Park Life: Oxford’s Top Parks and Open Spaces

The sun is just about starting to peak through the clouds and, as we all know, there’s nothing better on a sunny day than to loaf about in a park with a picnic and a Frisbee, or just wonder about among the flowers and trees enjoying nature’s finest delights.

But how can this be done in Oxford? You might be surprised at how many wonderful open spaces there are in this bustling University town. We’ve picked out just a few, and why you should really indulge in some outdoor living this summer:

1. University Parks

Arguably the best outdoor space right in the centre of town, University Parks (found off Parks Road) is a huge expanse of green space, including walk ways, cricket and rugby pitches and even a boules area hidden near the River. The Cherwell and its punting traffic winds its way along the end of the park, and its banks are a great location for a spot of summer picnicking.

 

2. South Park

As the name suggests, South Park is located slightly South East of the centre of Oxford, and is a great place for overlooking the city. It’s the highest and most expansive green space in Oxford and the panoramics of Oxford’s “Dreaming Spires” are a must-see on a clear day. You can also get to Headington Hill Park via a 19th Century bridge, and the new annual “Common People” festival is not to be missed!

 

3. Christ Church Meadow

Found at the St Aldate’s visitor entrance to Christ Church, this meadow is a wonderful place for a stroll (or jog if you’re up for it) in all weathers. Set against the beautiful back drop of the University on one side and the River Isis on the other, it’s a veritable haven of tranquility.

With the park’s large contingency of cattle (the rare English Longhorn, apparently), you could be mistaken for thinking you’d been transported back in time.

Indeed historically the meadow was a refuge against the Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War; and in 1784 was the site for one of the earliest balloon flights for James Sandler, “the first English astronaut”.

4. Port Meadow

Located just outside the city between Jericho and Binsey, Port Meadow is Oxford’s largest area of common land. Essentially a flood plain, the meadow is more suited to migratory wading birds than to humans during the winter months, but is a wonderful open space for walking and picnicking over the summer. With the Isis running along its western edge, it’s common to see kids larking about in the water on a hot summer’s day.

You can reach Port Meadow from Walton Well Road  and Aristotle Land in Jericho, or park at The Perch in Binsey (a great place for a pint and some lunch), and cross the river via a footbridge.

5. CS Lewis Nature Park

Source: http://www.bbowt.org.uk/reserves/cs-lewis-nature-reserve

While this Park is located outside the city in nearby Risinghurst, it’s definitely worth a visit. Said to be the location author CS Lewis wandered while he penned his Chronicles of Narnia, the nature park includes a Victorian pond which hosts an array of wildlife. Toads spawn here in the Spring, moorhens and coots come here to roost,  and dragonflies and damselflies occupy the area during the summer.

This is a great place to bring  kids for a bit of pond-dipping and general larking about in amongst nature.

6. University of Oxford Botanic Gardens

Located on the River Cherwell just opposite Magdalen College, Oxford is host to Britain’s oldest botanic gardens. Built as a classical walled garden in 1621, so much money was spent on the wall itself that little budget was left for the flora, which has since been more than made up for, with its vast and stunning variety of botanicals.

From the colourful herbaceous borders, rose garden, and pond, to the tropical glass-house, the botanic gardens are an excellent way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Adult admission is £5; children 16 and under are free (2017).

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