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Watlington Hill and Christmas Common

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Watlington Hill and Christmas Common
Author: Claire, Published: 01 Jan 2018 Walk Rating:star1 Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide star1 Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide star1 Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide star1 Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide star0 Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide
Oxfordshire, Chilterns
Walk Type: Woodland
Watlington Hill and Christmas Common
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide boot Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide boot Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide
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0002_sunny_intervals Watlington Hill and Christmas Common Walking Guide Today's weather
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A 3 mile circular walk from Watlington Hill, near Christmas Common in the Chilterns, Oxfordshire. The walk explores the beautiful woodlands and open areas of chalk grassland with plenty of interest throughout the year. This is one of the best sites in the Chilterns for viewing red kites and, in the summer months, there are plenty of flowers and butterflies to enjoy. The high ground gives you beautiful far-reaching views across the Oxfordshire countryside.

The walk includes several steady gradients throughout, plus one fairly steep climb through a large grass hillside pasture. The paths are relatively firm for the most part, but there are some stretches that can be very muddy after periods of rain and in winter so good boots are a must. You will need to negotiate several gates, including two kissing gates, but there are no steps or stiles on route. Most of the paths are through woodland, but there is about half a mile along a country lane (so take care of traffic) and one stretch through a grass pasture. This pasture was empty when we walked in winter, but may be holding livestock at times. Allow 1.5 hours.

Christmas Common is a small hamlet in the Oxfordshire parish of Watlington, located about 7 miles south of Thame. The walk starts and finishes from the free National Trust Watlington Hill car park. This is located at the top of Hill Road, about 1.5 miles up from Watlington town centre on the right-hand side, or about 0.5 miles from Christmas Common on the left-hand side. There is no height barrier at the car park entrance. Nearest post code OX49 5HS.

Walk Sections

Start to Kissing Gate
Start to Kissing Gate

Start point: 51.6364 lat, -0.9757 long
End point: 51.6352 lat, -0.9809 long

Standing in the car park with your back to the vehicle entrance, you will see two footpath options. Ignore the one to the right (between two noticeboards), instead take the one that leads you directly ahead (opposite the vehicle entrance). The path soon bears right, leads you past a tree with a white arrow and heads downhill to reach a bridle gate.

Immediately after the gate, you will reach a fork in the path. Take the right-hand branch, still following the white arrows. Follow the woodland path steadily downhill. You will notice that the mixed woodland is dominated by yew trees. This is an uncommon type of woodland that only occurs in a few places in the south of England. Yews live to a great age and some of the trees have been growing here for many centuries. Many parts of the tree are poisonous, but extracts form an important component of anti-cancer drugs.

At the bottom of this first stretch you will come to a metal kissing gate ahead.

Kissing Gate to Access Track
Kissing Gate to Access Track

Start point: 51.6352 lat, -0.9809 long
End point: 51.6319 lat, -0.9955 long

Pass through the kissing gate and continue downhill on the obvious path, with the main woodland to your right and a more open mix of shrubs, grass and a few trees to your left. At this point, beautiful views begin to open up ahead.

You will pass a clearing of short grass chalkland rising up to your right. This short grassland turf was originally created by centuries of sheep grazing, but is now maintained by a population of rabbits and deer. Watlington Hill is an important wildlife site, home to a large assemblage of chalk-loving wild flowers, butterflies, birds, mosses and lichens; many of them scarce or rare. Remember to keep a look out for red kites which are often seen soaring overhead.

At the end of this second stretch of your descent to you will come to the next kissing gate ahead (which marks the exit from the National Trust Watlington Hill site). Go through the gate and continue on the sunken path ahead, which has been worn down over the centuries, previously by sheep being driven along the track and today by walkers. Continue on the footpath, passing through two gates in quick succession and eventually emerging to a T-junction with a vehicle access track, with houses on both your left and right.

Access Track to Watlington Park House
Access Track to Watlington Park House

Start point: 51.6319 lat, -0.9955 long
End point: 51.6283 lat, -0.9834 long

Turn sharp left to join the access track, passing a beautiful old red-brick property on your left. Follow the access track leading you gently uphill, passing a brick outbuilding and then continuing between hedgerows. The track levels off and you will come to a junction within the track.

Go straight ahead for about 10 paces and then, where the track bends right, continue ahead up the steep chalk slope to reach a field gate ahead. NOTE: This field was empty when we walked, but may be holding livestock at times. Go through the bridle gate (to the right of the field gate) to enter the large hillside field and walk straight ahead up the steep grass slope.

As you near the top, be sure to pause and look over your shoulder to enjoy views of the yew-covered Watlington Hill and a large expanse of the Oxfordshire countryside. At the top, pass through the gate, walk ahead for just 15 paces and then turn left to follow the public footpath between fences. The path leads you through a grass clearing. Pause halfway along this clearing and you will have a view of the mansion within Watlington Park across to your right. The original house was built in 1632, but replaced in the 1750s and altered several times since then. To your left you will have the beautiful views that the mansion enjoys.

Watlington Park House to Christmas Common
Watlington Park House to Christmas Common

Start point: 51.6283 lat, -0.9834 long
End point: 51.6312 lat, -0.9698 long

Keep straight ahead on the path which leads you into the next section of woodland, Lower Deans Wood, also managed by the National Trust. The woodland is predominantly beech but also includes oak, sweet chestnut and cherry. Follow the main woodland path which is marked with white arrows.

Further along, you will pass between two gateposts marking the exit of Lower Deans Wood and the start of woodland within the Watlington Park Estate. Continue on the woodland path, still following the white arrows. Eventually you will emerge to a T-junction with the tarmac drive for The Tower. Turn left to join the drive and follow it as it leads to a junction with the road in Christmas Common, directly opposite the old church.

Christmas Common to End
Christmas Common to End

Start point: 51.6312 lat, -0.9698 long
End point: 51.6366 lat, -0.9756 long

The church you see here was once the Chapel of the Nativity, built in 1889 as a chapel of ease to save those living in the hamlet travelling the two miles to Watlington Church. It later fell out of use and is now a private home. The hamlet of Christmas Common has an unusual name, the origin of which is uncertain. Some believe it relates to the 1643 Christmas Day truce during the English Civil War, some that it relates to the abundance of local holly bushes and others that is derives from the Christmas family that had local connections.

Turn left to follow the village road, taking care of traffic, passing the old church on your right and then the village pub on your left. At the first road junction, ignore the right turn to North End, instead stay on the main road (using the path within the right-hand grass verge). Shortly, at the next road junction, turn left into the side road signed to Watlington. Follow this country lane, taking care of any traffic, for about 0.3 miles to reach the Watlington Hill car park on your left where the walk began.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by iFootpath and the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


3 comments for "Watlington Hill and Christmas Common"

Lovely walk, well described and with splendid views.

By witneyman on 08 Apr 2018

Did this walk on 1 April (Easter Sunday). The car park was full with cars circling, looking for spaces. Someone left on our second lap and we managed to park. The walk is a lovely mixture of woodland and open land with great views. The last bit on the road isn't much fun but the rest makes it worthwhile. The first section was very wet and muddy but the rest was fine.

By nicksmart on 05 Apr 2018

Lovely Walk

By Kathy on 13 Jan 2018

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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