Sunday, 29 July 2012

Littleworth Farm to Kirtlington (Oxfordshire Way 4)

Cornfield near Littleworth Farm

We met up with Merv and Pud to continue our long march across Oxfordshire. The initial stage was along a field-edge path - the Roman road Akeman Street - with a fine cornfield on the right under a wonderful sky. We then climbed a ladder stile (known as Stonesfield Steps) over a stone wall to enter the park of Blenheim Palace.

Initially the path goes between two vast, bare fields, but soon you reach the North Drive to the Palace, with prehistoric earthworks just before. The drive is flanked by a double row of lime trees on each side.

By standing on the top of a gate and using a zoom lens it was possible to get a glimpse of Blenheim Palace, which was built as a gift from the nation to the 1st Duke of Marlborough after his victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession.

Further on you exit the park through Wootton Gate ...

... cross the busy A44 and follow Akeman Street, now a metalled road. You then cross a bridge over the tiny river Glyme.

At a T junction Akeman Street becomes a track again and soon crosses Dornford Lane, an ancient green lane. It is instructive to compare the Roman road which crosses the countryside in a classic straight line with the Anglo-Saxon lane which follows the contours to take the path of least resistance.

After another road crossing (the A423) you walk beside more fields with wide views across to the Chilterns, and, today, more great sky.

Soon after this we left Akeman street and soon found ourselves crossing various branches of the river Cherwell. A fairly heavy shower precluded any photography here.

Next we reached Pigeon Lock on the Oxford Canal, completed in 1790 and runs 77 miles from Oxford to Coventry. You can walk the full length.

We were struck by the narrowness of the lock and this was confirmed when a narrowboat arrived and made its way through with literally inches to spare.

We now followed a lane into the centre of Kirtlington, noticing a couple of stone cottages with unusual and attractive brick dressings around the windows and at the corners. Presumably they were late Victorian.

Conditions: warm, but showery towards the end.

Distance:  a bit over 6 miles. Distance now covered 27.5 miles.

Maps: Explorer 180 (Oxford, Witney and Woodstock).

Rating: three and half stars.

Flower of the day

There were noticeably lots of flowers throughout the walk, for example this meadow at the point where we crossed the A423.

Perhaps the most pleasing was this pink one, seen in several grassy fields: Musk Mallow.

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