As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the one positive for us that has come out of the last year has been learning more about where we live and the surrounding villages. Places that we’ve been guilty of frequently driving past and never exploring. We were forced to change the way we planned adventures and it’s been no bad thing. I’d had one particular walk bookmarked for years and over lockdown last year, we finally got to spend time exploring footpaths close to home – Souldern Viaduct walk.
For years I have driven up and down the M40 and seen this viaduct as I approached Banbury from the south. I’ll admit to having no idea where it even was until I saw mention of it about ten years ago, and discovered it ran through the edge of Souldern, a village between Banbury and Bicester. A bit more googling and I found a route for a circular walk which included views across the viaduct, bookmarked it and every so often I’d say, we really should do that walk one day. Time passed, a lot of time passed. The pandemic hit and when we could finally drive a little way from home to enjoy some daily exercise we finally got to spend time exploring footpaths close to home and the Souldern Viaduct walk was top of our list.
I used my faithful OS Map app, (another positive of lockdown and worth every penny in my opinion) to create our 7km route and we parked on a verge just past the end of Souldern village. Now having completed this walk numerous times over the last year, you can no longer avoid the motorway traffic noise for parts of this walk. The first time we completed this circular walk you could barely hear or see any traffic on the M40, sadly that’s all changed but it’s still one of our favourite walks as it has so much to offer.
Firstly walking through a field with horses that are often rather friendly.
Once through the field, we ended up on a track and actually, I think you can probably access this track directly from the village if you wanted to avoid seeing the horses.
The track carries on under the M40 with farm fields on either side.
Before heading towards a farm and then the Souldern Viaduct comes into view for the first time. The viaduct is on the grounds of the farm and they have a very clearly defined pathway for walkers to stick to as you pass the horses and sheep.
It’s a stunning viaduct to finally get to see up close after all the years of only seeing it from the motorway.
You can imagine my son’s delight when we saw not one, but two trains going over the viaduct in quick succession. He officially classed the walk as a success from that point on. And in fact, this is a great walk for a bit of train spotting as there are other opportunities along the loop walk too.
The walkway takes you around and under the viaduct but you can’t get right up to the stonework.
From the other side, you follow the track as it winds through the fields.
Before you arrive at a railway bridge, and again we timed it perfectly for my little train spotter.
As you head towards some farm buildings you can see the footpath leading off to the right and down towards the Oxford Canal.
There is a spring bridge that takes you over the canal to the towpath. Now I just sent the OH onto the bridge and it came down allowing us all to cross without any thought to it. I shared this walk with local friends at the time and a few really struggled to get the bridge down. When we’ve completed the walk again since the bridge has already been down so it’s not been an issue.
The canal offers another element of interest to exploring footpaths close to home as you leave all traces of the Souldern Viaduct behind and follow the towpath. It’s a very peaceful part of the walk and for the first couple of times we walked this section there were no narrowboats cruising either.
My son took charge and headed off in charge. We’d worked out that at some point we would cross the train track again so the thought of seeing more trains kept him going.
When you reach the bridge by the farm you take the path back up over the bridge to continue the walk.
And promptly come to another railway bridge.
And with a bit more waiting time he did get to see another train not long after this shot was taken. I was busy taking photos of the hedgerows by this time.
Once we’d exhausted all train spotting opportunities it was time to head along the path and take a left turn across a field.
Past the M40 which is just out of sight in this shot, under it again and then along the edge of one final field.
Before arriving at a little stream at the very edge of Souldern. We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the starting point for a future walk to Anyho and the deer park we had no idea existed. More on that little adventure in a future post.
There’s one last pathway to walk up to complete this circular walk as we headed back to the car at the end of our adventure.
As I’ve mentioned, the Souldern Viaduct circular walk is now a firm favourite and we’ve completed it numerous times since with family and friends. It’s definitely a walk I’d recommend if you are in the area. It also spurred me on to find other viaduct walks last year. You might remember my Hockley viaduct walk post from last year for one. Another lovely walk. We also discovered a walk that took in the Catesby Viaduct and again, I’ll be sharing that in a future post.
I’d love to complete the Ribblehead Viaduct walk, are there any others you could recommend?
Maybe you’d like to pin this post for future reference, and you can always message me if you’d like help with the route we used.