I spend quite a lot of time driving from Aylesbury to Oxford. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve driven past the sign for Waterperry Gardens and thought “ooh, I must do a review.” Well, I finally go around to visit, and at spectacular time of year. It’s currently snowdrop season and I think that Waterperry Gardens has one of the best displays I know of locally. We were gifted entry to the gardens but all views are my own and Waterperry Gardens had no input into the content of this review. They also did not see it prior to publication.
Snowdrops at Waterperry Gardens
I’d heard that they had “some” snowdrops here, but I really wasn’t expecting as many as there are. As soon as you walk into the gardens you’re greeted by lots of the little white flowers dotted around in the flower beds. Part of me wondered if that was going to but it. Once you’re in the woodland walk that’s where it gets really special though. There’s snowdrops everywhere!! Not that I know anything about it, but apparently they have lots of different varieties of snowdrop around the gardens.
The riverside woodland walk
This was the first part that we explored and, from the map, it seems the most logical route. There’s a little bridge, views across open fields (containing sheep much to the delight of Smallest Child) and a nice peaceful walk around the copse. Some of the trees have a sign in front with a virtue on it such as self-control, modesty and innocence. Smallest Child decided to repeatedly whack the Innocence sign with a massive stick. Says a lot about her!
You go right next to the River Thame, and it’s beautiful. Sadly the photo doesn’t do it justice. It was quite a dreary day when we first arrived, thankfully it brightened up later. (We went the day before Storm Ciara hit and I’m sitting writing this review of Waterperry Gardens whilst all hell breaks loose outside!) Make sure you look in the “Did You Know?” boxes that are dotted around. They have some genuinely interesting information in them.
We got to see some swans but, if you’re lucky they have otters, kingfishers and more here sometimes. Word of caution – this is deep and deceptively fast flowing. Please keep an eye on little ones near the water as the paths do get quite close at times.
The Yew Henge
Don’t fancy sitting in the permanent traffic jam to get to Stonehenge? Well Waterperry Gardens have their very own version for you to explore. It seemed a little bit of a work in progress to me – some of the hedges aren’t really meeting at the top yet, but you can definitely tell what it’s supposed to be. It’s quite a good spot for playing hide and seek. I also quite fancied a picnic sat in the middle whilst the kids ran around the henge.
They have a LOT of fruit trees in their orchards, all of various varieties. I bet this is absolutely stunning when in full blossom! Make sure you keep an eye out for the Mother Tree. This is one where they’ve grafted other tree varieties onto it. It’s still a WIP but the plan is to eventually grow all the varieties of apple in the orchard on just one tree. Also make sure you keep an eye out for the unusual bee hive!
The formal and ornamental gardens
There are various sections to the formal gardens. Because we visited in winter, the flower beds were not looking at their best yet (except for all the snowdrops) but there were hints of the potential yet to come. All around the gardens there’s lots of benches, little houses etc for you to sit in and relax whilst the kids explore. Dotted throughout there are various sculptures and pieces of art. The kids particularly liked the statue of Christ the learner, although they did think it was Abraham Lincoln’s statute from afar!
Other things to keep an eye out for are the alpine gardens, the “canal” (N.B. deep water) and the Formal Garden. This has been turned into their Silent Space which means it’s not really suited to kids unless they can genuinely be silent. If you manage to actually keep your kids silent please tell me your secret!! If you can get away from them for a few minutes though, it is a lovely bit of the garden. It even manages to block out some of the noise of the M40!
On your way out you’ll go through the walled garden. It’s got an awesome tower in it that gives some really lovely views. It’s really easy to get up and I could get Smallest Child up there without fear of her flinging herself off the steps. There’s also a 100 year old Seville Orange tree in the greenhouse (totally missed that one!) and a Saxifrage Garden. Until my visit I had no idea what a Saxifrage was, but now I’ve seen one!
What else is there at Waterperry Gardens?
You can only go into the house during special tours, but you can go into the church if you wish. Again, I didn’t realise that and so we didn’t look. Doh. There’s also a small children’s play area. It’s probably more for older kids than younger ones, but Smallest Child was more than capable of climbing up to the slide by herself. The Boys both really enjoyed playing on here for a while, but they wouldn’t play on it for too long. There’s also a museum on-site in the barn. The sign said it was open but the door was locked so we didn’t get to look around. It’s small but the feedback seems to be good. Apparently they have sheep wellies in there!
They have a gallery. It’s full of beautiful, delicate and expensive things. Shockingly we didn’t take the kids in there but a quick nosey through the door made me want to go back on my own and look around.
Our Waterperry Gardens Review
Hubby commented that it’s really a garden just for people who are interested in gardening. I totally disagree with that (obviously that’s never happened before!) I think there’s enough things around to keep the kids interested. It’s a garden, so it’s always going to be at its most interesting in the spring or summer, but they enjoyed looked around now anyway.
I really want to go back and see what it’s like in the the summer. When I do I’ll update this review of Waterperry Gardens.
Feb – Oct £8.50 per adult. Nov – Jan £6 per adult. Under 16’s FREE.
Parking / How to get there
There is free on-site parking. The car park at the front is very small, but there’s overflow parking around the corner.
Address – Waterperry, Oxford. OX33 1LA
The only toilets (including baby change) are in the car park near the shop.
I forgot to double check but I’m assuming that picnics are allowed. There is a tea shop near the car park.
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with our three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook