A few weeks ago, over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, we headed out into the beautiful Oxfordshire sunshine to explore the Windrush Path and take a look at Standlake Common Nature Reserve. I’m no twitcher, but there is something amazing about rare, strange and beautiful birds as well as common butterflies and glorious spring blossom.
We set out quite early and parked in the Rose Revived pub car park. We crossed the road and headed out across the footpath that takes in part of the Mosaic Trail. We heard the woodpecker you can almost make out hiding in the tree below. It was so difficult to take a picture of it, hence my not so great attempt here. I’d never seen one before, but have now seen quite a few.
As part of the Mosaic Trail, there’s a picnic area with tables at the Dragonfly post. Not far from here is Standlake Common Nature Reserve, which has two bird hides. Unfortunately, the hides are locked and you have to get a key from the Reserve office. Fortunately, a kind stranger already had a key and let Phil in to take a look at a rare bird (I forget which one) while Poppy and I explored the area outside.
The weather was absolutely glorious and by the time we got back to the pub, we were ready for lunch. Despite the fact that the rest of Oxfordshire had appeared in the pub garden by that time, we found a little table by the river and ordered a few sandwiches. Even though the pub was busy, both inside and out, we didn’t have to wait long. The food was outstanding and I’m looking forward for a return visit.
The Newbridge to Standlake walk is brilliant. The fact that there’s a pub at the end that’s dog friendly and serves great food makes it even better. This is one walk we’ll definitely be going back to.
The Walk: The Standlake to Newbridge walk is about 2 miles long. We didn’t go all the way to Standlake, but headed back towards Newbridge. It’s a nice circular walk taking in some very spectacular sights, including Standlake Common Nature Reserve.
Car Park: We parked at The Rose Revived at Newbridge. I’m not sure if that was the right thing to do but we felt it was okay as we planned to return there for lunch, which was a great idea!
Refreshments: The Rose Revived was excellent and well worth a visit.
Toilets: The only ones we found were at The Rose Revived.
One thing that constantly amazes me about Oxford is that we are still discovering new places, despite living in or near it for nearly eight years. Lye Valley is one such place. Located in Headington, it’s a hidden gem that is perfect if you’re looking to get out to stretch your legs before heading into Headington for a quick coffee. It’s not a very long walk but it’s really lovely. You’ll easily forget that you’re in a city.
It’s being managed by the Friends of Lye Valley and there’s a walkway over the boggy area, which is essential. Poppy wanted to explore the long reeds and tall grass, as that’s where all the most interesting smells are apparently! I think it’ll be even better in summer, when the trees are in full bloom, as it’ll be lovely and shaded.
As the Lye Valley walk is quite short, we headed into Headington and took Poppy to Bury Knowle Park for a sniff about as well. We might’ve* had a cheeky chai latte from Starbucks too.
The Walk: To get to Lye Valley Reserve you need to go through one of the many entrances. We parked in Lye Valley but you can access it via The Slade.
Car Park: There’s no car park, but there is street parking.
Refreshments: No, but you’re a stones throw from the centre of Headington where you’ll find the usual High Street coffee chains as well as a few independent gems.
Despite living in Oxfordshire for quite a few years now, I had never been to Otmoor RSPB reserve before. If you’ve never heard it, it’s an excellent place for twitchers and nature nerds, like myself, to see lots of different birds and wildlife. There’s even a board in the carpark, where you can see what birds have been spotted recently. Make sure you bring your binoculars!
When we were driving there, it did feel like we were driving into the middle of nowhere, but when you finally arrive at Otmoor, it’s well worth it. One of the first things we saw when we got there, on a very cold Sunday morning, was a fox. It was sitting in a field, watching some birds, trying his luck. I’ve never seen a fox in the day before! Amazing!
Naturally, there are lots of birds to stop and look at but that means ample time for dogs to stop and sniff. Poppy loved being out in the countryside. There were so many different places for little critters to walk and live that Poppy wore herself out sniffing and exploring the grass.
We didn’t realise before we went that there are some restrictions for dogs on the reserve. It’s no big deal, as there’s plenty of things for dogs to sniff and explore. This time, we didn’t go the whole way round (it was way too cold and I needed a chai) but we’ll definitely go back. Maybe in the spring and we can spot different birds that are visiting.
The Walk: There are a number of walks you can do, including a circular walk. Take a look at the map on the RSPB website to plan your walk. Warning – You will need wellies, especially if it’s been raining before your visit! Also, there are some restrictions for dogs on the visitor trail and they aren’t allowed in the hide. It’s well signposted where they can and can’t go so no worries.
Car Park: Yes and it’s free.
Refreshments: No, but there are places to sit and enjoy the view, so pack up a thermos and a pack of biccies for a mid walk refreshment.
Sometimes the best dog walks are the most obvious ones. A few weekends ago, we took Poppy for a walk around Phoebe woods at Millets Farm in Frilford. It’s a great place to go for a dog walk. There’s plenty of parking, a farm shop to pick something up for tea and there’s a choice of places to get a brew. Plus, it’s in an incredibly lovely place.
We parked in the main car park, walked through the animal section and across the road to the Phoebe woods. As the River Ock runs through these fields, wellies are pretty much essential footwear at this time of year. I discovered a pretty big hole in mine while we there – hello wet socks! Despite it being winter and the trees being pretty bare, it’s still a lovely place to walk, with plenty of great smells for Poppy to explore.
As it was quite wet, we didn’t the whole of the walk. Instead, we headed back to the road and walked along. We were treated with the sight of about six roe deer, running through the woods. We were able to spot the white tails as they ran along the river. I was absolutely stunned to see them. I love when nature reminds you that you’re borrowing the land from the animals like that!
On our way back to the car, we popped into the farm shop to get some provisions including a lovely bottle of wine! Well worth a visit if you’re walking the dog or not!
The Walk: You can do as much or as little of the walk around Phoebe Woods as you like. There’s more information here.
Car Park: Yep, it’s huge and it’s free.
Refreshments: Millets Farm boasts two cafes and a restaurant. All serve good cake and good tea. What more do you need?!
Toilets: There are toilets in the farmhouse restaurant.