Wednesday, 3 July 2013
The Oxfordshire Way: A review
The Oxfordshire Way runs for 68.25 miles from Bourton-on-the-Water to Henley-on-Thames, from the Cotswolds to the Chilterns. The Path was developed by the Oxfordshire Branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) as far back as 1978 and later adopted by the County Council. We used The Oxfordshire Way. A walker's guide published by the County Council in 1993 as a resource and found it to be very useful and informative and still largely accurate. There was just one map where the route was wrongly marked, but we soon figured it out. The signposting was pretty good too.
We did the Oxfordshire Way with our friends Merv and Pud and we started by doing the short Windrush Way in two sections from Winchcombe to Hawling and from Hawling to Bourton as a sort of warm-up and to link it to our previous venture, the Cotswold Way. We started on 1 April 2012 and have only just finished. Some personal factors resulted in the odd cancellation of a planned leg, but the weather played a big part - there is just no fun in setting out on a walk when you know it is already pouring down with rain.
The walk has three distinct components: the section up to about Charlbury (our third stage) still feels like the Cotswolds, then there is the main body of the path which arcs across Oxfordshire, north of Oxford, which we found surprisingly flat. After that the final two stages through the Chilterns came as a bit of a relief. Overall, then it was an easier walk that the Cotswold Way, but less dramatic and with less stunning scenery.
It was striking how many country house parks we walked through. Blenheim was by the far the greatest of them, but there were several other pleasant, mainly Georgian, houses at places like Kirtlington, Rycote and Waterperry.
Otmoor is an unusual area and important type of habitat. Our guide described the low lying flat moorland as "often boggy". This turned out to be something of an understatement - totally saturated would have been more accurate and just after Waterperry there was a section which could only be described as flooded, which gave us some concern about whether we would be able to get through at all.
We found a good number of excellent pubs to have lunch on afterwards, notably the Kings Head at Bledington, the Crown at Pishill and the Angel on the Bridge at Henley
And finally every walk had its share of Kites, many swooping low to show off their fine colours. At one point we saw five in the air at once. To think that this species was once endangered and had to be re-introduced. "As common as sparrows", somebody said - but of course sparrows are becoming much rarer in this part of the country, so this is a rather two-edge comment.
All in all a most enjoyable walk that did not quite reach the heights of the Cotswold Way, both literally and metaphorically. Would we recommend it? It is an excellent means to get an overall feel for what Oxfordshire is like. The only problem is that it turns out that some parts are perhaps a bit dull.
We now plan to start the Ridgeway this autumn.
1 Bourton-on-the-Water to Foxholes
2 Foxholes to Grove Lane
3 Grove Lane to Littleworth Farm
4 Littleworth Farm to Kirtlington
5 Kirtlington to Islip
6 Islip to Menmarch Guide Post
7 Menmarch Guide Post to Albury
8 Albury to Wheatfield
9 Wheatfield to Pishill
10 Pishill to Henley