About the Wittenhams

Long and Little Wittenham are a couple of villages lying along the River Thames between Abingdon and Wallingford in South Oxfordshire. Dominating the local landscape is a pair of hills known as the Wittenham Clumps. Allegedly these have also been known as 'The Berkshire Bubs' (since until 1974 the area was administratively part of Berkshire) or as 'Mother Dunch's Buttocks' (since the Dunchs were a local landowning family in the 16th century)!!

The two hills are nowadays more politely known as Round Hill and Castle Clump (the latter because of an extensive Celtic fort or earthwork which surrounds the entire summit). The picture below shows you a picture of Round Hill looking upwards from Days Lock on the river.

Round Hill above Days Lock

And this one is a view of the river and Days Lock north-eastwards towards Dorchester, looking down from Round Hill.

View of the Thames from Round Hill

These pictures (c) 1996 Lisa Osta lisa@ostavizn.com www.ostavizn.com

Antiquities and Wildlife

There is public access to the Clumps, but they and much adjacent woodland and farmland are owned by the Northmoor Trust, a private nature conservation and education charity. One of their projects is the restoration of the semi-natural wildflower-rich grassland which was once characteristic of downland areas like the Clumps until the days of agricultural 'improvement'. Sheep are used as a grazing management tool to achieve this.

Another Trust project is the creation of a new deciduous lowland forest 'Paradise Wood' in the valley bottom land which lies between Long and Little Wittenham. This land has been under cultivation for several hundred years, and so the restoration of a 'new' old woodland with the species composition of a millenium ago is particularly exciting. It is a long-term project, though, and will not come into its own for many generations!

The Wittenham area is rich in antiquities from Bronze Age times onwards. Abingdon, just upstream from here, has recently been declared the oldest inhabited town in Britain after the excavation of a previously unknown pre-Roman settlement in the town. The extensive fort on Castle Hill and the related 'Dyke Hills' just across the river on the footpath to Dorchester are daily reminders of those times.

Celtic, Roman and Saxon graves and artefacts have been found frequently in the Wittenhams - some of these are lodged in the British Museum in London or the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Some are now on display in the Northmoor Trust's 'Project Timescape'. Of particular note is the Little Wittenham Iron Age sword in a decorated bronze scabbard, found near Days Lock in 1982. Dorchester was a considerable settlement in Romano-British times and later became an important diocesan centre in Saxon times. Wallingford, just downstream, was chosen by King Alfred as one of his strategic fortified burghs in the 9th century, and it was here that William the Conqueror crossed the Thames on his diversionary route from Hastings to take London in 1066.

In historical times one of the most conspicuous works of man is the Didcot Power Station erected in the 1960's and with an architectural beauty all its own.

Didcot Power Station

This picture (c) 1996 Lisa Osta lisa@ostavizn.com www.ostavizn.com

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© Andrew Lea 
Last updated 7 March, 1999