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Visiting Watlington Hill in the Chilterns Countryside

Birch tree with a bench during wintertime on Watlington Hill
Watlington Hill during the winter | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Watlington Hill, with its distinctive triangular white mark of chalk, boasts fine views over the Oxfordshire Plain. It’s known for its high-quality chalk grassland and is rich in downland flora including rock rose, yellow wort, eyebright and twayblade. From beautiful walks to watching red kites, rabbits and woodpeckers, find out what you can see and do here.

Parking at Watlington Hill

Watlington Hill can get very busy at weekends. If the car park is full, please leave and return at a different time. Please don’t park along the road as this causes a problem for local traffic. It can also damage the verges which are important habitats for plants and wildlife.

The Watlington white mark

Watlington Hill is well known for its triangular-shape chalk mark, which can be seen for miles around. This unusual feature was carved into the hill in 1764 by a local squire, as a way to improve the view from his home.

Soak up the views

Along with neighbouring Pyrton Hill, Watlington Hill is part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There are fine views over the Oxfordshire Plain to the north and west. To the south, you'll see beech and ash woodland covering the slopes of the nearby hills.

When you reach the open grassland, wonderful views are laid out before you. The hill top has rich chalk grassland that’s grazed by rabbits, giving the turf a 'golf course' like appearance over its slopes.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) over Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire, in September
Red kite flying over Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire in September | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Wildlife on Watlington Hill

As well as the rabbits, you may see hares and fallow, roe or Muntjac deer. Up to 25 species of butterflies can be found here, including chalkhill blues, silver spotted skipper, brimstone, small tortoiseshell and the dark-green fritillary butterfly.

Birdwatching on Watlington Hill

The varied scrub of the hill provides plenty of food for winter visiting birds like redwings and fieldfares, and nesting birds in the spring.

Look out for the reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail of red kites from the top of the hill. Please don’t feed them; they can survive well in the Chilterns without artificial feeding as there is plenty of natural food.

Green woodpeckers are also a frequent sight here; they feed on ants from the ground and love the mixture of woodland and grassland that makes up Watlington Hill.

Explore the yew woodland

If you follow the footpaths around Watlington Hill you’ll pass through and alongside areas of yew woodland. Some of the yew trees here are hundreds of years old, with thick trunks and wide, spreading branches. In places the trees have been arched by strong winds blowing from the open fields nearby.

Track through gates at Bradenham Estate during the summer

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