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Walking the Bryson Line through Oxfordshire

Walking the Bryson Line through Oxfordshire

CPRE Oxfordshire chart the walkers’ journey through the celebrated Oxfordshire countryside.

The tranquillity and understated beauty of the English countryside inspired Bill Bryson, author and former CPRE President, throughout his career, and it is now a source of inspiration for a group of Anglo-Americans walking the so-called ‘Bryson Line’ to raise money for CPRE and other charities. 

As they near the final stretch of their mammoth, 539-mile walk from Cape Wrath to Bognor Regis, the Bryson Line walkers will traverse the celebrated Oxfordshire countryside, from the Warwickshire border in the north, to the Berkshire border in the south. 

Oxfordshire is home to some of our most quintessentially English countryside – rolling green fields, steep wooded hills and chalky downs, and no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). However, this stunning countryside is also under threat from large-scale development plans, with proposals to double the county’s population by 2050.

Rollright Stones The KingsmenThe Rollright Stones, in the Cotswolds AONB

As the walkers cross the Warwickshire border they will enter the Cotswolds, where they will be greeted by the King’s Men and their Whispering Knights - the Rollright Stones. These megalithic monuments sit on the edge of the Cotswold Hills, near the village of Long Compton. The stones are famously uncountable and, according to local tradition, if you manage to count the King’s Men three times and get the same answer, you will be granted a wish! 

The Rollright Stones are also a Dark Sky discovery site – an accessible place to view the stars. CPRE works with local authorities, especially in AONBs, to encourage dark skies policies and ensure we can all experience the wonder of the Milky Way.

Before heading to Chipping Norton, the walkers will follow a short section of the D’arcy Dalton Way, which runs for 52 miles through unspoilt countryside along the western side of Oxfordshire. The route was created, with involvement from CPRE Oxfordshire, to mark the Oxford Fieldpaths Society’s Diamond Jubilee, and takes in tranquil and little-known villages.

Upon reaching Yarnton, the walkers will pass through the Oxford Green Belt and the familiar staccato scene of the Oxford spires will come into view. CPRE was instrumental in the establishment of the Oxford Green Belt in 1975, and it continues to fulfil a vital role: encouraging sustainable development within the city; protecting the setting of the city itself as well as surrounding villages; and giving city residents access to precious green space on their doorstep.

Oxford City from South Park websizeOxford City spires from South Park

This area and the Oxford Green Belt is at particular risk of development, with the coalescence of villages and the urban sprawl of the city encroaching on open countryside.

As the walkers pass Radley they join a section of the Oxford Green Belt Way, a 50-mile walk around the city, created by CPRE Oxfordshire in honour of the branch’s 75th birthday. The route, managed by CPRE volunteer wardens, aims to encourage recreational use of the Green Belt and celebrate the countryside surrounding Oxford.

The walkers follow the winding passage of the Thames to the small, ancient village of Culham. Culham has hit the news recently as the proposed site of 3,500 houses, a development that would swamp this picturesque, Thames-side village, for housing that is not supported by local need.

From Clifton Hampden, the walkers will stride into the North Wessex Downs AONB. Renowned for its vast, dramatic, undeveloped chalk downlands, which contrast with the woodland and arable land seen across the Downs. As they follow the Thames through Little Wittenham to Shillingford, the walkers will spot the iconic twin-wooded hills, the Wittenham Clumps, one of which is the site of an Iron-Age hill fort.

At Wallingford, the walkers will pass the remains of the 11th-century Wallingford Castle. As they leave the town, they will cross into the third of Oxfordshire’s AONBs - the Chilterns. An area of chalk grassland, beechwoods, medieval commons and farming, they are sure to spot a few red kites overhead, majestic birds that have flourished since their reintroduction in the early 1990s.

We hope the Bryson walkers will inspire residents, and visitors to Oxfordshire, to explore the fantastic green spaces and landscapes on their doorstep. However, these green spaces are under threat. It is now, more than ever, vitally important to appreciate and value our beautiful landscapes, and guide development appropriately to ensure they remain in place for future generations to enjoy.

Oxfordshire is home to some of our most quintessentially English landscapes – rolling green fields, steep wooded hills and chalky downs - but this stunning countryside is under threat from large-scale development plans.

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