CYCLISTS are enjoying the chance to explore previously forbidden territory this summer, thanks to the Cornbury Estate at Charlbury.

Until now, cyclists have been barred from the grounds of Cornbury Park, but owners Lord and Lady Rotherwick are allowing them access to an off-road route linking Charlbury and Finstock on a trial basis.

The idea for the route came from the Charlbury Cycling Group. It follows the line of an existing footpath through their grounds.

Lady Rotherwick said: “We were approached by Charlbury Cycling Group with this idea, which clearly makes good sense, to create a safe cycle route connecting Charlbury and Finstock.

“We’re pleased to be trialling this new permissive route here at Cornbury. It runs along the existing permissive route for walkers, so we would ask that cyclists respect the wildlife, and walkers of course.

“It’s good to be doing something, in a small way, for cyclists and for the environment at the same time.”

At Charlbury the route starts in Park Street, following the estate access road over the railway line and River Evenlode to the North Lodge gatehouse. From there it heads on to the Southill Business Park, then up to Witney Road in Finstock.

The path allows cyclists to avoid the twisting section of the B4022 Charlbury-Witney road past Fawler.

The B4022 has a poor safety record, with about 150 accidents in the past decade, including eight deaths on the length of the road between Witney and Charlbury, with a large number on the Fawler section.

Charlbury Cycling Group was formed by local residents to improve opportunities for cyclists in the area.

Spokesman Russell Robson said: “This is a permissive route and users should give way to walkers. They should also take care on the access road between Southhill Business Park and Witney Road.

“The route is signed, to make cyclists aware of the trial and to make other users aware of cycle use of the route.”

The trial runs until September 30. A decision will then be made as to whether it will continue.