After the excitement and excess of Christmas, now is the time to escape, get some fresh air, and enjoy the wonders of nature.

Oxford itself is blessed with green space so there are plenty of places where you can seek some peace and tranquillity. These include Lye Valley in Headington, Chilswell Valley in South Hinksey, Rivermead Nature Park at Rose Hill, CS Lewis Nature Reserve at Risinghurst and Raleigh Park in North Hinksey.

Climbing a hill can restore a sense of perspective if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the festive season. Chinnor Hill has magnificent views over the Vale of Aylesbury. In winter the trees and scrub are filled with flocks of birds, including redwing and fieldfare, feeding on berries. Climb up and allow yourself to be distracted by watching the birds as they busily flit from tree to tree taking their fill.

The Ridgeway runs close to the reserve. For a longer walk follow this to Oakley Hill, another BBOWT reserve made up of old downland, scrub and beech woodland.

Down in the south of the county, Hartslock nature reserve near Goring, photographed above by Craig Howes, is a short walk from the Thames Path. Here the far-reaching views stretch out through Goring Gap where red kites soar on the thermals. Along the river, look out for grey heron standing stationary as they hunt for food. A Goring Wild Walk map is available to download from our website. It starts in Goring, and takes in Hartslock nature reserve and a section of the Thames Path. 

Tucked away behind Letcombe Regis, Letcombe Valley is a lovely mix of chalk stream, woodland and chalk grassland and a tranquil haven for people and wildlife. As you approach the lake area, look out for the little egret which is a regular winter visitor.

Among the mallards there is often a gadwall or two so look closely as these can look like female mallards at first glance. You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher darting past in a flash of blue and orange or perched on a branch over the water.

Long-tailed tits can be encountered almost anywhere along the brook gleaning insects from the foliage or bare branches overhanging the brook. Fieldfares and redwing arrive in numbers over winter so listen out for them. They are attracted to the berries on the hedgerows and scrub along the top of the chalk bank.

For a longer walk, explore the Cothill Fen reserves near Abingdon on BBOWT’s Cothill Wild Walk. This 5km circular walk includes three BBOWT nature reserves: Dry Sandford Pit, Lashford Lane Fen and Parsonage Moor. Cothill Fen is the largest area of alkaline fen in central England, and is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under EU law.

Lashford Lane Fen is particularly good for wintering reed bunting. Look out for males perched on the tops of reeds. Dry Sandford Pit contains fascinating fossil-rich cliffs, which date from a time when Oxfordshire was covered by warm seas.

North-east of Oxford, Sydlings Copse near Barton is transformed on frosty days, as the earliest gorse flowers poke through their frosted leaves. This is an incredibly diverse nature reserve with areas of ancient woodland, grassland, reedbed, fen and rare Oxfordshire heathland. Watch for linnet flying between the gorse bushes, and long-tailed tits flitting through the canopy of the ancient woodland.

Foxholes Wild Walk is an 11km circular walk through rolling countryside, woodland and quiet villages, starting in Shipton-under-Wychwood. For the even more adventurous, Henley Wild Walk is a varied 21km circular walk through the Chilterns which takes in parkland, farmland and woodland. Starting in Henley, it includes Warburg Nature Reserve. There is a shorter 8km section that can start from the reserve or Nettlebed. 

Whatever you’re doing around New Year, remember to spend some time outside.

  • All Wild Walks can be downloaded from
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