The start of May is usually peak bluebell season, one of my favourite woodland flowers. The good news is that Oxfordshire has a great selection of bluebell woods; some well known, others less so.
The bad news is you’ll have to jump in your car to visit them. That said, I think these are some of the best bluebell woods Oxfordshire has to offer. Others are available but these are free and set up to accommodate visitors:
Highworth Road, Great Coxwell, SN7 7NJ.
Grid reference: SU261945
Visitor information: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/badbury
Distance from Didcot: 22 miles (30 minute drive).
Badbury Hill is home to the remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort. However, most spring visitors to Badbury Clump come for the bluebells. Set beneath beech trees, the bluebells form a carpet across the woodland floor. It’s a popular location; the National Trust car park and overflow car parking fill quickly on spring weekends. Aside from the bluebells there’s a good network of walking routes around the hill, and further afield (including a signposted walk to Great Coxwell Barn).
Foxholes Nature Reserve
Station Road, Bledington, OX7 6QD.
Grid reference: SP255207- but see visitor information in link below for parking details.
Visitor information: https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/foxholes
Distance from Didcot: 38 miles (50 minute drive)
OK, I know it’s a long drive from Didcot but why not combine it with a wander around nearby Burford?
Foxholes is an ancient woodland, a remnant of Wychwood Forest, which is famed for its bluebells. It’s not the easiest to access, so doesn’t get as many visitors as some bluebell woods. As the approach road is potholed and rutted leave your car in the layby along the main road (as per BBOWT website) and walk in. Follow the badger waymarkers for a 1.75-mile circular wildlife walk around the reserve. Aside from bluebells, the reserve is also home to over 200 species of fungi, a colony of white admiral butterflies and the rare Bechstein’s bat. We visited last weekend and were impressed by the amount of bird life so take your binoculars too.
Christmas Common Road, Shirburn, OX49 5HU.
Grid reference: SU727958
Visitor information: Free. Always open.
Distance from Didcot: 18 miles (30 minute drive)
This woodland is in the Chiltern Hills, next to the county boundary of Buckinghamshire. Planted between 1957-1996, it used to be home to the Chiltern Sculpture Trail (sadly no longer). There are great views from the edge of the woodland, and you’ll always see red kites around too. After you’ve visited the bluebells, pay a visit to a World War II memorial in the middle of the wood. This commemorates the crew of a bomber aircraft which crashed in the woodland whilst returning from the Nuremberg Raid, resulting in the death of all on board.
Near B4027, Beckley, OX3 9TY.
Grid reference: SP559096 – but see visitor information in link below for parking details.
Visitor information: https://www.bbowt.org.uk/nature-reserves/sydlings-copse
Distance from Didcot: 19 miles (27 minute drive)
This is the woodland shown in the blog heading photograph. Although a relatively small reserve Sydlings Copse offers an impressive range of habitat and species; it’s one of my favourites. Managed by BBOWT it includes reed beds, fen, grassland and woodland. It is not specifically promoted as a bluebell wood but seek and you’ll find them in the glades; even without bluebells the variety of habitats ensure a productive visit. Despite its relative proximity to Oxford it is a quiet reserve, perhaps because the nearest parking spot is approximately 15 minutes-walk away.
Bagley Wood Road, Kennington, OX1 5NA.
Grid reference: SP514014
Visitor information: Free. Always open. Park considerately by A34 bridge on Bagley Wood Road or walk in from Kennington.
Distance from Didcot: 11 miles (19 minute drive).
Owned by St John’s College, Oxford since 1557. You used to need a permit to visit but access is now allowed via gated entrances; however you must keep on the maintained tracks. It can be busy due to its proximity to Abingdon and Oxford, but there’s plenty of room to spread out in the wood. It’s a fabulous place, despite the A34 running through it!
Leave no trace
All of these woods are special so please leave exactly as you found them. No picking, trampling or digging up plants. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept on a lead in the BBOWT nature reserves (Foxholes and Sydlings Copse).