Wychwood Way in 12 hours

AAA walk - 15 March 2014

Comments from our walkers:-

  • "Thoroughly enjoyed the day"
  • "The countryside was unnaturally deserted."
  • "The way marks were somewhere between intermittent, non-existent and illegible. The clearest marker was hidden in a hedge."
  • "All day without seeing Didcot Power Station or Stokenchurch tower. Brilliant"

Saturday 15 March saw the first in our programme of occasional walks; to complete the 37-mile Wychwood Way long distance path within 12 hours as a group challenge walk. 5 of us started out at 7 a.m. with the extra excitement of an £80 fine if we exceeded the 12 hour car park time limit (although reportedly unmonitored over the weekend). The start was chilly but it promised to be a good day with a sunny afternoon and we set off at a good pace through Woodstock and into the landscaped grounds of Blenheim Palace. Turning west onto Akeman Street we passed the site of a Roman villa, ancient slate quarries and the site of the first fossilised dinosaur discovery before turning north into Stonesfield. Shortly afterwards, 6 miles into the walk, we found the first Wychwood Way waymarker. This was typical of the walk - the number of waymarks found was much the same as the number of people seen. If you want a quiet walk this seems to be the area for it. Following an old salt way towards Chipping Norton we made our first navigational realignment but were soon back on the track towards Lidstone where we paused for a break and snack at about 10.5 miles.

Suitably refreshed, we set off in the intermittent sunshine alongside the recently flooded Glyme River, grateful that we were not attempting this walk a few weeks earlier. Reaching our northernmost point a few miles south of Chipping Norton, the sun was getting stronger and we almost doubled back on ourselves to brush past Chadlington through the first of several East Ends on this walk. At 18 miles one of us decided that a 28 mile route would be better for him so he peeled off onto the Oxfordshire Way and the remaining 4 proceeded west along the Evenlode valley to Ascott-under-Wychwood for lunch. Here we just missed the 1pm closing time of the only shop en route and avoided the temptation of cream buns, beer or ice creams.

With just 15 miles to cover in the afternoon we set off through the edge of Leafield to pick up Akeman Street again but this time heading East. Through Ramsden (with a vague hope that this might be the home of those chip shops) and on into North Leigh, stopping again for a quick afternoon break on the way through the woods. Now on the home leg, we set off taking the opportunity to check on our 5th member but experiencing another navigational realignment while on the phone. Satisfied that he was fine and nearly home we passed through East End along a stream and back across the muddy (but not under water) Evenlode River flood plain, again grateful for the recent dry weather. Walking through Coombe, we had the chance to rinse off under the water tap in the churchyard, then onto East End and through Coombe Gate back into Blenheim Palace. Walking through the parkland, well within our time limit and knowing we were almost home, Helen had time to stop and take some photos in the near horizontal light of the setting sun. We finished just before sunset taking 11 hours 11 minutes of our allotted 12 hours.

An enjoyable day’s walking on our first AAA ‘Group Challenge’ walk. Plenty of ideas are coming for the next AAA walk, which will be something different, but I’m still open to suggestions.

Text by Ron Doole

Photos by Helen Abbott