Days out Oxfordshire: Sunny delights!

Round & About

The summer holidays are looming and no matter how much you try to organise and arrange for your little (and not-so little) ones to do, it’ll never be enough. Karen Neville serves up a few ideas…

We’ve been taking a tour of Oxfordshire and have a few ideas for you for the summer holidays. There are so many ways to entertain children whatever their age that you shouldn’t hear cries of “I’m bored, what can I do…?”

For the adventurous how about taking on the Oxford Spy Mission Treasure Trail? Your mission will take you through the city of dreaming spires, through years of history but you’ll need to be on your toes and track down the “student” who has been expelled for hatching a plan to burst the banks of the river. Can you solve the clues and shut down the machine before it’s too late? The trail is ideal for everyone aged six to 106. Solve the mission and you’ll be entered into a £100 monthly draw. There are lots of other trails, too, all around the county. Visit www.treasuretrails.co.uk. Also pit your wits against new game The Diamond Heist, by Didcot Escape Rooms; contact 07525 468924 or visit www.didcotescaperooms.co.uk

There’s more adventure to be had at the Escape Hunt Oxford in Westgate shopping centre. Step into a new world, get locked in a room, solve the clues to beat the clock and get out! There are a variety of games to choose from, each imaginative adventure takes place in a themed room designed with great attention to detail so you can lose yourself in the game. Choose from Alice in Puzzleland, Dr Who World’s Collide, Blackbeard’s Treasure, The Fourth Samurai and Escape the Wild West. Each presents a different challenge but can you find the way out? www.escapehunt.com

From the futuristic, step back in time to rural England in the 1920s and 1930s to Pendon Museum near Abingdon where scenes from the countryside are recaptured using models to explain a past era. The Vale Scene depicts the The Vale of White Horse, the Dartmoor scene recreates an imaginary Great Western branch line, The Seawall is a representation of the line from Dawlish to Teignmouth while the Madder Valley Railway is relic of early days of scenic railway modelling. With workshops, family trails and modelling sessions, it’s a great leisurely day out; www.pendonmuseum.com

For animal lovers, spend some time at the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary, Brightwell and meet some of the cute four-legged friends who are being cared for at the centre. There’s no entry fee but all donations are appreciated and staff at the sanctuary continue their vital work. For more about their work visit www.donkeyrescue.co.uk

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More animals to pet, feed and enjoy can be found at Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm near Faringdon. There’s an adventure play area for younger ones, too, with a bale climb, tractor yard and kidbine harvester. Find out more at www.farmergows.co.uk. If animals are their passion then put Millets Farm near Abingdon and Cogges Manor Farm at Witney on your list. Take a ride on the merry-go-round and enjoy loads of seasonal activities; visit www.milletsfarmcentre.co.uk

Cogges is a historic farmstead in the heart of the Cotswolds. As well as meeting the animals – the real stars of the show – enjoy the living museum at the manor house, picnic orchard, gardens and more; www.cogges.org.uk

Animals of a very different kind are on show at Crocodiles of the World near Brize Norton, discover a variety of crocs, get up close with a giant Galapagos tortoise or a Komodo dragon and perhaps even try your hand at a VIP keeper experience. It’s not all about the reptiles, there are also meerkats, otters and tamarins to meet – much cuter than some of the other inhabitants! For details about all this and animal encounters visit www.crocdilesoftheworld.co.uk

An entirely different kind of tale (tail) is on offer at The Story Museum in Oxford, exhibitions and galleries explore and celebrate stories in all forms. From June to August there are summer story walks to take you on a tour of the city. Follow Alice through Wonderland from 15th June to 8th September, fall down the rabbit hole and immerse yourself in interactive exhibitions. Saturday, 6th July, is Alice’s Day with activities to enjoy across the city all day. Summer story makers will look at Viking myths and explore the Jungle Book as never before, through hiphop, breakdancing and grafitti. Find your story at www.storymuseum.org.uk

After all that history how about letting off steam at Abingdon’s Abbey Meadows with a swim in the recently renovated outdoor heated pool – book a timed session to make the most of your visit. There’s also a free children’s water play park surrounded by a large grassy area, perfect for family picnics.  Make a day of it at the large children’s play area, hard-surface tennis courts and walk around the picturesque Abbey Gardens and grounds. Opening times & prices at www.better.org.uk

There are also stories to be uncovered at Oxford Castle and Prison too with 1,000 years of history to explore led by costumed guides. Climb the Saxon St George’s tower, one of the oldest building’s in the city and enjoy the views; go deep underground into the 900-year-old crypt; explore the confines of the Debtors’ Tower and prison; climb the mound of the motte and bailey and discover the vaulted well chamber. The castle also holds events such as the Shakespeare Festival, murder mystery evening and ghost tours. Visit www.oxfordcastleandprison.co.uk

Try something a little more relaxed after expending all that energy with a visit to Kelmscott Manor near Lechlade, the Cotswold retreat of William Morris. While the grown-ups enjoy the house and its beautiful gardens, there’s a manor house trail to follow, activities and workshops. www.sal.org.uk/kelmscott-manor/

A visit to Cotswold Wildlife Park is always a day well spent. On many summer weekends until the beginning of September take your family to enjoy the birds of prey demonstration. August is rhino month when the keepers will be giving a daily talk about the animals and the conservation work. Find out more at www.cotswoldwildlifepark.co.uk

More animals, 77 acres worth, can be watched and petted at Bucklebury Farm Park where you can get up close to deer, llamas and Shetland ponies, lambs, pigs, goats and calves in the farm and pat-a-pet area, including a new luxury guinea pig village that’s perfect for pampered pets! For details visit www.buckleburyfarmpark.co.uk

We’re lucky to live close to the Thames and one family-friendly highlight next month will bring you the world’s biggest classic riverboat collection  and vintage vehicles as well as shopping, children’s fun, food and more in Henley for great causes. The Thames Traditional Boat Festival runs 19th-21st July;  visit www.tradboatfestival.com

However you end up spending your summer hols, have fun! 

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Have a look at our other areas if you’re thinking of going further afield.

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