12 days of festive fun in the Cotswolds
PUBLISHED: 10:09 20 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:09 20 December 2016
Getting outdoors is great for physical and mental wellbeing, staving off the winter blues, and balancing the naughty-but-nice indulgences of Christmas. Sian Ellis picks 12 days of festive fun to enjoy in the beautiful Cotswold countryside
There’s no doubt the festive period is a wonderful time, keeping cosy indoors amid lots of eating, drinking and gift-giving. But there usually comes a stale-and-stodgy point, possibly after one mince pie too many, when you know you really need to break out for some fresh air.
Admittedly it can be tough to extricate yourself from the central-heating induced torpor, to turn off the TV, put down the tablet, close the laptop. But – deep breath, gasp – a quick hit of daylight and a frosty stride later, and suddenly you feel brand new again. Mood and energy levels switched back to positive. So we’ve come up with our own ‘12 Days of Christmas’ – 12 different ways this December and New Year to enjoy the Cotswolds outdoors: grabbing a fresh-air adventure, walking, cycling, or sharing a magical event, place or scenic view to revitalise mind, body and soul.
Season’s Greetings to everyone from the Cotswolds Conservation Board!
Step back in time for Christmas at Dyrham – A Wynter Season, exploring a 17th-century Christmas, inside and out, including the Deer Trail (December 3-23). You can also book to feed the deer before park opening, giving you a wonderful chance to see them up close in their winter coats (Dec–Mar 31),
A crisp day with frost tracing the outline of a Neolithic long barrow like Belas Knap or the ridges of Uley Bury Iron Age hill fort; a low sun casting shadows from the ancient Rollright Stones near Chipping Norton: winter is perfect for escaping to prehistoric sites. Simply let their mystery quietly embrace you.
Great walks, good company
Check out our calendar of walks, most led by Cotswold Voluntary Wardens, and share a ramble in good company, discovering history, wildlife and refreshing sights along the way. Roman Footsteps (December 7), A Circuit of Stow (December 15), and Hills and Valleys around Combe Hay! (January 1) are among the season’s offerings, For more winter walks in Cotswolds, have a peek at 7 more here.
Walks on wheels
Wrap up warm and take a spin along one of 15 Walks on Wheels through the Cotswolds AONB that can be explored by users of wheelchairs, power scooters and children’s buggies. Enjoy canal scenes on the Dundas or Bradford on Avon routes; village and park on the Badminton route; views from the escarpment on the Crickley Hill route,
Get a festive glow
Singing Christmas trees, sparkling hedgerows, a scented Fire Garden, the lake aglow with boats – explore the magical after-dark trail of lights around gardens and grounds during Christmas at Blenheim, followed by mulled wine or hot chocolate (November 25–January 2),
Trip the light fantastic
Immerse yourself in special evening magic at Sudeley Castle, too, following a trail of light to discover secrets of the gardens and the romance of the ruins during its Spectacle of Light (1–23 December),
Bird’s eye thrills
Looking from the escarpment over the Severn and Avon vales or gazing from Broadway Tower to the Welsh hills: such bird’s eye views give a thrilling sense of freedom guaranteed to set spirits soaring. You can also find lots of inspiring vistas in our 50th Anniversary book (a great Christmas present!),
Go for a spin
Frozen ground is ideal for off-road cycling – muddy is fun too! Breeze around Brailes Hill, skirt the scarp, swoop and loop around valleys. Or pedal with less puff to get the endorphins flowing – The Infant Thames route slips through quiet villages into the Cotswold Water Park. Find lots of route ideas at Escape to the Cotswolds.
I-spy family fun
Stretch your legs along the 2.5-mile (4km) family fun trail around the Sherborne Park Estate, through peaceful farmland, woodland and the village – and keep your eyes peeled for some amazing wildlife sculptures,
Stroll paths (including wheelchair/pushchair friendly) beneath trees illuminated with swirling colours against the dark evening sky, even talk to some and they will light up in reply: truly an Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum (Fri–Sun evenings, November 25–December 18),
Head for a nature reserve Like Browne’s Folly, Bathford, and look for animal footprints in the mud, old man’s beard, even a sparrowhawk. Pausing to focus on nature’s details, getting attuned to quiet rustlings or bird calls is a calming antidote to the loudness of modern life – and gets the kids away from their computer screens.
Let it snow – drops
Glorious drifts of snowdrops cascading around Painswick Rococo Garden, beginning in January and peaking in February, are the perfect pick-me-up sight to shake off any winter gloom. Spring is on its way!
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