What’s On locally this Easter? We know!
Slowly, slowly things are opening up. Here’s where to take the family locally over the holidays for a very welcome change of scene.
Can you see that? It’s the chocolatey hand of Easter, beckoning. Spring colours, burnished displays of marzipan, and children pinging off the walls with sugar. Each year somehow both a joy and a curse, Easter’s hurtling towards us with certain speed. We’ve only just got the kids into school, and they’re about to be turfed right back.
Enough to drive a woman mad? No, actually: not with our life-saving list of local things to do. Read on for how to engage those lovable rotters in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire this Easter break. (The best bit: this list includes genuine, real-life, in-person activities. This isn’t a drill. April 12 is a-coming.)
Kids climbing the walls? You can now (finally) send them out to burn some of that boundless energy. Try an Ultimate Activity Camp, happening in schools across Bucks and Oxon, for a whirlwind array of activities aimed at 4-14 year olds and taught by experts. Details of local camps and dates can be found here. Or, try an Easter Holiday Camp with The Little Gym for a combination of fun, sport, and creative activities, opening again on 1 April. The different classes span ages 3-12, and are run in covid-safe bubbles: you put your child into a block booking of either morning or afternoon sessions, and they remain with the same children throughout.
If you just want to go somewhere for the day, try the new adventure playground at Stonor Park, opening 2 April, for climbing nets, high bridges, look-out decks, and a tall tower boasting playground-wide views. The little ones can wear themselves out while you grab yourself a woodfired pizza from the new Hollow Hut café. It also looks like Go Ape Black Park will be open in time for the Easter weekend, covid-precautions-willing, so fingers-crossed we can drop the kids into 500 acres of track-and-trail-ridden woodland, soon to be wonderfully knackered.
Oxford’s favourite pastime, punting, was made for social distancing and is a great idea for a fun family day out. Magdalen Bridge Boathouse is open for the hols and you can hire boats to glide gracefully (potentially) down the River Thames.
Yes, we’ve all done a lot of wandering through nature recently, but it’s a guaranteed day out and is, you know, allegedly good for them. Plus, as more things open, you won’t have to trudge in circles through the same parks on end. The stunning and privately owned Buscot Park is opening its grounds and gardens again on 1 April, offering loads to nose about in: extensive pleasure gardens, an original kitchen garden now bright with spring bulbs, water gardens, and woodland walks aplenty. Blenheim Palace opened its grounds again on 13 March, so you can explore the formal gardens, do a loop around the vast lake, and admire the bright waving flowers.
Speaking of flowers, did you know that 350,000 tulips were planted at Waddesdon Manor in 2019? With lockdown hitting in March 2020, all those flowers bloomed behind closed doors so this will be the first chance to admire them in all their glory. At their best in the second and third week of April, the tulips will form a rolling carpet of colour, as yet unseen by any but a few gardeners.
SOMETHING FOR TEENS
We’ve all had enough of being locked indoors, so the brains behind Westgate Oxford’s Escape Hunt have created a game to be played outdoors, launching 12 April. Teens can choose between two themes Operation Mindfall (a James Bond-style adventure) or The Magic Portal (think mystical trolls, magic creatures) which will take them on a walking journey around central Oxford.
Got a thril-seeker or adrenaline junkie desperate to burn some energy? Theme parks are also opening on 12 April (yippee!) if you don’t mind travelling a little further afield to find the fun. For the world’s first 10 – yes 10! – loop rollercoaster (pictured) head to Thorpe Park with tickets starting from £35 (plus overnight accommodation is available if you want to turn it into a weekender). Or head to Alton Towers, from £34 per day, for David Walliams’ brand new Gangsta Granny ride, opening this spring, plus Cebebies land if you have the little people in tow.
SOMETHING TO PET
Petting farms are back! The Bucks Goat Farm in Aylesbury reopens on 12 April, meaning the children can meet goats aplenty, plus Barnaby the silver fox, inquisitive alpacas, and cuddly rabbits. There’s also a sand pit and café on site, and you don’t even have to book — just be aware that there might be waiting times if especially busy, as numbers will still be monitored. Also for littlies, the sensory Fairytale Farm, in Chipping Norton, is set to open on 12 April with a new Rabbit Walk and improved aviary.
The meadows and woodland of Cogges Farm near Witney have been open for ticket holders since 13 March, but the farmyard, garden, and play areas will be open to everyone from 12 April. As well as barnyard big hits (goats, sheep, pigs — the whole shebang) there’s also an adventure play fort, zipwire, and 17 acres of grounds: not bad. If you’re after something a little bit more mini, you can book experiences at the Kew Little Pigs farm in Old Amersham for 1 April onwards, and cuddle some pink micro piggies.
SOMETHING TO INVESTIGATE
Moulding some extra-curious minds? Get them solving puzzles in the fresh air with the Wendover Murder Mystery Treasure Trail or Oxford Spy Mission Treasure Trail, where they’ll have to think laterally and discover their surroundings afresh. The Chiltern Open Air Museum in Chalfont St Giles is also reopening its grounds and gardens on 26 March, with the museum shop opening 12 April. You and the kids can wander around the old buildings, talking history, even if you won’t yet be able to go inside the cottages. Plus, you’ll be able to see the working historic farm (with sheep, goats, cows and chickens) and the various small gardens, cherry orchard, and Dig for Victory allotment.
SOMETHING FOR MUM
You need a treat, too! Head on over to Highclere Castle on 12 April for its Spring Gardens & Champagne Picnic Afternoon Tea (OK slightly out of catchment, who’s looking?) — the children will be placated with a Garden Trail booklet and kiddie packed lunch while you tuck into a bespoke Highclere Castle tea box. We’re talking homemade finger sandwiches, cakes, fruit scones, and a half bottle of champers, all in the pretty spring gardens of Downton Abbey. It’s good to be back.
Alas, we’re not wholly out of the woods quite yet. But virtual activities are convenient, don’t require wrangling kids into a car, and (as we’ve all had to learn over the last year) can be genuinely engaging. Catch the final instalment of Whipsnade Zoo’s ‘Tails from the Zoo’ bedtime story on 28 March, and note that the past Zoo Tails are all still available to watch. Happening every Sunday since January, this has been a charming series of zookeepers reading beloved children’s books alongside thematic animals (ie, Anna Kemp’s Rhinos Don’t Eat Pancakes with, you guessed it, the rhinos).
Then, on 3 April, Bucks County Museum is hosting a session of Easter Fun with Mister Storyfella, where famous author and storyteller Clive Pig will share interactive Easter stories, poems, and music, designed for children aged up to 10. If your children are more into eating than creating, Mrs Bun the Baker is running an Easter Online Cooking Club from 2-16 April. A follow-up to her popular Feb half term club, this will see the children (and you!) learning to make hot cross buns, flatbreads, chocolate cookies, and more.
Or how about signing your kids up for spy school? On 5 – 7 April, the British Film Institute is hosting a virtual spy filmmaking workshop for 8-to-11-year-olds. During the £40 course, young spies will learn some of the secrets behind their favourite espionage adventure films, then work together in Zoom groups to write and star in James Bond-inspired films. Bets on how long it takes them to start demanding orange juice, shaken not stirred?
Has the TV and film awards season got your kids thinking about a career in the movies? Or maybe they’ve watched a fair bit of lockdown Netflix (hey, we won’t judge), and think they can do better? Running in Oxon, London and brand new to Bucks the Junior Drama and Film Company offers one-to-five day course (starting from £95) for kids aged 5 – 18 years, covering all aspects of the film industry from acting to make-up, visual effects, costume design, editing, plus popular circular skills workshops.
Elsewhere, Creation Theatre is running another virtual Put a Zoom Play on in a Week for the Easter hols, where the kids will work with classic stories on the theme of new beginnings, and adapt them into their own digital play. Sign up to either week 1 (5-9 April) or week 2 (12-16 April).