35 outdoor adventures for you and your family within an hour of Oxford!

Little Oxplorers
Feb 2, 2018 · 20 min read

We originally published this blog in 2018 after asking for your favourite paces to go with your children for outdoor adventures — you had so many! Well we’ve updated it! You may recognise places that you have been before and we hope you will find some new places to add to your 2020 bucket lists. Enjoy!

Rushmere County Park Sculpture Trail

Rushmere Country Park, Chilterns

One of the best country parks that we’ve been to. Follow the sculpture trail which includes a huge spider, a giant’s chair and fairy doors fit for a not so little fairy, and, best of all, climbing on everything is actively encouraged! A play area near the entrance is the stuff that dreams are made of with possibly the worlds longest slide; my eldest two were entertained on it for over an hour whilst the grown ups enjoyed a coffee from the cafe. Walk, cycle, climb, run, seek, find and explore! Do not leave without visiting Heron Valley, accessed via the Visitor Centre near the park entrance, the panoramic views are spectacular and the Herons will be returning to nest very soon.

FREE

50 minutes by car from Oxford.

Cotswold Farm Park, Cotswolds

Adam Henson, of Countryfile fame, owns this spectacular farm and his passion for animals and desire to engage kids in all aspects of farming is abundantly clear. Get there when it opens and give yourself a whole day in this place as there is so much to see and do. From animal petting, milking demonstrations, bottle feeding lambs and farm safaris, to the play barn and maze. Numerous farm-themed play areas include a brilliant tractor driving school or take a walk on the wild side on the rare breeds trail. Don’t miss out on the huge bouncing pillows either, ridiculous fun!

The farm opens for the season with lambing on the 8th February, right up until 28th April…that’s a lot of lambs!

Buy tickets online in advance for the best deals.

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Due rural location of the farm, it is not on any public transport routes. The nearest train stations are Moreton-in-Marsh and Kingham, both are approximately 20 minutes away by taxi.

Kilkenny Lane Country Park, Carterton

A bit of a hidden location, in the middle of a big housing development in Carterton, but a pretty awesome find! This country park has raised the bar; not only does it have 2.5k of accessible foothpaths for strolling or cycling, the adventure playground is big and out of this world! There was play apparatus there that I have never seen in any other play setting before, as well as the old favourites. We went with a 6 and a 4 year old and they were both happily entertained, and there were much younger children there too. Why not bring the bikes or scooters and make a day of it.

FREE

30 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public Transport: S1 from ParkEnd Street, get off at Teasel Way and it’s a 15 minute walk from there.

Snowdrops at Kingston Bagpuize House

Kingston Bagpuize House, Abingdon

This grand old house (and star of Downton Abbey don’t you know), is not somewhere you might consider for an afternoon adventure but the lawns, woodland, parkland and wildlife pond make this a real outdoor treasure. It seriously comes into its own in February, snowdrop season, when the beautiful grounds are carpeted white and spring is taking hold; it even hosts its own Snowdrop and Plant Fair! I may be biased as my sister got married here, but I think it is one of the most beautiful house and gardens in Oxfordshire, and one you could easily have completely to yourself on a visit.

The grounds re-open on the 8th February.

For the diary: Snowdrop and Plant Fair and Summer Village Fete.

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public Transport: S6 gold from Osney Island to School Lane and it’s a 9 minute walk from there.

Broadway Tower and Country Park, Cotswolds

Standing tall at 65 feet high, Broadway Tower boasts some of the best views in England. Climb to the top and, an a clear day, marvel at views encompassing 16 counties, keep your eyes peeled for the red deer herd as well. Broadway Tower is on the Cotswold Way National Trail route so there are plenty of opportunites for walking, cycling and nature spotting too!

Open daily 10am — 5pm.

The Cold War Experience at Broadway Tower’s Nuclear bunker is open from April — October at weekends and Bank Holidays. Not suitable for children under 10 due to steep ladder entrance.

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Train to Moreton-in-Marsh then bus no. 1 or 2 to Broadway.

Broadway Tower (Photo credit: Colin Watts)

Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds

This chocolate box village is referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, owing to the River Windrush which flows through its centre. It’s not hard to see why it’s been voted one of the prettiest villages in England! Paddle in the shallow part of the river in summer, amble to The Old Mill for superb ice-cream and visit the model village, a replica of the village itself. The Costwold Motoring Museum and Toy Collection is worth a pit stop too and pleases petrol heads and children alike, you may even spot a toy from your childhood!

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Train to Moreton-in-Marsh then 801 bus to Bourton-on-the-Water.

Far Peak, Northleach

A real hub of activities set within the AONB that is the Cotswolds. Choose to climb, camp , eat and drink, or cycle. For two wheeled adventures, this is the perfect starting point to access miles and miles of traffic free routes and explore the Cotswolds at your leisure with long or short routes to choose from. No bike? No problem, hire one from the onsite Cotswold Bike Hire company. If climbing is your thing, then give Far Peak Climbing a go; it’s the only dedicated climbing and outdoor centre in the Cotswolds. This is a great place to build confidence for novice climbers with low level and bouldering options whilst the sky is the limit for the more experienced (and braver!)

45 minutes by car from Oxford.

Far Peak climbing

Swinley Bike Hub, Bracknell

Set in the beautiful Swinley Forest, designated as a Special Protection Area for rare and threatened birds, are 3 main cycle routes specially designed for differing abilities. The green trail is for beginner/novice cyclists and its 1km route is single track and a great introduction to off road riding. Suitable for all, this entry level trail can be ridden regardless of age, experience or aptitude and is the perfect confidence builder. For the more advanced among us there are the blue and red trails — good luck!

FREE

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Swinley Forest Bike Trails (Photo credit: lifeplugins.com)

The Look Out Discovery Centre, Bracknell

You can’t possibly visit Swinley Forest Bike Trails without stopping at it’s neighbour, The Look Out, for a visit too. Over 90 interactive science and nature activities are set up in ‘zones’; including the outdoor ‘Woodland and Water’ zone, where little ones can build dams and play with boats. If construction is their dream then the ‘Build It!’ zone is for them, where they can drive dumper trucks and climb scaffolding. The huge adventure play area is split into 3 parts; one for big kids, another for little ones and a fully inclusive one with wheelchair accessible roundabout , slide and swing. Then it’s out to the forest to explore! Either get on your bike and explore the Swinley Bike Trails or follow one of the three walking routes. This is a whole day outing and even then you probably won’t have tried everything and will want to come back for more!

Keep an eye on their facebook page for toddler days, full of fun activities geared towards smaller visitors.

55 minutes by car from Oxford

Upton House and Gardens, near Banbury (NT)

Orienteering trails suitable for little ones, woodland to explore, tunnels to crawl in, secret underground rooms to discover and adventure packs to help your Little Oxplorers on the way round. More? A two mile circular walk with a shorter option for children. If you were lucky enough to get National Trust membership from Father Christmas this year then this is a great place to start exploring, especially during the school holidays when there are events and activities galore.

50 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Train to Banbury then X7 or 6 bus to Edge Hill then a short walk to Upton House and Gardens.

White Horse Hill (Photo credit: National Trust)

White Horse Hill and Dragon Hill, Faringdon (NT)

This featured on our ‘Five of the best hills to run down in Oxfordshire’ blog and it’s not hard to see why! As the highest point in Oxfordshire the running and rolling opportunities are plentiful, but make sure you stop and take in the views before you start; on a clear day you can see right across 6 counties. Legend has it that Dragon Hill is where St George slayed the ferocious fire-breathing dragon. Who will you encounter on the hilltop? Maybe lots of kite fliers who flock to this perfectly windy spot, just don’t get blown way!

For the diary: Easter Egg Hunt

FREE

50 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: S8 or S9 from St Aldates to Wantage, 7 miles from Uffington White Horse.

Wendover Woods, Tring

Think Wendover woods is just, well, woods? Think again! These 800 acres of woodland, situated just outside the Chilterns, is packed full of every ingredient you need for a fun filled adventure with the kids. The 2km Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon Glow Trail is so fun, we completed it recently in the Forest of Dean, download the app or buy an activity bag which comes with magical UV pen. Don’t forget the bikes if you want to follow the family biking trail, surfaced tracks allow for beginners to cycle confidently. There is a grown up ‘Go Ape’, as well as a junior one , treetop fun for those with a head for heights, and new interactive 1 mile all-ability play trail. These are just some of the new multi million pound improvements which have recently taken place, including a new cafe (FINALLY!!!!), cementing this as a firm family favourite.

FREE

45 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: The nearest train station is Wendover, 3.9 miles from Wendover Woods.

Farmageddon Glow Trail at Wendover Woods

Stowe, Buckingham (NT)

This National Trust property boasts huge gardens, impressive temples and plenty of genuinely great tree climbing opportunities. The Labyrinth leads to a giant skittle alley for outdoor bowling, as well as a huge swing, big enough to fit all the kids on (open Spring-Summer). As with all National Trust properties there are plenty of planned activities taking place here, including Wild Wednesdays, Family Explorers and New Parents Walk and Talk.

For the diary: Nature Ninjas Half Term Family Trail.

45 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: X5 from Gloucester Green bus station to Buckingham High Street, 2.3 miles from Stowe Landscape Gardens and House.

Bradbury Woods

Badbury Hill, Faringdon (NT)

The site of a former Iron Age hill fort, Badbury Hill and woods offers so much fun for families and plenty of opportunities to tick more off the ‘50 things’ list. The woods are a perfect natural play area for clambering over trees, building new dens or restoring old ones, exploring inside hollow trees and bug hunting. The Badbury short woodland walk is easy and has ample chances for wildlife spotting, and snowdrop spotting in February or bluebell spotting come May, or try the new permanent orienteering trail, very family friendly.

FREE

40 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: 66 from Gloucester Green bus station to Little Coxwell Turn, 1.4 miles away from Badbury Hill.

Beale Park, Pangbourne

This wildlife park packs its 30 acre site full of animals and attractions. A miniature ride-on railway, Little Tikes Outdoor Village, numerous play areas including sandpits and paddling pools, sculptures, trails and walks will keep young ones busy, whilst cheeky animals such as alpacas and meerkats be met with delight. An action packed day out!

40 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Pangbourne is the nearest train station, 1.4 miles away from Beale Park.

Green Dragon Rare Breeds Farm

Green Dragon Rare Breeds Farm, Buckingham

From the impressive range of animals in the fields and barns to animal handling, this 44 acre farm will keep you busy! Daily animal encounters include Pony Grooming, Furry Friends and Undercover Flying Displays in the newly built Indoor Hub. The farmyard is packed with ride-ons for all ages, as well as an adventure playground, bouncy pillow, sandpit and diggers! Indoor play options include two play barns for messy and soft play, perfect for hiding in downpours. There’s a farm trail, nature trail and eco trail to follow too and a Wildlife Zone which includes birds of prey, Eurasian Lynx, European Polecats and other British and European wildlife.

Currently only open weekends until February.

35 minutes by car from Oxford.

Osterley Park, Osterley (NT)

A beautiful house set in acres of parkland, there is so much to explore at Osterley Park. You don’t have to be a National Trust member to enjoy the majority of these grounds and there is easily enough to entertain without paying a penny. Very cycle friendly, the new cycle-pathways and cycle skills areas, as well as the natural surroundings, make it such an enjoyable experience. There are a number of trees by the main lake calling out to be climbed and I spent many hours up these as a child as this is where I grew up. A word to the wise; do not try and re-live the experience as an adult. A few years ago I climbed one of the trees I used to scuttle up and down as a child…and got stuck! My 73 year old dad had to help me down. Never again!! Tree climbing calamities aside, this is a great day out and offers a real mix of adventure to keep children entertained, the cafe does amazing food too.

For the diary: The Tiger Who Came to Tea exhibition (free to NT members)

FREE admission to park, some areas (including the house) require payment or NT membership.

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Cycling at Osterley Park

Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham

This fantastic site in Thatcham encompasses 3 large lakes, adventure playgrounds, community orchard and family friendly signposted walks and seasonal trails, plus a café for the all-important re-fuel. If all of that doesn’t keep you busy, there are regular Wildlife Clubs held every month, including Nature Tots, so keep an eye on the web page.

FREE

35 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: The nearest railway station is Thatcham, 1.7 miles away from the Nature Discovery Centre.

Bekonscot Model Village, Beaconsfield

If a model village fills you with nostalgia and happy childhood memories, then this is the place to take the kids. I have pictures of myself here as a child and then with my children too!Britain’s oldest and original, with more than 200 buildings, 2,000 inhabitants and 1,000 animals, it won’t disappoint! The attention to detail is really quite something and many models move, including the railway. There are 6 villages scatted around the 1.5 acres of beautiful gardens and little ones will love peeping inside the houses and feeling like the grown-ups for once! There is also a ride on railway, which weaves it way behind the model villages, and children’s play area. Free entry for Blue Peter badge holders.

Re-opens for the season on Saturday 15th February.

35 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: The nearest train station is Beaconsfield then a short walk.

Bekonscot Model Village

Faringdon Folly Tower and Woodland, Faringdon

This 100ft Folly Tower is quite a sight to behold and the last major folly to be built in the UK. 154 steps will lead you to the top for far reaching views. The tower is closed until April but the 4 acre circular woodland surrounding the forest is always open, and there are SO many treasures hidden within. Seek out the wooden sculptures including 22 blackbirds high in the trees, plus a Fairly Useless Bridge. There is something of the ridiculous about this woodland…and we love it! Visit in summer to see a carpet of poppies surrounding the tower, it is astounding! This place is a superb find for a top family day out.

The Folly Tower is open the 1st and 3rd Sundays from April to October.
11am — 5pm. Adults £3, 11–16 years £1, under 11s free. Access to the woodland is always FREE.

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: 66 bus from Gloucester Green bus station to Faringdon Market Place then a short walk.

Faringdon Cycle Park, Faringdon

Well it seems Faringdon is the place to be! This cycle park is above and beyond your regular cycle park; it’s the Chris Hoy of cycle parks! Opened in July last year, it has become a buzzing hub for bike enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. What we really love is the rubberised area for beginners, perfect for those trying to work up the courage to put their feet on the pedals, plus the road layout is superb for encouraging road awareness and cycle proficiency without the hazards. It is designed like a mini Faringdon, complete with local landmarks, and was built in consultation with a specialist ecologist company to protect local wildlife during construction. A big shout out has to go to Farcycles for delivering this wonderful facility for the community. They will also be offering FREE teaching sessions here every Sunday from March 2020, as well as morning sessions during half term. These will be suitable for adults and children, including absolute beginners to cycling, those on stabilisers and those who just need a bit of a confidence boost. To read more about it and register your interest, see here.

FREE

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: 66 bus from Gloucester Green bus station to Faringdon Market Place then a short walk.

Faringdon Cycle Park (Picture Credit: Farcycles)

Minster Lovell Hall, Witney

An absolute delight, especially in the summer. Set on the banks of the River Windrush in Witney sit the historic ruins of Minster Lowell Hall, built in the 1430s. Adults and children will be wowed by the picturesque ruins and enjoy settling down for a picnic on the banks of the river — a very popular spot for a paddle.

FREE

35 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: S2 or 233 bus from Gloucester Green bus station to Minster Lovell then a short walk to Minster Lovell Hall.

All Things Wild Dinosaur Experience

All Things Wild, Evesham

This place has something of a cult following so it’s likely that you’ve heard of it, or maybe been here before. You’ll find animals, dinosaurs (LOTS!), diggers, 3 large outdoor play areas and lots of indoor activities too, including a HUGE soft play. We loved the otters best, closely followed by the grumpy camels. Children can get up close with the animals in one of the daily petting sessions or walk through an actual enclosure! The ‘Step through Time’ Dinosaur Experience has a Diplodocus, Plateosaurus, Allosaurus, Triceratops and more. The Dino field can be explored by foot or board the Dino Train for a guided tour, we opted for the train as it was so muddy. For more head to the Dino Barn, complete with CGI aquarium and full size Jurassic and Ice Age animals, the Woolly Mammoth is awesome! We can see why people love it.

55 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public Transport: Great Malvern train from Oxford train station to Honeybourne then a 5 minute walk from there.

Crocodiles of the World

Crocodiles of the World, Witney

If you have a croc-mad little one then this is the place to bring them! Home to one of the widest collections of crocodiles, alligators and caimans in Europe, over 100 individuals represent 17 different species. The underwater viewing tanks are great for little ones keen on a closer look, make sure you catch the daily croc feeding, an awesome sight! It’s not just crocs you’ll see here though; meerkats, otters, tamarins, snakes, giant tortoises and a Komodo Dragon (eeek!) are all residents too. We are thinking of getting our animal loving son a meerkat experience for his birthday, we’ll let you know if he likes it!

30 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: The nearest train stations are Charlbury and Finstock, 8 and 12 miles away from Crocodiles of the World.

Wittenham Clumps, Didcot

Another that made it onto our ‘5 best hills to run down in Oxfordshire’ list. Expect panoramic views of South Oxfordshire, wildflower meadows and the kudos of saying you’ve run among England’s oldest known hilltop beech trees which adorn the clumps. It’s worth coupling your visit here with one to the nearby Neptune Woods or an event at Earth Trust, a hive of muddy activities for children.

FREE

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Tackley Adventure Playground, Kidlington

You have probably heard us raving about this before! Happened upon by accident, we were pretty amazed to see this in the middle of a quiet little village. Opened in June 2014 after some serious investment, it’s packed full of exciting play equipment. Our little one loves the ground level trampoline and huge combine harvester whilst our older son enjoys whizzing (pretty fast!) on the zip wire and scaling the challenging climbing frame and wall. Swings, tunnels, slides and a roundabout complete this gem of a playground. The village shop and café next door provide welcome hot drinks on cold days.

FREE

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: S4 bus from Magdalen Street to Tackley Village then a short walk.

Wytham Woods

Wytham Woods, Oxford

Although Wytham is probably best known for being one of the most researched areas of woodland in the world, it’s the potential for adventure which bring families here. Quiet and peaceful with ready-made dens to hide in, fallen trees to clamber over, wildlife to spot, and very very tall trees to gaze up at; Wytham will make even the biggest of grown-ups feel small. Well worth a visit in May for the Bluebells.

Apply here for a free permit.

FREE

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public Transport: 6 bus from Oxford City Centre (Magdalen St) to Wolvercote, 1.3 miles from Wytham Woods.

Abbey Meadow Park, Abingdon

The re-vamped £320,000 play park opened in 2017 with lots to keep little ones busy including climbing frames, sensory area, play garden, trampoline and all the usual play equipment. The outdoor pool and water park was also refurbished to the tune of £1.3 million-it’s amazing! Closed for the winter months, keep this place in the forefront of your mind for the summer when it really comes into its own!

FREE

20 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: 4, 4A or X3 from Frideswide Square to Abingdon Town Centre then a short walk.

Thrupp Lake, Abingdon

A calm oasis…even with children! There is something a bit special about Thrupp Lake; take the one mile circular walk and listen to birdsong, spot herons and swans or maybe even an otter! Last time we were there we spied a few fairy doors - the magic lives on!

FREE

20 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: The nearest train station is Radley, 1.7 miles away from Thrupp Lake. Alternatively, take the no.35 bus from St Aldates to Gooseacre, 0.9 miles from Thrupp Lake.

Tractor at Harcourt Arboretum

Harcourt Arboretum, Nuneham Courtenay

Although well known, it’s always surprising how many people have never visited the Arboretum before. 130 acres will wow and delight, including some of the oldest redwoods in the UK, wildflower meadows and bluebell woods. The infamous peacocks are aplenty, but be warned they will want to share your picnic and aren’t shy about talking food right out of your hand! A real static tractor to sit on is a dream come true for little ones and don’t forget to visit the pigs too. Seasonal trails, holiday activities and regular events make the Arboretum a go-to for the whole family.

The Arboretum is open Monday to Friday 10am — 4pm and closed at weekends until March.

For the diary: Waking Up After Winter half term craft activities

15 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: X39 or X40 from St Aldates to Bladon Lane then a short walk.

Waterperry Gardens, Oxford

The formal gardens are beautiful all year round, especially in summer when the flowerbeds are a spectacular sight with a vast array of colours on show. Throughout the year there are popular hunts and trails around the gardens, but actually the loveliest thing is to let the little ones run free on the lawns. The tearoom is the perfect spot for some lunch: take a seat at one of the outdoor tables, watch over the children as they explore the play equipment and relax. Sigh.

For the diary: School holiday trails in the gardens

15 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: 280 bus from Oxford train station to Church Road in Wheatley, 2.7miles from Waterperry Gardens.

Waterperry Gardens play equipment

Aston’s Eyot, Oxford

Widely regarded as one of Oxford’s best kept secrets (sorry, not anymore!), this previous 30 acre old rubbish dump is now home to roe deer, rabbits and badgers, as well as over 100 species of birds. A beautiful place to while away an afternoon spotting animals.

FREE

A short walk from the centre of Oxford

Thames Path

Thames Path

The Thames Path follows the River Thames from its source in the Cotswold Hills and meanders 184 miles to the sea. Whilst we are not suggesting that you take your Little Oxplorer out for a 184 mile toddle, the Thames Path is definitely worth strolling along. Pick it up at various points in Oxfordshire and enjoy some notable stops along the way including Wallingford Castle Meadows and Wittenham Clumps.

FREE

Pick up at various points throughout Oxfordshire.

We are all about the outdoors at Little Oxplorers, but there are some places worth venturing inside for. Here are our favourites…

Clip n Climb, Bicester

We are pretty obsessed with this place and have been about 8 times since it opened last year. It literally never gets boring as there are more then 20 climbing lines to try with varying degrees of difficulty. For the open climb sessions, climbers need to be 4+ years old but toddlers, 2+ years, are able to climb during the Rhyme ‘n Climb sessions and monthly Family sessions.

25 minutes by car from Oxford.

Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, Hampshire

Just WOW! A family-friendly hands-on science and technology centre with the largest standalone planetarium cinema in the UK, offering a 360 degree full dome experience! There are two floors packed full of 100 interactive exhibits, all designed with children in mind, and regular events for the under 5’s.The new immersive zone Explorer: Space, the UK’s ultimate space adventure, is now open for business!

For the diary: A packed schedule of events

60 minutes by car from Oxford.

Public transport: Train to Winchester then the no.64 bus from The Broadway.

All timings are approximate and calculated from Headington roundabout using Google Maps. Public transport options have been given where available. Please check for opening times before setting off on your journey.

We hope this inspires you to continue adventuring near and far. Follow us on Facebook for more outdoor adventures!

Little Oxplorers

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Exploring the outdoors in Oxford and beyond one little step at a time. Join us for adventures big and small!

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