Blenheim Palace

Written by Jon Uren. For an approximate location map, click here.

Blenheim Palace Estate grounds are huge, extending to about 2100 acres. They cover a large area mainly to the west of Woodstock. The gardens and grounds consist mostly of 4 habitat types, formal parkland, grassland grazed by sheep, woodland and a large artificial lake formed by damming the river Glyme. The parkland was laid out by Capability Brown between 1764 and 1784 and is largely still as he planned it. The major means of access are via the official entrances which are signposted in Woodstock. To gain access to the park via these entrances you have to pay whether you are on foot or in a car. It is however possibly to gain access to the park on foot for free either via a number of public footpaths that cross the estate or via one of the private gates that allow access. These gates can be found on each of the four sides of the estate. Each gate has information about the rules and regulations for access on it and these regulations should be followed.

Blenheim Palace is at SP441161 and the grounds surround the palace.

The Palace: follow the signs from the A44 in Woodstock. The entrance used varies but it is always clearly signed. For quickest access to the Lake and the Palace Gardens, use the Old Woodstock and Bladon entrances respectively.

Other entrances:

Old Woodstock SP441172. Pass through the centre of Woodstock on the A44 travelling north. About 100 yards past the Black Prince and 50 yards before the Rose and Crown there is a footpath sign on the left-hand side. Follow this sign through the kissing gate and into the park. If travelling by car there is little parking on the main road so it is better to find a parking spot in the nearby side streets.

Bladon SP447151. Take the A4095 towards Witney from its junction with the A44 at the roundabout south of Woodstock. After about ¾ mile take the first right into Park Lane immediately after the The Bygone Inn (? - formerly the White House). The entrance to the park is at the end of this road (200 yards). There is parking here for about 3 cars. If no parking is available here you can park nearby elsewhere in the village. Please do not park in the pub car park without first asking permission.

Combe SP426158. From the A4095 in Long Hanborough take the minor road north signposted for Combe. At the junction immediately after the railway bridge carry straight on and then after ¾ mile turn right at the T-junction. The gate can be found about ¼ mile down this road on the left. Parking is provided on the road before the gate.

Ditchley Gate SP423188. Take the A44 through Woodstock north. Turn left after c.2 miles on to the B4437 signposted for Charlbury. Ditchley Gate can be found on the left after about ½ mile at the junction with the minor road to Stonesfield. Parking is limited to roadside verges. Access to the little-visited northern areas of the Park.

Other entrances:- The grounds are criss-crossed by a number of public footpaths that can be located on the local Ordnance Survey map (Landranger 164 or Explorer 180).

Woodstock is served by Stagecoach services X50, 20A, 20B and 20C, Worth's Motors service 70 and Baker's Commercial service 7.

Bladon: Stagecoach services X50, 20A, 20B and 20C stop by the roundabout at Begbroke and also by the A4095/A44 junction near Bladon. Stagecoach service 42 between Woodstock and Witney stops in Bladon.

Combe: the nearest bus stop is in Long Hanborough (c. 2 miles walk) served by the Stagecoach service 42 between Woodstock and Witney. Combe Station on the Oxford - Worcester railway line is about ½ mile's walk from Combe Gate.

Ditchley Gate: Buses to Chipping Norton (20A or 20C?) plus X50 will stop at the Duke of Marlborough on the A44, where you can walk up to Ditchley Gate (info courtesy of David Holcombe).

Resident: Cormorant, Water Rail, Gadwall, Buzzard, Woodcock, Grey Heron (a small heronry has developed on the island in the lake this year), Little Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Jackdaw (in large numbers), Other common woodland and water species. Hawfinch are resident but can be elusive (no records were received between 1995 and 1999, though they reappeared in 2000) - check the areas of the Palace Garden visible from the miniature railway. A feral flock of Snow Geese spends all but the spring months here.

Winter: winter thrushes; Siskin, Redpoll (try the High Lodge area), Crossbill (in some years). Brambling can sometimes be found in large numbers within huge finch flocks (up to 1000 birds). Water Rail (especially near Glyme Bridge), Snipe, winter ducks including occasional Smew; a gull flock of 200-300 birds is frequently seen on or around the lake.

Summer: Cuckoo, woodland and waterside warblers, Hobby (occasional), Swift, Common Tern, Spotted Flycatcher, hirundines. Buzzards are thought to have bred in the grounds for the first time in living memory in 1999.

Spring/Autumn: Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Black Tern, Yellow Wagtail. Waders occur but they do not tend to stay for long as there is little suitable habitat.

Blenheim Lake seems to be a popular location for feral waterfowl, possibly because of its close proximity to two large wildfowl collections. In recent years Black Swan, Ringed Teal, Canvasback, White-faced Whistling Dusk, Bar-headed Goose, Wood Duck, Mandarin, Red-crested Pochard and Ruddy Shelduck have all be seen as well as the resident Snow Geese.

Bladon Heath, Shipton Quarry, Yarnton Gravel Pits.

Jon Uren