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This Week's Walks - Archive

Please see the Saturday Walker's Club This Week's Walks page.

This is an archive of walks done by the Saturday Walker's Club. You should only need to use this page if the SWC website is down.

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Sunday, 3 February 2019

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


Walker said...

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.

Thomas G said...

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 w=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. n=16

Thomas G said...

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...

Stargazer said...

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 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 this year...

The only drawback with walking in reverse is that the option to divert to Oxford Parkway does not work 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....