Oxford CAMRA:
Pub Walk 5: Kidlington, Hampton Poyle, and Thrupp

Some members of Oxford CAMRA did this walk on Saturday 12th March 2011. See below for some notes on how we got on.

Distance: 6.6km/4.1mile

Surface: forest tracks, grass, field-paths, some tarmac, canal tow-path. Mud is a strong possibility in parts, if it has been wet in the days leading up to the walk. Stout, sensible footwear that you don't mind cleaning afterwards is recommended (walking boots if you have them).

Accessiblity: there are several stiles on the route. It is a relatively level walk, though the section from Hampton Poyle to the Oxford Canal includes a modest uphill slope in parts.

Public Transport: the start point at The King's Arms in Kidlington can easily be reached from Oxford by 2A bus. Up-to-date public transport details can be checked with Traveline (http://www.travelinesoutheast.org.uk/, 0871 200 22 33).

Further Information: The footpaths and bridleways that make up this walk are shown on OS Explorer Map 180. If you would like to navigate the route by way of a GPS device, this GPX track log of the route may be of interest.

Overview map of the route.

King's Arms, Kidlington to the Bell at Hampton Poyle

Our walk starts at the King's Arms, 4 The Moors, in Kidlington. After sampling the beer here, turn left out of the front door, walk to the cross-roads, then turn left into Church Street. Follow the road past the church and where the road finishes continue straight on through a gate ahead. Follow the path until you find footbridge crossing a stream to your left. Cross the bridge and then turn right, following the edge of the field with the stream on your right. Cross another small foot bridge, and then come to a more substantial bridge over the river Cherwell. Cross this and go through the gate ahead. After passing through another couple of fields you will come to a road next to the church in Hampton Poyle. Turn right and walk along the road into the hamlet, where you will find the second pub, the Bell.

The Boat at Thrupp

On leaving the Bell, retrace your steps along the lane to the church, then just before reaching the church turn right onto a footpath. Cross a small field to the next stile, then take a stile on your left. On entering the next field take the middle of the three footpaths offered by the yellow waymark arrows on the stile. Follow the path over a series of fields until you eventually reach the ruined manor house at Hampton Gay. Go through the gate next to the chapel and then head to the river, passing under the railway line at the bridge where it crosses the river. Follow the path, crossing another footbridge over the river, and then reaching the Oxford Canal at the bridge leading to Shipton-on-Cherwell. Rather than crossing the bridge, turn left and follow the tow-path along the canal back towards Kidington. Cross the canal when you reach a swing bridge, and follow the road into Thrupp. The Boat is on your right.

The Jolly Boatman at Thrupp

Leaving the Boat, return to the canal and turn right. After a few minutes walk along the canal you will find the Jolly Boatman on the canal side.

The Highwayman

Leaving the Jolly Boatman, continue south along the canal, which now runs along side the main road for a way, then passes under a road bridge. Immediatly after passing under the road, turn right off the tow-path and join the main road. Cross over the bridge to the Highwayman.

Notes From Our Walk

Our fifth walk started with a rendezvous at a pub, rather than with strenuous exercise. We gathered in the public bar of the King's Arms, on the north-east side of Kidlington. Long a local favourite of the branch, the pub is usually quite quiet at that early on a Saturday afternoon - I think the few regulars who popped in for lunch were surprised at how many of us there were visiting! The beers on sale were the two regulars, Charles Wells Bombardier and Greene King IPA, and one guest - a Cottage Brewery beer brewed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type sports car. All the CAMRA members went for the guest, which was in good form, though several admitted that Cottage brews are not their favourite. Shortly before we set off for our walk the E-type ran out and was replaced by a Wentworth Pale Amber, and we decided that we had to each have a quick half before leaving - the new beer was a bit on the hazy side, but was well received all round on the taste front.

It would be easy to while away a lazy afternoon in the King's Arms, but the weather was nice and bright so we stiffened our resolve and set out towards Hampton Poyle, walking past the very attractive St Mary's church and joining the route of the Oxford Green Belt Way, as it wends its way thorough some attractive little woodlands and ends up at a foot-bridge over the Cherwell. Several of the young-at-heart members of the branch who were familiar with the route had armed themselves with sticks in advance of reaching the bridge, and competed at a game of Pooh Sticks - an esteemed former chairman made a serious tactical error in picking a large, light-weight twig that was deflected by the wind as it was dropped, but the sticks belonging to the other two competitors were carried rapidly under the bridge by the current. It was a close run thing, but your humble correspondent reckons that his stick narrowly beat Katja's!

Passing through a field with horses, we were greatful for the fact that there had been a two week dry spell running up to the walk. The ground around the stiles was very churned up, but the much feared mud was practically non-existent (our encounter with the Oxford Green Belt Way in the early months of 2010 has given me a bit of a phobia about dragging the group through mud-baths). Then there was a brief walk up the lane to the Bell.

It is many years since I have last visited the Bell, and it has changed markedly - it was closed for refurbishment for a prolonged period a few years ago, and re-opened as much more of a restaurant than a local pub. However it is good to see that they still serve two real ales, Hook Norton Bitter and London Pride, and are not unwelcoming to passing drinkers. I went for the Hooky, and thought it good. We collected our beers and went to sit outside the pub in the sunshine.

On finishing at the Bell we set off on the longest cross-country part of the walk - a pleasant excursion which featured ponies, field paths (again fortunately not very muddy!), new-born lambs, the ruined manor at Hampton Gay, another encounter with the River Cherwell, and the railway line. The manor house has stood in ruins since 1877 when it was burnt in a fire. This was reputedly as the result of a curse or divine retribution after the inhabitants of the house failed to render assistance to the injured from a major rail crash which occurred nearby in 1874. After crossing back over the river we joined the tow-path of the Oxford Canal at Shipton-on-Cherwell, heading south back towards Kidlington, by way of the two pubs in Thrupp.

The first pub that we came to in Thrupp is the Boat, and ex-Morrells pub which is now owned by Greene King. The beers on offer were Greene King IPA and Greene King Abbot. I had the IPA and found it okay but nothing striking. The pub has a nice walled garden to the rear, and we again sat out in the fresh air with our pints.

Moving on along the canal we in short order reached the second pub in Thrupp, the Jolly Boatman. This is an ex-Morland pub which is now owned by Greene King. The beer of choice here was Morland Original, which was again in perfectly acceptable form but nothing to get excited about. The previously fine day was starting to cool off now, so we sat inside for a change.

Another short stroll along the canal brought us to the A4260 and the northern outskirts of Kidlington, where we left the canal to join the road, and then trouped into the recently re-named Highwayman (previously known as the Wise Alderman). Hook Norton and Brakspear were the beers. The pub has a spacious garden in pleasant situation next to the canal, which is an excellent place to spend a summer afternoon watching the boats pass, but on this occasion we settled indoors as a couple of members of the party caught the last few minutes of a televised Six Nations Rugby match.

The advertised four mile walk officially finishes at this point. I had suggested, however, that people who wanted a longer walk might like to join me in a further walk along the canal and return to Oxford via the pubs in Wolvercote. Then it transpired that Matt (who has an ambitious programme to personally visit all 300 pubs in the branch area, as part of our preparations for a new branch pub guide) wanted to take in the Royal Sun at Begbroke. So a number of us walked the canal to Roundham Lock and then headed off along Begbroke Lane. The Royal Sun is a road-side pub on the A44, and all the available tables were reserved for diners when we arrived. It was still very early on Saturday evening though, and we were kindly allowed to sit at one of the tables even though the only thing we were eating along with our pints of Pedigree were the complementary peanuts that we'd grabbed off the bar.

A discussion then ensued about what route the four of us intending to press on to Oxford by foot should take. It would have been relatively simple to retrace our steps back to the canal and walk south along the tow-path, so that's not what we did. A few of the remaining members of the party have recently acquired a taste for night-time orienteering, so I suggested a cross-country route, following a section of the long-distance trail "Shakespeare's Way" which I had previously explored (in daylight!), about a year ago. This would take us to Wolvercote (as originally planned), but do so via a more interesting set of paths and also allow us to take in another pub not on the original itinerary. So it was that we set off into rapidly darkening twilight, along farm tracks and green lanes to walk another mile or so to the Red Lion at Yarnton.

The Red Lion was busy with locals by the time we arrived in the early evening, but we managed to find a table to rest our weary legs. The pub is another Greene King outlet, but this thirsty bunch of walkers was delighted to find that the guest beer was an entirely appropriate Thwaites Wainwright Ale (named in memory of Alfred Wainwright, the fellwalker famous for his guides to walking in the Lake District and devising the coast-to-coast walking route). As you might expect, the Wainwright is an ideal beer for refreshing the thirst walker - not too strong, but with a clean, hoppy, citrus taste - and it was in very good condition.

We set out from the Red Lion into full darkness, walking by torchlight, and regained the path without any problems. Unfortunately over-confidence (and no doubt the numerous pints that I'd consumed during the day) overcame me and I strode along the path thinking that I could remember the route, failing to paying sufficient attention to the map and the waymarks. Inevitably I missed a turn and we ended up wandering off the route. By the time we realised the mistake we were some distance from our intended path, and heading east rather than south. We briefly wandered around the fields trying to regain our original route, but rapidly came to the conclusion that our best bet was to continue eastwards and re-join the canal further up than originally intended. From there it was easy to navigate our way to the Plough at Wolvercote, where we again found the Wainwright Ale as the guest beer!

On leaving the Plough we headed up to the Woodstock Road, where the branch secretary was able to get a bus into town. The three remaining members of the party called in at a couple of Oxford pubs on the way home: the Dewdrop in Summertown, which featured a nice pint of Timothy Taylor Landlord, and the Victoria Arms in Old Marston, where we had an opportunity to sample the Wadworth 125th Anniversary Stout.