Tuesday 2 July 2013

Watlington Hill, Oxfordshire

Approx time: 1 hour
Paths:  grass and mud
Points of interest: wildlife, red kites, white mark
Amenities: car park
Grading: baby carrier or a pushchair if you can lift it over 1 stile
Weather: all seasons

As the weather took a wonderful turn for the better we had a spare afternoon and wanted to make the most of the sunshine. Charlotte gave instructions -  "I want to go somewhere new mummy".
So I picked up my phone and checked out the oxtrails app to see what it came up with, Watlington seemed to be the area to visit and we decided to go find the Watlington white mark.

the view towards Watlington
The directions got us there fine, right to the car park that we seemed to miss other times we have tried to find the white mark. Was a good size car park already quite full with lots of people taking advantage of the weather. There are 3 notice boards with maps and wildlife to spot.

The start of the walk
After a short walk through a dark wood, you come out at a kissing gate and then your at the top of the wide open hill with stunning views looking across Oxfordshire. There are a lots of benches to sit on to just soak up the view, but that doesn't last long with a 5 year old shouting come on.

View from the gate
To find the mark you just have to keep walking straight ahead and you end up heading down the slope. We took a slight diversion from this route and ended up following an almost non-existent route amongst the trees, brambles and stinging nettles. But it came out right at the bottom of the mark so was wonderful to look straight up and see it ahead. 

looking up the white mark
The climb back up from the mark is quite steep but a wonderful view down.

White mark looking down on Watlington
Our walk back towards the car park was wonderful watching the red kites swooping low over head and watching a small plane climbing high in the sky and then diving down before pulling back up again. We found lots of bugs along our walk coming out to enjoy the sunshine and Charlotte came up with pockets full of flint, stones and bits of tree.
We had a really enjoyable walk and the Oxtrails app worked well. It also works offline so very handy for when at the top of a hill with no wifi, so i could read out handy facts to those who would listen.

looking towards Lewknor and Thame
This was a really lovely walk, that didn't take too long and was easy going most of the way to perfect for younger walkers, there is just the slope back up the hill. Sadly because of the kissing gate it would make it hard for buggies unless you wanted to fold it or lift it over.

Monday 1 July 2013

Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire

We are really enjoying our year of National Trust membership and visiting Chedworth Roman Villa was no exception.

It would be an ideal place to visit when Charlotte learns about Romans in school, but she learned so much just from that one visit so its worth going at any age.

The view across the site
It's a wonderful drive up to the site, and the area looks beautiful on a sunny day, people taking advantage of the weather (us too) were having picnics on the front lawn or what would have been the Garden. The visitor center is newly built to the side of the site, and also houses the shop and cafe (we didn't use the cafe but the manager was selling ice creams outside).

Formal reception hall
First stop on entering is of course the latrines, perfect subject that all children love learning about! Then comes the newly built shelter that protects the fragile remains of mosaics and walls that would have been the grand dining room and bath house.

Newly built shelter
There is a wonderful suspended walk way over the mosaics so you can look down on all the detail. There is an area to play roman games, design a mosaic and dress up.

Designing a mosaic
Back outside and you can wonder up to the water shrine and learn about the roman snails (but no collecting snails for a snails race if ticking off your 50 things as they are protected and can't be touched). Then take a walk past another bath house and the underfloor heating system.  Having 2 bath houses and underfloor heating means the villa would have been a grand country house in its time. With a last stop at the little museum (and don't forget to water the plants on your way past with the handily provided watering cans!)

The museum and picnic area
There are very popular tours going round the site and we sat on the edge to listen to a few snippets. I think I'm right in saying that not all the site has yet been discovered and hopefully with more funding can start to uncover other areas.

underfloor heating
There are information boards dotted around the site, and audio tours are available. I think we will give the audio tour a go next time we visit, as I said earlier the older Charlotte gets the more interested she will be.

There aren't many 50 things to tick off at Chedworth Roman Villa, it's a very different site to other National Trust places we have been, but it was a highly enjoyable few hours.
We did get our shoes off and do some bare foot walking, made daisy chains, made a grass trumpet and watched the swifts flying overhead.

Our last stop was the shop where we picked up a mini-mosaic kit which Charlotte did the second we got home.

Most of the site is easily accessible if taking a pushchair along.