This is one of my favourite local walks on the Downs. The start point is only a 10 minute drive from Didcot but once away from the road you soon feel miles from anywhere.
This walk starts from the small parking spot off the A417 between Blewbury and Streatley (see full details below). Be careful not to leave any valuables in your car. I would suggest carrying an OS map, or using an online equivalent, the first time you walk this route as there are a couple of spots where route finding can be tricky.
On with the walk…
Towards Starveall Farm
Leave the parking space via the gate shown in the picture below and head downhill towards Starveall Farm. This field usually has lots of sheep in it so watch where you put your feet. Almost immediately you are treated to the view in the cover photograph above.
At the bottom of the field, climb the stile, turn right for a few steps and then left at the signpost. Follow the footpath, which is along a narrow road, as it climbs uphill. You might want to take a breather along the way!
Fortunately this uphill stretch is rewarded with great views off to your left, across to Moulsford Downs. Follow the footpath as it first skirts alongside Unhill Wood, and then enters into the woodland. There’s a short woodland stretch before you re-emerge with open ground on your left hand side. Continue straight on along the track. Do not follow the track when it bends, instead cross the grassy area to re-enter the edge of the woodland.
The footpath through Unhill Wood is well defined. You will probably notice a fair number of Private signs along with evidence of pheasant feeding stations at various points throughout the walk today. I would suggest pheasants have priority over walkers in this area.
The path takes you down towards an open area, called Cow Common. On the opposite side is Ham Wood. Look for a slightly hidden footpath which bears off to your right and follow it to meet the main track. If you do miss this footpath you’ll still end up on the main track; you’ve just taken an unofficial short cut! Either way, turn right along the main track and follow it along the edge of the woodland. I always think this section is well manicured, presumably it’s for the benefit of the pheasants, and those who come to shoot them.
Towards the end of this section the path re-enters the woods; watch out for the footpath signs in the photo above. This leads you up beside a house, from where you take a sharp right, back through the woods. If you miss this turn you’ll end up joining the Ridgeway. (There are actually a good number of routes from here if you do want to extend the walk, check them out on an OS map).
The path leaves Unhill Wood, and takes you on a broad well defined track; photo below. I love how this part always feels remote and miles away from Didcot. Follow the path downhill and veer off the main track, through a field, when it bends to the right.
The path now takes you through the dry valley of Unhill Bottom. We last walked this route at the end of October and discovered that the field had recently been ploughed and the footpath obliterated. We ended up walking around the edge of the field, up on the bank beside the trees. This is not the correct footpath but it was just too difficult to walk through the ploughed mud. Hopefully the farmer has now reinstated the footpath along the bottom of the valley.
It’s quite a long walk through Unhill Bottom but you will eventually reach the footpath sign that you passed at the very start. Retrace your footsteps back up the hill, through the sheep field, to return to the car park.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk. Do let me know if you do it!
Click on the map to view a larger version.
Start and end point: near Starveall Farm, Moulsford. Small parking space off A417, directly opposite turnings for Cholsey and Moulsford. Take great care at this junction, especially when leaving. OS grid reference: SU573838, What3words: ///corner.speedy.childcare.
Distance: Approximately 7.25 km, 4.5 miles
Terrain: Farm tracks, woodland and footpaths across fields.
Refreshments: none on route. Nearest options are pubs and cafes in Goring and Streatley.