Islip Circular walk

Pleasant rolling countryside north of Oxford, and the RSPB Otmoor wetland reserve

History

This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Post # Weather
Sun, 23-Jan-22 A Sunday Saunter through rolling Oxfordshire Countryside and a Wetlands Nature Reserve (Islip Circular) 4 cloudy skies
Sun, 02-Feb-20 A Sunday Saunter through rolling Oxfordshire Countryside and a Wetlands Nature Reserve 3 cloudy to start then clearing and finally
Sun, 03-Feb-19 Sunday Walk - 100,000 Starlings: Islip Circular 16 blue skies
Sun, 02-Sep-18 Sunday walk: Oxfordshire countryside, villages and a wildfowl reserve 7 warm and sunny
Sun, 23-Jul-17 Oxfordshire countryside, villages and a wildfowl reserve [New Walk] 5 light
Sun, 23-Jan-22
A Sunday Saunter through rolling Oxfordshire Countryside and a Wetlands Nature Reserve (Islip Circular)

SWC 292: Islip Circular (in reverse) t=swc.292

Distance: 10.8 miles or 17.4 km for those more metrically minded with shorter options available – see walk instructions

Difficulty: 3 out of 10

Train: Take the 9:42 AM Oxford-bound Chilterns Railway train from London Marylebone, arriving at Islip at 10:56. Return trains are at 16:51; 16:57 (change at Oxford); 18:51 and 18:57 (change at Oxford). Buy a day return to Islip.

In addition to gently rolling landscapes and picturesque villages, one of the real highlights of this walk is the Otmoor Nature Reserve, a favorite haunt for various birds of different sizes and shapes. In fact, the main reason for doing the walk in reverse is to have some time towards the end of the walk to explore the reserve without feeling the need to rush on to lunch. So bring your binoculars and a flask (hip or thermos) and enjoy the action…..before the final stretch back Islip (which takes about 45 minutes)—but do watch the clock, as the trains back to London are not super frequent…..

You can find more information about the walk and download the walk instructions here. As we will be going in reverse, a print-out of the map or download of the GPX will be helpful.

The recommended lunch pub on the main walk is the Abingdon Arms in Beckley (01865 655667) a popular community-based pub, serving excellent food.

Back in Islip, tea and other bevies can be had at the Red Lion on the High Street.

Enjoy the walk!

  • 24-Jan-22

    Gosh, where to begin...what an amazing day...shared with a select group of 4 walkers, a perfect number for the booking at the fabulous Abingdon Arms. I had not mentioned the starlings at Otmoor in my walk post, as their website made no mention of them and two previous posts of this walk in the winter had been unsuccessful in spotting them -- so figured they had moved on to greener pastures....However, when we arrived at the reserve (after our delicious lunch), things felt different this year -- starling-shaped signage was up pointing you to view points! We spent some time at the main hide watching lapwings; then moved to the outer hide (and designated view point) which was pretty quite and we settled in to wait warmed with a wee dram....Eventually, time came to consider leaving for the 16:50 train...one departed and the other three continued to weigh the options....ultimately, forgoing the 16:50 train and going on a short stroll around the marsh to warm up....noticing a growing number of people....then, as if from nowhere, the first group of starlings arrived (about 4.20 PM -- just before sunset) swirling in the sky forming a set of lips ahead of us....more and more came fast and furious, sections of the sky becoming dark with their density...as they flew overhead you could hear the sound of 10s of thousands of flapping wings.....astonishing...we noted they were all heading near where our onward route leaves the reserve, so we headed over there to continue the walk at the same time watching more and more groups of birds arriving and swirling over the marsh....back on the track -- there they were settling into the trees almost right along the track....a great cacophony of activity and chirping as they nestled in and then took off in great swarms to resettle on another tree creating great swooshing sounds as they look flight...mesmerizing to watch...eventually we pulled ourselves away and carried on along the walk watching the last few groups settling in as we left the reserve (about 16:50). It is about 2 miles back to Islip from the reserve -- one mile in growing darkness and one in the dark...it is a pretty simple route -- so no major problems (just one slight wrong turn -- quickly corrected).....Back in Islip at 17:45, the pub had technically closed -- but as we inquired about buying a take away bottle of wine to enjoy at the station....the situation evolved to allow us one drink inside before heading to the station with our provisions -- so, in the end, we only had to wait about 30 minutes on the platform -- armed with a bottle of Malbec and a few rounds of "I spy" the time passed quickly....Although the starlings were by far the standout highlight of the day (well worth the wait and missed train), the morning was not without interest as we came across some mighty fine snowdrop and aconite showings in one of the villages...a first of the year for most of us.....a very memorable and amazing day under cloudy skies .

  • 24-Jan-22

    If anyone is interested, I have put a video of the starlings on the SWC group Facebook page and on @SWC_Nature on Twitter

Sun, 02-Feb-20
A Sunday Saunter through rolling Oxfordshire Countryside and a Wetlands Nature Reserve
SWC 292: Islip Circular (in reverse) t=swc.292

Distance: 10.8 miles or 17.4 km for those more metrically minded with shorter options available – see walk instructions

Difficulty: 3 out of 10

Train: Take the 9:35AM Oxford-bound Chilterns Railway train from London Marylebone, arriving at Islip at 10:28. Return trains are at 16:28 (change at Oxford Parkway); 17:18; 19:18 and 21:17. Buy a day return to Islip.

In addition to gently rolling landscapes and picturesque villages, one of the real highlights of this walk is the Otmoor Nature Reserve, a favorite haunt for various birds of different sizes and shapes. In fact, the main reason for doing the walk in reverse is to have some time towards the end of the walk to explore the reserve without feeling the need to rush on to lunch. According to a blog for the reserve, the starlings have already moved on – but, there are record numbers of other birds enjoying the wetlands of the reserve….so bring your binoculars and a flask (hip or thermos) and enjoy the action…..before the final stretch back to Islip (which takes about 40 minutes).

You can find more information about the walk and download the walk instructions here. As we will be going in reverse, a print-out of the map or download of the GPX will be helpful.

The recommended lunch pub on the main walk is the Abingdon Arms in Beckley (01865 655667) a popular community-based pub, serving excellent food.

Back in Islip, tea and other bevies can be had at the Red Lion on the High Street.

Enjoy the walk and bird watching!
  • 01-Feb-20

    Thank you Stargazer for posting the Islip walk in reserve. Will be attending and hoping for some birding with my binoculars. See you all at Marylebone station. Monica.

  • 02-Feb-20

    Sorry miss the train and next one too long to wait. Instead did the Wendover walk. Hope those who attend are rewarded with some good bird life. Shall attempt Otmoor nature reserve next week.

    Monica.

  • 02-Feb-20

    Just 3 on this outing (including the walk author who liked the idea of a reverse option both for longer visits to the Otmoor reserve and to allow a start from Oxford Parkway (with more train options)) in cloudy to start then clearing and finally clouding-over-again-conditions. The gently rolling terrain had its muddy spots -- but was nothing like the mud fest in Surrey yesterday....Two had an enjoyable lunch at the very lovely Abingdon Arms perched atop a hill in Beckley -- really lovely community pub with interesting and tasty food. We then sauntered down to the Otmoor Reserve and spent some time at two different hides watching several very large flocks of lapwings flying around the area and landing here and there with respective flasks at hand... Although no starling murmurations, there were huge groups of birds -- the lapwings and various water birds....which were very engaging to observe....Eventually, we continued on to Islip where we had just enough time for a drink at the Red Lion before catching the 17:18...A very relaxing and enjoyable Sunday...

  • 03-Feb-20

    Ironically there was a small murmuration at the end of Sunday's other walk. As we left the Plough in Eynsford at 4.50pm 100+ starlings were wheeling around overhead, picking up stragglers on the way to their roost somewhere along the Darent valley. But please persevere with these 'nature' walks - one of these days the seals / starlings / whatever will turn up on cue!

  • 03-Feb-20

    For those of you who did not fancy this as a winter outing it makes a lovely Spring walk. Late April or early May is when I have done it and you are almost certain to hear and (hopefully) see cuckoos. I had a picnic lunch in a churchyard near the pub on a warm sunny day and was serenaded by the gentle burblings of turtle doves. A Proustian moment for me.

  • 03-Feb-20

    A flock of some 70+ lapwings and golden plovers was a sight well worth the visit, I do assure you. I commented to the RSPB volunteer who so kindly identified some of the birds for us that 50 years ago the idea that a flock of starlings would be more exotic than a flock of lapwings would have seemed very strange.

    I can concur regarding this site in April. This year I heard both a cuckoo and a turtle dove, though enquiries of the RSPB volunteer revealed that they only got two of the latter last year and they did not breed, so might be uncertain for next year. But in April there were oodles of chattering reed and sedge warblers, and - the highlight for me - several lapwings doing their wonderful display flight and call.

    Also of interest to birders is that he reckons migrating redwing and fieldfare are well down this year, apparently because winter in Scandinavia has been too warm: a worrying aspect of global warming I had never thought of, since most of the lapwings at Otmoor migrate from further north to enjoy our balmy winter climate.

    In addition om this walk I heard larks for the first time this year - three in one field near Islip - and saw my first wild primroses and celandines of the year. Daffodils were out in all of the villages.

Sun, 03-Feb-19
Sunday Walk - 100,000 Starlings: Islip Circular
Length: 17.4 km (10.8 mi), Ascent/Descent: 165 m [longer and shorter options]
Net Walking Time: ca. 4 hours, Toughness: 3 out of 10
Take the 09.35 Oxford train from Marylebone (High Wycombe 09.58, Bicester Village 10.20), arrives Islip 10.27.
Return trains from Islip: 15.18, 16.28 (via Oxford Parkway), 17.18, 19.18.
As Oxford Parkway has a more frequent service, an alternative finish there is described (and a fraction longer).
Return trains from Oxford Parkway: 15.15, 15.47, 16.17, 16.47, 17.15, 17.47, 18.17, 18.47.
This walk takes in a quiet area of pleasant rolling countryside north of Oxford, with rivers, fields, woods and a major RSPB wetland nature reserve, Otmoor, extremely popular with birdwatchers. The walk also visits some attractive villages and a couple of old churches with interesting features. Otmoor has literary connections, notably with Lewis Carroll.
There are approximately 90 different species of birds that currently breed at Otmoor and the winter months see an influx of wildfowl and raptors such as the Short-Eared Owl and the Peregrine. You could also be treated to the spectacular Starling roost in the reed bed. For the latest updates and photos from the volunteers at the reserve, click here. [Last year, when I led this for The Ramblers, the Facebook account promised 50,000 starlings. At the reserve itself, the blackboards called it 100,000 starlings. Hence the boast in the walk post’s subject line. Fingers crossed…]
Lunch: The Abingdon Arms in Beckley (8.0 km/5.0 mi, food to 14.00). Saved from closure by a Community-Buyout.
Now a well-regarded gastro-pub and Sawday’s Community Pub Of The Year 2018! A table has been booked.
Tea: The Red Lion in Islip (open 12.00-20.00).
For walk directions, map, photos, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.292
  • 30-Jan-19

    If you want to see the starlings doing their murmuration - flying in formation - you will need to be in the reserve just before sunset, since this is when they do it.

  • 03-Feb-19

    If this were a Tabloid Newspaper, the headline would have to read something like: "Bird Reserve in No Birds-Shock!", as the multi-night hard frost out there meant that all standing water areas were frozen solid and no birds were seen swimming, paddling, feeding or resting on any of them. Some were spotted in hedges or on the drainage channels, at least... Net result: more bird watchers than birds!

    That seemed to distract no one though from the fact that this is a nice walk (the frost of course helped by keeping notoriously muddy ground firm and crunchy), especially with snow on the ground (in most places) and under blue skies . 2 walked this anti-clockwise to experience the Bird Reserve in the afternoon, they may report separately, the rest followed the route as written up. We got to the 'Community Pub of the Year' just after noon, and found that it fully deserved its hard won accolade: sympathetically refurbished, wooden-beamed and all, with fireplaces, well-spaced tables, attentive staff and very tasty food.

    A booking for 6 had been made, and that was exactly the number of diners. A couple of picknickers joined us on stools for a drink, the rest moved on quietly. 1 punter was ambitiously aiming for the 14.28, some must have caught the 15.18, most others were on the 16.28. 5 stayed in The Red Lion at the end of the walk though to take the 17.18.

    15 off the train, 1 other on a later one. 16

  • 03-Feb-19

    Oh, I forgot: the walk author and his wife were spotted on the outbound train, but they were just heading out for a family visit in the area. Faint hopes of him coaxing the young family onto the walk were sadly disappointed. It would've done wonders for lowering the average SWC-age...

  • 04-Feb-19

    To add from the 2 who went anti-clockwise....the walk works very well in reverse -- the paths are generally well-signposted and were easy to follow using a print out of the route on a map (from the website). Going anti-clockwise makes for a slightly longer morning (a little over 1 km longer) and shorter afternoon -- giving one the chance to explore the Otmoor reserve more leisurely (and we did). As it is only about 3 km on to Islip from the reserve, you can plan your departure to coincide with one of the infrequent trains (it takes about 45 minutes to walk from the reserve to Islip).

    At the reserve, we went to one of the bird hides in the glade and spent about 10 minutes chatting with a volunteer warden. Unlike the morning group -- we witnessed loads of activity both on the marshes and in the surrounding areas.....Also, the marsh grasses were particularly pretty in the soft afternoon light....Alas, disappointingly, there were no murmurating starlings...in fact, the warden said they had, for some reason, moved on a bit early this year (about 2 weeks ago)….other than that -- he said our timing was just right -- he recommends arriving about 2:30pm with mid/late-Jan probably the being the best time, as group should have reached a good mass by then; but still prior to thoughts of an early departure...as this year...

    The only drawback with walking in reverse is that the option to divert to Oxford Parkway does not work well....so better for days like Sunday when there are a few more train options from Islip.....

    Another great winter's day out and fortunately, to my knowledge, no one slipped in Islip....

Sun, 02-Sep-18
Sunday walk: Oxfordshire countryside, villages and a wildfowl reserve
Islip Circular
Length: 17.2km (10.7miles) Toughness: 3/10

09:35 Oxford train from Marylebone arriving at Islip at 10:27.

Return trains are at 15:18, 17:18 and 19:18 (journey time 1 hour). If you get back to Islip too late for the 15:18, one option is to go to the pub for refreshments and then catch the 16:28 towards Oxford, changing at Oxford Parkway for the 16:47 to Marylebone.
If you find that the return trains from Islip are inconveniently timed, you could opt to finish the walk at Oxford Parkway, which has a fast half-hourly service to Marylebone at xx:17 (or xx:15) and xx:47.

This is only the second outing for this fairly new walk which explores the quiet countryside north-east of Oxford. The route is mostly across rolling fields and woods and takes in several pretty villages, a couple of interesting churches, and a notable RSPB wetland nature reserve, Otmoor.

There is an option to shorten the morning part of the walk by 1.5km, though that omits the section through Otmoor. Later there is an option to finish the walk at Oxford Parkway station, though the final stretch here is less attractive than finishing in Islip.

The recommended (indeed, the only) lunchtime pub is the Abingdon Arms (01865 655667) in Beckley, an old inn that was threatened with permanent closure until a successful campaign to save it resulted in it being re-opened last year as a community-owned pub.

You will find the walk directions and other information on the Islip Circular Walk page. It can be downloaded as a PDF or as a GPX file.

T=swc.292
  • 03-Sep-18

    7 on this walk in warm and sunny weather. I did this walk and a variation of it in May and rhapsodised about the gentle beauty of the landscape and the symphony of birdsong but late summer provided a different picture. The "anti-nature" of arable agriculture in the SE meant crossing fields where some rights of way had been obliterated and one long gently uphill slog early on was particularly dispiriting.

    Still the Abingdon Arms was a delight with one of the best outside seating areas I've visited (terrific views over the Otmoor reserve) and there is a lovely nearby church, ideal for your picnic lunch.

    Things improved after lunch with attractive trails though you had to pay attention as route finding could be a bit tricky in places. We rested a while in the lovely village of Woodeaton where the local church is well worth a visit. Shortly after the group split with 2 of us attracted by the two trains an hour from Oxford Parkway set off for there following a supernaturally boring route which barely compensated for the additional trains. The others opted for Islip following the attractive river path with the chance of drinks in Islip before heading back to London.

    This is still a fine walk but give yourself a treat and go in April/ May and explore the wildfowl reserve and see/hear cuckoos, turtle dove, hobbies and multitude of warblers.

Sun, 23-Jul-17
Oxfordshire countryside, villages and a wildfowl reserve [New Walk]
NEW WALK – Islip Circular T=3.292
Length: 15.2km (9.5 miles) Toughness: 3/10

09:35 Oxford train from Marylebone arriving at Islip at 10:27.

Return trains are at 15:18, 17:18 and 19:18 (journey time 1 hour). If you get back to Islip too late for the 15:18, one option is to go to the pub for refreshments and then catch the 16:28 towards Oxford, changing at Oxford Parkway for the 16:47 to Marylebone.
If you find that the return trains from Islip are inconveniently timed, you could opt to finish the walk at Oxford Parkway, which has a fast half-hourly service to Marylebone at xx:17 (or xx:15) and xx:47.

This new walk explores the quiet countryside north-east of Oxford and is getting its first official walk check today. The route is mostly across rolling fields and woods and takes in several pretty villages, a couple of interesting churches, and a notable RSPB wetland nature reserve, Otmoor. Bring binoculars.

There is an option to shorten the morning part of the walk by 1.5km, though that omits the section through Otmoor. Later there is an option to finish the walk at Oxford Parkway station, though the final stretch here is less attractive than finishing in Islip.

The recommended (indeed, the only) lunchtime pub is the Abingdon Arms (01865 655667) in Beckley, an old inn that was threatened with permanent closure until a successful campaign to save it resulted in it being recently re-opened as a community-owned pub.

Tea can be taken at the Red Lion in Islip.

You will find the walk directions and other information on the Islip Circular Walk page. It can be downloaded as a PDF, but as yet a GPX file is not available.
  • 25-Jul-17

    5 light cloud, some sun, dry) We took the walk at a relaxed pace and enjoyed the nice mix of open country and shady paths. Not the best time of year for viewing bird life on Otmoor, though birdwatchers we met had spotted a hen harrier over the marshland. Excellent lunch at the newly re-opened Abingdon Arms, with fine views from its terrace. Passed through three peaceful & pretty villages en route. This walk check showed that the directions for the last section need clarifying. Had leisurely drink in the Red Lion in Islip, with free roast spuds, before catching the packed 17:15 train to London.