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Enjoying the Chilterns Countryside safely in Summer 2021

Thursday 22 July 2021

Throughout the pandemic, the Chilterns countryside saw more visitors than ever before, as many people discovered new walks on their doorsteps for time out and exercise, or sought outdoor attractions and pass times. This week’s lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions comes with advice to remain cautious in social interactions while enjoying getting together. The Chilterns countryside is expected to be busy this summer again, with many still favouring outdoor meet ups.

 

 

So where can you take the kids for some outdoor fun? Where are the special picnic spots, tranquil getaways, walks and cycle routes and other things to do outdoors? Here’s our guide to enjoying the Chilterns countryside this summer, with suggestions for outdoor activities and special locations, many of them away from the honeypot sites.

 

The Countryside Code

If you’re having a picnic, remember not to have barbecues unless signs say you can. And we know that you will – but a gentle reminder to take all litter home with you. Here’s the recently refreshed Countryside Code, the classic guide to enjoying the countryside safely and respectfully. 

Free outdoor activity ideas for families


Gruffalo Orienteering at Wendover Woods Download a fantastic augmented reality Gruffalo spotter app and pick up an activity pack for £3.50 at the visitor centre, then embark on a fun 2km trail for families with 3 – 9 year olds.

Family Activity Days and Kite Flying at Dunstable Downs From 30th July to 24th August, the National Trust are offering an outdoor sports village with borrow boxes and scheduled activities, from family bootcamps to football skills; soft archery to bike agility. If sports don’t float your boat, Dunstable Downs is also a great place for kite flying on a windy day.

Roald Dahl village and countryside trails A must for Roald Dahl fans, with games and activities to do en route. Visit the house that inspired Sophie’s orphanage in The BFG, Matilda’s Library, and Roald Dahl’s grave. Walk in the woods that inspired Fantastic Mr Fox.

Little Chalfont children's sensory board

 

 

Den building in Cowleaze Woods A fantastic free activity and time-honoured outdoor play for the whole family. Work together to collect natural materials and get building. Master the art with this den building guide by the Woodland Trust.

Little Chalfont Nature Park is a great hidden gem with marked paths, a storytelling circle, a sensory board and a natural play area to discover. Look out for the cherry orchard and traditional pits for extracting clay to make bricks, and a gorgeous wildflower meadow.

 

Outdoor Events & Activities 

Bucks Open Weekend is this on now until 25th July. 70 events are taking place across the county celebrating culture, creativity and stories. Enjoy brass bands, storytelling, literary walks and more.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Orienteering Prebook a free orienteering training session, and take part in a 1K to 2K trail before you explore this fantastic open air museum with historic rural buildings. 

Family Fun Day at Wycombe Rye Sunday 8th August 11am – 4pm. Take part in family friendly crafts, have a go at lace-making, and enjoy food vans, ferret-racing and face painting. Have a look at the visit Bucks blog for more summer ideas for children and adults.

Toby Trout Green Plan Art Trail takes place 28th - 30th August and Hedgehog Funday Sunday 29th August 2pm - both organised by Watlington Climate Action Group. Pick up a free map from the library or So Sustainable shop to follow the 1 mile art trail. Meet Hedgehog expert Hugh Warwick in the paddock with a hedgehog bakeoff and art activities.

Picnic spots with a view 

A dramatic sculpture at Aston Rowant nature reserve - image by Tony Hyde (educational purposes only)

 

RS4372_Chinnor Hill_Jim Asher_05 resized Aston Rowant Nature Reserve Enjoy woodland trails and marvellous hilltop views with your picnic. Follow the ‘Talking Trail’ – a series of wooden crafted sculptures with listening posts offering short audio clips inspired by the reserve. 

Chinnor Hill 28 hectares of flowery grassland, scrub and woodland, with breathtaking panoramic views. The Ridgeway Trail passes through for those who want a longer hike and a good stomp uphill. Wheelchair and mobility users can gain access to the top of the reserve via RADAR key. 

Whiteleaf Hill Also on the Ridgeway path, this chalk grassland reserve supports a diverse array of habitats. For history buffs, see the impressive Whiteleaf Cross, a 100 metre high chalk figure, and there’s also a Neolithic barrow and WW1 practice trenches.

Sharpenhoe Clappers is an Iron Age hillfort site and an ancient woodland and chalk escarpment offering fantastic views for your post walk picnic.

Sundon Hill is one of the highest points in Bedfordshire and offers waymarked walks taking in woods, chalk hillsides, grassland and picnic facilities. Visit in summer for colourful flowers and butterflies. 


Birdwatching and nature

College Lake This former chalk quarry reclaimed by nature offers the chance to follow a circular wildlife walk and see wetland birds such as Widgeon and Teal, skylarks, redwings and fieldfares, kestrels and barn owls. There are bird hides, a picnic area, a café and a shop. 

Weston Turville Reservoir A peaceful oasis of water, woods and wildlife, with bird hides where you might see tufted ducks, teals, shovelers, water rails, dragonflies and damselflies. 

Tring Reservoir/Wilstone Reservoir One of the best birdwatching spots in Southern England, great for reedbeds, wet woodland and open water habitats. It’s possible to see breeding terns and breeding oystercatchers, passage waders, and there’s a heronry. You can also walk along the Grand Union Canal and watch the boats go by.


Outdoor Cafes & Pubs 


Want to relax and chat outdoors? Look at our recent outdoor cafes blog for some hidden gems for a tranquil coffee meet up with friends, including some that specialise in local produce. 

Brakspear Pub Trails Like pub crawls and walking? Combine the two with this range of circular self guided pub trails taking in the finest countryside and the finest beer drinking establishments.  

 

Walking and Cycling

You can still refer to our socially distance friendly walks guide for some great routes between 2 and 6 miles long. Our interactive map lists many Chilterns cycle routes. Tick walks and rides, then cycling.

We’d like to feature Sustainable Wallingford’s printable leaflet of 3 Wallingford rides into the Chiltern hills and the Icknield Way for lots of on and off road sections, and the Bledlow circular ride for a 10 mile route with a pub stop.
 

Outdoor Swimming

Wild swimmers, by Leslee Barron

 


The pandemic saw a rise in the popularity of outdoor swimming. There are many beautiful spots for outdoor swimming in the Chilterns but it’s really important to learn how to judge safe conditions and risks, and never to swim alone. The Henley Open Water Swimming Club is a chance to swim with a group of experienced outdoor swimmers who welcome all experience levels. Their website has a map of good swimming spots. Visit the outdoor swimming society and the wild swimming website for advice on safety.

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