Oakley Hill

Jim Asher

Oakley Hill

Chiltern gentian is the star of this isolated and beautiful chalk downloand reserve, perched on the Chiltern escarpment.

Location

1 mile south of
Chinnor
Oxfordshire
OX39 4RR

OS Map Reference

SU753994
A static map of Oakley Hill

Know before you go

Size
13 hectares

Entry fee

No

Parking information

On the B4009 south out of Chinnor, turn left at Crowell and park near Shepherd's Crook pub; walk up track, take left onto Ridgeway to find reserve on right.

Grazing animals

Yes

Walking trails

The Ridgeway National Trail passes below the reserve

Access

Sloping ground, firm but bumpy; kissing gate

Dogs

On a lead

When to visit

Opening times

Open at all times

Best time to visit

March to November

About the reserve

A hidden gem

Hidden behind the imposing, but now peaceful, chalkpits at Chinnor, Oakley Hill is made up of old downland, scrub and beech woodland. Rare grassland Chalk grassland like this - once common along the escarpment - is now rare due to a decline in grazing and invasion by scrub, but BBOWT is looking after this rarity by using traditional methods.

Chalk soil specialists

Wild flowers such as Chiltern gentian, wild thyme, chalkhill eyebright, clustered bellflower, pyramidal orchid and yellow-wort thrive in this poor soil. Wayfaring-trees, often found around chalk grasslands, display clusters of creamy white flowers in spring. In late summer, butterflies, such as the comma, drink juices from their ripe berries. There are a few remaining juniper plants here. Once a dependable early coloniser of open grassland, juniper is now uncommon in the Chilterns.

Life in the dark

Very little grows under the dense shade of the beech wood canopy. Look out for the bird's-nest orchid, which appears to seek out the darkest parts of the wood. This plant requires no light, instead getting all its nutrients from dead material in the soil. It takes its name from its mass of short, thick roots, said to resemble a birds's nest. You may find bluebells and dog's mercury growing in glades created by fallen trees.

 

Contact us

Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT)
Contact number: 01865 775476
Contact email: info@bbowt.org.uk