The much-loved Wittenham Clumps are one of South Oxfordshire’s most iconic landmarks. Standing proudly beside the Thames they offer stunning views over the surrounding countryside; they are the most highly visited free to access greenspace in the region. The Clumps are made up of Round Hill (to the left when facing the hills from the car park) and Castle Hill (to the right). Enjoy a figure of eight walk around the hilltops or head between them and down into Little Wittenham Wood.
What to see
From majestic red kites swooping overhead to a carpet of wildflowers beneath your feet, there is always something to see on or from the Clumps. Listen for the spring birdsong, marvel at the busy bees and butterflies during the summer, admire the magnificent autumnal colours, or take in the wonderful wintry views.
The Clumps are steeped in history, with Roman, Bronze Age and Iron Age evidence being found on site. The curved ramparts of Castle Hill date from the Iron Age, though archaeological work has shown that it was also a Bronze Age settlement; it is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The name Wittenham Clumps come from the ‘clumps’ of beech trees which crown both hills; these are the oldest known planted hilltop beeches in England, dating back over 300 years. This famous landmark has been known by many names over the years, from Berkshire Bubs, reflecting the fact that the Wittenham Clumps once fell within the county of Berkshire, to the slightly unusual Mother Dunch’s Buttocks, a name which refers to a lady of the Dunch family who owned Little Wittenham Manor in the 17th century. They are also known as the Sinodun Hills.
The Clumps have been the inspiration for poets and artists for many years. Local poet Joseph Tubb carved a wonderful poem in the bark of a beech tree on Castle Hill in the years 1844-45. Sadly, the Poem Tree fell in recent years but a nearby plaque allows visitors to feel the passion that this Victorian vandal had for the local landscape and its history. Another who was inspired by the Clumps was the landscape artist Paul Nash who painted the Clumps, and the view from them, many times during his career.
The different habitats on and around the hills require different types of management. The grasslands and wildflower meadows are managed through haycutting and grazing with cattle; this regime creates the perfect conditions for wildflowers to thrive, in turn providing habitats for invertebrates, birds and other wildlife. The clumps of trees themselves also require management – many of the beech trees are reaching the end of their lives and with climate change threatening the long term viability of this species in this location (they are prone to summer drought), we have been planting hornbeam and lime to ensure there are still clumps on the Clumps for years to come.