Otmoor Challenge

Otmoor Challenge, 51 caches, 9.5 miles, Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire, Map

Church View, Charlton-on-Otmoor

An early start on Sunday to ensure an early start on the trail. I had about an hours drive ahead of me on a very foggy, chilly morning. The drive was very pleasant, the early morning sun shinning through the fog onto the orange and browns leaves of the autumn trees. I parked up and put on my boots and let Pip out of the car. The place looked familiar but not as I had expected, I fired up the gps to see where the first cache was. No caches appeared on the screen! I clicked on find a cache, nearest cache 22 miles away, surely not? Yes, I had driven to the wrong place, a previous series that was still programmed into the sat nav. Should I give up and turn around or drive on to the correct location some 45 minutes away? with the knowledge that if I started the series later than planned, I would be a close call as to whether I would finish in daylight and then having to navigate a flooded footpath in the dark was not a prospect I was looking forward to. However, it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day so I decided to go for it.

I parked up outside the church in Charlton-on-Otmoor and began the series, starting at from number 2, number 1 would be collected at the end of the walk. The fog had completely lifted now that I was starting later and the sun was shinning bright in a clear blue sky, it was a wonderful autumn day.

After a short walk through the village, we went through an iron gate and left the pavement and into the countryside. After crossing through a couple fields, one with sheep the other with cattle we picked up Mansmoor Road, no through road, come bridleway that provides access to Holt farm and the very end of the track. Walking along the track it is possible to see the clear traces of medieval arable strips in the form of ridge and furrow in a site of special scientific interest.

Heading northward, towards Wendlebury, crossing the Oxford to Bicester railway line the trail started to become more and more familiar, it was only when I arrived at a 4.5 terrain difficulty cache that I realised for sure that I had cached around here before. We went under the M40 and later would return over the top of it. The next section took us to Wendlebury a nice little village where you will find the Red Lion pub. I rested briefly on a seat near one of the caches and eat my lunch, Pip had a few biscuits and then we continued for some distance along the road leaving the village picking up caches as we went including one in the little Bowlers Copse sandwiched between the busy A41 and the local road.

Crossing the River Ray

We crossed the railway line again at Langford lane before the lane turned into a bridleway and then into a series of footpaths walking through open farm land heading southwards towards Merton. When we arrived at Merton, I recognised St. Swithun’s church from the previous caching expedition in the area. From here the trail continued through more fields, over the River Ray then over the top of the M40 to arrive at Fencott, tiny village. I now sensed the end of the trail but to get back to the car I had the infamous cache 49 where the hint was “to the left before or after swim depending on your direction” a 4 Star Terrain cache because for 11 months of the year the path is completely flooded. I managed to get the cache with out getting wet by choosing my path carefully, but to continue along the path to the next cache was going to require wading! I decided to take a detour through an adjacent field which was completely waterlogged too but by taking care I navigated my way through it and out through at gate back onto the track. It wasn’t very far from here along a partially flooded track back to the car, just before the sun went down.

I was worn out by the time I got back but I had a thoroughly great time, I think that Pip did too, she loves water and puddles and there was certainly plenty of them on the walk today. I couldn’t have picked a better day for November, the sun was shinning almost the whole way around and the sky was bright blue. Nearly all the caches were easy to find and came thick and fast along the trail, certainly no time to get bored! It was a pleasant surprise to be walking paths that I had done before. The route is almost entirely dog friendly, just a couple of stiles where Pip needed a lift over, the terrain is virtually flat which makes the 10 miles or so pretty easy going although wet and muddy in places, but there was also a fair amount of proper tracks as well. I had been put off doing the trail, simply because of number 49, who wants to walk 10 miles then get stuck at the end, but today I decided it had to be done even if I had to take a big detour at 49. As it went though there was a easy detour through a field which caused me no bother. A great walk and fabulous series.

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