Walking

Walking trail

Watlington Hill short walk

Walking trail

Watlington Hill was donated to the National Trust by the Esher family in the 1940s. Most of the National Trust site at Watlington Hill forms part of the Watlington Hill and Pyrton Hills SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). It is known for its high quality chalk grassland, combined with areas of acid soils on the ridge, which support silver birch and gorse. There are numerous species of wild flowers, including the Chiltern gentian, the autumn gentian, the frog orchid and wild candytuft. The blend of habitats supports many species of butterfly including the chalk hill blue and the rare silver-spotted skipper. Many species of birds can be seen including buzzards and the magnificent red kites. You may also spot rabbits, hares and fallow, roe or Muntjac deer. The walk is way-marked with orange arrows mounted on posts.

Map

Watlington Hill short walk map

Start:

Start at the National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid. Ref. SU709935

1

Take the path between the signboards in the car park into an area of woodland. Cross a track to a private property on the left, marked by some wooden and metal bollards, and continue on the path through scrubland to a gate. Look out for the orange way-markers along the route and follow these.

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Watlington Hill in Oxfordshire

2

Go through the gate to an area of open, closely cropped grassland. Continue on the grassy path ahead of you. You will soon see fine views on your right towards Pyrton Hill and Shirburn Hill further to the northeast along the Chiltern Escarpment. After 10 minutes (500 metres) and just after Watlington town comes into view ahead, look out for a circle of yew trees on your left which in the past has been used as a natural memorial and mausoleum for the Esher family who once owned the land. We ask you to treat this site with suitable reverence. Return to the main path and continue downhill until you reach a solid-looking backless wooden bench on your right close to the top of the White Mark. This is an excellent spot to enjoy views towards Watlington and to the Oxford Vale beyond

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White Mark on Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire

3

After enjoying the views and having a look at the White Mark, continue the walk by turning left and heading slightly uphill on a faint diagonal path (heading at about 45 degrees from the path you walked down to reach the bench). After 50m you pass through a line of thorn trees - watch out for the rabbit burrow here! Bear right to follow a more distinct path now heading across the slope and slightly downhill. Eventually the path bends bends to the left and then runs just below an area of dark green yew woodland. Eventually it winds its way through an area of yew woodland, emerging at two parallel crossing paths, close to a gate, which is on your right.

4

Turn left and uphill onto either the sunken path that runs along the edge of the yew woodland, or the more open path that runs parallel to it. The sunken path, which is probably part of an ancient drovers’ track, offers glimpses into the dark yew wood on your left. The more open path offers views back to the Oxford Vale – the choice is yours, and in places it is easy enough to switch paths! 50m from the gate, ignore a small path leading right. Eventually, the two paths merge to one, close to a grassy mound next to a large silver birch tree. This is a good place to pause to enjoy views back towards the Oxford Vale and towards Lower Deans Wood

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South face of Watlington Hill

5

Just after the two paths merge to one and after the grassy mound, pass through a small patch of overhanging yew trees. Here, if you wish, you can take a more energetic route back by taking a path to your left, upslope across an area of chalk grassland. On reaching the top of the slope, turn right to retrace your steps to the car park. For a more gently and wooded route back, continue straight ahead. On reaching a gate, go through. You will eventually go through a second gate and after another 2 minutes (100 metres) you will arrive back at the car park.

End:

Finish at the National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid. Ref. SU709935

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Watlington Hill short walk

Terrain

The walk is on soft footpaths. There is one slightly steep descent and one gentle ascent. There are no stiles but a number of gates. Please look where you place your feet as in places there are rabbit holes and protruding tree roots which can be a hazard. 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'.
Watlington Hill short walk

How to get here

Address
Watlington Hill car park, Hill Rd, Watlington, Oxfordshire OX49, UK
By road

Leave the M40 at junction 6 and take the B4009 south-west into Watlington. Take the first turning left uphill towards Christmas Common. The National Trust car park on Watlington Hill is on the right.

By foot

Watlington Hill is a short walk from Watlington town centre. Please see OS map 171.

By bus

There are local bus services to Watlington from Thame, Reading, Oxford, Henley-on-Thames and Wallingford. Please contact local bus companies for details.

By bicycle

Please see OS map 171. The path is just off the Chilterns Cycleway, very close to Christmas Common. From Christmas Common, turn down Hill Road (sign-posted to Watlington). The National Trust car park is 470 metres on the left.

Watlington Hill short walk

Facilities and access

  • car park