The South Oxfordshire Way

Day 1: Ashbury to Childrey

Monday 22nd October

Getting there:

  0718  0729  0927
    FGW   FGW   FGW
  0726  0741  0936
  0741  0756  0941
    FGW   FGW   FGW
  0800  0815  1000
Swindon, Rail Station
Swindon, Bus Station, bay 10
        0835  1035
          47    47
        0911  1111
Ashbury, Rose and Crown PH, o/s

Getting back:

Childrey, Hatchet PH, o/s
  1447     1552     1652
    38       38       38
  1455     1559     1659
Wantage, Market Place
  1528     1629     1738
    32       34       32
  1606     1715     1816

Today's route (with distances in miles):
Ashbury 6.3 Kingston Lisle 2.5 Childrey

Today's diary:

Today's photos are available in a set at flickr called tsow_day1. One way of looking at them is to go to

I decided to be on the safe side and so I caught the 0718 train. So it was an early, cold and dark start to the day. On the train to Didcot I saw the sun rising. It looked as if it would be a nice day, but although it sunshined occasionally most of the day was dull with some fresh winds up on the Ridgeway..

There was only one other passenger on the bus from Swindon to Ashbury, and when I was about to get off in the village the bus driver queried whether I wanted the Ridgeway. I hadn't thought that the bus's onward journey would cross the Ridgeway.

On the spot, I said "No" but it would have saved 30 minutes of walking. However, I'm pleased I said "No" as the rout up to the Ridgeway from the village of Ashbury is very pleasant.

30 minutes later and I join the Ridgeway. I see about three groups of people in the next half hour. People do seem to enjoy the Ridgeway whereas I regard it as boring.

And so to Waylands Smithy, Uffington Castle and the White Horse.

I find the route North that goes down into the vallye below. I passed Brtichcombe Farm where numerous mad people are camping. One group has brought an enormous collection of tents.

I then get lost. I'm meant to be finding an Easterly footpath to Fawler, but it is elusive. I go too far North towards Uffington. I confuse a field of cows by first crossing within yards between them and they going round three of the sides of their field. The boundary of the field is electrified and I cross this four times. I decide to backtrack. And eventually work out where I am on the map. My onward Easterly path is right across the middle of a field with no discernible track and no footpath sign. It's a bold decision to strike out across the field which has some seedlings growing in it. I'm aiming for a break in the hedge on the far side of the field hoping that you can get through there and that there is some sign that this is the footpath. According to the map there should be a footbrdige there and as I get closer to the edge of the field there is a sort-of-footpath underneath me, i.e., it looks as if people have trod across this part of the field. When I get to gap in the hedge, there is footbridge. It is not too convincing as there is a no footpath sign. However, it all works out right in the end.

I decide to walk through the village of Kingston Lisle. I had estimated I would walk the 6.3M from Ashbury to Kingston Lisle in about 3 hours as 6.3M is about 10K and I walk at just over 3K an hour. However, this getting lost has made me about 20 minutes later and I arrive athe pub at about 1233 and as I approach the front door the barman opens it. They have just opened. So this delay has been fortuitous as I guess that if I'd not got lost I would have given up on the pub.

I get a pint of Everard's Sundancer. It's lousy and I wish I'd only had a half as they have two other beers. I enquire about food and he says he only has sandwiches. I ask for cheese and ham, and it costs 4.25 UKP which is a bit pricy as I think it was only two slices of bread. This a small salad with it and some crisps. It is very nice.

I text Janet to let her know where I am and she updates the "pushpin" on the enormous map on the wall at work so people can see where I've got to. Maybe we need a webcam trained on it.

I sit out of site of the TV but unfornately I can still hear it. It is some stupid daytime TV programme about trying to guess how much antiques will go at auction. Grim.

Until I'm about to leave no-one lese has come into the pub. I mull over whether to have a half of something else but it's sunshining and so I decide to make a move.

The next village is Sparsholt. Just before getting there, there is another field to cross but this time it's more obvious that people have walked across this one. Again there are seedlings to tramble.

The map has a pub symbol but when I get there, The Star (at Sparsholt) is closed. At this rate, I will arrive in Childrey a little on the early side, but there is a pub there.

You can't avoid the tarmac on the route into Childrey and so I console myself by taking arty photos of the surrounding countryside.

Needless to say, the Hatchet pub at Childrey is also closed. I have 30 minutes to kill. So I adopt plan B: I start to read the book I've brough with me: it's Sallinger's "Cathcher in the Rye".

The bus arrives on time (1447) and I find the book so interesting that I continue to read it on the bus which is a mistake as I get nearly sick. At a change of buses in Wantage, I get a coffee and arrive in Abingdon at about 1608.

I then need to catch a bus out to Radley raliway station in order ot retrieve my car.

Although another cool start (6C at 1000) is promised for tomorrow, the max temparature is meant to be 3 degrees warmer than the max for today reaching 12C at 1600. That'll be nice.

The plan for tomorrow is to retrace yesterday's bus journey taking the 0813 from Abingdon to wantage and the 0930 to Childrey. It probably takes about 30 minutes to walk into Abingdon and so I think I can get another 45 minutes in bed tomorrow morning!

I'm hoping to have lunch at Ardington and because of all the pubs being closed today I've just done my homework on tomorrow's lunchtim pub. It appears that the Boar's Head is open at lunchtime offering a 2 course lunch for 14.50 UKP! Another web page says that they also offer a "lite bite" from the "bar menu". I guess that's what I'll be aiming for. More at

Preview of today's walk:

The aim of the South Oxfordshire Way is to walk from the Southern end of the D'Arcy Dalton Way to the Eastern end of The Oxfordshire Way. Well, the D'Arcy Dalton Way ends at Wayland's Smithy, a Neolithic burial chamber (about 5500 years old).

The village of Ashbury provides the easiest way of getting to Wayland's Smithy by public transport, as Ashbury is connected by a bus service from Swindon that runs every two hours. Although there is a bus service from Oxford to Swindon, the first bus does not get into Swindon until 0855, and, as it takes 75 to 90 minutes by bus, the train from Oxford to Swindon (changing at Didcot) is faster.

Wayland's Smithy is just over 1.5M from Ashbury, and after that it's about the same distance to the White Horse. Don't get too excited as you don't get much of a view of the White Horse when you are on top of it! Your best view is probably on the train from Didcot to Swindon.

The route then goes North, down past Britchcombe Farm to meet an Easterly footpath to Fawler and then passes to the North of Kingston Lisle.

For lunch, how about the Blowing Stone Inn (OX12 9QL, 01367 820288)? It's probably the pub marked on the OS map.

After Kingston Lisle, the route continues Eastwards to Sparsholt, and then along the road to Childrey (where there is a pub called The Hatchet).