This weekend I cycled from Witney to Oxford, to meet up with K. and her city-stranded bike, and then to return with her to the Cotswolds. Because she’s not had the cycling experience I’ve had, and because the A40 is a miserable road even with the semi-emasculating off-road cycle path, I decided to try a different route, one which isn’t possible in a car and hence is a lot quieter; isn’t as direct as the A40 but is only an extra two or three miles and well worth it. As the whole journey was an absolute joy then I post it here for your delectation: Witney->South Leigh->Eynsham->Cassington->Yarnton->Oxford Canal->Oxford
There are essentially two and a half tricks to this journey. The first is the most obvious from the map: Eynsham to Cassington can be accomplished by going down the old Cassington Road, blocked off for large vehicles, and crossing at the staggered junction just south of Cassington, governed by two independent sets of traffic lights. You can try to cross at the lights themselves, but from what I can gather they don’t respond to cyclists.
The second trick is, arguably, a good-weather route. At the start of the journey, rather than following the cycle path over Cogges Hill and out onto the A40, peel off to the right as you come over the crest of the hill, and head down to South Leigh. Just as Station Road becomes Stanton Harcourt Road, there’s a turn-off to the left (east). Follow this turn-off and, as it bears left (north) towards Barnard Gate, continue east instead along a bridlepath. The first bit of this path is two-tracked, to support farm vehicles. When the two tracks turn sharp left and go under cover of trees, go straight on instead (I mention this in detail as I lost the route at this point), down into a field and then along its left-hand side. There’s a post halfway up at the corner that might confuse you into turning off into another field: ignore it. At the top of this field the bridlepath goes through a hedge and onto a straight, overgrown path which eventually becomes Chilbridge Road in Eynsham.
The final half a trick is to go from Yarnton onto the canal, which is a quick route into the city centre: obvious when you mention it, but worth highlighting. Despite the recent rains there was practically no mud on the off-road sections of the route, although it was quite bumpy in parts. That didn’t lessen the fun, though, of a way to get between the two towns that at times could convince you that cars had yet to be invented. You also get to see hundreds of rabbits if you move quietly enough, and pass through Eynsham and Cassington if you need supplies.