The best way to explore Oxford is on foot when you get to uncover its secrets and lesser known wonders. Walking will also allow you finding natural wonders in the unexpected urban areas where nature thrives and history is pretty much alive. There are many walking routes which will allow you admire not just the famous colleges and buildings, but also the havens for wildlife located on the local nature reserves and within the beautiful meadows. Each walk will provide you with some fascinating aspects of the Oxford’s history, geography or nature booming with the walls of this great city. Get away from the crowded streets, pick one of the walks mentioned below and go for a walk to seek them out!
Just a few minutes walk from the city centre you may find another attraction which offers all the advantages of the countryside – fresh air, inspiring wildlife and great collection of country pubs. Running alongside the River Thames northwest of Oxford, Port Meadow, is filled with grazing cows, wild ponies and a variety of beautiful birds. This retreat for wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts has not been ploughed for at least around 4000 years allowing nature to thrive in here. Go for a wonder to explore excellent views of Oxford and its dreaming spires. You may also see here some of its well-preserved archaeological remains – Bronze Age barrows, Iron Age settlement remains, and foundations of fortifications built during the English Civil War.
Refuel your energy between the walks by visiting pubs such as The Perch and The Trout.
Photos by Antony Steele, source Flickr.
In the evening, when sun hides and the busy ambience of the city starts to slow down, one can truly begin to enjoy this magnificent city. Oxford, one of the most popular tourists destinations in England, is constantly (not matter of the time of the year) crowded with endless groups of excited tourists coming from the most distant parts of the world with an intention to see if for themselves.
Throughout the day its little streets tend to be rather overcrowded, but when the evening comes and the streets start to empty, you can freely take a walk through the historic and picturesque cobbled street. You can at last have Oxford to yourself and if you are lucky enough you may hear footsteps of some of the most famous minds who walked the same routes as you walk now.
Want to see more? View these photos to imagine your next evening stroll around Oxford.
Chimney Meadow, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve, is another great place for a stroll or a picnic. Once heavily grazed pastures are now nationally-important, wetland meadows located in the floodplain of the River Thames. This species-rich ancient landscape is now home to declining wading birds providing haven for curlew, snipe and reed bunting. Butterflies and plants such as meadow foxtail, adder’s-tongue fern and green-winged orchid can be also admired in here.
During Spring and Summer months the wetlands are transformed by a spectacular display of wild and colorful flowers. If you’re a keen birder this is a perfect location for you to be in a chance of seeing little egret and kingfisher from the large hide or spotting little grebe, jay and long-tailed tit from the smaller hide, which overlooks northern pond.
Upon your visit look out for the information boards to follow a walk along the Thames National Trail path that runs alongside the reserve.
Photos by Keith Seymour, source Flickr.
Christ Church Meadow is an extremely popular walking and picnic destination in Oxford. The meadow offers great views of the Christ Church College and is the perfect place to relax amongst nature where cattle graze in this meadow, just minutes away from the bustling city centre.
Christ Church Meadow is owned by one of the most famous Oxford University’s colleges – Christ Church. Even so the college itself is one of the most highly visited destinations in Oxford, sadly not many of them visit this free and full of tranquility oasis located surprisingly in the busiest part of Oxford. The Meadow open to the public during daylight hours, has long been used as a site for sport, entertainment and recreation.
Interestingly, Christ Church Meadow was the location for some of the earliest balloon flights in England: in 1784 James Sadler, ‘the first English aeronaut’ rose from Christ Church Meadow, landing six miles away after a half-hour flight.
Please note: All entrances are via railinged gates that are locked at night.
If you fancy spending a day in the middle of nowhere surrounded by wildlife, Iffley Meadows nature reserve should be your next destination.
Iffley Meadows, Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve, is a home to rare Oxfordshire’s iconic flower, the snake’s head fritillary. Each April this ancient meadows host a wonderful spectacle where you can see thousands of purple and white chequered snake’s-head fritillaries in bloom. This wild flower used to be abundant in Britain but thanks to the Trust careful management have shot up to over 89,000.
Throughout the year you can also admire in here blooming cuckooflowers, orange-tip, yellow buttercups, reds and purples of great burnet and knapweed.
Is it possible to see deers in the heart of the city? Magdalen, one of the largest colleges in Oxford, is not just home to the most breathtaking architecture but also a deer park which currently has around 60 deers and a very picturesque meadow. Within its grounds there is so much to see but no visit to the college is complete without a walk around Addison’s Walk.
All around the edge of the meadow is a path called Addison’s Walk which links the college with Hollywell Ford and the Fellows’ Garden. This 16th century walk named after Joseph Addison, a Fellow of the College, offers excellent views of Magdalen Tower and Magdalen Bridge. Addison’s Walk was also a favourite walk of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson, who regularly frequented it while discussing their work and believes. This circular path became an inspiration to C.S. Lewis and inspired his poem “What the Bird Said Early in the Year” which you can find engraved on the wall.
The meadow which lies to the east of the college and is bounded on all sides by the River Cherwell it is filled with the Oxfordshire’s iconic flower, snake’s-head fritillaries, which grow in here since around 1785. In the Fellows’ Garden you may find a rather eye-catching tree-shaped sculpture commissioned to celebrate the 550th anniversary of Magdalen College. The “Y” sculpture designed by a winning artist Mark Wallinger is made of steel and it’s 10 metres high.
Photos by Ed Webster and Adrian Scottow.