The best places to park your picnic
Pack your scotch eggs and lashings of ginger beer - we're heading to these 17 outdoor beauty spots across Bucks and Oxon to enjoy lunch al fresco in time for sun this weekend.
A beautiful wicker basket packed with fizz and crustless sandwiches or a glorified packed lunch with mountains of Tupperware and stodgy sausage rolls (guilty!) Fear not, our Muddy guide to lovely picnic spots will at least ensure the location is perfect.
Higginson Park, Marlow
Ticks all the boxes for the stress free picnic option. Lovely location by the river with plenty of grass for your spread, plus a large play area for kids (all free but there is a parking charge). You can buy freshly made pizza from The Resolute Café – they’re currently offering takeaway only, but there are benches outside – or nip to the high street for supermarket options. There’s usually an ice cream van in situ too. Once full up with mini Scotch eggs and sandwiches, take a walk along the river path and ogle the beautiful riverside houses with their private moorings and boats.
Canal side walks near Kirtlington offer numerous spots to have a picnic in the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside watching the narrow boats glide past, but it’s the old quarry that is Muddy’s favourite. Now a nature reserve, there’s a large open flat area that’s ideal for picnics, plus plenty of pathways through the wooded areas where you can scramble around with the kids/dog/on your own and feel at one with nature.
Broughton Castle, Nr Banbury, Oxon
A beautiful fortified Manor House dating back to the 1300s and owned by the Fiennes family (Ralph, Martha etc). The castle isn’t currently open but you can pay to picnic in the beautiful gardens on Wednesdays and Sundays. It’ll cost you £6 entry, but it’s worth it – this place is a stonker, and a worthy setting for the brilliant adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
Abingdon Lock, Oxon
The water meadows around this lock are gorgeous. You can take a wander to Abingdon Bridge which was originally built of stone in 1416. Also not far from the lock lies Andersey Island and mediaeval Culham Bridge. Numerous spots to put down your picnic blanket and enjoy the meadows and life on the water as the boats pootle by.
Stonor Park, Oxon
A beautiful setting with designated picnic areas, this lush parkland has 3 gardens – a 17th century Italianate pleasure garden with ponds and fountains, an old kitchen garden and an arboretum. The open parkland is home to an ancient herd of fallow deer that have provided venison to kings and queens for generations so watch where you place your picnic blanket. The Wonder Woods offers an extensive adventure playground with plenty of picnic tables to keep the kids entertained (£5.50, booking essential).
Willen Lake, Milton Keynes
Sometimes a picnic just won’t cut it and a full on BBQ is required. Willen Lake, with its numerous water sports plus land based activities like tree climbing and archery, has a designated BBQ area with barbecue stones provided on which to place your disposable barbie. You can picnic if you prefer and it’s all free to visit but you’ll need to pay to park.
Black Park, Wexham, Bucks
Another ginormous lake with designated picnic areas with tables so you don’t have to get all down and dirty on the grass. With over 500 acres of woodland, heathland and open spaces it’s a great spot to exercise the children and get a nature fix, plus you can hire bikes and pootle about for hours. Another freebie except for parking costs.
The highest point in the Chilterns is a great place to picnic on a summer’s day where you’ll find grassland filled with wild flowers and butterflies. In the winter, be prepared for a blast of fresh air that will knock your socks off. There’s a gentle one mile circular walk with panoramic views across the Aylesbury Vale and Chequers, or if you’re feeling really energetic you can do a 10 mile walk taking in Whiteleaf Hill and a much closer view of Chequers (bring binoculars).
Christmas Common, and Watlington Hill, Oxon
There’s a great choice of circular walks starting at the National Trust car park on Watlington Hill through woodland, fields and hamlets around Christmas Common. Choose from 2.5 mile, 3 mile or 6 mile routes or combine all three for a longer walk and end with a picnic on Watlington Hill with a view over the Vale of Oxford. If you don’t fancy a picnic you can always head to Muddy Award winner, The Granary Deli in Watlington to take advantage of their outdoor seating area.
From Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, Oxford
Hire a punt for up to 5 people at £22 per hour (rowing boats and pedalos also available) and fingers crossed you can watch your husband mess up with the pole and fall in the water (oh, just me?). South from the boathouse you’ll glide gently past the Botanic Gardens, through Christ Church College Meadows beofre you either take the river left past St Hilda’s College gardens under the miniature white bridges and back past the Botanic Gardens to the Boathouse. Or continue south towards the Isis, along the entire Christ Church Meadow to where the river opens up. If you decide to travel north from the Boathouse, you get to drift past Magdalen College Tower and up past the Angel and Greyhound meadows, past Magdalen College gardens and into the countryside. Bring a picnic and stop off when you see a lovely spot.
Waddesdon Manor, Bucks
Plenty of space to sit and enjoy your own picnic and admire the parterre, formal gardens and woodlands that surround this French Chateau style Manor House. If you want to save money on the grounds entrance fee (£11 adults, £5.50 children), you can stay near the park entrance and set up camp – it does mean you’ll miss out on takeaway ice-creams from The Treaterie, though. Open Wed – Sun, pre-booking for the grounds essential.
Wittenham Clumps, Oxon/Berks
Round Hill and Castle Hill make up the clumps which are steeped in history (Roman, Bronze and Iron Age) and an inspiration to poets and artists, such as Paul Nash who painted them many times. You can ramble up them and between them and take in the ancient trees, wild flowers and spectacular views before finding the perfect spot for your picnic. In an otherwise flat part of the Thames Valley, they’re also great for sledging in the winter.
White Horse Hill, Uffington, Oxon
A druid hotspot at this time of the year, the ancient white chalk horse carved into the hill is a breathtaking sight. Next to it is Dragon Hill, the mythical location (one of many) of the slaying of the dragon by St George. The blood was so poisonous that the the grass on the top has never grown back. A more plausible explanation is that is was a site of pagan ceremonies involving fire and sacrifice. The only time I’ve walked up it was on a New Year’s Day with a hangover and no sleep but the views made up for it and my kids loved the stories. Boom – a magical spot for a picnic.
Wendover Woods, Bucks
Great for wooded walks but there are also some open areas where you can picnic, plenty with views. BBQ stands are available free of charge so you just need to bring the charcoal and food, or you can hire a BBQ for the day. Cycling and treetop climbing are also on tap and if you want to work off the meat fest.
Burnham Beeches, Bucks
Soooo pretty here, my kids absolutely loved it. Many of the trees are several hundred years old, and it’s no wonder this ancient woodland is a nature reserve. Plenty of picnic tables, a cafe and many pathways through the woods, it’s also a favoured Pinewood filming location for Harry Potter, Goldfinger and the like so keep your eyes peeled for a film crew.
Hughenden Manor, Bucks
Another National Trust treasure in our area, this grand home of Benjamin Disraeli has the usual walled gardens, formal parterre and pleasure gardens that we expect for our money but you can ignore all that and spend a pleasant time picnic-ing by the clear stream at the entrance to the estate (Adults £8, child £4 – pre-booking essential).
Ivinghoe Beacon, Herts
Ok, so technically it’s in Herts but it’s another high point in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to which we can lay claim. There’s a car park close by if you don’t fancy too much walking and with nearly 360 degree views over Bucks, Beds and Herts it has ‘picnic spot’ written all over it.