Shotover Country Park
Shotover Country Park offers everyone a chance to enjoy a place of beauty and history right on the edge of Oxford. Covering 117 hectares on the southern slopes of Shotover Hill there are spectacular views from the top across south Oxfordshire.
The park is an intimate mosaic of hidden valleys, varied landscapes and diverse habitats; a haven for wildlife and an ideal setting for peaceful enjoyment of the countryside.
Because Shotover is a nationally important wildlife site, most of the Country Park is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Shotover is open to everyone to enjoy throughout the year free of charge and is ideal for a summer picnic, leisurely strolls, a walk with the dog, jogging, riding or orienteering. Are you making the most of the countryside on your doorstep?
Discover how much Shotover Country Park has to offer!
- How to get there
The main car park at the top of Shotover Hill is on Old Road, Headington OX3 8TA (see pinpoint on map above). Parking is free. Alternative parking can be found at Horspath Sports Ground with a walk up into the park.
Buses stop near the bottom of Old Road - which will require a 15-20min walk uphill to the park, or from Horspath Rd or the Slade which also includes a 15-20min walk.
There are numerous entrances and exits to the Shotover many are signposted from surrounding roads.
Bridleways are signposted in blue.
The landscape of Shotover has changed throughout its history from Saxon times until the Civil War (640s) .
Shotover was part of a Royal Forest providing a hunting ground for noblemen, fuel and grazing for local people, and timber for many of Oxford’s historic buildings. In 1660 Shotover ceased to be a Royal Forest and became open farmland which was grazed or cultivated.
Until the end of the 18th Century the main road to London passed across Shotover Plain where travellers often fell victim to highwaymen.
From the late 1930s Oxford City Council started to manage Shotover as a park and two wardens were employed to look after it.
During the first half of the 20th Century farming ceased at Shotover and woodland started to establish.
During World War II Slade Camp was part of Cowley Barracks and provided a temporary home for soldiers who took part in the D Day landings.
At the same time Shotover Hill was used for military training and tanks built at Cowley were tested there.
From the late 1970s work started to clear woodland to restore heath, grassland and marsh habitats.
- Things to do
There are three way marked trails to guide you through the park. They all start in Mary Sadler’s Field near the car park. Assuming a relaxed pace the red trail will take 30 minutes, the yellow 45 minutes and the green about 2 hours.
For horse riders and cyclists there are 5km of paths to follow. The route starts from Shotover Plain near the car park. Please follow the blue arrows.
There is a station orienteering course around the Park. Look out for the distinctive red and white marker posts. Orienteering maps can be obtained from the parks office or Thames Valley Orienteering Club.
Find hidden treasures around the park, using Geocaching software. If you wish to place a geocache, please contact us for permission.
For children the most popular haunt is a natural sandpit in which they may spend hours building castles or damming the tiny stream. Follow the red trail to get you there.
Disabled paths and access
There is a network of paths around the lower parts of the Country Park accessible to wheelchair users. Access is from Brasenose Farm on Oxford’s Eastern Bypass.
There is an extensive network of paths on Shotover. Those that are on the map are checked and maintained by the rangers. There are many other paths and desire lines, some only seasonal, that you can discover for yourself.
Shotover Country Park is a popular venue for a range of different events including guided walk, cross country races, orienteering competitions, sponsored walks, and treasure hunts. If you would like to book Shotover as a venue for your public event or filming, no matter how small, please phone 01865 252407.
We run regular volunteer opportunities and working parties across Oxford. Check out our volunteering page for more information.
Whether you are a serious naturalist or simply love being in the countryside there is so much to see at Shotover.
Ancient woods, flowery meadows, marshes, heaths, ponds and bracken covered slopes support a wealth of wildlife.
In spring and summer Shotover’s woods are carpeted with wild flowers. Celandines and Wood Anemones are first, then Bluebells.
As spring turns to summer Common Spotted Orchids and later Bettony and Saw Wort bloom along woodland rides where White Admiral butterflies soar.
In these woods you can also hear the natural symphony of birdsong provided by summer visitors: Black Cap, Garden and Willow Warbler which join our resident choristers; Blackbird, Wren and Song Thrush.
In Summer the meadows at the bottom of Shotover are rich with the Knapweed, Oxyeye Daisy and other wild flowers.Visit them before they are cut in July.
In the valleys at the foot of the hill are springs which feed marshes and pools fringed with aromatic Water Mint. Further up the slopes in the dry grasslands the delicate white flowers of Heath Bedstraw mingle with the red of Sheep’s Sorrel.
These grasslands are also popular with Green Woodpeckers, which plunder the many ant nests. Much of the hill is cloaked in dense stands of Bracken. It gives a special character to Shotover and offers cover to large mammals like Foxes, Muntjac and Roe Deer.
In August the heath in Mary Sadler’s Field is suffused with pink by the flowers of Ling Heather. Bare ground within the heaths and grasslands is where many species of solitary bees and wasps dig their burrows and where lizards bask.
- Membership bodies