Christmas Common & Watlington Hill, Chilterns

This could be described as a Christmas walk for all seasons, or perhaps as a walk of two halves – a lovely woodland adventure or a breathtaking hilltop adventure. The choice is yours.

Technical sheet No. 29084541

A Watlington walk posted on 30/11/22 by Chiltern Society. Last update : 16/03/23
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h50[?]
Distance Distance : 8.17 km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 160 m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 164 m
Highest point Highest point : 247 m
Lowest point Lowest point : 128 m
Moderate Difficulty : Moderate
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Area Area : Chiltern Hills
Location Location : Watlington
Starting point Starting point : N 51.636682° / W 0.976093°
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A view over Watlington


Start: Watlington Hill car park, Hill Rd, Watlington (OX49 5HS). Grid ref: SU 710 935

(D/A) Turn right out of the car park and walk to the road junction (A). Turn left towards Stokenchurch for 160m to a wide track on the right towards Magpie Cottage. Take this track, walk past the communications mast and, where the track bends right, continue straight ahead into the wood. Follow the path for 230m to a T-junction.

(1) Turn right past the clay pits for 100m to the next path junction. Fork left downhill and continue to descend for 800m to a path that bears right uphill. Fork right and take this path as it climbs steeply up the hillside. Near the top bear left then right to continue climbing out of the wood. Walk between the fences and along a stony track between the houses to a road.

(2) Turn left along it for 100m through the village of Northend (B), to a permissive bridleway on the right almost immediately after the post box and shelter. The path can be a little obscured in the growing season. Turn right along the bridleway for 80m to a path junction, turn right and go through a gate onto a gravel driveway. Stay straight ahead along the driveway to the right-hand bend. Bear slightly left through the gate into a field. Walk along the left-hand edge of the field and stay in the same direction through four more gates into a wood.

(3) Follow the path through the wood for 350m to a path junction where the field on the right ends. Continue straight ahead on same wide path gently uphill until it leaves the wood and meets a gravel track. On the left is the entrance to Queen and College Woods. Turn right along the track for 100m and turn left along a bridleway into a wood. Turn immediately right on The Oxfordshire Way. Follow the path through the wood to a road.

(4) (C)The walk can be shortened at this point by turning right, go past The Fox and Hounds pub and take the first turning to the left to return to the car park.

To continue with the main walk, turn left along the road for 70m then right along the driveway towards The Tower. Continue on the driveway for 80m to a car passing place, and bear right on a path into the wood. Follow the path for 330m to enter the National Trust’s Lower Dean Woods (D) and continue for a further 450m to near the edge of the wood. Follow the path round to the left. It opens out and offers lovely views over South Oxfordshire (E). Go through a small wood to the end of the path.

(5) Turn immediately right and go through a gate into a field. Go straight on down the steep hill and through a gate at the bottom. Continue ahead to a junction of farm tracks. Stay straight ahead for 500m to a path on the right just before the road.

(6) Turn right along the path, go through a pair of gates and climb up through a third gate. Turn immediately left up a set of steps into the National Trust’s Watlington Hill Estate. Follow the path along the edge of the wood and bear right up and onto the open hillside. Stay on the stony path until it peters out, continue ahead for 100m.

(7) Bear right up the grassy slope to the top of the hill (F) and follow the track through a wide gap in the gorse. Walk along the top of the ridge. Go past the wooden barrier and the posts in the ground to return to the car park and finish the walk.(D/A)

We hope you have enjoyed your walk. Please remember to rate the walk and add comments. We are interested in how we could improve the instructions or the route and would like to hear about any issues with paths on the walk.

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 238 m - Watlington Hill car park - Christmas Common
1 : km 1.11 - alt. 245 m - Path T-junction
2 : km 2.58 - alt. 227 m - Northend
3 : km 3.16 - alt. 231 m - Into wood
4 : km 4.32 - alt. 241 m - Christmas Common Village
5 : km 5.5 - alt. 216 m - Downhill - Gate - Field
6 : km 6.39 - alt. 128 m - Near road
7 : km 7.19 - alt. 181 m - Grassy slope - Watlington Hill
D/A : km 8.17 - alt. 239 m - Watlington Hill car park

Useful Information

Start & finish: Watlington Hill car park, Hill Rd, Watlington (OX49 5HS). Grid ref: SU 710 935

Parking: National Trust car park as above

Local transport: None at the start. The nearest bus services are in Watlington. For further details go to

Food & drink: The Fox & Hounds, Christmas Common OX49 5HL

Terrain: A stile-free walk along good paths, and some quiet lanes, with a number of gates to pass through. Care should be taken along the road from the car park. The main route has one long climb and one short, steep climb.

This walk was created for the book "More Great Walks in the Chilterns" available from the Chiltern Society or from Amazon.

Visorando and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

(A) Christmas Common: There are many theories as to how the village got its name. They include a truce over Christmas between the warring parties during the English Civil War, an old local family name, or the abundance of holly trees. The communication mast close to Waypoint 1 is thought to be a US Air Force radio relay station which linked Daws Hill, High Wycombe to the base in Upper Heyford.

(B) Northend is unusual in that the eastern half of the village is in Buckinghamshire and the western half in Oxfordshire.

(C) Village: The Fox and Hounds Pub is Grade II listed and dates from the mid-18th century. It’s partly constructed of flint and partly of brick, and the cottage at the back is timberframed. The church of the nativity was built in 1889 as a chapel of ease for the use of those who couldn’t get to the local parish church. It’s now called Old Church and is a private house.

(D) Lower Dean Woods are owned by the National Trust and have a wonderful display of bluebells in spring.

(E) Watlington Park , a country house and park is uphill to the left. The house was built in the 1750s for John Tilson, son of the then Under-Secretary of State. Over the centuries the house has been subject to much modernisation.

(F) Watlington Hill was donated to the National Trust by the Esher family, the owners of Watlington Park, in the 1940s. Most of it is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a nationally important wildlife site.:

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