Getting home, the slow way

I stayed the night at a friend’s house in Bicester, and as I didn’t have plans for the next day, and the forecast was decent, I’d try walking back to Oxford. ‘Try’ as there’s no one footpath or bridleway connecting, so whilst I could plot a route on OS Maps I couldn’t tell what state the paths would be in.

My way out of town went past Bicester Village, a high-end shopping centre. The juxtaposition of my muddy boots and walking poles with the flashy handbags and perfume amused me. I hadn’t managed to find a way out that didn’t have a small part of road walking, but it was a quiet B road with a grass verge, so it wasn’t too bad.

However, I had only entered the second field when I had to turn back. Some cows were clustered at the end of the field, in front my exit style. I was half way across when they noticed and took offense to me being in their field. When they started moving faster towards me, I high-tailed it back into the previous field. I consulted the map and there looked like a reasonable alternative that didn’t add too much distance, it just involved crossing an A road.

It took a while to time it between light changes further up the road, but I managed it across to the middle verge, and then again across the other side. Heading out of Wendlebury the path went alongside a large solar farm. I decided I liked solar farms. They weren’t trying to trample me.

The path then ran next to a railway line and under the M40. There wasn’t much space between the railway and the path but no train came whilst I was walking through. The next couple of kilometres was across farmland which had recently been ploughed and the soil clumped onto my boots. I scraped it off with my poles after each field.

The path went through 2 metre high maize crop, but the farmer had left a clear path through. It had been raining a lot yesterday, and the mud trail was dotted with deer tracks, and smaller markings I didn’t know. The sky was clear and a brilliant blue, the only sounds were from the pheasants I was regularly startling.

At Oddington Grange I joined the Oxfordshire Way, getting a wave from two guys in a tractor. Soon afterwards the path met the railway line again, and this time I crossed it – on a very shiny foot bridge. I then got a lesson in why people wear gaiters – the path was a line through a field with crop up to my knees and the plants were soaked, meaning by the time I’d got out the other side my trousers were drenched. Oh well, it was sunny!

The path went past some fields of cows with very small calves in. It was almost November, and they had little jackets on to keep them warm. I arrived in Islip just as the pub opened (it’s a skill), so stopped for lunch in the beer garden.

I stayed on the Oxfordshire Way heading out of Islip, and deployed my walking poles for their alternative use: spider web catcher. I walked along with them held out in front of me to gather the webs which formed a net between the two. The path on the ground was well worn, but clearly no one had been on it today!

Looking back to Islip

I continued through Noke and left the Oxfordshire Way, taking the Prattle Lane path – a long, straight forested trail which seemed to never end. It was then an easy climb up to Elsfield and down again the other side. Where most farms mark public rights of way through their fields with arrows of direction, this farm took the opposite approach, planting PRIVATE signs at all possible direction choices until you cornered out in the right way. Well.

The bottom of the hill was a construction site so I was unsure if I’d get through, but they’d made a channel of fences through the site for the footpath. I then crossed the second A road of the day, but this time there was no gap in the middle crash barriers, so it was time for some ungainly straddling in front of the rush hours commuters. Once inside the ring road I took the usual footpaths home, making it a total 25km and about 6.5 hours including the pub stop.

Sure, the route hadn’t been perfect (see cows and 2 A road crossings), but it had been a beautiful day to be outside (I actually caught the sun a bit – in England, in late October) and explore some of the countryside on my doorstep, appreciating ‘slow travel’.

One thought on “Getting home, the slow way

  1. Wise decision to avoid the cows . you can never be sure how they are going to react.I have had some close shaves. I am obviously lacking your enviable skill in finding welcoming pubs. I usually arrive when they have just closed or about to close. Must try harder 🙂

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