Walking in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a large county with great variety to offer the country walker. Incorporating parts of the Cotswolds, Chilterns and North Wessex Downs, all Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Oxfordshire boasts a great diversity of landscape. Within its boundaries you will also find ancient forests, areas of wilderness, ironstone uplands, peaceful vales and a host of delightful villages. All are well watered by the tranquil Thames and its charming tributaries: Cherwell, Evenlode and Windrush.
Perhaps our favourite area is the Oxfordshire Cotswolds in the north of the county. Here, in England's heartland, are rich green undulating wolds, which turn to gently waving golden fields of wheat in summer before the harvests. This rich colour is reflected in the warm attractive limestone from which many of the lovely sleepy villages are built, although the stone in Oxfordshire has a silver grey hue compared to the rich honey colours of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Nestling in the folds of the hills these welcoming villages often provide a pleasant surprise, as they are hidden until you descend from the hillsides into the valleys of streams such as the Evenlode and Windrush.
To the north east of Burford lie the remnants of the once impressive royal hunting forest of Wychwood. Overlooking the beautiful Evenload Valley this is excellent walking country and the picturesque villages of Shipton-under-Wychwood and Milton-under-Wychwood are well worth visiting. To the north of Wychwood Forest Chadlington Downs is an attractive and interesting area for walking. On a ridge just north of the quiet village of Chadlington is the Bronze Age Hawk Stone, and in the nearby village of Taston is the even older Thor Stone. More impressive of course is the famous Rollright Stone Circle further north beyond Chipping Norton on the high open Cotswold ridge.
Southern Oxfordshire reaches down to the Vale of White Horse and the Berkshire Downs in the west and the Chilterns near Henley-on-Thames in the east. The open downland of rolling green hills and big skies makes for exhilarating walking. Uffington, with its famous White Horse and Letcombe regis are good locations for walking in the Berkshire Downs area. In the Chilterns Pishill, Stonor Park, Watlington Hill and Christmas Common are attractive locations. The Thames at Henley and indeed along any of the Thames Path through Oxfordshire also makes for enjoyable and fascinating waterside walking.
Peacefully located on the slopes of a scenic, richly wooded valley, Great Tew is unquestionably one of the most beautiful villages in Oxfordshire. Designed as an estate village in the 19th century, the intention was to blend architectural beauty with utility and agricultural management. Aesthetically the designers succeeded, creating an idyllic village built with a limestone having a high iron content that gives the buildings a rich ochre colour that is exceptionally appealing. Economically, however, Great Tew’s fortunes have been mixed and in later years the village became virtually derelict. In modern times all has been restored and the thatched cottages glow around a sloping village green below the manor house up on the hill complete with the ancient church of St Michael standing in its grounds. The village is now designated an Outstanding Conservation Area.
A Walk from Great Tew [SP 396293] OS Maps: Explorer™ 191
This walk visits the splendid church of St Michael and then circumnavigates Tew Park before culminating in a tour of the village itself. Leave the village walking uphill along a lane towards the church. The church entrance is on the left, a splendid avenue of laurels and traveller's joy leads you to this lovely old building which lies peacefully amid the trees of the parkland. Retrace your steps to the lane and continue to meet another lane. Turn left walking with the park wall on your left. Where the wall leaves the lane take a path on the left signposted for Nether Worton, still keeping the crumbling park wall on your left. To the right are glorious views over a wide area of rural Oxfordshire. Continue left to follow the north wall of the park returning you to Great Tew. It is possible to devise an extended walk to include the village of Little Tew using the OS Explorer map. About 4 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Falkland Arms, Great Tew Tel: 01608 683653 (Good Pub Guide)
Like the other untouched golden-stone cottages in this charming village, this picturesque thatched inn really is extraordinarily attractive. The bar has plenty of character with stone-mullioned latticed windows and a fine inglenook fireplace with a blazing fire in winter. For summer months there is an attractive rear beer garden with tables set under parasols. There is a good choice of ales plus numerous malt whiskies and country wines. The usual bar meal fare is available plus some daily specials.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks in Oxfordshire' by Nick Channer
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