This pleasant 11 mile walk goes out across the Oxfordshire countryside, passes several old churches and then returns alongside The Oxford Canal.
The walk is covered by Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 180 - note that in parts of this walk there are quite a few paths around which are not marked to anywhere. Therefore it is advisable to use the map before setting out to get an idea of the route. Basically the walk goes from Kidlington Church, crosses the River Cherwell and continues to Hampton Poyle. From
there it goes to Hampton Gay, then heads off to Bletchingdon and then on to the Oxford Canal near Kirtlington - returning on the towpath to Kidlington. Parking is available beside Kidlington Church at OX5 2AZ (o.s. ref: SP497 148) - this is a smallish car park and often rather full particularly on weekends.
On entering the car park note the gate on the right which is the start of the walk. Go through the gate and follow a well surfaced path which soon becomes grass - it goes through a wooded area - stay on this path until it bears left over a small stream. Continue with a tree-lined field-edge on the right to reach a concrete bridge and the
River Cherwell - cross the bridge and look for and take a footpath on the left. This crosses two fields to reach a narrow road by St Mary's Church at Hampton Poyle. Cross the road and continue on the marked footpath opposite - this crosses a field and then cuts down between a hedge, turn left and go through another hedge. The path splits here - keep to the left fork i.e. don't go up the field. Now follow this clearly marked path staying in the same basic (westerly) direction - going over several fields and then eventually
dips down to cross a small stream. The path continues on up the next field then having passed between the next hedgerow, Hampton Gay's small church of St. Giles comes into view - head towards the church.
This is an interesting area in you can see two churches and between them there is a railway line, the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal all hidden in the foliage. Having wandered around the church (note the door into it is often locked), head right along the valley passing the ruins of the Manor House on the left. These ruins are in a poor state and considered dangerous therefore the area is fenced off. The path/track soon then arrives at a narrow lane at
As the lane bears right go through the gate on the left - there is a well hidden signpost here buried in the hedgerow. Cross the field and then enjoy a very steep climb up the next field - follow the footpath to reach the paddocks of a farm. There are various gates to pass through before reaching the farm buildings - the footpath goes to the left of these buildings and then goes diagonally across a field to reach Oxford Road. Turn left along the road and follow it into Bletchingdon. On reaching crossroads turn
left along the B4027 for a few 100 yards where there is a turning on the right marked to Springwell Hill. A few yards along this road take a footpath on the left - much building work is occurring in this area - simply follow the path signs until reaching a field path. The route now undulates somewhat before reaching Lince Lane (the A4095), turn left and soon take a bridal-way on the right which is sign-posted - this goes alongside Kirtlington Golf Course. Carry straight on past the buildings (once called Vicarage Farm), go
over a track and straight on along a field edge to reach Mill Lane.
Go left to almost immediately reach The Oxford Canal and Pigeons Bridge 213 and Pigeons Lock 39 - cross the bridge and turn left onto the towpath. This is a nice scenic and peaceful area to stop - perhaps for something to eat and drink although there is only just one small bench seat.
The route is now straightforward - follow the towpath for around 4 miles. The canal boasts some interesting locks, bridges and features as it wanders around the Oxfordshire
countryside. Near Bakers Lock the River Cherwell goes under Horse Bridge - this is an elegant iron bridge - and now the Cherwell and Canal share the same waters for a while.
This is the case until reaching Shipton Lock where they separate and also where the towpath changes sides. Soon the towpath takes you past Liftbridge 219 - lift bridges are a particular feature of the southern part of the Oxford Canal. Interestingly you can once again see Hampton Gay's church over on the left.
The Oxford Canal in this area can be
quite busy - Shipton-on-Cherwell is on the right and then the towpath gets to Thrupp. This is quite a colourful area particularly in the Summer as many people have placed pot plants and hanging baskets along the towpath. Thrupp is a popular place for visitors - there are various facilities including toilets, public houses and it is also possible to hire canoes or small dinghys here. The towpath crosses Aubrey Liftbridge and then continues alongside a narrow road - with cottages once side of the road and lots of moored narrowboats on the canal.
Eventually the towpath reaches Sparrowgap Bridge 223 - this is located beside the Jolly Boatman Public House. Leave the canal via the pub garden and then go left to cross the bridge. Take the marked route on the right which goes diagonally across a field, crosses a railway line and then from there stay more or less ahead on the marked footpath - soon the high spire of Kidlington's Church of St. Mary the Virgin comes into view. Make your way to the church - there are several path options - and before returning to the car park it is worth
looking inside this lovely old church..