Otmoor nature reserve


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A six-mile Otmoor circular walk around the RSPB’s nature reserve, offering plenty of wildlife and spectacular views over this magical expanse of wet meadows and reedbeds.

Make your way to the entrance to the car park and pick up the start of the main track through the nature reserve on your right-hand side. Grab a copy of the RSPB's guide to Otmoor as you pass through the gate and follow the track as it curves round to the right, eventually meeting up with another path that cuts horizontally through the reserve.

Turn left onto this path and take in your first view of the reedbeds to your right. In the spring and summer, these are home to a huge variety of breeding wading birds such as lapwings and redshanks, while in the winter, they become a haven for thousands of starlings returning to Britain to roost in flocks known as murmurations. Their astonishing aerial acrobatics are among nature's most spectacular sights and are a highlight of the Otmoor calendar. This area of the reserve is also home to breeding turtle doves - one of the only places in Oxfordshire where, given the species' rapid decline, the birds can still be seen - and hobbies - fast, agile falcons that catch small birds and dragonflies with their feet and consume their prey mid-flight.

Continue westwards until another path runs off to your left, passing the Wetlands Watch look-out that offers panoramic, elevated views across Otmoor. Follow this path southwards, passing through one gate and turning right immediately after a second. This path then curves round to the left before following hedgerows and treelines for a considerable distance in a horseshoe shape around the southern edge of the reserve, becoming the Oxfordshire Way for most of this part of the walk.

Eventually, the path picks up a bridleway near the village of Noke. Turn right onto this track and follow it towards the farm, turning left at the fork shortly before the buildings. Continue back into the reserve, passing a pond on your left before turning right onto the central path you left earlier. A short distance after passing the Wetlands Watch on your right, turn left, passing through a gate and onto a path that heads in a northerly direction. This part of the walk is one of the most rewarding, with two hides overlooking the reedbeds and the RSPB's legendary lizard lounge - a collection of rocks, stones and logs that provides a brilliant basking spot for the reserve's common lizards. Keep your eyes peeled too for the many grass snakes that call Otmoor their home.

From the lizard lounge, continue along the path to its most northerly point and the second of this stretch of the walk's look-outs. After taking in all the magnificent wildlife on offer here, retrace your steps and turn left back onto the central path. Continue eastwards, passing the track back to the entrance that you walked along earlier, before the path turns right at the entrance to the rifle range. (Do not be tempted to turn left when a red flag is flying, as dangerous military exercises will be taking place!) Follow this path south back to the entrance to the reserve and your parking place.