The Piddington circular walk is a varied but easy walk in rural Oxfordshire. The 6-mile route takes you through vast grazing lands, dotted with placid sheep and somewhat suspicious cows. The path follows the slope up Muswell Hill, one of the highest points in the Cherwell District, which overlooks the gentle, rolling slopes of the valley.
My partner and I were recommended this walk by our landlady, who was born and bred in the area. She recounted it as one of the loveliest walks from her childhood: her seal of approval encouraged us!
The walk starts at the Piddington village hall. The August sun had helped put forth a stunning display of garden colours in the village: pink hollyhocks, giant sunflowers, delicate bursts of allium. We spent the first few minutes walking on the village street, past the old pub, St Nicholas Church and then went through a gate that opened into a narrow path. The route was waymarked by little yellow signs by the gates. I expected the ground to be slushy in places after the previous night’s rain but it was surprisingly firm. For the next half hour or so, it was a steady and gentle climb towards the top of Muswell Hill. I noticed that clovers sprung up in some parts and I looked curiously if I could spot four-leaved ones. No luck! Sedges grew in plenty, adding brown and red shades to the otherwise dry grass. I spotted many wildflowers of blue and white as we walked up the field.
A large white horse, with a face that looked like it was chiselled out of limestone, looked curiously at us from behind a fence as we walked along. I almost expected it to take off into the air, Pegasus-like. Ahead of us a large group of big, bulky cows grazed. I walked nervously near the fence, ready to run for my life if they decided to chase us. All was well however, they seemed to be happy to keep a distance.
At the top of the hill, we sat under a large sycamore tree, which seemed to be placed there only for that purpose. A chimney smoked in the valley below, a cloud of white rising gently and disappearing into the ones above. At this point we could see Manor House, a part of the building that was built in the 17th century. It was getting cloudier and darker though it was only just past noon. With it threatening to rain, we reluctantly decided to move on. A few metres ahead I noticed fox scat! Just a few weeks ago, we had driven up to Muswell Hill en route Brill (B4011) at dusk, and while we stood there taking in the view, I had seen my first fox ever. I wondered vaguely if it was actually the same fox’s poop I was looking at.
The route downhill took us through yet another enormous field with about a gazillion sheep grazing. I love sheep, such nice fellows. They looked like white cotton balls under the darkening sky. We then walk through Piddington Wood, my favourite part of the walk. I prefer walking under tree canopies so much more than open sky: I love watching the shapes of the leaves silhouetted against the light. Several different varieties of trees made up this wood–I could tell oak and silver birch. We walked through another gate by a massive oak tree (a likely candidate for Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree) and walked by a field of the deepest green. On the way back we spotted a thatch-roof cottage, “Old Inn Cottage”, which my trusty Council Brochure said was built for the masons who built the church.
The rest of the walk is fairly straightforward, and takes you back to the village hall. The Piddington circular is well worth reserving for a day-long ramble in the countryside. Though the walk is fairly gentle, there are enough attractions along the way for it to be called interesting.
Check out the Council guide here.