Sunday, 13 January 2013

Islip to Menmarsh Guide Post (Oxfordshire Way 6)

 Islip Bridge

We have planned a monthly programme of Oxfordshire Way legs this year and today was the first, picking up the route at Islip Bridge, apparently the scene of a battle in the English Civil War.

You walk up the hill and soon turn left to walk across fields towards Noke. The ground was pretty frozen, so progress was quite easy.

Noke is a small, well-ordered village with a pretty church described by Pevsner as "rustic and homely". It is 13th century, with later changes and the usual 19th century restoration.

Nearby is the charming former schoolhouse, with the school bell over the front door and a droll weather-vane showing a master chasing his pupils. There is a substantial modern extension at the back.

On Leaving Noke you skirt the edge of the vast (well, 400 acre) marshy plain known as Ot Moor, fed by the river Ray and containing a military firing range, which adds to its inaccessibility. It has a ring of small towns and villages around its perimeter - Noke is one and our next destination, Beckley, is another.

We skirt Noke wood, where we are told by a woman walker, in rather a scolding voice, "you should be wearing Wellingtons". We are not much impressed by this, but greet her and her family civilly notwithstanding. The we climb to reach Beckley and St Mary's church.

I learn from Pevsner that it is a Norman church rebuilt in the 14th or 15th century. The interior contains some interesting 14th century wall paintings, including the remnants of this Last Judgement: St Peter and St Paul are either side of the tower arch. The coat of arms above is later.

We leave the village to emerge onto high parkland overlooking Beckley Park. The house dates from 1540 and is "the best preserved small house of this date in the county" (Pevsner).

The view east stretches towards the Chilterns.

However, our immediate route led downhill to a large field, now on Otmoor, and described by our Guide as "often boggy". Today, this was an understatement - a much higher bogginess rating was called for. It was in fact virtually under water. The wellington warning was now seen to have been well-founded, but it still could have been delivered in a nice way.

We enjoyed a small herd of deer racing across the field ...

... but the next mile or so across this and the next field until we reached a road was anything but fun.

The final section, via more but drier field paths, brought us to Danesbrook Farm and thence to Menmarsh Guide Post where we had left the car. We had a late lunch in nearby Stanton St John and enjoyed this simply fantastic sunset to round off our day out.

Conditions: quite cold, but mostly bright.

Distance:  7.5 miles. Distance now covered 41 miles.

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

Rating: three stars (half a star more on a less boggy day).

No comments: