Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Bucks

If I’m going to do a review of somewhere that, like Chiltern Open Air Museum, is above my £25 per family limit I need to know it’s going to be good. Friends of mine have visited here several times and really enjoyed it. A few followers have been in touch as well to recommend it, so I thought it was about time we visited! The whole family is very glad we did.

When this review of Chiltern Open Air Museum was written there were still some social distancing restrictions in place. The doors of the buildings were open, but you couldn’t walk around them. Given the size of the buildings this is absolutely understandable. In reality though I don’t think that took too much away from the experience. You could still see in through the doors and windows and so still got a feel for this history of the buildings. They have significantly reduced their prices to £5 per person whilst these measures are in place but, actually, I would have been happy to pay full price.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out

The toilets

I have never started a review talking about toilets, but the loos at Chiltern Open Air Museum are something special! These are proper spend-a-penny loos and they’re just really cool. Much more fun to use than than the boring “bakerloo” toilets near the village green.

Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out
A very grand loo block

The buildings

There are over 30 different historic buildings at COAM. These are all buildings that were originally built in and around the Chilterns area. Once they’ve been donated to the museum they’ve been taken apart, re-built and restored onsite. I find the whole process fascinating, just like I did at St Fagans Museum when we visited Wales last year. They have got various different barns, a house from Haddenham, a toll house from High Wycombe, a tiny church from near Chinnor, pre-fab houses from Amersham and loads more. This place is fascinating and brilliant. The kids loved looking around all the different buildings and looking inside them.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out
Haddenham Croft Cottage

One of the things I liked the most about Chiltern Open Air Museum is that the houses are full of the things these house would have been full of when they were occupied. Where possible they actually have the family photographs of former residents of these houses on display. How cool is that! The kids particularly liked any children’s items or toys they spotted. A doll, a babies shoe, the highchair. Anything that is like the things we have at home, but also so very different.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out
High Wycombe Toll House

The animals and working farm

In various places throughout Chiltern Open Air Museum there are farm animals, which I’d totally forgotten about. They’re all rare breeds and we saw sheep, cows and goats. I’ve mentioned recently, but Smallest Child is MASSIVELY into goats at the moment. It’s a nice little addition to the day.

Near the playground is the traditional farm. In here they’ve got various different barns, but also a dairy and lots of agricultural equipment to look around. This part of the museum was used to film part of series two of Downton Abbey. FYI if you are a Downton fan then check out Lacock Village and Cogges Manor Farm which were also used as film locations.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out
Traditional working farm

The adventure playground

So, stupidly, I’d mentioned to the kids that there was quite a cool adventure playground. Given the lock-down-induced playground hiatus is now over, they wanted to get here ASAP. We wanted to see the rest of the museum first, much to their disdain. I don’t think the photos on the website do it justice as this is a really cool playground. There are three main play areas, plus a swing. When we visited to do this review of Chiltern Open Air Museum the Anderson Shelter was closed. It’s just too small to even hope the kids could socially distance.

Museums in Buckinghamshire | Chalfont st Peter | Things to do | Free Time with the Kids

The first play frame is supposed to be the High Wycombe Toll House you can see above. From this angle it doesn’t really look like much…

Museums in Buckinghamshire | Chalfont st Peter | Things to do | Free Time with the Kids

But actually it’s brilliant inside. The same applies with the shepherd’s hut, there’s loads to climb in and on hidden inside. All three kids LOVED this playground area and would happily have stayed here for ages and ages. There isn’t anything specifically for younger kids but Smallest Child (3), and some younger than her, were more than capable of getting around the frames by themselves. We just didn’t get her go down the Fireman’s pole!

Museums in Buckinghamshire | Chalfont st Peter | Things to do | Free Time with the Kids

The gardens and woodlands

There’s a couple of woodland areas that you can explore (we didn’t this time) and a hidden meadow behind Wood End. Sadly Wood End was closed when we visited so we didn’t get to see some of the buildings, or walk around the meadow. The woodland isn’t buggy friendly currently.

There are lots of beautiful gardens, including a dig for victory allotment near the Amersham pre-fab. We met a couple of the gardeners who were happy to talk to us and the kids about the things they were growing etc. Chiltern Open Air Museum also has an orchard, which includes an Aylesbury Prune tree!

Key highlights

I know it’s slightly off the beaten track, but make sure you go down to visit the Iron Age Roundhouse. It’s not original, mainly because no original complete houses exist. That didn’t make it any less fascinating though. The electricity pylon towering over the top of it does detract from the building slightly though if I’m honest.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out

The Harpenden Well Head was also brilliant. Roll a coin down the slot and listen to the voices coming from the well. I happened to have tons of change I’ve wanted to get rid of for ages so in it all went. The kids LOVED it.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review

I am conscious that this review of Chiltern Open Air Museum is one of the most photo-heavy on the website. Quite simply, that’s because there’s so much to see. Yes, we did cover the site withing a few hours, but we could have stayed for longer. There were sections that we didn’t get to see, plus the houses weren’t open. The kids would have been more than happy to play in the playground for a lot longer, but it kept raining. If there was an event on we could have easily stayed all day. Before we’d even left Hubby was talking about getting an annual membership!

Every single member of staff and volunteer that we spoke to was really friendly and knowledgeable. There are lots of events and loads of hands-on experiences normally. Those will come back when it’s safe to do so. It’s a unique place because it’s all about our local area, and it’s living history. We will be back!

Admission Cost

Prices vary throughout the year. Term-time weekdays is £31 for a family of four. Weekends and school holidays is £34. An annual membership is £75 for 2A and up to 3C. That’s a really good price vs the one-off price! For up to date prices click here.

They are part of the Gardener’s world 2-4-1 tickets scheme if you have a card. This is temporarily suspended whilst pre-booking requirements are in place.

At the time this review of Chiltern Open Air Museum was written they are offering tickets for £5 per person. That’s currently planned to continue throughout August 2020 but double check on the website for the latest details.


Parking / How to get there

There’s free parking on-site

Address – Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks HP8 4AB


Toilets

As I mentioned, the bock near the entrance is very cool. There are also two other blocks on site. Baby changing is near the village green.


Food

There are plenty of places for a picnic. Cafe on-site serving food and drinks.

Chiltern Open Air Museum Review, Buckinghamshire | Review by Free Time with the Kids | Museums in Buckinghamshire | Family days out

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Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with out 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 contact@freetimewiththekids.com or get in touch via Facebook

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