Short winter walks & top tips to get the family outdoors in Bucks, Berks & Oxon

Short winter walks & top tips to get the family outdoors in Bucks, Berks & Oxon

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, relish the rain pattering on your hood, and delight in those moments when the air is crisp and the sunlight sparkles on the frosty landscape.  But how do you prise your family away from their nest on the sofa?

The National Trust has shared its top tips for persuading the family outside and some glorious places to explore on your winter walks in Bucks, Berks and Oxfordshire.

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Photo by James Dobson

Tips and Tricks for hooking them in

For children: Don’t say, ‘We’re going for a walk’, or eyes will roll. Call it something else. Suggest going out to splash in puddles, to make coat parachutes in the wind, to go on an obstacle course or track wild animals, and see the response change!

Take props: Bring some binoculars for a different perspective or to spot birds. Borrow a well-behaved dog – holding the lead thrilling for children. Or take a litter picker and bag, giving them a purpose and a virtuous warm glow.

Tempting tricky teens: How do you get them off their phones? Plan a winter walk with friends of similar aged kids – FOMO is a great motivator. Bribe them with the promise of a crisps in a pub or hot chocolate and cake in a café.

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 might just find that you get your gorgeous, red-cheeked, laughing child back from the dark side.

Around Buckinghamshire

Explore the National Trust managed areas of the Buckinghamshire Chilterns.

Hughenden Woodcock Walk (nr 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. As you pass through the gate into the sloping fields, you’ll see far-reaching views across the valley. 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

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Hughenden parkland by Hugh Mothersole

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 thermals in extraordinary air displays.

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

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Watlington Hill by Hugh Mothersole

Around Berkshire

There’s some glorious countryside to explore in this area, with plenty of family friendly walks.

Basildon Park parkland walks (nr Reading)

There are four way-marked walks at Basildon Park, from half a mile to 3 miles long. There’s a little natural play area near the Stableyard and then 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

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Basildon Park winter walk by Trevor Ray Hart

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

The Wind in the Willows walk 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, 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 teen families, there’s a longer, 5 mile route, and there are a couple of pubs on the way for fizzy and crisps.

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

Around Oxfordshire

Greys Court is situated in some beautiful countryside parkland near the market town of Henley on Thames.

Greys Court Estate Walk (nr 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 or chalk extraction, 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

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Image Hugh Mothersole

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