Beacon Hill, Juniper Bank and Aston Wood Walk

Walking trail

Since Roman times, people have faced the test of transporting people and goods between the lowlands of the Oxford Vale, across the steep Chiltern Escarpment, to and from London. This walk explores various ways in which this challenge has been tackled over time, and not always without controversy. Meanwhile, other transport routes that have kept to the lowlands haven’t necessarily succeeded.

This walk between points 4 and 9 coincides with part of the Aston Rowant Discovery Trail (ARDT). Its sign boards and green way marker arrows will help you appreciate the area and follow the route.

If you would like to identify wildlife species, you may wish to use some of the many mobile phone nature apps produced by recognised UK conservation and wildlife groups, such as The BTO, The Woodland Trust, The Wildlife Trusts, Butterfly Conservation and The Natural History Museum.

Summary

The walk starts at Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve, which is located high on the Chiltern Escarpment, offering panoramic views on the Vale of Oxford. In the summer you can walk through acres of chalk grassland and wildflowers, while eye-catching butterflies flutter through the meadows. Red kites are commonly seen gliding overhead. By contrast, the National Trust woodland areas of Juniper Bank and Aston Wood offer an altogether different landscape, with tall trees with ample shade. In autumn these woodlands are richly coloured, and they are excellent places to see a wide range woodland flowers, butterflies, birds, deer, and a range of unusual fungi.

Map

Aston Rowant walk map

Start:

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve car park. Grid Reference SU731965

1

There are two paths into the Nature Reserve from the car park. Take the right-hand path between the wooden notice board and the litter bin. Follow the path to a concrete-floored viewpoint with benches. From the viewpoint, continue along the path to the right of the information board about the red kites. Go through a gate and take the right fork upslope. The path soon levels out, with excellent views across the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve and the Vale of Oxford.

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Aston Rowant Nature Reserve

2

Continue along the level path and through a second gate. The path then curves to the right, past a metal seat sculpture, to a third gate. Go through the gate and continue up the grassy path and then straight ahead until the path forks left towards a large wooden sculpture (the red kite sculpture). This has a talking guide built in with six different topics, which can be activated via a manual wind up mechanism. At the sculpture, turn left downhill, following a clear, partly sunken path through scrub vegetation, ignoring two metal gates on your right hand side. Go through the next metal gate and follow the clear path across the chalk grassland. After another sunken section of path that curves left, continue downhill towards a wooden gate. This is a good point to see the M40 Motorway cutting or ‘Stokenchurch Gap’ ahead of you.

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Stokenchurch Gap

3

Don’t go through the gate, but turn sharp right, following a clear path gently downhill, with the Nature Reserve’s boundary fence on your left. Continue on the path, through an area of scrub woodland. Go through a wooden gate, then fork left and downhill to reach two more sets of gates. Go through the wooden gate and then the metal kissing gate to reach the Ridgeway long distance footpath, which locally is part of the Icknield Way. Between the two gates there is an information board about the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve.

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Icknield Way at Aston Rowant

4

Turn right onto the Ridgeway path and follow it for about 600 metres (12 minutes) until you reach the A40 main road. Take care crossing the road and continue in the same direction along the ridgeway path on the opposite side. After another 250 metres (5 minutes) the Ridgeway is joined on its left side by a narrow belt of trees and scrub vegetation. This is the abandoned route of the former Watlington and Princes Risborough railway. As you walk, you will see wooden and concrete posts that once supported the fencing and gates alongside the single-track branch line.

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Watlington and Princes Risborough Railway 1959

5

After another 450m (9 minutes) turn right at signpost next to a small Aston Rowant Discovery Trail notice board onto a crossing bridleway.

6

The bridleway initially follows a field boundary, but it soon becomes hedged on both sides. Continue along the bridleway uphill into an area of woodland. Follow the white arrows on the trees until you reach a National Trust sign announcing Juniper Bank. Here, turn right off the Bridleway, following the route of the Aston Rowant Discovery Trail.

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Juniper Bank

7

As you approach a double metal gate, turn sharp left up a wide, gently sloping track. You are now on the route of the medieval ‘London Weye’ and the abandoned Stokenchurch turnpike road. Continue up the track for 1 km until you reach the modern A40 main road. Turn left, following the narrow path alongside the road for about 150m. When you are opposite a layby, cross the road and go through a gate into the National Trust’s Aston Wood.

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Bluebells in Aston Wood in May

8

Immediately after the gate take the left hand fork and follow the woodland path, the route of which is marked by white arrows on the trees. In winter, you will be able to see the Oxford Vale through the trees on your right, but this is largely obscured when the trees are in leaf.

9

On reaching the far side of Aston Wood, go straight ahead, ignoring a right-hand footpath (L12). You will soon reach a lane. Turn right and follow the lane back to the car park.

End:

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve car park. Grid Reference SU731965

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Beacon Hill, Juniper Bank and Aston Wood Walk

Terrain

The walk is almost entirely on soft footpaths with one short stretch on a quiet country lane. There is one long descent through the Aston Rowant NNR, and one long ascent up Juniper Hill. You will need to cross the A40 main road twice. There are no stiles but a number of gates. Some paths can be muddy and slippery after prolonged or heavy rain. Stout walking shoes or walking boots are recommended in wet conditions or after heavy rain. Dogs are welcome, but must be kept under strict control to protect the wildlife that may be encountered along the walk route. In places where livestock is grazed, please keep your dog on a short lead at all times.

Beacon Hill, Juniper Bank and Aston Wood Walk

Contact us

Beacon Hill, Juniper Bank and Aston Wood Walk

How to get here

Address
Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve car park. Grid Reference SU731965.
By road

Leave the M40 at junction 5 at Stokenchurch. Initially head towards Stokenchurch, but after 100m turn left onto the A40 signposted to Oxford and Lewknor. After 1 km (0.6 mile) turn left towards Christmas Common. After just 500m, turn right following the signs to the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve car park.

SATNAV: The nearest postcode is HP14 3YL. Latitude: 51.663406, Longitude: -0.943307

By foot

Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve is a short walk from Stokenchurch. Please see OS map 171.

By bus

There is a regular bus service between High Wycombe and Oxford that stops near to the reserve at both Stokenchurch and The Lambert Arms at Aston Rowant. The Stagecoach Oxford Tube runs a frequent service between Oxford and London which stops at Lewknor village.

By bicycle

Please see OS map 171. The Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve is bordered by The Ridgeway National Trail and Swan’s Way. The reserve is easy to access by bicycle and there are cycle racks in the car park at Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill, Juniper Bank and Aston Wood Walk

Facilities and access

  • Parking is available at the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve car park. Grid Reference SU731965. There is a voluntary parking charge of £1.50 per hour or £3.00 per day which is used towards the upkeep of the nature reserve.
  • There are no public toilets on site. The nearest public/disabled toilets are in Chinnor (3 miles away) at the Chinnor Village Centre 01844 353733
  • Nearest refreshments at Christmas Common (the Fox and Hounds pub), Chinnor or Stokenchurch. There is a large picnic area at the end of the car park.
  • The Aston Rowant National nature reserve is managed by Natural England. Call 01844 351833 for more information about the reserve or to report any problems.
  • Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a short lead in areas grazed by livestock, and under control at all times.