach Combe Gate by the Lodge on left. Alternatively, cross lane and continue on footpath across fields to East End. This path passes to left of two large oaks to cross stile in field corner, then bear right alongside hedge, cross two more stiles onto track and continue straight ahead alongside hedge to lane. Go left along lane to reach Combe Gate and Lodge on right.
Enter Blenheim Estate through side gate and go left at road junction ahead. After descending through trees bear right on grassy path around base of hill with fence on leftL. Cross fence by stile or gate at end, bear right alongside tall trees, ignore grassy track in valley on left, but continue on firm path by edge of lake (The Creek ) - a lot of water lilies and irises here in season. This path later climbs and swings left to give fine views across The Lake to Blenheim Palace and the Grand Bridge.
After path (track) bears right continue on straight section then descend on grassy path by clump of trees towards lake. At the bottom here, behind railings on left, is Fair Rosamund’s Well. Just beyond the well bear left on climbing path to reach road. Now go left, with the Column of Victory coming to view on right. The road levels out, swings right, then just beyond gate on left (‘Private’) the road descends. Just beyond grassy track in valley on left cross stile on right, pass through trees, go R for a few paces, then go L at fence corner with the Column of Victory straight ahead. Bear slightly away from fence and head to L of small avenue of copper beeches well to right of Column of Victory. Woodstock church is seen away to the right.
The route continues to left of the copper beeches, passes through two avenues of lime trees then to left of clump of copper beeches ahead, descending to right of three blue-green cedars to stile by road in front of lake (Queen Pool). Now go left on road, pass in front of cottage (Fisheries), bear left on road and continue through valley, gradually climbing and swinging left then sharply right at top of rise. Stay on straight road with views back to Column of Victory and Blenheim Palace beyond, cross over cattle grid between fencing to reach 2nd cattle grid.
Now go left in front of fence (waymarked), pass through gate and continue alongside fence to join hard track. Continue straight ahead by fence. You are now on the course of Akeman Street, the Roman road that ran between Cirencester and St. Albans. Cross over track and maintain your direction on grassy path with fence still on right, pass through gate and go straight on through wood for about 50 yards to reach track (crossways). Go left on track (leaving the Wychwood Way that you have so far followed) for nearly 100 yards, then bear left (‘No Public Right of Way’ sign ahead) into field. Go right alongside edge of wood and through gate into field. Cross large field alongside fence on right then go through gate and turn right on track with wood on left.
When you reach end of wood go right on track, joining then following alongside hedge, then drop down through narrow wood into meadow. Go left for just 50 yards or so, then bear right to white post with markers, and climb left through narrow wood to join track. Cross track and climb steps over wall (Blenheim Estate boundary).
Now go left alongside wall and bear right on path just beyond next hedge. Climb gently and when reach end of hedge bear half left to reach road between two trees. Go right along road back to Combe Green. The Cock Inn is now serving meals, as well as drinks!
Russell and Anne Cherry
A short circular walk in Blenheim Park.Start / Parking: Layby in Rosamund Drive, off Manor Road via Vermont Drive, Old Woodstock. G.R. 441172
Distance: 2½ miles. Allow 1½ hours.
Early November is usually the best time to enjoy the colours, particularly the beeches.
N.B. Blenheim passes are NOT required for this walk, which uses rights of way only. Wear stout footwear.
Walk to end of Rosamund Drive on to Westland Way and go right to main road by pedestrian crossing. Cross here then go left downhill to 2nd exit on right after about 120 yds. Go up rising tarmac way between cottages and enter Blenheim Park through small gate, with the Column of Victory seen ahead. Stay on firm path which bears slightly left and descends to join road. There are good views across lake (Queen Pool) to Blenheim Palace.
Go right on road to reach cottage (The Fisheries), pass in front of cottage on grassy path and go left on road. Look out for stile on right a short way along here, which you cross to climb gently to left of the blue-green cedars and to right of the copper beeches higher up. Familiarise yourself with this section as you will be returning by same route later. Continue on grassy path well to left of the Column of Victory, passing through two avenues of lime trees and to right of small avenue of copper beeches.
Stop when you are level with the Column of Victory to take in the view down to the Grand Bridge and the Palace, both designed by John Vanbrugh. On the mound to left of the Grand Bridge is the site of Henry I’s hunting lodge, which was converted into a Royal Palace (Woodstock Palace) by Henry II in the mid C12. There is a stone memorial on the site. ‘Woodstock Park’ was once part of the Royal Forest of Wychwood.
The Column of Victory, also designed by Vanbrugh, has a statue of John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, atop. Blenheim Park was given to John Churchill by Queen Anne in recognition of his victory over the French at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
From the copper beeches the path curves gradually to right to join corner of fence on your right. Now go right for a few paces, bear left through trees and cross stile on to road. Go left for a few paces then right on grassy path which drops gently down through valley. At end go left on firm path and continue alongside narrow arm of lake known locally as The Creek. The path later climbs to offer fine views across The Lake to Blenheim Palace and the Grand Bridge (with Woodstock church beyond). Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped the Park in the mid C18, when the River Glyme was dammed to form the lake (Queen Pool and The Lake) either side of the Grand Bridge.
After path (track) bears right, continue along straight section then descend on grassy path by clump of trees towards lake. At the bottom here, behind railings on left, is Fair Rosamund’s Well, a survivor of pools laid out by Henry II with a bower (retreat) for his mistress Rosamund Clifford (‘Fair Rosamund’); this included a maze as the entrance.
Just beyond the well bear left on climbing path to join road. Go left along road which levels out then descends to reach stile on right which you crossed earlier. Cross stile again and return to car by same route you came, via The Fisheries. The Black Prince, by the River Glyme, is a popular hostelry and well worth the stop.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Around Cassington & YarntonStart / Parking: Layby near Red Lion, Cassington for 2 longer walks. G.R. 454107, or (for 2¼ mile walk only) opposite Yarnton church (Church Lane) G.R.477116 - text for this walk starts in 4th para.
Familiarise yourself with the first section to Worton for the 7 mile walk and to Yarnton for the 5½ mile walk as you return by the same route.
Distance: A choice of a 7 mile (3½ hour), 5½ mile (3 hour) or 2¼ mile (1½ hour) walk.
N.B. Blenheim passes are NOT required for this walk, which uses rights of way only. Wear stout footwear.
Wear stout footwear. Avoid in flood conditions.
Cross green opposite Red Lion and take path left between cottage and school and continue straight on to lane. Now go left for 50 yards and take path on right (under tree!), signed ‘Yarnton 1½'. Cross field by trees, then lakes (old pits) on left. Continue straight ahead on clear waymarked path to join track to left of wall and soon reach lane by postbox at Worton. Go straight over and maintain your direction between large barns then pass to left of Worton Organic Garden.
At end of straight section go right on path alongside hedge then bear left over footbridge then straight ahead between hedge and fence. Pass through gate, cross stile and track and continue ahead on grassy path to reach railway. Now go right on path alongside railway to reach stile in fence on left. Cross railway with care, pass behind wire fence, cross stile and continue ahead on path, firstly through trees then straight ahead to right of hedge and then on narrow metalled lane to join another lane.
Go left on lane and look down the drive to the impressive Yarnton Manor on left just before church. Take path through metal gate opposite Manor, cross field alongside fence and go through metal gate. Now bear right diagonally through long field, cross stile in corner and continue alongside hedge to pass through metal gate. Go ahead with fence on left, cross footbridge beyond metal gate then follow alongside hedge on right and pass under railway (Oxford-Worcester line). Now go left by hedge, pass through wide opening in hedge before field corner, bear right alongside hedge and pass through hedge ahead and then go diagonally left to join canal towpath.
The 4th Duke of Marlborough was a large shareholder in the Oxford Canal and he instructed the construction of this waterway to link the Oxford Canal with the River Thames, over land within his estates, to enable the Oxford Canal Company to trade directly on to the river and supply the whole of the upper Thames Valley. This is known as 'Dukes Cut', and Eynsham, 3 miles away, prospered from this link.
Go left along towpath for 100 yards to reach the Oxford Canal with Dukes Lock and Cottage and a well placed seat. Retrace your steps alongside Dukes Cut and stay on towpath and pass through Oxey Mead Nature Reserve, returning to Dukes Cut after a short detour towards A40. At end of long meadow, where the Cut bears sharp left (to join the Thames nearby), go ahead to join wide grassy track and now go right to reach A40.
Cross road with great care and go straight ahead on bridleway. Go under railway and immediately bear left and (ignoring next path on left shortly afterwards) continue through trees and cross narrow field to re-join grassy path by trees. Yes, you were here earlier! (For 5½ mile walk only go left here and retrace earlier route back to car). Go right (on earlier route) then left on lane past Yarnton Manor and enter church to see some fine stained glass, medieval wall painting and monuments to the Spencers of Althorp, the family of the late Lady Diana / Princess of Wales. (2¼ mile walk ends here.)
Continue along lane to road junction and go left, pass The Red Lion, then on bend 25 yards beyond the de-regulation signs take signed footpath on right. This is Frogwell Down Lane, an ancient routeway, and the route King Charles 1 took when dashing from Oxford (his Civil War HQ) at night on 3rd June, 1644 with 3,000 horse and 2,500 foot soldiers to frustrate the Roundheads’ plans to encircle the city.
Stay on this path, gradually climbing, and cross track to keep to path between hedges. Later, join track and continue ahead with Cassington church seen over your left shoulder and Wytham Great Wood and Hill to its left. After track bears right you reach waymarked crossways, where go left straight across field to gap in hedge to left of tree. Over your right shoulder is Bladon Heath with Church Hanborough’s church spire to its left.
Now bear slightly left across field, keeping to high ground, then drop down to opening in bottom left corner of field. Cross stile by metal gate and go along lane over railway to join road. Cross here and go along lane through avenue of trees back to Worton. Go right opposite postbox and retrace your earlier route back to Cassington. Don’t miss the ancient Norman church with original arches, wall painting and C15 pews.
The Red Lion is a ‘traditional village pub’. The Chequers is more ‘up-market’, serving good food.
Russell and Anne Cherry
The Thames & Port MeadowA level walk alongside the Thames with a choice of 3 popular pubs!
Distance: 4 miles . Allow 2 hours, excluding stops. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Car park (with toilets), Lower Wolvercote. G.R. 487094.
From the car park cross the road and go left over the river, pass the cottages on right then the Trout Inn on the left. Immediately after crossing the Thames beyond the pub (Godstow Bridge) go through the gate on left onto the Thames Path.
You now stay on this riverside path for the next 1¾ miles, soon passing the remains of Godstow nunnery. This was a Benedictine nunnery founded in 1133. Rosamund Clifford (‘Fair Rosamund’ ), mistress of Henry II, eventually became a nun here and also died here. Only part of the C15 domestic buildings remain. The Trout Inn was originally built in 1133 as a hospice for visitors to Godstow nunnery.
You then pass Godstow Lock. After a further 1½ miles, look for the sign on the right inviting you to make a short detour to The Perch, Binsey, a popular hostelry originally built 500 years ago; there is a large garden here. Binsey is a delightful small settlement of stone cottages and farm buildings clustered around the green.
Retrace your steps back to the Thames Path and continue to pass through Bossoms Boatyard then cross the river by the large arch of Medley Footbridge. Go right a short way then cross on to Port Meadow via the footbridge on the left. Now go left and keep alongside the Thames, and later its backwater beyond Godstow Lock, and back to the car park.
Port Meadow was given to Oxford’s citizens by William the Conqueror as a free common, which it still is. In the past Wolvercote villagers had the right to graze geese here. Grazing rights still continue, with commoners and freemen able to let their horses and cattle onto the meadow; the animals are rounded up and impounded once a year by the Sheriff of Oxford and any owners who have no right to pasture their animals here must pay a heavy fine before they can be released from the pound.
The Trout at Godstow Bridge is another well known and popular hostelry. Another excellent eatery is The Jacob Inn which you will have passed on your journey to the car park. The food here is superb and it’s best to book a table.
Russell and Anne Cherry
Cumnor, Farmoor Reservoir & The Thames with good local viewsDistance: 5¾ miles . Allow 3 hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Cumnor Church
Walk along Denman’s Lane opposite church by road junction, then pass houses on right and at guide post beyond hedge on left (marked ‘Farmoor’) go diagonally across field on left. Continue in same direction across track then alongside row of conifers. Farmoor Reservoir is soon seen ahead with Church End, South Leigh below the horizon beyond and Eynsham Hall Park to the right. Farmoor village is straight ahead with the wooded Wytham Hill to the right.
The path bends to right past seat then continues downhill with wood (Denman’s Copse) close on right. Go through gateway, under pylons and alongside hedge to field corner with gateway. Cross stile in hedge on left behind gate then stay alongside hedge (waymarked). Cross next stile then bear slightly right to stile/gateway across field (to right of trough), then go straight ahead by hedge on right. Continue alongside brook to stile in field corner by road. Take care as you now walk 50 yards to right on road then cross to go down Lower Whitley Road on left. Cross footbridge and stile at road end then go right on path past toilet (key access) to enter car park at Farmoor Reservoir.
Now bear left to reach metalled road/walkway skirting reservoir. Go right a short way then bear left along bar between two reservoirs (I on right & II on left). When you reach the other side go slightly left then away from reservoir down steps, past toilet (key access) and straight on to join Thames Path.
Go left on riverside path, twisting and turning to reach information board and seat. Just beyond seat bear left away from river to pass Lower Whitley Farm on right. Cross footbridge on left a short way along road and follow grassy path to drop down through wood back onto road. Go left on road which bears left then right. Shortly after bearing right take path on right alongside hedge. Bear right under pylons then maintain your direction uphill, heading to right of the farm beyond wood on right. Go through on to track bearing left behind Upper Whitley Farm on to metalled drive through avenue of trees to reach bridleway junction just beyond cottage on right.
Now go left on metalled road until you reach buildings (Cumnor) where road bears sharply left. Here go right on path by thatched cottage (No. 43) into playing field. Go immediately left by thatched cottage and alongside hedge, then through kissing gate in corner. Go straight ahead and go right at next path junction to reach duck pond and old cottages. Then go left to road junction and right again back to church.
Do visit the church to see the fine statue of Queen Elizabeth I, and read the information on her, Robert Dudley - reputedly the Queen’s favourite - and the mysterious death of Dudley’s wife Amy Robsart at Cumnor Place, which once stood near the church, in 1560.
Then why not end with a visit to the nearby hostelry, The Vine!
Russell and Anne Cherry
Charlbury and parts of Oxfordshire Way & Wychwood WayDistance: 6 miles. Allow 3 hours. Wear stout footwear.
Start / Parking: Spendlove Centre car park, off Enstone Road, Charlbury.
Turn right along road from car park to crossroads and go left along Sheep Street past The Bull to reach roads junction (Five Ways). Cross and continue ahead along Woodstock Road and at sharp left bend go straight ahead on Stonesfield Lane (‘Oxfordshire Way’). At top of slope bear sharp right on bridleway (to right of ‘Forest Cottage & ‘Pippins’). Continue on the Oxfordshire Way, with openings on right giving good views to Cornbury Park (part of the ancient Wychwood Forest) and, later, back to the ‘big’ house.
When you reach the clearing, continue straight ahead with hedge on right. Where track bends sharp right downhill before house, look for Oxfordshire Way marker and follow route to left of hedge through gate (not the main track). Pass through 2nd gate close to house, go left on track for a few paces then right along metalled lane.
At crossways just beyond telegraph pole and before barn - with Stonesfield ahead (church also dedicated to St. James the Great) - go left on grassy track and at
end of field on left pass between hedges to right of gate, continuing ahead in same direction. Many roofs in the area have Stonesfield slates on them, and the local stone pits and slate quarries date from the C16. The last pit closed over 100 years ago.
The route soon opens up. Continue straight ahead with hedge firstly on left, later on right. At crossways by two gates go left (on Wychwood Way), around field edge, then cross the often busy B4437 with care and go ahead on grassy bridleway. This is the Salt Way, one of many such routes leading to Droitwich where there were brine springs and from where salt was brought. In Anglo-Saxon and medieval times, salt was a valuable commodity, used for preserving food. This section of the route is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Local Nature Reserve due to the variety of flowers, including field scabious, greater knapweed, wild basil and rockrose, which attract a wide range of butterflies and other insects.
Just before you reach the metalled lane and stone walls at Ditchley Park Farm (shown on maps as Dustfield Farm), go left on bridleway and continue on this broad track between fields. The track bears sharp left in front of gate, then after just 50 yards go right between hedges, and later bear sharp right at paths junction.
The route bends round to the left then straightens up for 50 yards, bringing you to a marker post and metal gate on the left. Go straight ahead here (i.e. not through gate) and later continue with houses on left to join road (Ditchley Road). Now go left to T junction, then right to crossroads and then left back to Spendlove Centre. As you will have observed earlier, there are several hostelries in the centre of Charlbury.
Russell and Anne Cherry