Blenheim Palace Great Park and Woodstock Walk.
Stonesfield - Oxfordshire Way - Oxford Canal - Woodstock - Blenheim - Stonesfield Circular Walk of 27km - undulates.
If you like really beautiful English countryside and a variation in walking conditions as well as lots to look at then this is one of the nicest walks to try - and without doubt the best time of all is to walk this in late April or early in May. This 17 mile walk starts and finishes at Stonesfield and visits part of Blenheim's Great Park, then goes along the Oxford Canal
towpath for a while, visits Woodstock and then returns back via Blenheim Park Great Park again. This time though the route passes several of the lakes in the grounds and gets very close to Blenheim Palace itself. The route also later goes by the considerable remains of North Leigh Roman Villa - which is located a little way south of Stonesfield.
The Oxford Canal towpath is excellent to walk along at any time but perhaps even more so in the above area especially during Spring - it is so
full of wildlife and foliage - equally as good if perhaps not better for walking than the Grand Union Canal.
G.P.S. readings are shown in OSGB British Grid and indicated within
and are in easterly and northerly order. Entering the correct Grid Letters into your GPS is essential ( i.e. this walk uses SP
grid letters) - however most gps machines will detect this automatically for you these days. The map used for the walk is the O.S. Explorer Series number 180 Oxford and because of the distance on this walk it is a good idea to have this map with you. The walk starts at Stonesfield - this Oxfordshire village has narrow little roads and only very limited parking by it's small Post Office/front of the church.
It is not really necessary to give a great deal in the way of instructions concerning the first half of the walk which soon takes you almost straight along the Oxfordshire Way since the Trail is mostly very clearly sign-posted.
From the above-mentioned parking area walk through the church yard to Church Fields road, turn left and when the road turns sharply left go right onto the Oxfordshire Way (this is clearly marked). The path soon descends steeply - a
small bridge [ SP 39370 16958
] and the River Evenlode comes into view - just before reaching this go left through a gate and follow the path round through another gate.
The whole of the trail is now well marked - you are actually walking on Akeman
Street - a Roman Road.
Follow the trail eventually reaching the stone walls of Blenheim Palace's Great Park - enter the park via a step
ladder and then continue straight ahead through some woodland and then open parkland. The path dips and then climbs a little to reach a set of farm buildings - pass to the left of these and then go through a gate on the
right to reach a cross track. Go right on the track and almost immediately look for a gate hidden in the trees on the left (Wooten Gate).
Now cross the wide grass verge and go carefully across the A44 to the small road opposite which is signposted to Wootton. There are no Oxfordshire Way signs around here - so shortly take a small lane going off to the right which is signposted Bletchingdon. This narrow tarmac lane (called Stratford Lane) drops down to cross the River Glyme [
SP 44263 18688
] and then climbs steeply up to reach a road junction.Go across now with the Oxfordshire Way clearly marked again. Just follow the signs - taking care when you cross
the busy A4260 Banbury Road. Take the road opposite and after a few metres go through a gate on the right. Just stay ahead crossing fields to reach a wooded area - the trail now becomes a narrow path crossing
stiles and then a bridge - just after the bridge take a narrow path on the right which takes you across a field to a gate - turn left and go under the railway bridge on
what is a rather poorly maintained track.
Continue along soon with the River Cherwell on the right, go right at a track junction to cross the river and follow the signs passing several
small weirs to reach the Oxford Canal. There is a narrow lock ( Pigeons Lock) here and also a nice wooden seat - a perfect place for a lunch break. Turn right and go under the small bridge [
SP 48681 19411
] and carry on along the tow path - the countryside and surrounding views along this canal are really great.
The River Cherwell eventually appears running below the canal on the right and then some large dish aerials from an earth station can be seen. A series of narrow boat jetties appear on the left -
then after passing under a railway bridge a large public house appears on the left - this is Enslow.
Leave the canal at the road bridge to go up to the B4027 road, turn right and walk along the wide grassy area alongside the road to cross the River Cherwell on Enslow Bridge
[ SP 47767 18431 ]
Follow the road as it goes sharp left and climbs to reach a road junction - turn left onto the A4095 - just a few 100 metres along take a track leaving the road on the right. Follow this via a copse and then across a field to a road - go straight across
and continue ahead to another road. Go right and immediately take a bridle way opposite and then just a few metres on take a footpath on the left. This path crosses the fields and you can now see Woodstock ahead - the church looks reasonably close at first but somehow seems to get further and further away
as you walk towards it. When the path reaches the houses continue between fences/gardens and then down via steps to a road. Turn right and follow the road round (ignore the smaller road going off right) - continue up to reach a
road junction. Straight ahead is marked as a no through road - take a signed path on the right which heads down to the water meadows by a bridge.
Do not cross the bridge, instead carry on along now with a stream on
the right - immediately before the main road bear right and then left to emerge on the road[ SP44239 16985
]. Cross the road using the pedestrian crossing, then go right
and shortly go through a large green gate - this looks like a private drive but is actually a footpath too. A few metres along go through another green gate on the left and enter the grounds of Blenheim Palace Estate. Turn right and follow the tarmac road passing one end of Queens Pool to reach a road junction, turn left and follow the road
slowly up - Blenheim Palace now becomes clearly in view a little ahead of you. The road then descends towards Grand Bridge - just before the bridge turn right - still on a tarmac road - and then take a signed footpath on the left which follows the
edge of The Lake.
As The Lake narrows and then ends take a gate on the left - the path now bears right and up into woods and eventually joins a tarmac road. Turn left on the road and follow this still climbing as it wanders through woodland.
As the road bears left look out for a gate by a Lodge on the right - take this to come out of the Blenheim Estate onto a small road. Turn right and follow this road to reach a junction, go left here and then shortly take a marked path signed Combe
Church on the right. The path crosses a field then continues through a gap - now with the woods on the right. It then turns right via a hedge gap - follow the path to reach Combe Church - St Laurence - clearly visible ahead. Go through the
churchyard and continue to a road, turn left to shortly reach a main road. Go left and take the next road on the right - stay on this narrow road which initially passes houses - when the road turns right continue straight ahead through Higher Westfield Farm.
The narrow farm road goes steeply down then veers left by water works, then continues along the valley - there are great views here especially on the left. After passing through Lower Westfield Farm continue
straight on into a field - the River Evenlode and a railway bridge come into view. Follow the grass track as it drops down and bears right, a few metres along you can cross the river on a small farm bridge
[ SP39867 15533
Turn sharp left and follow the path as it goes alongside the river and then under the railway bridge. Turn right across the fields - the path soon arrives at the remains of
North Leigh Roman Villa. Apart from being able to have a look round the remains on this reasonably extensive site the area has a very convenient bench seat which is ideal for a 5 minute drinks stop. At the far end of the site there is a mosaic which is housed inside a building for it's protection.
When we arrived at the site it was all locked up but we had got there quite late in the afternoon so presumably you can go in to look at the mosaic during the day.
From the site carry straight on (do not take the small path going sharp left alongside the site
) to arrive at a t-junction. Turn right onto and take the farm road which shortly goes over a railway bridge then
when the road bends right continue straight ahead across fields to eventually arrive back at the bridge just outside of Stonesfield. Cross the River Evenlode and then go back up the original track/path to arrive back into Stonesfield.
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