This walk, between Didcot and Cholsey, takes you through the downland village of Blewbury, up over an Iron Age hillfort and past a poet’s farmhouse.
The walk takes around three hours at a steady pace but there are several options to extend it with a pub lunch. It’s a linear walk so you’ll need to catch a train back to Didcot from Cholsey. Although if you’re feeling energetic you could always walk home!
The first couple of miles are along the Sustrans cycle route, AKA the old railway bank, between Didcot and Upton. It’s a popular track with cyclists, families, dog walkers and joggers. In summer the bank is alive with wild flowers (including bee orchids), butterflies and bees. In winter you’ll have to look a little harder but there’s still plenty of interest.
At the end of the railway bank take the path down and into Upton. Turn left when reaching the road and follow it around, passing St Mary’s Church. Continue along Church Street for a couple more minutes until you reach Owlscote barn. Take the track that goes left, passing an apple orchard and horse paddock.
This footpath, known as the Coffin Way, will take you to Blewbury. About halfway along, after you dip down and up by the stream, look ahead and to your left you’ll see Blewburton Hill. It looks impossibly far away at the moment but I promise you it’s not.
Once in Blewbury make your way to the opposite side of the village. There’s a network of footpaths to explore en route; discover crystal clear streams, thatched cob walls and gorgeous old houses.
Aim for Bessels Lea which leads out onto Bessel’s Way. Cross the road and take the bridleway past the farm and up to the flank of Blewburton Hill.
Blewburton is the site of an Iron Age hillfort founded around 2500 years ago. Archaeological finds include flints and a stone axe, along with grave goods such as brooches and glass beads from its more recent Anglo Saxon use as a cemetery.
The bridleway passes to the right of Blewburton but it’s worth taking the short detour to the top of the hill. Watch out for the rabbit holes and sheep poo; no looking at views until you’re up top!
From the summit you can easily pick out Wittenham Clumps and, for a while longer, the remaining towers of Didcot Power Station. The trig point itself is situated rather strangely between barbed wire and a wooden fence. Beware the spiky bits if you lean over for a photo.
Head downhill again to pick up the bridleway. It was deserted on the day of our walk but churned up with hoof prints so you may well meet horses out for a hack from the local stables.
The path leads into Aston Tirrold. When you reach the village turn right and follow the road for a short distance until you spot the signposted track on the left that runs beside the playground.
Walk down this track, past the tennis star’s mansion. Say hello to Tim if you see him out with his dogs along the path. Er, yes we did!
Stay on the main footpath (do not take right hand path up the hill) for a mile or so. Shortly after you pass Lollingdon Farm, home to the poet John Masefield between 1914-1917, there’s another optional ascent, this time of Lollingdon Hill. Take the first right footpath after the farm to climb up and contour around the hill. I always enjoy getting a view from higher up but if you’re pressed for time ignore the hill turning and continue on along the footpath.
By the time you’ve reached Westfield Farm you’ll have at least heard the trains even if you haven’t yet seen them. Despite the partial introduction of electrification the approach to Cholsey is heralded by the sound of clanking freight and Intercity trains.
Pass under the pylons and railway bridge, turn right and walk through the housing estate to reach the railway station. The station isn’t manned so buy your tickets from the machine outside. Trains run regularly back to Didcot; the journey takes between 5-10 minutes. Check the timetable in advance, particularly if travelling on a Sunday.
Start point: beginning of Railway Bank Sustrans route, just off Green Close, Didcot.
End point: Cholsey Railway Station.
Distance: Approximately 12.6 km, 7.8 miles
Terrain: a mix of tarmac and footpaths. Some parts likely to be muddy after rain.
Although I’ve included a basic map of the route above I’d suggest bringing along the 170 Explorer 1:25000 OS map which covers this area. Or a GPS if that’s how you stroll.
There are pubs in Upton, Blewbury, Aston Tirrold and Cholsey along with Savages Tearoom in Blewbury. All will require a slight detour off route. Check opening times (and prices!) before you make your decision.
If you do this walk, let me know via the comment section on the blog. What do you think of it?