Countryside and nature | Oxfordshire County Council

Countryside and nature

What kind of wildlife and landscape you can expect to see when out and about in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire is essentially an agricultural county of rolling hills and meandering river valleys. The main population centre is the university city of Oxford with the remaining population housed in a series of smaller country towns and many picturesque rural villages. The countryside offers many wonderful opportunities for walking, cycling, horse-riding or exploring by wheelchair.

Kingfisher - photo by Tony house at Seeing

Flora and fauna

Oxfordshire’s beautiful patchwork quilt landscape has been created by a mix of  grazing, arable fields and woodland. It provides habitats for a great range of different plants and animals. The Oxfordshire Wildlife & Landscape Study (OWLS) shows the results of an investigation of landscape character and biodiversity across the county right down to parish level.

To get close to nature, visit the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which manages over 90 nature reserves across these three counties for the benefit of wildlife.

Chiltern landscape


Oxfordshire’s geology has resulted in a varied and delightful countryside, including parts of three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the north-west is the oolitic limestone of the Cotswolds and to the south and south east are the open chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs and wooded hills of the Chilterns. The north of the county lies in a transition zone into Midlands scenery with the ironstone of the Cherwell uplands. Long distance walks take you through many of these landscape changes: The Ridgeway National Trail, Macmillan Way, Oxfordshire Way and D’Arcy Dalton Way.

Canoeing on the River Thames


The central part of Oxfordshire contains the flat floodplains of the River Thames. You may follow the Thames Path National Trail right across Oxfordshire, continuing into London. There are many smaller rivers that feed into the Thames such as the Thame, Windrush, Evenlode and Cherwell.

Many of these rivers have public rights of way running along their valleys allowing you to enjoy the rural riverside sections. Try walking the Windrush circular walks, Cherwell circular routesand Oxford Canal (follows the Cherwell from Banbury down to Kidlington).

Last reviewed
03 January 2013
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