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Walk Oxfordshire’s Historic Watercress Beds in the Village of Ewelme

by | Apr 12, 2015

Ewelme Watercress Beds, Oxfordshire

At the western end of the Chilterns and on the eastern slopes of the Thames valley, there’s a village located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is famous for its historic watercress beds.

 Historic Watercress Beds at Ewelme in Oxfordshire

The watercress beds in the village of Ewelme

If you buy your packet of watercress in the supermarket without a second thought, you’ll be fascinated by this gentle walk that guides you through the history of watercress production in the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme.

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Visit Oxfordshire’s ‘Watercress Village’

Throughout most of the 20th century, watercress provided the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme with a thriving local business. The watercress beds which were cut out in the late 1800s, flow through the whole length of the village from South East to North West, stretching for three quarters of a mile. The stream is fed by springs and was once supported by a watermill.

Ewelme Watercress

Ewelme watercress was harvested by hand, packed in wicker baskets and distributed by train as far as London’s Covent Garden market and Manchester. During the latter quarter of the 1900s however, regulations precluded the sale of watercress from the site and this, together with greater competition from other areas and countries, sadly led to the industry’s demise.

Walk the Watercress Beds

Parts of the site are now maintained to show the historical importance of watercress to the village. On the first Sunday of every month, for a nominal fee, volunteers from the Chiltern Society lead guided tours of the Ewelme watercress beds. These tours tell the story of the families who originally set up the beds and of the local legend that grew in the 1920s of the Ewelme watercress babies. It was said that a childless couple anxious to start a family, only had to come to Ewelme in the spring to gaze on the watercress when it was green, and their wishes would be granted.

  • After a morning tour of the beds, head over to nearby Brightwell Vineyard, Oxfordshire’s largest, for a guided vineyard tour and wine tasting
  • The watercress beds are maintained by volunteers so another way to get involved is to volunteer for a work day
  • For more watercress history, visit Alresford in Hampshire for a day out on the Watercress Line

In the summer, watercress sauce is traditionally served as an accompaniment to poached salmon. It’s also a popular ingredient in salads and soups because of its peppery flavour and very high iron content. It’s rich in folic acid too.


Dog Policy Mr Hendricks says, “Happily, you can take me along for a walk”.


How to Find Ewelme Watercress Beds and Nature Reserve

Ewelme, High St, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 6HH

Ewelme Watercress Beds



The Foodie Travel Guide

The Foodie Travel Guide

Sally is the founder and editor of The Foodie Travel Guide. She travels around the UK and beyond in search of the best foodie days out, tasting experiences and delicious places to stay. She loves a glass of English sparkling wine, afternoon tea with friends and escaping London for gastronomic adventures. 

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