There is nothing so quintessentially English as picnicking on the grass, feasting on strawberries, with maybe the odd glass of Pimms. And then rushing for shelter when the rain comes down. This summer has seen days when even sitting outside has been unbearably hot, but mostly the appeal of the outdoors has been strong, and sunny and shady spots alike have been requisitioned for food and conversation.
Oxfordshire is a lovely place, and offers many options, urban and rural, for picnicking, so here are a few to give you some ideas. Choose from:
Picnicking in University Parks
University Parks is a large green space to the northwest of the city much made use of by walkers and joggers. There are large expanses of grass so you can see cricket and baseball being played and maybe even a game of Quidditch. At the moment it is parched, dry and pale, but you can still search out the shade of a handy tree and enjoy your feast there. Or there are a lot of benches to make use of if you don’t want to sit on the ground.
Picnicking in Oxford Botanic Garden
Oxford Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the world. The main drawback of this site is that you have to pay to get in. This is currently (as of 22 Aug 2022) £6.30 for an adult, £5.00 for concessions, under 16s with an adult are free. It is a short walk from the city centre and is a haven of peace away from the urban bustle. The section nearest the entrance has paths leading to a central fountain. This is surrounded by benches providing a beautiful setting for a more dignified lunch.
Beyond this are trees both venerable and sprightly providing shade and a setting for a traditional picnic on a rug. When I last visited the staff had performed miracles in protecting the plants from the heat and the mighty perennial border was still in full bloom. Picnicking under the fruit trees in the back section of the garden is also possible, and has the added benefit of being able to watch the antics of the novice punters on the River Cherwell as it flows by the garden.
Picnicking in Bury Knowle Park
Bury Knowle Park is a small but perfectly formed park in Headington, to the east of the city centre. Headington can be reached by numerous bus services including the 8 city and the 9 city, which leave from the High Street, with a journey time of around 18 minutes.
The park is an oasis of green (well, not so much now) and quiet in the hubbub of Headington, right by the leviathan that is the John Radcliffe Hospital. It is well used by the local people, particularly the children, who love the play park, and who come on nature trips from the local school.
There are wooden sculptures, plenty of benches and well-established mature trees casting welcome shade over the grass, so plenty of space to put your blanket down and indulge in a strawberry or two.
Headington itself is worth a wander round if you have the inclination – it is charity shop heaven and if you are into secondhand a little digging is bound to unearth a find. Old Headington has some fine old buildings and quiet streets, so it is worth a walk around to stretch your legs after all that sitting around.
Picnicking in Abbey Meadows Abingdon
So now we are leaving Oxford to look for picnic spots beyond the city boundary. Go on, hop on a bus and go beyond your comfort zone, city dweller! There are a number of buses connecting Oxford and Abingdon. The no.4 goes from the Westgate, via Cumnor and takes about 49 minutes, the X2 Connector goes from St Aldates and takes about 33 minutes, and the 35 City goes from St Aldates and takes about 33 minutes.
The meadows extend on both sides of the river from the bridge over the Thames at the Nags Head to Abingdon Lock. The meadows offer opportunities for sunbathing, benches and shady trees. In the park area on the north side of the river are the real magnets if you have a family of young children – the play area and the family water park. The water park is a surfaced area with fountains that squirt up from the ground in unpredictable patterns. Great to run in and out of screaming and giggling and throwing water at your friends. Then when you are completely exhausted, go to the kiosk for an ice cream.
Picnicking in The Leys and Church Green Witney
So if you can countenance the idea of getting to Abingdon, how about Witney? Witney is an old market town about 12 miles west of Oxford that is well worth a visit. You can get there by driving along the A40, or if you are using public transport, the 853 bus leaves from St Giles and takes 37 minutes.
Church Green stretches south of the market cross, and is a picturesque stretch of green in front of St Mary’s Church that sprouts picnickers like exotic blooms in summer. There is a more extensive green area behind the church in the form of The Leys. This has a cricket pitch and is big enough to host the funfair, when it arrives on its peregrinations. There is also an avenue of huge horse chestnut trees for shade seekers and a very popular playground for small people.
There are a few ideas to get you going, picnickers. So enjoy the rest of summer and explore ideas of your own. And why not leave me a comment below the line, to let me know your best ones?