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Short winter family walks in Oxfordshire and beyond

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Short winter family walks in Oxon, Bucks and Berks
Short winter family walks in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Image: National Trust / James Dobson

Get the family outdoors with these short winter family walks in Oxfordshire and beyond

By the end of January, we’ve had enough of hygge, log fires and long evenings in front of the telly. The hibernation phase of winter is starting to drag. Vitamin D levels are low, spirits are lower, and the family is climbing the walls.

The only way to smooth your way through to spring is to tackle it head-on. Throw everyone outdoors at every opportunity. Face into the wind and relish the rain pattering on your hood. Delight in those moments when the air is crisp and the sunlight sparkles on the frosty landscape.

If you’re thinking this all sounds great in theory, but how do I actually prise my family away from their nest on the sofa? Don’t worry. The National Trust has put together top tips for persuading the family outside with glorious places to explore on your winter walks in Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire.

The first top tip to hook children in is to think about what you call your outing. Announce: ‘we’re going for a walk’ and watch eyes roll. Suggest going out to splash in some puddles, make coat parachutes in the wind, go on an obstacle course or track wild animals and you might get a different response.  

Props can also help. Take binoculars for a different perspective or to spot birds. Borrow a well-behaved dog – holding the lead of someone else’s dog is thrilling for children. Or take a litter picker and bag, giving them a purpose and everyone a virtuous warm glow.  

When it comes to teenagers, there are only a couple of nudges that might tempt them away from their phones. Plan a winter walk with friends of similar-aged kids – FOMO is a great motivator. The alternative is bribery. The promise of crisps in a pub or hot chocolate and cake in a café might do the trick.  

If you do manage to get them out of the door into the fresh air, surrounded by nurturing trees and far-reaching views, we guarantee it will be worth it. You just might find that you get your gorgeous, red-cheeked, laughing child back from the dark side.  

Here are some great places for family winter walks around Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, courtesy of the National Trust.

Winter family walks in Oxfordshire

Greys Court winter woodland. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole
Greys Court winter woodland. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Greys Court Estate Walk (near Henley-on-Thames)

This 2-mile walk is easily followed as it’s waymarked by red arrows. You can ask at visitor reception where to start. You’ll walk through woodland with bronze beech leaves still clinging on to branches, ancient gnarled oaks and cherry trees. Look out for veteran trees with broken branches and holes where birds, squirrels and dormice might be nesting.

Children enjoy running up and down the steep sides of the lumps and bumps of saw pits and balance walking on fallen logs. You’ll amble through rolling Chiltern hills with restful views and farmland with grazing animals, so please keep dogs on leads. Head back to Greys Court for a hot chocolate or lunch in the Cow Shed tea room.

Normal admission (free to National Trust members)
Not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs
Dogs welcome on leads
Cafe

White Horse Hill (at Uffington, between Ashbury and Wantage)

The walk up the hill to the White Horse is not far, but it’s pretty steep. It’s aided by an exhilarating wind and stunning views across seven counties. You could take a kite as a distraction from the gradient. Or tell stories about the ridged giant’s steps, or how after the fight with Saint George, the blood of the dragon created a white scar on Dragon Hill that will never grass over. Myths and legends swirl around White Horse Hill, and you can’t help but be swept up in them. 

Free entry, Pay and display car park (no charge to members)
Not suitable for buggies and wheelchairs
Dogs welcome
Cafe

Sheep at White Horse Hill. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole
Sheep at White Horse Hill. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Buscot bridge, weir and wharf (near Faringdon)

This is a 3-miler, so for older children/teens. The walk follows a section of the Thames path near its source. The walk starts in the pretty village of Buscot and crosses the smallest lock on the River Thames. You pass two Second World War bunkers and a Wharf built by Edward Loveden in the late 18th century when the estate was at a prosperous high point. It was used for transporting cheese to London and coal back from London to the estate. There are lots of large and little wooden bridges to cross, farmland and lovely riverside views. Children can look out for kingfishers, otters and kites near the weir. 

Free entry, pay and display car park (no charge to members)
Not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs
Dogs welcome
Café at Buscot village (not NT)

Winter family walks in Buckinghamshire

Hughenden parkland. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole
Hughenden parkland. Image: National Trust / Hugh Mothersole

Hughenden Woodcock walk (near High Wycombe)

At Hughenden, the Woodcock Wood walk is a short 1.2m stroll through woodland perfect for den building. There’s lots of holly and yew, so there’s colour in winter, and you’ll find far-reaching views across the valley as you pass through the gate into the sloping fields. You might see red kites or kestrels soaring in the sky above.

And as you pass into the farmer’s field, you might see wrens, finches or yellow hammers darting in and out of the hedgerow on your right. The way back to the car park is along the Coffin Path – an ancient road used for transporting the parishioners of Naphill on their final journey to the church at Hughenden. Don’t forget to head down to the tea room afterwards for cake and hot chocolate.

Normal admission (free for National Trust members)
Not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs
Dogs welcome
Cafe

Stowe Lakeside walk (near Buckingham)

There are lots of bridges to trip-trap over on Stowe’s short 1.2m Lakeside Walk. The first is the elegant arc of the white wooden bridge, which was installed in 2011. The next is the Palladian bridge – one of only three in the country and the only one with no steps so that carriages can cross it. Not a regular occurrence these days, but you never know! You’ll head on past the Temple of Friendship, where buddies can renew their bond, then to the Pebble Alcove, where children love to run their fingers over the mosaic pattern. 

Normal admission (free to members)
Wheelchair and buggy-friendly
Dogs on leads welcome
Cafe

Watlington Hill short walk

This 1.5m walk at Watlington Hill is on the Bucks/Ox border, just off the M40 at Stokenchurch. Watlington Hill is on the Chiltern escarpment, and it’s a great spot to see birds of prey like buzzards, kestrels and sparrowhawks hunting the grassland. The views over the Oxfordshire vale go on for miles, and off the edge of the hill, silhouetted against the sky, you’ll see the red kites and even ravens tumbling and sweeping on the thermal in extraordinary air displays. 

Free entry, Pay and display car park (no charge to members)
Not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs
Dogs welcome

Winter family walks around Berkshire

Visitors in the woodland walk at Basildon Park. Image: National Trust / Trevor Ray Hart
Visitors in the woodland walk at Basildon Park. Image: National Trust / Trevor Ray Hart

Basildon Park parkland walks (near Reading)

There are four waymarked walks at Basildon Park – from half a mile to 3 miles long. There’s a small natural play area near the Stableyard and lots of den-building and hide-and-seek playing opportunities in the woodland. As you weave in and out of the trees, you get regular views across the parkland back to the house, so it’s easy to orient yourself. On a winter walk, the evergreens come into their own, with yew trees and cedars providing much-needed splashes of green. You might see robins and wrens and even a tawny owl sweeping on silent wings across the parkland.

Normal admission (free to members)
Suitable for off-roader buggies if it’s dry
Dogs welcome
Cafe

Runnymede (near Windsor)

Runnymede is famous as the site of the sealing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago – the first step on the long road to modern democracy. Today it’s home to a series of memorials and artworks in the landscape. It’s a brilliant visit for children as their walk is punctuated by all these exciting installations to explore. There are waymarked walking routes and a site map on the noticeboard, but it’s easy to see the path taken by most people. It’s also right next to a busy stretch of the River Thames, perfect for boat-watching. 

Free entry, pay and display car park (no charge to members)
Buggies and wheelchairs if it’s dry
Dogs welcome
Cafe

Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede. Image: National Trust / James Dobson
Magna Carta memorial at Runnymede. Image: National Trust / James Dobson

Maidenhead and Cookham Commons’ Wind in the Willows walk (near Cookham)

This is one for older families, as it’s a 3 miler. It goes through the attractive, unspoilt village of Cookham Dean along quiet country lanes and across common land, farmland and woodland. The route passes the boyhood home of Kenneth Grahame, author of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and you can look out for Badger, Ratty and Toad as you continue through Quarry and Fultness Woods, which were the inspiration for the ‘Wild Wood’ of the book. For families with teenagers, you’ll find a longer 5-mile route with a couple of pubs on the way for fizzy drinks and crisps. 

Free entry 
Not suitable for buggies or wheelchairs
Dogs welcome
Pubs en route


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