A Circular Walk to Wittenham Clumps and Dorchester Abbey Church in Oxfordshire.
Starting from Clifton Hampden this 9 mile walk goes via Long Wittenham to Crown Hill and Castle Hill (Wittenham Clumps), then optionally continues to Dorchester-on-Thames (adds 2 miles) before returning along The Thames Path.
Starting off and finishing on The Thames Path, and in between going across some of Oxfordshire's really beautiful countryside, most of the way is more or less flat - with just a couple of ascents at the twin hills of Wittenham Clumps. This all starts off from the large (and at time of writing) free to use parking area opposite the Barley Mow Public House which is just a few hundred yards away from Clifton Hampden's beautiful old Bridge ( OX14 3EH ).
Turn right out of the car park to head back towards the bridge - after a few metres a path on the right takes you off the road and heads on
down to the River Thames and The Thames Path.
Follow the river bank (i.e. walking away from the bridge) and cross two more fields to reach a path junction. Turn sharp right going inland - during wet weather this path across Clifton Meadows can be quite wet and boggy but once through the next gate it is much dryer and becomes a wide hedge lined green track. The track heads in a straight line for a while and Wittenham Clumps and the Hill Fort can be seen in the distance.
Eventually the green track reaches a track junction at a narrow tarmac lane, turn sharp right and head on soon passing New Barn Farm - to eventually arrive at the village of Long Wittenham. Turn right to reach the main village road - turn left here and after about 100 or so metres turn right to walk up and have a look round the Long Wittenham's church. Return back to the road - cross it and take the track
opposite between buildings then after just a few metres this meets a dirt road. Go right and follow this dirt road for several 100 metres and keep a look out for and then take a path going left away from the dirt road - (the last time we walked here this path was not marked as a public footpath although it is one).
Now simply follow this path staying in the same general direction with the twin hills which are known as Wittenham Clumps getting ever closer. Note this path is quite narrow and in places can be very overgrown with lots of nettles and at times bramble. The path eventually comes out at a small road called Sires Hill, turn left and follow this road to shortly reach a road junction, continue round to the left and walk uphill and then as the road bears left look for and take a path leaving the road on the left.
Follow the path which goes alongside fields and then bends to the left to reach what is now known as The Earth Trust (however on the O.S. maps this may still be shown as Hill Farm). Continue between the buildings to reach a narrow road. Cross the road now with a gate leading up to Wittenham Clumps directly ahead, however take the path which leaves on the right since the walk intends visiting the Castle Hill Fort first. This narrow enclosed path follows above the road and eventually arrives at Wittenham Clumps car park - with
Castle Hill now up on the left. Walk on up to the Hill Fort from where on a clear day there are fantastic views of the Oxfordshire countryside.
You can see the remaining towers of Didcot Power Station and also quite far away where The Ridgeway Path travels across the countryside. Access into the very heart of the Hill Fort is now fenced off because the old trees there have become quite unstable and liable to fall. There are several wooden seats situated around the top of the Fort which are perfect to sit and have a drink/sandwich whilst enjoying the views.
Follow the top edge of the Hill fort anti-clockwise and soon get more great views - this time including The River Thames and Dorchester Abbey. When halfway round
the slightly higher Round Hill is now directly ahead - walk on up - there are more seats and more great views to be had. As with the Castle Hill Fort unfortunately the Round Hill is fenced off for safety reasons but this is a still a really beautiful area. Once again walk anti-clockwise round the Hill with more of the bendy River Thames coming into view as well as glimpses of Days Lock and Weir.
Around halfway round the hill-top the village of Little Wittenham and it's church (St. Peter) come into view - with a wide green path heading steeply down (you can go down on less steep paths which are clearly visible on the hill-side in order to save knee-strain). Anyway this path flattens and comes out on a lane in front of the church. There has been a church here since at least 1086 - however the present version is not that old - St. Peters has a 14th century bell tower designed in the Gothic style and the rest of the church was completely re-built in 1863.
Turn right down this narrow road which soon descends quite steeply and then arrives at a narrow bridge - with views of Days Weir appearing, cross this old metal bridge and arrive beside the River Thames.
An optional two mile long circuit from Little Wittenham Bridge to Dorchester-on-Thames and back to Days Lock.
(if you do not wish to do this extra bit then turn left alongside The Thames to Days Lock and see ****
further below). Go back under the bridge now walking along the Thames Path and follow the river as it takes a huge bend to the left. This is a very beautiful walking area with trees on the far bank and open fields containing lots of wild flowers and grasses on the left. Stay beside the River Thames until reaching the River Thame which comes in from the left - cross over the
River Thame's bridge and then go
almost immediately left on another grassy path.
Stay on the main path which eventually arrives at the Dorchester road, turn left and cross over Dorchester's really long old stone bridge to enter the village. As you cross the bridge look out for a small and very picturesque Catholic Church quite hidden in the trees on the left. Take note of a small road on the left going sharply back just
as you leave the bridge. This will be the next part of the walk but first of course Dorchester Abbey is ahead of you and certainly worth a look round. Walk back to the main road and take the previously mentioned small road - this soon passes St. Birinus's Catholic Church now on the left - a really nicely shaped building and well worth a few minutes diversion.
Continue past the Church and almost immediately reach a road junction - go half right onto Wittenham Lane to pick up a path (which has a signpost in the hedge saying "Public Footpath - The River - Wittenham") - go past several houses always staying in the same direction and then
on reaching open ground Dyke Hills are now ahead of you. Walk straight on over to the mounds and turn right alongside them now with a fence on your left. Some way along the path passes a track coming in from the left and then reaches another narrow track going straight on. Turn sharp left here and continue on what is a narrow high hedged path now with the mounds on your left. The path arrives at a gate - go straight ahead across a field with the River Thames now visible in front of you, heading to Day's Lock.****
Now on the Thames Path go across the lock and then cross over Day's Weir. Turn right on the Thames Path and follow the River Thames as it makes a huge bend now heading back
for what will be a three mile walk to Clifton Hampden Bridge and the original starting point.
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