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Welcome to our humble blog that will follow the misadventures of very average camping, hiking/rambling enthusiasts based out of Oxford. We will blog on camping trips, latest hikes, equipment reviews and whatever takes our fancy...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Giving Shotover Country Park a Shot – Tales from the Far Side (of Oxford)

So, the big day is getting dangerously close now and I feel a bit like I did the week before an exam. I’ve got that small feeling in my stomach like when I knew I hadn’t revised enough and realised that when the questions turned to the reign of Edward 2nd I was going to be left clutching at straws. One key difference is that whereas I’d probably glanced through the history text book to give myself a chance, this time I haven’t climbed any of the peaks and so don’t even know if I have the first clue what I’m doing.

This aside I’m getting increasingly excited about the possibility of this hike. In preparation, I thought I’d put my mind at rest by going online and looking at the respective routes. I did this only to be greeted on the first website I looked at with the warning ‘NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED’. At that point I began to ask myself maybe I’m not the right sort of person for this adventure. Maybe I should just sit at home and watch reruns of Friends on Sky rather than punish my soft, flabby body with this most difficult of challenges.

Fortunately I slapped myself and snapped out of this negative mindset (I was the only person in the room so couldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for me) and instead cast my mind back to the weekend before last the ramblers decided some extra hiking practice was needed to give ourselves a fighting chance.

The venue was Shotover Country Park within the boundaries of Oxford. Having never been there before, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a diverse, undulating conservation area with pleasant views of Oxford and the surrounding countryside. Thanks to a photo taken by Greig of the information board I can tell you that it covers 280 acres and we mixed and matched the available paths through the trees (little bit of the Sandpit walk, most of the Northwood trail with some other trails thrown in there for good measure).

The map of Shotover park
Once again we were trying out our boots and I thought I’d carry a rucksack just to see how comfortable, or not, that was. It turned out to be a very enjoyable walk in warm, but not uncomfortable conditions. We spent a couple of hours negotiating the well-signposted routes of the park and even got to walk past (not play in) the sandpit from Winnie the Pooh (I was informed of this fact by a reliable source).

The routes available - Green is the longest and follows the boundary, Yellow = Northwood Trails and the short options is in Red = Sandpit walk
I would recommend having a wander around as you will no doubt be surprised that such a place exists in the urban sprawl of Oxford. Although not perhaps a challenge for the hikers out there, it serves as a brisk walk to help shake away the cobwebs, and the hills at least allow your body to feel the burn of real exertion.

Due to the sunny weather I still haven’t tested my boots’ waterproofing but I’m confident that they will stand up easily to whatever weather conditions the peaks have to offer. I can definitely feel the momentum of this walk beginning to build now and I suspect that if I have chance to write another blog before it starts then I might find that those butterflies in my stomach might have grown to epic proportions. I only hope that my optimism and excitement grow in proportion to any nerves or doubts - Iain (Hiker)

The winding path

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