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.
If you buy your packet of watercress in the supermarket without a second thought, you’ll be fascinated by this gentle foodie walk that guides you through the history of watercress production in the Oxfordshire village of Ewelme.The Foodie Travel Guide
- Walk the watercress beds
- Monthly tours
- See local wildlife
- Visit Brightwell Vineyard nearby
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 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.
Her hair hung down in tresses
As gently flowed the stream,
She was gathering watercresses
Was that fair watercress Queen.
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.
WHERE TO STAY IN OXFORD
The Oxford Townhouse
The Oxford Townhouse offers B&B accommodation within a 10-minute walk of Oxford city centre.
Rooms from £95 a night.
A stunning boutique hotel offering unique luxury accommodation in historic Oxford.
Rooms from £125 a night.
Happily, you can take me along for a walk.