Islip, Noke, Otmoor and Oddington

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Start: Islip Distance: 5.7 miles (9.1 km) Climbing: 55 metres
Grid Ref: SP 52713 14115 Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Islip
Start: Islip Distance: 5.7 miles (9.1 km)
Climbing: 55 metres Grid Ref: SP 52713 14115
Time: 3 hours Rating: Easy
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: This walk features the unusual wetland of Otmoor, with its rich and varied plant and bird life, quiet country lanes and three delightful Oxfordshire villages. The walk begins in the village of Islip, a place which was once of considerable importance. There was a royal palace here in Saxon times, and it was the birthplace of Edward the Confessor. When he founded Westminster Abbey around 1050, he made it a present of 'ye little town' where he was born. The connection remained intact: The last Abbot of Westminster, when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, was an Islip man and the village rectors are still appointed by Westminster. In later years, Islip was also an important stopping off place on the main coaching route from London to Worcester. Islip was also the scene of a civil war battle.

The Swan, IslipThe Swan, Islip
River RayRiver Ray

The walk begins from the Swan Inn, the first part taking you across the bridge over the River Ray. To the left the river wanders down between pollarded willows from the wastes of Otmoor, while to the right it runs past the gardens of village houses to the old water mill. It is a lovely spot, favoured by swans, geese and ducks. Beyond the bridge to the right is a group of cottages built of the warm local stone, one of which was home to the poet and novelist Robert Graves, who lived in the village in the years following the First World War. For a short way, the walk goes uphill along the old coaching road. Looking back you get a view of the old Rectory.

The path now turns onto the Oxfordshire Way, from where extensive views can be enjoyed. The path leads across fields and countryside to the village of Noke, which is very unlike Islip. Where Islip is a tightly bunched village, Noke straggles out along a winding lane that eventually peters out on the edge of Otmoor. At first comes relatively modern homes, soon followed by St Giles Church. Following on are Manor Farm and the old Manor House and then a series of pretty houses including Vine Cottage and Orchard Cottage. Eventually the village road leads into a bridleway that takes you out to Otmoor, an area of wetland and grassland. Here you can see evidence of the effort that has gone into draining the moor. Overflow water from the river is pumped into a pond with an island in the middle. The bridleway runs along a ridge, with the gentle river flowing through reeds on one side and hedge and ditch on the other. There is also a chequerboard of fields here which are reputed to have inspired Lewis Carroll in devising the chess game in 'Alice through the Looking Glass'. Sedges, reeds and teasels can be seen on the river bank and the air of the moor is filled with birdsong. The moor is known to botanists for its many interesting plants including several species of orchid.

Near Oddington, the river appears as the New River Ray, a straight cutting that now carries the main flow of water from the moor. Bounded with trees and popular with swans, it is attractive, but nothing can disguise its artificial character. The flow is monitored: there is a monitoring station by a bridge where a post shows the height of flood waters. Water levels are controlled by sluices.

The walk now leaves the moor to reach the village of Oddington. There was once an abbey here, but as early as the 12th century problems of flooding caused it to be abandoned. The church still survives though, having an imposing 13th century tower with lancet windows. The remainder of the walk is now on minor roads back to Islip. The route pases Logg Farm, with an imposing avenue of trees. This is peaceful farming land, divided up by little streams. On entering Islip, the site of a once moated house is passed before the walk ends by passing attractive cottages and the old almshouses of Tompkins Terrace.

Acknowledgment: Text derived from the Out and Out Series; Discovering the Countryside on Foot. Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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