From the bus stop called Bessels Leigh School, you can do a circuit of Boars Hill. Turn down Rowleigh Lane past the old vicarage to take a footpath left towards Dry Sandford. Walk north through Wootton, taking a bridleway on the right to arrive at the Bystander Inn crossroads. Cross to take the road to Wootton village, taking a right turn just past the church signposted ‘Old Boars Hill’. There is a footpath on the left which takes you up the hill through several horse fields, with stiles. Looking back, there is a wide view taking in the Chilterns and Didcot Power Station. The path eventually rejoins the road at Jarn Mound, built by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. Despite what you may read elsewhere, there are no ‘magnificent vistas’ from Jarn Mound, because trees have grown up to block the view.
There are, however, views from Matthew Arnold Field, owned by the Oxford Preservation Trust. Arnold’s poems The Scholar Gipsy and Thyrsis are said to have been inspired by the view. Three paths lead from this corner. To return to Besselsleigh, follow the central one leading diagonally across the field through woodland and then to the left of Youlbury Scout Camp to join the Henwood bridleway. If you turn left here, this long track takes you back to Besselsleigh, while to the right it leads to Westminster College, where a Brookes bus would take you to the city centre.
For a three- to four-mile extension taking in the best views of “that sweet city with her dreaming spires” mentioned in Arnold’s poem Thyrsis, take the right-hand path through the woodland, then find a footpath leading between two gardens to Chilswell Farm, walking through the ‘happy valley’ nature reserve to reach the Oxford Ring Road. Continuing in the same direction over the flyover and through South Hinksey village brings you to the Devil’s Backbone, a historic raised pathway across the water meadows, which always reminds me of a childhood walk called ‘Broken Bridges’ near Salisbury Cathedral. You end up in Hinksey Park, where there are frequent buses to the city centre..