Monday 14 December 2020
Guest writer, Vicky Harlock - a mum of three from Aylesbury and blogger at Free Time with the Kids - shares her favourite places to visit with the kids in the Chilterns AONB this winter.
I’m Aylesbury born and bred. I went to uni in Nottingham and the one thing that I missed the most was how green it is down here. I’ve tried moving away from Bucks a couple of times but I always come back! We are so incredibly lucky to have the Chilterns right on our doorstep - particularly with the kids. We’re a very outdoors-y family, and I think part of that is because we have so many amazing places to visit within just a couple of miles. If you’re not sure which areas fall within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty then have a look here.
Well, we really are spoilt for choice in the Chilterns. I’ve already got lots of reviews of various woodlands on my website, but I’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s the ever popular favourites such as Wendover Woods (and their Gruffalo Spotters 2 trail) and the Ashridge Estate. There are also slightly less well known woodlands such as Whiteleaf Cross, Cowleaze woods and Aston Rowant with its stunning views across the countryside (and the M40 but we just skip that bit). You’re pretty much guaranteed a glimpse of the noisy and majestic red kites (or Bucks Eagles as we like to call them in this house). There are loads of gloriously, muddy walks to be had in these woodlands during the winter.
King’s Wood near High Wycombe has got a permanent orienteering course set up for you to try out. Hodgemoor Wood near Amersham is a SSSI and has loads of walks, cycling routes and a bridle path for you to enjoy. Penn Wood has been on my to-visit list for ages. Smallest child actually has a tree dedicated in her name, which was given as a gift, but we’ve never actually visited. It does come highly recommended though!
There are a couple of lovely walks around Great Missenden that you can download from the Roald Dahl Museum website. They both start in Great Missenden where you’ll also find lots of independent shops, parking and a nice playground. Hughenden Park has a lovely playground and a streamside walk. There’s a fair few slopes so it’s good for burning off those mince pies. Dunstable Downs, and the walk from there to the Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, is our Boxing Day family tradition. It’s almost always windy up here so it’s guaranteed to blow away the cobwebs!!
To enjoy the stunning views across the Chilterns why not try a wander around West Wycombe Hill, along Ivinghoe Beacon or up to Coombe Hill monument. If you’re looking for something a little more accessible (and gentler on those legs) then the Phoenix Trail and Waddesdon Greenway are lovely walking and cycling paths to enjoy.
My kids LOVE snowdrops. They’re so beautiful and so tiny, it’s a great excuse to get everyone to stop for a minute and focus. As we start to get into January and February there are several local hotspots for snowdrops. The local National Trust properties such as Hughenden Manor, Waddesdon Manor and Cliveden all deserve a special mention as they’re so beautiful. Houghton Hall Park also has a brilliant display of snowdrops.
Chiltern Open Air Museum is AMAZING! Ok, it doesn’t actually reopen until March but it’s always worth knowing about. Wycombe Museum is a little hidden gem: it’s a very small, but free, museum that is incredibly hands-on for kids. They’ve packed a lot into a small space. Bekonscot Model Village is so quintessentially English! It’s not just one village, but actually several, all in miniature. Berkhamsted Castle is free to visit and used to be one of the most important castles in the country. It’s a brilliant place to let the kids run around the ruins.
The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden has now reopened and is currently offering guided tours that include some behind-the-scenes areas that visitors don’t normally see. Once you’ve had your tour there’s a brilliant park around the corner and some great family walks as well.
Tring is a little hotspot for free family days out in the Chilterns. There’s College Lake nature reserve, Tring Park and the brilliantly bizarre Tring Natural History Museum all within a few miles of each other. You’ll also find wonderful walks along the Grand Union Canal or around Wilstone Reservoir and the other Tring reservoirs. All completely for FREE!
The Chilterns AONB has got loads of amazing family days out, both indoors and outdoors. It doesn’t matter if you live locally, or if you’re just visiting, there’s such a variety of things to do. Make sure you have a look around the Chilterns AONB website to find your next day out!
Vicky is a mum of three from Aylesbury and runs Free Time with the Kids, a local family day out blog. She’s passionate about getting out and about with the family, but without spending a fortune! You’ll find reviews of woodlands, playgrounds, National Trust properties, museums and more across Bucks, Beds, Oxon and Herts on the website www.freetimewiththekids.com
If you are planning a visit, please plan and check before you leave home as many businesses are now closed or running at reduced capacity due to new restrictions. If you have visited us before, the experience you remember will not be the same. Respect the countryside and others around you, only park in designated parking areas, take care to follow social distancing rules, take your litter home and have consideration for the farmers and those who care for this special landscape.