When Boris Johnson first announced that we would be allowed unlimited outdoor exercise I was both happy and worried. I live in a very central location and our options for walks have been very limited. We’ve been desperate to get out to somewhere in the countryside. I know that we’d been told we could drive to exercise as long as it was still local, but that didn’t seem quite right to us so we haven’t. In the first few weeks after the restrictions were partially lifted the most well known places became very busy. That’s when I originally put together this guide to finding quiet walks around Bucks, Beds, Oxon and Herts. You can also find reviews of all of my family walks in the dedicated section by clicking here.
As the restrictions have continued to be lifted in phases the amount of anti-social behaviour has increased. In some case it’s been downright disgusting!! With the rules change, how much time you spend outdoors, and where you visit, is a personal choice. I am aware this is a very emotive subject and people are very passionate on both sides of the debate. If you do decide to go visit somewhere PLEASE make sure you’re following all the social distancing rules. If you arrive at your destination and the car park is busy already, please just go somewhere else. Be careful around things like gates and stiles, taking hand gel with you is a good idea. Maintain 2m distance when you’re out and about. You know, all the stuff we’re supposed to have been doing for the past few months.
Stopping for a picnic is now allowed, but it might be sensible to take your own picnic blanket with you rather than using a bench or picnic table. Most of my favourite places to have a picnic in Buckinghamshire have now reopened, but there are loads of other great hidden spots for lunch.
More and more places have started to reopen their toilets which is, literally, a relief. It’s worth checking if there are toilet facilities though. There’s a really useful website called Lockdown Loo that can help. PLEASE take your rubbish with you as well. There seem to be huge amounts of rubbish left behind at the moment and it’s costing a lot of time and money to tidy up.
Popular outdoor places will be busy – but you can still visit safely, with some adjustments
As places such as Wendover Woods, Rushmere Country Park, Willen Lake, Black Park Country Park and the Ashridge estate have reopened they have been understandably busy. If you’ve seen some of the pictures in the news every time it’s sunny certain popular spots seem to border on dangerously busy. The National Trust have reopened many of their gardens and will be reopening some of the houses in July. I’m assuming there will be social distancing measures in place to keep everyone safe though. You may well find that there are reduced facilities such as no toilets or cafes. Before visiting anywhere always double check the website to see what is and isn’t open.
If you are visiting these places keep away from the most popular paths. Explore somewhere new within your favourite family day out! Have a look at their websites – there’s normally a downloadable map of walks that you can use and many of those will be significantly less popular than the main routes. Plus places like these have large open spaces so it’s easy to keep 2m apart as long as everyone adheres to the rules.
A good example of this is Ling Rise in Hertfordshire. It’s part of the Ashridge Estate, with it’s own car park but it’s MUCH quieter and feels like a totally different place. Click here for the full review. When we visited Rushmere we parked at the overflow car park and explored a completely different part of the park, well away from the meadow and sculpture trail. As an alternative to Waddesdon Manor itself there are several estate walks you can try.
How to find quiet walks in Bucks, Beds, Oxon and Herts
The places that are going to be quietest are the ones that not many people have heard of! Have a look around your local area using google maps. Are there any ponds, small woodland areas or nature reserves? Reservoirs may also be a good shout, but avoid the most popular ones if you can. In Hertfordshire instead of Marsworth Reservoir why not visit Wilstone Reservoir for you walk instead as it’s usually quiet. Or you could try Weston Turville Reservoir near Wendover.
Tring Park in Hertfordshire is a vast parkland with lots of interesting features to explore. You can read my full review of Tring Park by clicking here.
Your local Wildlife Trust website will give you lots of options for quiet walks with trusts covering Bucks, Beds Oxon and Herts. Here is the link for Hertfordshire and Middlesex. For Berks, Bucks, Oxon an Wiltshire click here and in Bedfordshire it’s here. Many of the larger sites may still have closed car parks and toilets so please double check before visiting.
Many of the free to visit English Heritage places are still open. They tend to be small, with no facilities, but a fascinating history and good places to walk in the immediate area. One example is Houghton House in Bedfordshire, this website has several quiet walks nearby for you to download. Slowly but surely they’re reopening some of their main sites as well.
Other good websites to find a walk
The National Trust have got lots of downloadable walks across Bucks, Beds, Oxon and Herts on their website, most of which will be very quiet. Here are just some of the ones in the Chiltern Hills. You’ll be able to exercise outdoors, whilst safely social distancing AND take in some stunning scenery. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful area.
The Buckinghamshire council website has got a walks and guides route map with downloadable walking routes across the county. In Herts, have a look at the Hertfordshire Walker website. You’ll find a mixture of quiet and busier walks on the Oxfordshire Council website. For quiet walks in Beds have a look at the Central Bedfordshire Council website by clicking here.
The FootpathMap website lists every single public footpath, bridleway and byway in the UK. There may be gates and styles along these routes so please be careful on those. The website doesn’t give you parking information or circular routes but it’s a good starting point. Public footpaths in general are a good shout – it’s like a magical mystery tour some of the time!
The Chilterns AONB website have put together 23 socially distancing friendly walks across the chilterns. You can find all the details of those walks here.
As England slowly starts to reopen, more and more people will be making the most of the fresh air. By being cautious about where we visit, and how, we can make sure that we can all keep safe and well. I’ll be sharing the details of quiet walks, mainly around the Buckinghamshire area on my Facebook page and Instagram feed. If you know of any good, quiet walks there or in Herts, Beds and Oxon please share them on the chat group.
Other pages that might be of interest
You can find all of my reviews of outdoor places to visit here. Please note, not all of these will be open yet. To help keep the kids entertained at home there’s easy science experiments, free online home education resources and 21 things to do outdoors with the kids.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook