12 brilliant local family walks
If your house starting to resemble an obstacle course, it's time to force everyone outside. Here are our favourite Muddy walks in Bucks & Oxon.
Oof. It’s going to be a tricksy winter, this one. When it comes to entertaining the troops, we’re all eyeing up a long, unrelenting season, where the usual distractions – en-masse cinema visits, theatre shows, museums et al – are just not going to figure in the way they usually do.
So what are the alternatives? When push comes to shove and you just can’t bear another argument about the TV remote, it’s time to tog up and get outside. Enter stage left with Muddy wellies, our pick of the finest family walks – tried and tested -throughout Bucks & Oxon.
Gruffalo fans, ahoy! There’s a lovely little 1.5km orienteering trail around Wendover for the smaller Julia Donaldson fan (the woods are very deep and dark) but if you have older kids, there’s also a fab play trail peppered with climbing frames, pulley systems, rope walks and such like, to keep the engagement level high (note: the close-quarter fort and tunnels have been cordoned off due to Covid). There’s a bike trail too if you fancy adding some extra spice to your strolling.
Get your fill of epic panoramas by marching your brood up to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon on the Bucks/Beds/Herts border, which is part of the National Trust’s Ashridge estate – there’s a 7.2km trail from Bridgewater Monument to the Beacon here, which is perfectly do-able for older families. For smaller kiddies, you can set off from the Beacon’s nearby car park (with attendant ice cream van). The views are more than worth the effort, but it is quite steep and toddlers may demand to be carried either up or down. Or both.
Coombe Hill and Chequers Trail
Want to spy on Boris and Carrie? Well, to be honest, on this trail you don’t get that close but do get a glimpse of the Elizabethan splendour that is Chequers. This circular route is a relatively demanding 8 – 11.2km (depending on whether to want to take short cuts or not) so only to be attempted with older kids who really need wearing out. Take chocolate (and binoculars).
Black Park Country Park Habitat Trail
Hmmm, cauliflower fungus. Just the kind of thing I need to know all about. So, I for one, am very glad that south Bucks’ glorious Black Park has a 4km habitat trail where budding Attenboroughs can poke around in the leaves and discover all sorts about the various fauna and flora that prosper in the park’s lush 700 acres. Not doing it for you? OK, keep it fungi-free and hire a bike instead.
Turville TV Trail
This one will keep the avid TV watcher on their toes. Turville, such is its charm, has appeared in countless films and TV series and this quick 5.3km loop (1.5 – 2 hours) will take in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang windmill and various scenes from Midsomer Murders, Lewis, The Vicar of Dibley and even Killing Eve. It’s very close to Henley and Marlow too so you can rest up in luxury after your endeavours.
Chinnor Circular Walk
This route gives you either a 3.5km or a 9km option depending on party members and energy levels. But the long route also involves hiking up the side of the Chilterns so make sure you’ve had your Ready Brek. But there’s pubs both in Chinnor and Bledlow should you be needing further refreshment and, trust us, the views are worth it.
Yes, it’s National Trust so get your membership cards out but it’s also a godsend for children who expect something new to look at every 500 yards. There are bridges, follies and monuments galore, not to mention eerie Victorian grottos and massive Palladian-style temples. If you’re going to tire them out, do it culturally. Also, when it gets to the New Year, there’s a lovely 5.6km snowdrop walk, which may just make you all feel slightly more hopeful about 2021.
Buscot Red Walk
Another National Trust number but this time on the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire border. This 4.8km stroll takes in some of the Thames Path, a lock, a couple of bridges and two Second World War bunkers. All the greats, in an hour and a half.
Henley-on-Thames to Shiplake
A good one for just about all the family (apart from wilful toddlers who refuse the buggy yet have an unfathomable magnetism to deep water). The 4km route is tarmac for half the distance and there are no stiles, so even your arthritic knees can manage it. And you get glorious views across one of the more scenic stretches of the Thames.
Broughton Castle, Banbury
The beautiful, moated castle is closed now for 2020 due to Covid restrictions but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy tramping over the park land with this easy circular 4.3km trek. Starting in Broughton village and passing by the grand old house, you also touch upon nearby North Newington before heading back to your car and possibly a pint in the rather excellent Saye and Sele Arms.
White Horse Hill, Uffington
Few places can be more bracing than atop the Uffington White Horse. Well, that’s probably what those Iron Age folk thought when they built their fort at the highest point above sea level in the county now known as Oxfordshire. This walk is around 7km and also takes in Dragon Hill (where, so the story goes, St George slayed the dragon and its blood poisoned the earth) and part of The Ridgeway – the oldest road in Britain. A walk and a history lesson.
Chipping Norton to Over Norton
An easy, gentle 4k walk around the rather glorious environs of the Oxfordshire cotswolds that includes a river crossing, a meander into an ancient graveyard and the remains of an motte and bailey castle. Offspring still truculent? Bribe them with a burger and chips at a Chippy pub afterwards.