Family days out in the Cotswolds
PUBLISHED: 09:57 23 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:29 23 August 2016
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Cotswolds as an Area Of Outstanding Beauty, there's plenty going on to fill the end of the school holidays with fun and activities
Laurie Lee, writing of his Cotswold childhood summers in Cider with Rosie, described “All sights twice-brilliant and smells twice-sharp, all game-days twice as long.” And so it is for the summer holidays, stretching ahead with their possibilities – perhaps also inducing in some parents a quiver of panic as they wonder about filling their children’s “twice-long” days in ways that don’t involve huddling, whey-faced, over computer games.
Luckily of course, there’s a natural advantage to living and playing in the Cotswolds, never more apparent than in this celebratory 50th year of its designation as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): the freedom to simply roam and fly kites on Rodborough, Selsley or Minchinhampton Commons, to picnic on Painswick Beacon or Coaley Peak. To wildlife-watch in nature reserves, head off together on bikes (gentler journeys in the south), have an adventure geocaching along the Cotswold Way, or go walking – plenty of ideas for all abilities at www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk.
You could even take a tip – or dip – from Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming (Wild Things Publishing), which revives the excitement of paddling, picnicking and playing along the riverbanks, enthusing about spots like “the Windrush ... lined with reeds and bullrushes”, Minster Lovell, Asthall and Burford common. “Or you can dip in the Evenlode, near where some of the first dinosaur fossils were found, at Stonesfield. Here there is a lovely grassy meadow with a footbridge, perfect for Pooh sticks”.
Remember, too, “Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well” (George R R Martin, A Game of Thrones), so make the most of the great activities on offer at this time of year – we’ve picked just a few highlights – and create some golden memories.
See what archaeologists unearth as they excavate more of the North Range of the fabulous Roman Villa at Yanworth (August 15-25). Family fun activities throughout August include making mosaics and dressing up like Romans.
Join Ratty, Mole, Badger and the excitable Mr Toad for a swashbuckling outdoor theatre production of this much-loved tale, in the grassy courtyard of the Cotswolds Discovery Centre at the Old Prison, Friday, August 26.
Head for Alex James’ Farm, Kingham, for the feelgood festival of food and music for all the family (August 26-28). This year there’s even a Family Olympics – including egg-and-spoon and sack races – to keep you on your toes.
August is bursting with Drop in Family Activities at Museum in the Park, Stroud: from making Victorian illusion toys or peg dolls, to getting creative Dreaming of Dragons. Also do some fossil rubbing to make dinosaur wax crayon pictures to take home.
The Big Batsford Bug Hunt is on throughout August, so get on the trail of creepy crawlies – ladybirds to grasshoppers – hidden around the arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh. Mark their locations on your map to win a prize!
As well as the intrigue of exploring the real castle, every Wednesday in school holidays you’ll find a bouncy castle – plus history and time travel shows with Condensed Histories, Dragons Tales from Agent Green: The Dragon Whisperer, and other family entertainments.
Find out all about rhinos during Rhino Month (August) at Burford’s Wildlife Park & Gardens, with daily talks at 2pm (did you know these great beasts, weighing 1,440–3,600kg, can reach speeds up to 25mph?). Meet gibbons and big cats, and learn about conservation.
Adding to popular favourites like the Grand Parade of prize-winning animals, this year there’s a new Rural Attractions area where you can try fly fishing and shooting. Even Tractor Ted is visiting the show. Make a date: Saturday, September 3.
Sunday, September 18, 10.30am-4pm
National Trust’s Lodge Park, Aldsworth, near Cheltenham
This brand new outdoor festival is a highlight of the Cotswolds AONB’s 50th anniversary year and the perfect crown to the summer. So come along and celebrate all that is created, produced and inspired by our outstanding natural landscape, in the wonderful setting of the National Trust’s Lodge Park.
See rural craftspeople in action, including a dry stone walling competition, and watch livestock displays. Try out the new Cotswold Electric Bikes and enjoy local music and dance performances. The Cotswold Food and Drink Marketplace is a must for lots of scrumptious goodies – which you can work off on a short guided walk with the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens. Or take a scenic tour on the Go Cotswolds minibus. Do leave time for tea and cakes at the Cotswold Lion Café! Adults: £4; children £1