Yet more walks

I discovered some new parts of inner Oxford in this second phase (including stretches of the old city wall, about as inner as you can get). Also Anthony Hedges’ orchestral suite , celebrating walking along Willow Walk, through Osney and to Tumbling Bay.

However, autumn and winter have for me been more notable for ventures further afield, especially up in the surrounding hills – prompted partly by the need to rise above winter floods, though below the spring line hills can still be very muddy.

I’ve also extended my reach along the rivers: I’ve now walked much (though not all) of the Thames from Bablock Hythe to Radley, and followed the Cherwell to within sight of Islip (but not to Islip, because a deep ford intervened). In pursuit of eels, I’ve also leapfrogged the Cherwell up to around Kirtlington, and explored part of the Thame around Dorchester.

Alright for horses

The hills offer interlocking walk components: there are many routes up and many routes down, especially on what Bob Evans’ has nicely called the ‘Boars’ Hill massif’. So one can ascend via Bagley Wood, or the Chilswell Valley, or the Hinksey Heights Nature Reserve, or Raleigh Park, and down by another. Many of these routes offer at some point great views of the spires and towers of Oxford. Alternatively, one can loop round to the north of the massif along the Thames, or cross it at Wytham or via Raleigh Park plus either the route south of the Farmoor Reservoir or that via Long Leys, or again pass via Bessels Leigh and Appleton (I haven’t done that yet), all these routes offering components of multiple circular walks. Then to the east I’ve walked to Elsfield and Wheatley, but I know there are more routes up there, around Noke and Beckley, that I have yet to explore, but which can all potentially be joined up.

In principle one could also walk from hill to hill through the valley, mainly on open land and footpaths: thus, from the top of the Lye Valley down the line of the Boundary Brook to the Thames, then from the footpath by the Voco Spires Hotel through Hinksey Park to the meadows between the Hinkseys, and up the hill on the far side.

Watercourses and hills that I’ve walked, 2020-21 Map from Google Earth using its path-tracing function, satellite data from Landsat Copernicus

Some walks are well known to those in the immediate vicinity, but much less to those based in other parts of Oxford. The Hinksey Heights nature trail is a walk route up and around a stream that I discovered late and accidentally, and that is I think much less well known that the walk up the Chilswell valley. The Cherwell is very pleasant up around Water Eaton. Also recommended is the walk from Barton Park to Elsfield and back via College Pond – the hillside which drains into the Bayswater brook, and the walk from Shotover via Shotover Park (with its lake) to Wheatley, and back along Old Road (the old road to London, superseded by the turnpike route in the later eighteenth century)

I’ve found the County Council’s Rights of Way website useful on these explorations:

For walks between Oxford and Berinsfield, Brill, Thame, Standlake and Abingdon, see the Slow Ways website    — currently in its beta version.

And this is not to imply that I’ve exhausted the lowlands. I’m looking forward to following the Blackbird Leys fieldname walk (link from the Oxford Preservation Trust website).

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