31 days of summer in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 13:45 23 July 2020
Enjoy a socially distanced summer with our days out guide...
Summer is here and the holidays are upon us, but let’s face it, they’re going to look and feel quite different to ones we’ve had before. With more of us opting for staycations and parents working around children at home, socially distanced, family friendly activities are in demand.The good news is there’s so many options right on our doorstep,
from big budget, big days out to activities that don’t cost a penny. As with most things right now, guidance is changing regularly, so check the websites listed for the latest information.
BIG DAYS OUT
1. Legoland Windsor has had to make some changes, keeping some rides and attractions closed for now, but it can still be a day trip to remember. Pre-booked tickets, social distancing measures and crowd controls are in place. There’ll be fewer people in the park and on rides, and visitors are asked to wear a face mask.
2. Windsor Castle is hoping to re-open very soon. They’ll be reducing visitor numbers and tell us you will have to pre-book tickets online. Keep an eye on their website for details of when and how you can visit.
3. Windsor Tourist Guides are ready and waiting to give you a (coronavirus safe) private tour of the castle or the town. Your group (of no more than five) will be given disposable headphones so you can be as socially distant as you wish.
4. Wellington Country Park is open, but you’ll need to pre-book, even if you have an annual pass. The team have been working hard to open up as much as possible, but for now, the splash parks and animal encounters are off-limits. Extra safety measures are in place – there’s a queuing system for toilets and food will be mainly takeaways, eaten outside. wellingtoncountrypark.co.uk
5. Odds Farm Park is introducing new attractions as it welcomes back visitors and says your experience will be as good as ever, despite the indoor play barn and splash zones being closed. The animals are outside, screens have been installed on the Tractor and Trailer Ride and there’s a new Explorer Trail that you can download before your visit. You can order meals in advance with the Click and Collect Food Service or bring a picnic. Pre-book tickets even if you’re an annual pass holder.
6. Tickets for Beale Wildlife Park are being sold daily on a first- come, first-served basis. You can’t book online in advance. Check their social media before setting out to avoid being turned away.
7. Be the king or queen of the castle for the day at Highclere in Newbury. They are open for tours and have all the extra safety measures in place. highclerecastle.co.uk
8. Bucklebury Farm and Deer Safari Park is now open, but they’ve had to close their animal interacting viewing areas and indoor play slides. To maintain social distancing and reduce crowding, there’s distance markers around the park and visitors are asked to adhere to the new one-way routes.
9. Visit The Spanish Bit, a riding school and livery yard situated between Windsor and Maidenhead that offers pony rides across the common. Their new Pony Bubble Days for five people a day mean that children can ride safely. Please pre-book!
10. The National Trust gardens and woodlands at Cliveden are open, as are the gardens and parklands of Basildon Park. With visitor numbers restricted, you’ll be able to enjoy these vast open spaces. Toilets are open – but not all. The cafes are closed but there are kiosks for takeaway snacks. The important thing to know here is that you must pre-book, even if you’re a member. Tickets are really popular and released weekly on Fridays.
ENJOY THE GREAT OUTDOORS
11. Try the National Trust managed Simon’s Wood in Finchampstead. No tickets are required here. Parking is free for the woodland, pine forest and open heathland, but there are no facilities or rubbish bins. You’ll find an easy, perfect for children, 40-minute walk here (and there’s a small lake for stone skimming).
12. Windsor Great Park is open but be warned there are no toilet or catering facilities except for the takeaway kiosks. Some car parks are also closed. Visitors are asked to remain socially distant and to take rubbish home with them. The Savill Garden is open for Friends and Members (and a limited number of non-members). Tickets must be bought online. You can access the toilets and the shop if you visit the gardens, but you’ll be asked to pay by card.
13. Dinton Pastures has plenty of space for walking, bike rides and picnics around the lakes. The car parks are open, as are the toilets, but the boat hire and activity centre are closed.
14. You don’t need to venture as far as the New Forest to see ponies – just take a walk around Snelsmore Common. The paths are ‘bikeable’ and the café is open for takeaways.
15. Take a leisurely stroll or scoot around the lake at Black Park near Slough. The cafés and play areas plus the Go Ape facility remain closed but there are takeaway options from mobile units and there are some toilets available for use.
16. Whilst some PYO have fallen victim to coronavirus, the good news is there’s plenty of fruit for picking. Gray’s Farm in Wokingham has four miles of strawberries waiting to be devoured, as well as tons of other fruit and veg – you just pay for what you pick. Open Mondays to Saturdays and you can use the toilets. Strawberries, cherries, peas and beans are waiting for you at Copas Farm in Cookham. They’re only allowing up to five people per car/household. It’s card payment only and the toilets are closed.
17. The Look Out’s facilities, including the Discovery Centre, coffee shop, toilets and play areas are closed but Swinley Forest walking and bike trails are open. Measures have been put in place to direct the flow of people and cyclists on the site.
18. Go for a lovely walk on Greenham Common, an area of open land near Newbury, or take your bikes. There’s a takeaway cafe service from the rear of Greenham Control Tower.
19. The grounds of Shaw House in Newbury are open, and visit the West Berkshire Museum Wednesday to Friday. westberkshireheritage.org
20. Check out Clayfield Copse Nature Reserve in Reading, which features a Sculpture Trail both you and the kids will love.
21. At Ray Mill Island in Maidenhead you can feed the ducks, walk to the weir and enjoy an ice cream from the cafe.
22. California Country Park offers walks around the lake plus the cafe is open for takeaway food.
FUN ON THE WATER
23. If you’ve missed your swims, then Liquid Leisure may be the activity for you. Groups of up to six people can pre-book sessions on the main aqua park or the Ninja Warrior park. Children must be six or over and those between six and nine years of age must be accompanied by an adult. You can swim in the open water and take part in boat water sports but there are very strict guidelines in place.
24. Experience a Windsor Duck Tour this summer − a circular tour that takes in some of the sights of Windsor before splashing into the River Thames. Safety measures have been put in place and all passengers must wear a mask.
25. Want to be in the water? Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre in Sandhurst are offering casual hire and open water swimming sessions whilst
26. French Brothers offer short cruises along the Thames and Salters Steamers also offer trips, punts, day-boats and other small craft and tours.
JUST FOR KIDS
27. Fancy a playdate with all your friends? Well, now you can – albeit virtually. Action Amanda – entertainer to the stars (Brad Pitt and The Beckhams, no less) plays host on Zoom, engaging children with music, dancing, games and high energy activities. Why not ‘go global’ and invite distant family and friends? Suitable for those aged between one and six.
28. Or how about a gigantic garden train track? Trainmaster Berkshire will drop the track at your doorstep or set it up so it’s ready to be enjoyed. There are various options to choose from including a full party package, where you’ll get a giant motorised track, trains to drive, tents, slides and tracks to build yourself. Enough to keep everyone amused for an afternoon – and all deep cleaned and sterilised before use.
29. Norden Farm may have closed its doors for now, but it’s still working hard to keep everyone entertained. Younger children can enjoy Little Wrigglers, Ballet Beats or Magic and Storytelling.
30. Book Tamalia Reeves for private craft sessions or socially distant “but filled with glitter” parties for up to 12 children. Glass painting, canvas printing, design your own spy gadgets or t-shirts – just some of the activities on offer.
31. Becky Hoare, the ex-teacher and owner of Pop Up Play Village, has been posting free, daily role play ideas on her website. Becky also offers a hassle-free way to transform your home or garden into a role play village – complete with enough toys to keep children engaged for hours. Dropped and collected from your doorstep.