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Chiltern Escarpment
Chiltern Escarpment | © National Trust / Hugh Mothersole
Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Berkshire

Watlington Hill circular walk

This 7-mile walk takes you across Watlington Hill, dropping down onto the Oxfordshire Plain following the ancient Icknield Way, before ascending the Chiltern Escarpment through Greenfield Copse. Continuing across several small valleys on the dip slope of the Chilterns, the route returns to Christmas Common and to Watlington Hill via an ancient Saxon lane that was once the spinal route of a Chiltern strip parish.

Map of the area

We strongly recommend using the local 1:25000 Ordnance Survey map (OS Explorer 171) in addition to these instructions.

Total steps: 13

Total steps: 13

Start point

National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid ref: SU710935.

Step 1

Leave the car park on the path to the left of the large signboard and parking meter into an area of woodland. Cross a track to a private property and then continue straight ahead on the wide path through scrubland to a gate.

Step 2

Go through the gate to an area of open, closely cropped grassland. Continue on the grassy path ahead. You will soon see views on your right towards Pyrton Hill and Shirburn Hill further to the north-east along the Chiltern Escarpment. Continue straight ahead along the ridge of Watlington Hill. After 400m the path heads more steeply downhill and slightly to the right. Keeping to the right, head downhill towards Watlington. About halfway down you reach the Watlington White Mark on your left.

The Watlington Hill White Mark
The Watlington Hill White Mark | © National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Step 3

From the White Mark, continue steeply downhill heading for a gate in the lower right-hand corner of the Watlington Hill site. From the gate head down a short track to meet a road, then continue down the roadside path for a further 20m, and then turn left onto the Ridgeway long distance footpath, which at this point follows the route of the ancient Icknield Way.

The Icknield Way
The Icknield Way | © National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Step 4

After 30m at a fork bear right and continue on the Ridgeway for 850m until you reach the B480 road. Cross the road. Almost immediately on your left you will see a gap by a metal gate leading into a field. Go through the gap and follow the permissive path parallel to a hedge and lane. To your left are views back towards Watlington Hill and the Chiltern Escarpment. Just after a bench near the corner of the field, pass through a gap by a metal gate. Here turn immediately left onto a lane, ignoring the track that leads to a gate.

Step 5

The lane takes you past Dame Alice Farm on your right and a barn and cottages on your left. Note the cottage on your left, which is built from chalk stone. This is exceptional as chalk, although it is widely available, is rarely strong enough to make a good building stone.

Step 6

About 130m after the cottage turn left onto footpath W11 running between a copse on the left and a hedge on the right. Follow this path for another 720m until you reach the B480 road. Taking great care, turn right along the road for 60m on the narrow grass verge until you reach the gateway to the house named Dumble Dore, which is on the opposite side of the road to a gate and a footpath sign that might be partly hidden by a hedge.

Step 7

When safe, cross the road and then cross a stile to the right of the gate. On the stile is a white arrow for path W10. Follow this path straight along the edge of a field with a hedge on your right. At the corner of the field, pass through a gap to the left of a gate into a woodland. The path now rises quite steeply and then descends to reach two sets of gates at a junction of paths and tracks. Go straight ahead, following the arrow marked W9. As you start climbing and 60m past the second gate, take the left fork, following path W15. You will pass a No Riding sign. Continue uphill through Greenfield Copse. The path will eventually level out and lead you to a gate in a wall.

Step 8

Take care as you go through the gate, leading directly onto a road. Cross the road into the entrance to Greenfield Farm (the Tree Barn) opposite. Follow the lane ahead that skirts to the left of a large barn. You'll soon pass cottages and newly built houses on your left and will see the side and back of Greenfield Farmhouse on your right. Continue down the lane, which eventually becomes a rough track between low hedges. When the main track bears right, continue straight ahead downhill towards woodland. On entering the woodland, continue straight ahead. This track then curves to the left and drops down to a valley bottom, where there is a junction of tracks. Here turn left onto track W19. Continue until you meet another junction.

Step 9

At the crossing of paths turn left. You will soon meet a second junction of paths but continue straight ahead and uphill following the blue Chiltern Way marker on a post. The path rises and falls through a variety of woodland landscapes until it drops down to yet another junction of paths and tracks in a small clearing.

Step 10

Go across the clearing, bearing slightly left, and follow path PS8 (also the Chiltern Way – CW), ignoring two sets of vehicle tracks to the left. This rises steeply on the right side of a small valley. At the top turn left to join path PS5 then at the edge of the woodland go through a gate into a field. The path heads slightly right uphill following the field edge on your right until you come to a gate at the top right corner of the field.

Step 11

Go through the gate and turn left into an unsurfaced lane. You are now on Hollandridge Lane. Follow the lane between fields and woodlands for 1 mile, ignoring any side paths or tracks. When the lane becomes surfaced and leaves the woodland, look out for a signpost pointing left to the Oxfordshire Way bridleway.

Hollandridge Lane
Hollandridge Lane | © National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Step 12

Turn left onto the Oxfordshire Way bridleway, then immediately right onto footpath PS1/OW, which heads diagonally across Queen Wood. Look out for white arrows on the trees to guide your way. On reaching a crossing path, keep straight ahead on path W33 passing the churchyard on your left. You will soon emerge onto a road where you turn right.

Step 13

If you wish to visit the Fox and Hounds pub, it is 100m on your left. To continue the walk, keep following Christmas Common Road for another 300m and then turn left into a lane signposted to Watlington. Follow Hill Lane for 420m, ignoring the first footpath sign on your left, until you reach a second footpath sign. Turn left and then immediately right to return to the car park at Watlington Hill.

End point

National Trust car park at Watlington Hill. Grid ref: SU710935.

Trail map

Watlington Hill circular walking map
Watlington Hill circular walking map | © Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey

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