Description and Map Highlights, Photos Where to stay Bike hire
A circular cycle ride with very low OHPH (Other Humans per Hour), on open and wooded rural paths, including the ancient Salt Way with its unique flora. Spectacular views provide good picnic spots.
Start from the charming Cotswold town of Charlbury (an hour by train from London) or from the village of Stonesfield, with a pub lunch in Charlbury perhaps.
Terrain: mostly tracks and rough paths; fun to ride, requiring moderate off-road skills or wheeling the bike occasionally. Not hilly, apart from a few short stretches, but bumpy in places.
Distance: 7 miles (11.5 kms) easily extended west and north of Charlbury along this circular route, or shortened by taking tracks or roads within this loop:
Charlbury to Stonesfield
Heading south-east out of Charlbury on Woodstock Road, look for Stonesfield Lane on the right and a narrow path at the end of the lane on the right, like a tunnel through the woods. This eventually opens up to reveal views across the valley of the River Evenlode, and then the descent into Stonesfield, the village that gave its name to the famous Stonesfield slates that cover the roofs of so many old Cotswold buildings and the older Oxford colleges.
The Salt Way
After Stonesfield, much of the route follows The Salt Way, an ancient trackway used in Anglo-Saxon and medieval times to transport salt from the brine springs in Droitwich to Princes Risborough, for distribution to towns and cities in the area including Oxford. This stretch of the Salt Way is now part of the Wychwood Way, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and a Local Nature Reserve due to its abundance of rare wild flowers and butterflies.
Though originally wide enough to drive cattle and sheep, the pathway for cycling is narrow and may become rutted, so some off-road skill and care is needed. Or get off and walk now and then, and you may see more of the flora and fauna that way.
The route towards Charlbury is along a path beside Clarke’s Bottom. In Old English, ‘bottom’ meant ‘wide valley’, which is why so many place names in England are Something Bottom, such as the oft’ quoted Scratchy Bottom in Dorset. And indeed there is a pleasing view across this valley on your right, providing a good excuse to pause before arriving back in Charlbury.
Where to stay, eat, drink
Far from main roads but with its own railway station, Charlbury is a picturesque small Cotswold town, yet vibrant and full of character. It’s a good centre for walking and cycling and close to other great attractions such as Blenheim Palace and Oxford too.
Train times to/from Charlbury
Local bike hire
TY Cycles, Chipping Norton, deliver to Charlbury train station or your accommodation. Closed Sundays
tel: 01608 238150