Free family fun

Summer fun for free

Many schools across the Four Shires will be breaking up for the 6 week summer holidays. Here we have some great ideas for family days out that won’t cost the earth:

Oxfordshire:

 Foxholes Nature Reserve, Bruern, Oxfordshire, OX7 6QE

Foxholes is a tranquil woodland sloping down to the River Evenlode with year-round colour and wildlife interest but particularly noted for its springtime bluebells.

Managed by Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust, this 165 acre reserve has a 1.75 mile Wildlife Walk clearly marked with badger waymarkers.

Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve. Bampton, Oxfordshire, OX18 2EH

Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust’s largest nature reserve, covering 250 ha of the Upper Thames floodplain. The reserve is of national importance for its species-rich wetland meadows that support large numbers of now scarce ground-nesting birds, and provides a haven for curlew, snipe and reed bunting.

Bishop’s Palace, The Mount House, Church Green, Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 4AZ

The remains of the ‘Bishop’s Palace’ are situated in the grounds of Mount House, just east of St Mary’s Church in Witney. In reality the ‘palace’ was a manor house, one of the earliest and largest of its type, the working centre of the estates owned by the Bishops of Winchester. Archaeological excavations have revealed a series of stone buildings arranged around a courtyard and surrounded by a wall and moat. Part of the original building has been unearthed and is on display under a permanent awning with some interpretation boards to help give an understanding of the original buildings size and scope.

Kilkenny Lane Country Park, Elmhurst Way, Carterton, Oxfordshire, OX18 1EY

Set within 50 acres Kilkenny Lane Country Park is an ideal location for playing, walking, jogging, horse-riding or simply relaxing with a picnic. There are 2.5km of footpaths (suitable for wheelchair and pushchair access) and bridleways as well as an adventure play area.

Minster Lovell Hall and Dovecote, Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire, OX29 0RR

Ruins of a large 15th century manor set around a courtyard. Situated in attractive settings on the banks of the River Windrush. A skeleton found in 18th century is said to be that of Lord Lovell. English Heritage site. External viewing at any reasonable time.

Rollright Stones, Little Rollright, Oxfordshire, OX7 5QB

The Rollright Stones are a group of prehistoric megalithic monuments built from large natural boulders found within about 500m of the site. The stones are naturally pitted, giving them extraordinary shapes.

The Oxfordshire Museum, Fletcher’s House, Park Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1SN

A large 18th century house in the historic town of Woodstock provides a home for the County’s collections, touring exhibitions, a stunning garden, Museum shop and cafe complement the permanent displays.

 Wychwood Wild Garden, High Street, Shipton under Wychwood, Oxfordshire, OX7 6DG

Wychwood Wild Garden covers 12.5 acres of avenues, woods and ponds,much of which was laid out in the 1860s, and provides a haven for wildlife including many breeds of ducks and birds. It is owned and managed by the local community and offered as a place of peace and tranquillity to local residents, guests and visitors to the area.

Warwickshire:

The Battle of Edgehill Radway Exhibition, Saint Peters Church, Tysoe Road, Radway, Warwickshire, CV35 0BS

A free and interactive visitor exhibition adjacent to the Battle of Edgehill battlefield and permanently installed within the beautiful surroundings of St Peter’s Church in the village of Radway.

The exhibition is a modern and permanent visitor hub for one of England’s most historic battlefields. Information boards, artefacts, specially commissioned films and interactive displays explain the events of the momentous battle and relate the impact it had upon the ordinary people of Radway and the surrounding area.

The exhibition forms the perfect base from which to explore the battlefield, the surrounding landscape and this historic village.

www.BattleOfEdgehillExhibitionRadway.org.uk

Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum and Tourist Information Centre, Royal Pump Rooms, The Parade, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV32 4AB

Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum provides opportunities for everyone to benefit from, enjoy and participate in the creation, interpretation and preservation of the Arts and Heritage.

Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum, maintained by the Warwick District Council, and with Free admission, is located in the Royal Pump Rooms, on the north side of the bridge at the bottom end of The Parade adjacent to a green space. This grand structure attracted many visitors in times gone by, expecting cures by bathing in pools of salty spa water.

Oxhill (Redwings) Horse Sanctuary, Warwickshire CV35 0RP

This lovely visitor centre has been granted VAQAS status (Quality Assured Visitor Attraction) and is home to adoption equines. Among the residents there is a very cute group of miniature Shetlands and a delightful herd of donkeys who would just love to make your acquaintance!

There are regular guided tours of the centre and deMontrations of horse care given by the equine centre staff as well as the chance to cuddle the residents of course!

Summer Opening times: open every day, 10.00 to 17.00.

The National Herb Centre, Banbury Road, Warmington, Near Banbury, Warwickshire OX17 1DF

The National Herb Centre is more than just a commercial garden centre, it provides something for everyone for a great free day out. Located on the B4100 just outside Warmington Village, 5 miles north of Banbury and 11 miles south of Warwick.

Nature Trail & Gardens – Entry to the nature trail and display gardens is free. Explore the great outdoors and enjoy breathtaking views over three counties. There is also a natural play area which includes a labyrinth for children to explore and enjoy and a purpose built playframe.

Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Little Elborow Street, Rugby CV21 3BZ

The museum hosts a collection of Roman artefacts, excavated from the nearby Roman town of Tripontium. And also has a display of the social and industrial history of Rugby. Tue – Fri, 10am-5pm

Burton Dassett Hills Country Park, Southam, Warwickshire, CV47 2AB

Unspoilt, rolling hills – that’s what you will discover at Burton Dassett Hills. Whether you are walking, flying a kite or just sitting in your car, the magnificent views from these hills are breathtaking.

The site comprises a series of rugged hilltops affording spectacular views in all directions and Fox Covert, a small woodland with a surfaced footpath. Opened as a country park in 1971, the 100 acres contain a wealth of historical interest such as the prominent beacon, quarry remains and the nearby 12th Century All Saints Church. Car Parking £2 (correct change needed)

Northamptonshire:

Salcey Forest, Hartwell, Northamptonshire, NN7 2HX

Salcey Forest lies between Milton Keynes and Northampton – This ancient woodland, the remains of a Royal hunting forest, is now a great place for a Free forest day out.

Height of fun is the tree top way, a canopy walkway rising to a height of 20 metres, which kids adore. The tree top way rises to 15 metres above the woodland floor, with a crow’s nest platform at 20 metres reached by steps. The structure offers stunning views across Salcey Forest and the adjoining woodlands of Yardley Chase. Car Park charge of £3

Everdon Stubbs, Woodland Trust wood, Everdon, Daventry NN11

Ancient woodland with a mix of common and sessile oak, lowland birch, sweet chestnut and sycamore. Bluebells and rare wild daffodils provide colour in spring. It is believed part of a prehistoric burial site remains on the site’s northern boundary.

Daventry Country Park, Northern Way, Daventry NN11 2JB

Daventry Country Park is a popular park ideally situated in the urban fringe of Daventry within 1 mile of the town centre, easily accessible by car, bicycle or on foot with the benefit of cycle ways and footpaths from the surrounding areas.

There are circular, way marked and hard-surfaced trails through woodlands, meadows and close to the reservoir with wheelchair accessible bird hides to stop and view the wildlife. With its large reservoir where you can feed the ducks, adventure playground, numerous picnic spots, nature trail and a wealth of wildlife, Daventry Country Park is a great family day out.

Towcester museum, White Horse Yard, 163-165 Watling St, Towcester, Northants, NN12 6BU

A family friendly museum with lots of things for the children to do…Join Dorum,the friendly rat guide, who will tell you all the grisly facts about Towcester’s history. There is interactive games and e-learning, dressing up areas to try on historic costumes, plus worksheets, puzzles and quizzes!

Sywell Aviation Museum, Hall Farm, Sywell, Northampton, NN6 0BT

Sywell Aviation Museum (SAM) is a voluntary, non-profit-making organisation which aims to preserve the history of Sywell Aerodrome and Northamptonshire’s rich aviation heritage from the early days of aviation to the Second World War and beyond. The museum is free but donations are welcomed.

Buckinghamshire:

 Black Park Country Park, Black Park Road, Wexham, Buckinghamshire, SL3 6DS

Black Park consists of 535 acres of attractive woodland, heath and open spaces with over 10 miles of footpaths, tree-lined avenues and a 14-acre centrepiece lake. You can enjoy walks of varying lengths, cycling, horse-riding, running, or just visit the large woodland adventure play area. There are picnic areas, a cafe, visitor centre, orienteering course and also Go Ape! courses (admission charges apply for Go Ape).

Bourton Park, Old Bourton Road, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, MK18 7AB

A large informal park with a river running through it. There are picnic and play areas, a teenage area with a rebound wall and a basketball court. You may even spot an otter!

Buckinghamshire County Museum, Church Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 2QP

You can find plenty of kids’ activities at this lively, hands-on, award-winning museum in Aylesbury. Learn about the county’s heritage of art, history, archaeology, wildlife and geology. There are exhibitions to enjoy, an exciting programme of events and also the fabulous Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery (there will be a charge for this gallery).

Iver Nature Study centre, Slough Road, Iver, Buckinghamshire, SL0 0EB

A good family day out with lots of things to do. Explore this 2 acre wildlife garden, and take part in the environmental activities offered. Don’t miss the mini maze and assault course (A charge for this may apply).

MK Gallery, 900 Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK9 3QA

Renowned for exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, this public gallery also runs creative activities and workshops for families and children. www.mkgallery.org

The Horse Trust, Speen Farm, Slad Lane, near Lacey Green, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, HP27 0PP, 2-4pm daily

A great outing for the kids. Visit the retired horses, ponies and donkeys in this long-established and caring home. www.horsetrust.org.uk

Gloucestershire:

Belas Knap Long Barrow, Off B4632 Cheltenham to Winchcombe road, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, GL54 5AL

This excellent example of a Neolithic long barrow is on the Cotswold Way near Charlton Abbots, about half a mile from the road. It’s downhill on the way back! Get a good map and the kids can practise map reading.

Cirencester Amphitheatre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

The earthwork remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain, built in the early 2nd century to serve the city of Corinium (Cirencester), then second only in size and importance to London. Located west of Cirencester, next to the bypass. Access from the town, or along Chesterton Lane from the west end of the bypass, on to Cotswold Avenue. www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/cirencester-amphitheatre

Cleeve Common, off B4632 to Winchcombe, Cheltenham , Gloucestershire, GL52 3PW

Pack a picnic and take the family to blow away the cobwebs on Gloucestershire’s largest common, covering an area of over 1,000 acres. A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and part of the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s the highest point along the Cotswold Way and popular with walkers, naturalists, geologists, archaeologists, mountain boarders, kite fliers, riders and golfers. Hunt for fossils in Rolling Bank Quarry, enjoy wonderful views in all directions from the topograph and find the remains of the Iron Age hill fort. www.cleevecommon.org.uk

 Cotswold hills Geopark, Gloucester, Gloucestershire

Follow a geology trail and sift through spoil for fossils at one of the sites within the Geopark. Trail leaflets available.

Cotswold water Park, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6DF

A great day out with the kids, the Cotswold Water Park has lots for families to do and much can be enjoyed for free. The park covers 40 square miles with 140 lakes, nature reserves, trails, cycleways, public art, picnic sites, country parks, play areas, activities and lots of opportunities for watersports. www.waterpark.org

Tewkesbury museum, 64 Barton Street, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, GL20 5PX

One of the interesting free places to go in Gloucestershire is Tewkesbury Museum. Learn about Tewkesbury’s past as you study the model of the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury and see a variety of interesting artefacts at this family-friendly museum. Look out for special events and activities for families and children. www.tewkesburymuseum.org

These are just a few of the fantastic places around the area which cost little – nothing to visit. Just pack up a picnic and bundle the children in the car and see what this great area has to offer. It is best to check with the places before travelling encase of changes to the attraction, including opening times and any additional charges.

If you do visit any of these fantastic places, we would love to see pictures and hear your thoughts on them, to share with other readers. Likewise if you know of any great, local, free places to take the family this summer please contact us at cathy@fourshires.co.uk. We would love to hear from you.