Cowley to Shotover, Oxford

This circular walk goes through three SSSIs from urban Oxford. Starting from urban Cowley, walk up to the top of Shotover country park SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) for nature and views to the South West, then through Rock Edge SSSI, for Upper Jurassic limestone, and then through Lye Valley SSSI to experience nationally rare calcareous fen habitat from the last ice age.

Technical sheet
No. 21071367
A Oxfordshire walk posted on 17/04/22 by aardvarkkrill. Update : 09/05/22
Calculated time Calculated time: 2h50[?]
Distance Distance : 8.77km
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 112m
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 112m
Highest point Highest point : 173m
Lowest point Lowest point : 61m
Easy Difficulty : Easy
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Oxfordshire
Starting point Starting point : N 51.738543° / W 1.219533°
Download : -

Description

(D/A) From Cowley Marsh recreation ground car park, follow the gravel path on the right-hand (North-East) side of the recreation field (Cowley Marsh) and turn right just before the tennis courts. Turn left (North-East) immediately after the courts (before going through the gate), and keep the fence just to your right as you follow the path into and then out of a small nature reserve.

Turn right onto the road (Barracks Lane) following it up a steep hill with the golf course on your left, carefully cross straight ahead at traffic lights (Horsepath Road), carefully cross the ring road and continue straight across. Just past the Mini main entrance (on the right), turn left (North) carefully into the bus depot's car and bus park.

(1) Keep to the left side through the car park, after which the path continues as a grassy track along the side of playing fields. At the "gate" with wooden sleepers turn right (North-East) into Brasenose Woods, following the cycle path and keeping to your right when in doubt.

The path opens out at a complex junction. Here don't follow the path to the right into a field, but instead look for a small wooden bridge ~10m to your left. Cross it, and continue on a made road along the lower, right-hand side of an open grassy field. This is Shotover SSSI.

(2) At the far end of the field, take the rightmost path and follow it uphill, turning left just before the path would enter a private area through a gate. Follow this path uphill until you arrive at cross roads with a relatively major path to the left. (If you reach an open grassy plane, you missed it - retreat about 40m.) This junction is the site of the famous 400 year-old Shotover Oak which died recently from root exposure.

(3) Take the left (North-West) turn and follow the large path which traverses the side of the hill, eventually emerging from the trees into a grass field next to a car park (which is an alternative starting point for the walk) and a notice board with information about the whole park. (If you can't find it, head uphill, and you will find the car park.)

(4) Continue West across the top of the grassy area (parallel to the made road leading down the hill,) taking in near and distant views to the South West above the trees. At the far end of the field follow a path to your left marked by a way-post with a square green symbol. Make your way down the hill (keeping downwards and right if in doubt,) until you pass through a gate onto a small tarmac lane. (The Ridings)

(5) Turn right (North-West) along the lane, then left as you join the road (Old Road) coming down from the top of the hill -- be careful of traffic here. Cross over the ring road on the bridge and eventually turn right (North) onto York Road.

(6) The wild area below you on your left is Rock Edge SSSI, originally a shallow sea in Jurassic times. At the corner of the next left turn there's an information board. Descend on the left, and make sure to walk along the southernmost path (your left) to view the limestone coral rag boundary.

Leave the reserve in the Southwest corner, near the traffic lights. Cross over Old Road and continue South along The Slade main road (B4495). Cross this at the pelican by a small playground, continue South for about 30 metres then take the Lye Valley footpath signed to the right.

(7) After a few metres bear left (South-West) at the fork, and follow the path and then boardwalk beside a small stream. This area is calcareous limestone fen, a nationally rare habitat with some red-listed plants. Continue straight after the boardwalk ends until you cross a small wooden bridge and turn immediately left (South-East).

The path emerges on to the golf course. Watching out for golf balls, and being polite to golfers, cross the golf course along the public right of way, until you cross a gravel footpath and continue in to the scrub land beyond. Descend through the scrub land and you will eventually come out on Barracks lane again.

(8) Turn right (West) and then left into Cowley Marsh park again, where you will find the Cowley Marsh recreation ground car park beside the pavilion. (D/A)

Waypoints :
D/A : km 0 - alt. 61m - Cowley Marsh recreation ground car park
1 : km 1.97 - alt. 81m - Bus depot's car and bus park
2 : km 3.37 - alt. 110m - Shotover SSSI
3 : km 3.95 - alt. 158m - 400 year-old Shotover Oak
4 : km 4.55 - alt. 173m - Notice board
5 : km 5.19 - alt. 119m - The Ridings Lane
6 : km 6.07 - alt. 104m - Rock Edge SSSI
7 : km 6.8 - alt. 97m - Lye Valley
8 : km 8.17 - alt. 69m - Barracks lane
D/A : km 8.77 - alt. 61m - Cowley Marsh recreation ground car park

Useful Information

Public transports : Bus numbers 1, 5, 10 and 12 serve Marsh Lane, very conveniently for the start of this walk from the town centre.

Car park : Cowley Marsh recreation ground car park at the junction between B480 and Marsh Road.

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

The first section of the walk is not the most interesting, but it does improve later. You can do it the other way around. Barracks lane was the path to the 1876 army barracks formerly on Hollow Way.

  • Brasenose Woods (1) has plenty of oak trees.
  • Shotover (2) is good for wildlife (if you are lucky) and plants, with bluebells and gorse in season. http://www.shotover-wildlife.org.uk/
  • Rock Edge (6) was a shallow sea in Jurassic times, 155 million years ago, and the limestone is exposed from previous quarrying. http://www.friendsoflyevalley.org.uk/roc...
  • Lye Valley (7) is a nationally rare calcareous fen habitat, formed in the last ice age, and home to rare plant species as well as some interesting pools full of wildlife in season. Please keep your dog out of the water, particularly as flea treatment poisons the wildlife. http://www.friendsoflyevalley.org.uk/

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