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Oxfordshire Pub Walks

With increasingly wintry days, the festive season looming, and hordes of extended family descending, there's never been a better time to don your wellies and head out for a stroll. Even better when there's a pub at the other end, with a roaring fire, a bite to eat and a nip of something mulled and cockle-warming. Fortunately Oxfordshire abounds with pub walk possibilities, and we've selected a few below to whet the appetite. All the routes below are short enough to suit little legs or slower walkers - ideal for all the family - but can also be extended for those after something more challenging.

Port Meadow

It would be verging on sacrilegious when writing about pub walks if we weren't to mention an old favourite: Port Meadow. A delightfully green pocket that spans from Jericho up to Wolvercote along the edge of the Thames, Port Meadow is best on a bright, crisp day when the winter sun glints off the puddles. Access is via Walton Well Road or Aristotle Lane in Jericho, or Godstow Road in Wolvercote, and various paths criss-cross the meadow. A great stop-off is crossing the Thames to The Perch, where excellent pub fare is available either in the cosy interior, more modern glasshouse, or at one of the banks of tables in the garden (great for those with dogs). A longer loop can incorporate the ruins of Godstow Abbey adjacent to the lock, stopping for refreshment at The Trout or The Plough in Wolvercote.

Oxford Canal, Jericho

The southern edge of Port Meadow boasts another good option: a wander along Oxford's towpath, a good chance to check out barges and boats in various states of canalworthiness, and dip off into pockets off green like the jungular Trap Grounds Nature Reserve. There are numerous opportunities to cross over back into Jericho too, perhaps to stroll past the picturesque terraced houses of Hayfield Road. The Anchor is an excellent gastropub on Polstead Road which has managed to maintain a friendly, local feel, and the open, nicely furnished dining area is perfect for a weekend lunch, with a great range of small plates and gourmet bar snacks for sharing.

Uffington White Horse and the Ridgeway

The Ridgeway is beautiful at this time of year, and Uffington's White Horse Hill is an obvious starting point for an outing. The Star Inn at Sparsholt or The White Horse at Woolstone are two possible pit stops after a ramble on the chalk escarpment. If you're after something more undulating, a good bet is the car park at Scutchamer Knob, an Iron Age barrow accessed via the Newbury Road through East Hendred. From here, you can head east, veering right over the gallops down to The Harrow at West Ilsley, a traditional country pub, popular with members of the horse training community. Going west, the trail leads to the Lord Wantage monument, which serves as a good turning-back point on a lengthier walk. Though not on the route, the cosy, characterful Eyston Arms is well worth a visit on the way back through the village, with some highly sought-after armchairs round the open fireplace.

Buscot Lock to Kelmscott

Known locally as a picturesque swimming spot in summer (and for the hardy or hungover in winter), Buscot Lock, between Faringdon and Lechlade, serves as a good jumping-off point for a walk eastwards along the river. It's a pretty, untouched section of the Thames and feels pleasingly remote. After strolling for 30-45 minutes you arrive in the village of Kelmscott, complete with a limestone manor house that was once the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. A little further into the village is The Plough, an ideal place to have a drink or stop for lunch before heading back to Buscot.

Around North Hinksey

If you're looking for a walk within the ring road, why not try exploring one of Oxford's lesser-known corners? A wander through to North Hinksey takes you over a lovely hump-backed bridge, along a Roman raised causeway and finally to The Fishes, a tucked-away family-friendly pub with its very own "Bridge of Death". As well as macabre-sounding crossing points, the food at The Fishes impresses, with a varied menu of dishes prepared with seasonal British ingredients. Check out our review here, and a detailed walking route below.

The Route

Take a gentle stroll west through Oatlands Road Recreation Ground (easy access from Alexandra Road, where you can always pop in to see the lovely Warlands Cycles on the way in) and take the agreeably hump-backed bridge over the Bulstake Stream in King George's Playing Field. Follow the line of the stream and then strike out onwards (south), across the open grass towards the convergence of paths in the far corner.

Mount the causeway and continue south-westerly along the delightful Willow Walk - an ancient raised causeway from Medieval or even Roman times - and look out for the rare Creeping Marshwort (Apium repens) in the fields to the south along the way.

Cross the Seacourt Stream, and make the choice to turn immediately left and east onto the track running beside the stream, or continue briefly onwards until you hit North Hinksey Lane, whereupon you turn left/east and follow the road around, beside the lovely church of St. Lawrence.

At the church corner, continue east towards North Hinksey Village. Admire the characterful houses and then, before you know it, you reach the impressively Victorian Fishes Pub on the left.

Stop for refreshments, enjoy the view of the Hinksey Stream and ancient flood meadows.

If you have taken the track, you have probably reached an intersection with a bridge over the Seacourt Stream to the north, and a footpath continuing in the other direction to the south. Take this footpath and you will walk up the side of the pub - enter and remain!

To return, you may easily re-trace your steps to arrive back on the Botley Road/Osney Island peripheries.

However, you may wish to take a more circular route via the flood plains to the east. If this takes your fancy, leave the pub and continue east down the road. There are some particularly picturesque cottages to admire along the way.

Shortly, you reach a stile on the left, cross over this and continue north along the footpath until you reach another set of stiles which allow you access to the bridge over the Hinksey Stream. Cross this and follow the footpath north-east over the field, where you cross over another small bridge and stile as you reach the Hogacre Ditch.

Continue north-east along the path as it follows the course of the Bulstake Stream on your left. When you reach the cross-way with the Electric Road (so named as it travels the path of pylons overhead and supply cables underground), take the left, north spur and cross the Bulstake Stream into the northern flood meadows.

Continue north-west across the field until the path tracks into the side of the Osney Mead industrial estate. Follow its path until you reach a t-junction with another path, and another stile.

Cross the stile and take the path left, south-westerly, and shortly you cross once again over the Bulstake Stream. Take the right-hand fork of the path (north-west) and follow the path through the trees as it meanders beside the water until you once again reach the mounting for the ancient causeway.

You are now back at the point you started along the causeway, and may re-trace your steps into King George's Playing Field and Oatlands Road Recreation Ground to the north.

Enjoy your journey!


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