Hook Norton Cutting
Know before you go
Parking information0.25 miles south of Hook Norton village on unclassified road to Swerford, park on hard verge
Steep slopes; flat, firm path; some loose stone; stiles, steps (no access to railway tunnel)
When to visit
Opening timesOpen at all times
Best time to visitJanuary to August
About the reserve
This former Great Western Railway track was used to transport iron ore from the north Oxfordshire town of Hook Norton to the blast furnaces of the Midlands and south Wales. It is composed of two sections of line separated by an old railway tunnel (which does not belong to BBOWT and is not accessible).
The southern section has open, sunny banks of limestone grassland studded with a galaxy of wild flowers including woolly thistle, oxeye daisy, fairy flax and wild carrot. The northern section has areas of woodland and areas of scrub. These ring out with birdsong in spring and summer. Among the many species recorded nesting here are great spotted and green woodpeckers, garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat and goldcrest. The cutting is also notable for its populations of bees. Butterflies, including marbled white, common blue and red admiral, are numerous.
The cutting is of special geological importance because of its exposed Jurassic oolite limestones which contain many fossils, and are stained red by the presence of iron oxide. Recently, scrub has been cleared to allow better views of these. The retaining walls along the track are a lichen and moss-spotter's dream.