Harcourt Hill Field II

Harcourt Hill

In 1837, J M W Turner painted the view ‘Oxford from North Hinksey’ from a spot near here, an area made famous by artists and poets who immortalised the ‘dreaming spires of Oxford’.

Today, you can experience the beauty of those changing views for yourself from our two fields, which are open to all.

"The view is ever changing, as you walk across the field, and in the different seasons and different lights. If you catch it just right, it is can be dramatic, as if someone has switched on a stage lamp to light up the buildings below."

Pylons and the large buildings at Osney Mead have an unfortunate impact, and some trees have grown up to mask the view in places, but it remains very special and something everyone should experience.

There have been threats to develop the fields over time, but our ownership has meant we have been able to save this historical view for future generations.

Harcourt Hill Field

A rich meadow boasting JMW Turner's famous view of 'Oxford from North Hinksey' and the 'Dreaming spires of Oxford'

When local residents approached OPT about buying the land we felt we had to act. OPT worked with local residents to secure the support of the owners and raise the money and, thanks to a further appeal to OPT members and supporters, we now own the field. We are beginning to improve the access to the field, linking it to the network of footpaths and bridleways between Raleigh Park to the north, the Hinksey Heights Nature Reserve to the south, and on up to Chilswell Valley and Boars Hill.

Wider Planning/OPT Issues

The Harcourt Hill field has a vital role to play in assessing the impact of development which will change the views of Oxford, as highlighted in the report ‘Assessment of the Oxford View Cones’, Western Hills published in 2015 by OPT with the City Council and Historic England. The field features in views into the City and as a backdrop from the views out from high points at Carfax, St George’s Tower, St. Mary’s in the High Street, and from the top of the new Westgate shopping centre.

 

Harcourt Hill Field II

A gently sloping meadow with fantastic views of the 'dreaming spires of Oxford'

This 10-acre field at Harcourt Hill to the west of Oxford went on the open market in 2022 and was bought against opposition from other interested purchasers. OPT were particularly keen to acquire it as it is close to the site of the 17th century Conduit House on Harcourt Hill which OPT now manage for English Heritage, and sits beside OPT’s existing 20-acre meadow which was bought in 2016 with the help of OPTs members, supporters and local residents.

 

This field debatably has the best view of the dreaming spires than any of our existing land, so that you feel you can almost reach out and touch the towers and spires. The management of this field over the first few years will be focused on encouraging public permissive access to these views as well as strategically managing this green space suitably for what will benefit the wider green space jigsaw it is a part of.