Harvest Time in Rural Oxfordshire: 5 local things to do
Harvest is in full-swing. The corn fields are full of golden stubble, forest paths are brimming with bright and fiery colours and crisp, crunchy apples are bursting from our trees. We want to help you make the most of it all, so, here are some ideas of how you can fill the upcoming weeks with some harvest celebration and fun. From cider tasting to astronomical night tours, we’ve chosen our local top 5.
1) Autumn Fair at Harcourt Arboretum, Oxford Botanic Garden
Date: 13th October, 11:00 to 16:00
Tickets: £6 adults, children go free with a paying adult
A must-attend event. This local botanical garden is made up of a stunning 130 acres. It contains the best collection of trees in Oxfordshire (apart from at Nicholson’s, of course), including some of the oldest redwoods in the UK. This is a great day out for all the family with the opportunity to enjoy traditional folk music whilst tasting some fresh local produce. Who doesn’t love pig roast and cider. You can’t get more autumn than that! Children can be let loose in this wonderful location to meet birds of prey and take part in activities including spinning wool and weaving willow. A blissful break from the screens and the chance to get some fresh air in the lungs! Fortnite and Age of Empires versus hawks and Acer trees – it’s an easy choice for all you parents, and the kids are guaranteed to love it.
2) Stowe Apple Weekend
Date: 6th and 7th October, 10:00 to 16:00
Tickets: Event is free, but normal admission applies (£12 adult, £6 child, £30.00 family)
Yes, this is technically in Buckinghamshire. But, it isn’t very far out of our reach and well worth the drive. Did you know that apple trees take four to five years to produce their first fruit? No? Well, you clearly need to learn more about apples, one of the most widely grown tree fruit. This is a weekend all about apples. You can watch apple pressing demonstrations, try out some fresh juice and learn about the different heritage varieties. If those activities won’t entice you, we all know the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ This may not be entirely true but apples do in fact contain no fat, sodium or cholesterol and are a great source of fibre. So, buy some tickets for the nutritional benefit and the joy of being outdoors.
3) White Horse Hill Evening Sky Tour
Date: 10th October, 19:00-21:00 (plus 2 later dates)
Tickets: adult £5, child £2.50
A more unusual option if you fancy something unconventional. This event provides the opportunity to enjoy a tour of the night sky on White Horse Hill, a fascinating ancient landscape and the perfect stargazing spot. You won’t be left to gaze in cluelessness. A local expert Adrian West will be your guide and will teach you about the mythology of the stars and their relationship with the ancient people that lived in this location. He has written astrological articles for popular online science magazines as well as guides and articles for the BBC, Met Office and National trust. Adrian is clearly a star astronomer (what a pun!) If you’re a night owl rather than an early bird this event is ideal for you. And if not, make sure you bring your coffee thermos to ensure you stay awake and enjoy the beautiful view of the night sky. You’ll be able to wow friends and family with your new knowledge when dining together outdoors!
4) Autumn foraging Course at Blenheim Palace
Date: 21st October and 3rd November, 12:00 to 3:30
Tickets: standard ticket £45, junior ticket (under 16) £22.50, under 12s free
The well-established flora in the gardens of this stunning 18th century baroque palace makes this the perfect location for finding foraging treasures. There will be a short introduction on what to look for to kickstart the event. Then, a two and a half hour walk around the area, identifying any edible and poisonous plants, fruits and mushrooms that you find. If fresh air makes you peckish do not panic! There will be breaks along the way to enjoy some homemade refreshments, including wild mushroom soup and some elderflower champagne- how fancy! Even more indulgent is the wild food lunch prepared for you which will include some of the recent finds on the walk, a wild salad also picked on the day and a warm mushroom dish cooked right then and there. Not only will your brain be full of lots of new knowledge, but also your stomach with tons of tasty natural eats. Run by the company WildFoodUK, this event is very popular and has limited spaces so be quick and book your tickets now! If you want to be able to tell the difference between a ‘funeral bell’ mushroom and the fruity flavoursome chanterelle mushroom, then this is the course for you.
5) Chilterns Walking Festival
Date: 6th to 21st October
Tickets: there are weekday and weekend, morning and afternoon options and most are free of charge though must be pre-booked
The Chilterns, an area of outstanding natural beauty, covers parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire AND Oxfordshire, so I thought I could just about include this. This festival is an autumn programme of over 50 guided walks and activities, designed to inform participants about local legend, bugs and birds, colours, and food and drink. Expert local guides will ensure you have a memorable and educational experience and that you discover new areas to explore. You may have climbed Mount
Kilimanjaro. You may have walked the Pennine Way. You may walk leisurely around the village everyday with your dog. Or you may be a coach potato and find it strenuous to walk to the end of the street. BUT this festival is ideal as there are walks of different lengths and degrees of challenge to choose from. A useful website filter ( https://www.visitchilterns.co.uk/walkingfest) helps you to identify the walk suited for you. So, book your walk on the website, dust off your walking boots and head out to enjoy some spectacular autumnal-kissed countryside.