Fun in the beautiful outdoors
There are some fabulous green spaces in Oxford and the surrounding area which are perfect for a (weather-dependent) day out. Here are some of our favourites:
Throughout lockdown, a number of Earth Trust sites have been accessible to visitors with social distancing in place. Whilst their farm and visitor centre is closed, the nearby Wittenham Clumps offer picturesque views of the surrounding villages. Each of their sites allow walkers, families and everyone else to explore the beautiful area. For a full list of places they manage, take a look at their website.
To manage visitor numbers the Gardens have introduced time slots (every 30 minutes) and it is advised you book online beforehand. You will have up to two hours to enjoy the Garden and Arboretum. Toilet facilities are currently closed, hand sanitizer dispensers are available on entrance and the Botanic Garden’s conservatory is open, running a one way system.
With the Story Museum’s reopening sadly delayed, they are bringing back their popular story walks to enjoy instead. Story Leaders will take people on a walk through Christ Church Meadow while spinning a yarn, as well as playing riddles, games and races along the way.
Reopening on the 18th July, High Fly Trapeze will be running sessions throughout the summer. Class sizes are capped and there are enhanced safety measures in place (platform assistants will be wearing latex gloves and a face visor, students will be required to sanitize their hands before climbing the ladder and boxes will be provided for personal items). Classes run Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays from 3 to 7pm, and Saturdays & Sundays 10am to 6.30pm.
Where to find animals
Many of the surrounding zoos and farm parks have taken tentative steps to reopening in the past few weeks. The following are now open again:
Cogges’ 15 acres of open space are now open again and people are free to picnic and take in the meadows, orchards and woodlands. The site is now cashless, and numbers are being limited, with a one way system in place. All play areas, the Manor House, dairy, soft play and barns are currently closed until further notice. The site is open from 10am for season ticket holders and 11am for general entry, with Cogges closing at 4pm. Their café is open for takeaway drinks, ice cream and snacks from 10am to 3pm.
Chipping Norton’s own Fairytale Farm is back open daily from 10am to 5pm. They are restricting numbers, with your online-purchased ticket giving a 30 minute window for arrival - visitors are then allowed to stay as long as they like. There is now a one-way route around the farm, with protective screens in the café, admissions and ice cream kiosks, and social distancing in place across the site. The adventure playground is open and there will be slots for animal petting throughout the day.
Spread across 160 acres of parkland, Cotswold Wildlife Park has ample space for social distancing, and has adapted to the demands of Covid restrictions. The park is open 10am to 6pm daily, with last admissions at 4pm. The owners are advising visitors seeking to avoid queuing to arrive first thing or any time after 12.30pm. They have installed additional hand washing facilities as well as a one-way system for the Lake walk-through. Keeper talks are currently cancelled, and the restaurant and indoor exhibitions remains closed.
A Cotswolds institution, Crocodiles of the World is back open and has split opening hours into two sessions, 9am to 1pm and 2 to 6pm, with a cleaning session in between. Numbers are limited and you will need to pre-book your tickets. There is a one way system around the centre and both the Croc Café and shop are open.
Faringdon’s own farm park is back open, utilizing its expansive open space for social distancing. They’ve updated their picnic area to fit current regulations and upped the hand washing facilities. Tickets need to be booked online and you can reserve a table for the day, for refreshments to be provided. Farmer Gow’s is open Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday & Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
The much-loved animal hospital is allowing visitors on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets need to be purchased online beforehand and some exhibits will remain closed, but their outside trail will be accessible to visitors, as will the permanent hedgehogs.
The goats are ready to welcome back visitors, with numbers on the farm being capped at 30 people. The centre is open 10am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday (as well as on Mondays during the school holidays). From 20th July, groups of up to 12 will be able to book a private slot between 5 & 6pm.
You can also support the Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary as they fundraise to build a new visitors centre.
As we are now able to venture back indoors, Oxfordshire venues are adapting to meet customers' needs and offer all the fun activities we’ve missed out on:
Thirsty Meeples is back and has moved two doors down, giving them twice as much space for people to play games in. The team have adapted their model of board game hire to fit the latest government advice. They will now be running full table service for food & drink and games, so only their game gurus will have access to the game libraries. All played games will be quarantined for 24 hours, there will be cashless payment at tables and there will be breaks between bookings for cleaning. The café is open Sunday to Friday 11am to 11pm and Saturdays 11am to 11pm.
Blackwell’s are also getting in on the board game fun with a pop-up board game café. You’ll be able to play in a family or social bubble and a games champion will introduce games to you, helping with set up.
The gates have been reopened at Oxford’s own castle. There is a new arrival zone, reduced tour capacity, hand santiser and markings around the site as well as a push to use card over cash when in the castle. You are advised to book your tickets in advance and arrive 15 minutes before your tour. The Castle & Prison are open Friday to Monday, 10am to 4.30pm, with tours every 30 minutes.
Westgate’s escape room is back open for social bubbles. Booking is now online or on the phone only and groups will need to check in together. The rooms will be deep-cleaned between games, arrival times are staggered and there will be washing stations on site. Escape Hunt is open 10am to 10pm, Thursday to Sunday.
The Westgate’s basement minigolf hub have put measures in place to allow them to reopen. Additional signposting around the three courses will highlight social distancing, the courses and surrounding areas will be cleaned every 30 minutes and the equipment will be cleaned after every game. The site is now card payment only and drinks can be ordered through their online menu (accessible via a QR code).
Kassam Stadium’s escape room is set to reopen on 31st July with venue adjustments in place to keep everyone safe. Visitors are asked to arrive 15 minutes before their booked slot and to book online or over the phone beforehand. The site is open Monday to Thursday 12 to 9pm, Friday 12 to 11pm, and Saturday & Sunday 9am to 11pm.
Oxford’s galactic-themed indoor golf centre has reopened. Social distancing rules apply, with a limit of 5 players from 2 households per booking. You’ll need to book in advance and arrive 5 minutes before your slot. Gravitee Golf is open from 12 noon on weekdays and 10am on weekends.
For those who are missing pottery cafés, why not pick up one of Busy Brush Café’s craft kits? As well as having reopened for pottery sessions in-house, Busy Bush have adapted to also allow customers to get crafty at home. You can hire underglaze paint sets which can then be brought back to the shop to be glazed and fired, or acrylic paints, which aren’t waterproof but don’t need to be returned to Busy Brush. They also have decopatch and pixel mosaic kits, so there are multiple ways to get involved.