What a pleasant surprise Harcourt Arboretum was. Yesterday was a totally unplanned, last min, kid free visit. I’ve been after having a walk around some bluebell woods since they came out. I had planned to go to a National Trust place but the husbeast had buggered off out with my membership card. In a way I’m glad he did otherwise i wouldn’t have found Harcourt Arboretum.
Where is Harcourt Arboretum?
Harcourt Arboretum is in the lovely village of Nuneham Courtney. Funnily enough a village we drive through fairly often and despite it being on the main road I’ve never noticed it before. I’m normally asleep when I’m in the car (not while driving!!). If you’re coming from Bicester its pretty much just straight down the A34 on the other side of Oxford. So a fairly easy dive.
Once you get there you turn into some big gates and you will see a little hut which you’re supposed to stop at. Me on the other hand totally oblivious carried on and parked up then walked over to the hut to pay.
How much is Harcourt Arboretum?
Now for whats on offer i think its pretty cheap. If you like Evenley wood garden then you’ll love it here too. In my opinion there is a slight bit more to do here too.
Adults are £6 (with gift aid), concessions are £4.50, under 16s are free!!!, carers are also free and if you’re Oxford university staff or students you also get in free too. Its really not a lot and you can even convert your ticket into an annual pass for £20 which gets you into the Oxford botanic gardens too. Cheap as chips.
If you follow me on Facebook then you will have likely seen my post about the Gardeners world magazine and there 241 entry card for gardens. Well if you have one then Harcourt Arboretum is one of the gardens you can use you card.
What’s Harcourt Arboretum like for kids?
If you’re looking for more pre made fun for your kids then i would say now don’t come here. It involves walking and imagination and sometimes as parents we just can’t be arsed with that which is what soft plays are created for.
Arriving at Harcourt Arboretum i was convinced it wouldn’t be very child friendly at all. I could imagine the eldest walking round moaning that he’s bored. It one of the reasons i came solo and I didn’t want the kids ruining it for me either.
However once i got chatting to the lady in the hut where you pay i realised just how much there really was to do with the kids there. I was starting to wish i had Elliot with me. Ah well at least i know where to go next time.
So if you head to the hut you will find lots of trails for free. There is even one about animal poo spotting which i know would be right up Clark and Elliot’s street. You’ll also find canvas bags filled with lots of tools to help explore the gardens so things like bug catchers, mask’s and even a soft bird that tweeted. It was really lovely and reminded me of the Oxfordshire museums packs they have in there.
Not only do you have lots of trails and the packs the lady pointed out where the pig and her piglets were, a tractor and probably the most impressive of all the peacocks!
The Harcourt Arboretum Peacocks
When i first parked the car i was wondering what the hell all the noise was from. Then i saw a glimpse of bright blue. I suddenly realised it was the peacocks calling. A noise i hadn’t heard for a while. I’d forgotten how loud they were!
The peacocks are friendly? maybe friendly isn’t the correct term. They’re tame shall we say. I was informed that picnics are welcome at Harcourt Arboretum but to be careful of the peacocks. I think they can get a bit cocky/aggressive when it comes to food. The whole time i was listening i was starting to think that maybe peacocks were my spirit animals.
Due to them being so tame and i’m pretty sure i was their mating season too i was able to get some cracking photos. I even met a nice one who sat on the bench with me I named him Steve. He must have took one look at me and thought she must have food. I did (i always have food) but i rarely share with my family let alone a peacock even if he was pretty.
The serpentine ride
There are lots of routes and paths to take through Harcourt Arboretum but the hut lady (her new title) advised that the serpentine ride is a great place to start. As it was going to swing past the bluebell woods then this is where i headed.
Its absolutely stunning! so many flowers out at the moment so not only was it visually amazing the smells were gorgeous too. Not that you’ll be able to miss them but the huge red woods were particularly impressive too.
I was taking my time wandering around taking it all in. One thing i did notice was how spotless Harcourt Arboretum was. There are benches everywhere if you need a rest and more often than not the peacocks will come and join you too.
On my way round i saw a group tour which might be something you’d like to look into (maybe without the kids though). The whole place was so peaceful apart from the passing traffic from the road which soon because nothing.
I’ve never been to a bluebell woods before I’ve always managed to miss the flowering. After seeing the bluebells in Harcourt Arboretum i will make sure i visit at least one bluebell woods every year.
The bluebells are amazing and because I’m pretty crap at photography none of my photos will do them justice.
You can walk the whole way around the bluebell woods but it is all roped off to keep people from trampling all over them. It in no way hindered the experience either. If you can get there before they all go you really should but be quick.
Wildlife at Harcourt Arboretum
If like me you have a bug loving child then Harcourt Arboretum will be their kind of heaven. After staring at the bluebells like a weirdo for ages i moved onto another path in search of the little piggies.
As i was walking round i got hit in the face by some bug. I nearly swallowed the thing. Then i realised it was a tiny caterpillar dangling from a huge tree from its thread. I assume (but I’m no David Attenborough) that it was getting ready to turn into a cocoon before it turns to a butterfly. It was pretty fascinating really. I was staring at it i looked past the tiny caterpillar and saw hundreds more. It was crazy just watching these tiny little things that looked like they were hovering from this massive tree. The boys would have loved it.
There were loads of butterflies on the walk round too. It wasn’t long before i came upon the pig and her piglet’s just chilling in their enclosure. They soon got up and started playing with each other. They even came over to say hello and let me scratch their backs (mmmm bacon).
Ponds and Meadows
There is so much to explore at Harcourt Arboretum and i didn’t see half of it either. There are a couple of ponds one of which is next to the tractor for the kids to play on. It really is just an old tractor but the kids will love it.
There area few benches round this area too making it a perfect spot for a picnic. There is also a very small maze like thing that the kids could have a run around too. Don’t be like me and get excited when you see the climbing frame. Its actually a Slovakian hay bale stacker (if i remember correctly).
I had another walk around Harcourt Arboretum via the meadows (no picnics in the meadows though) before i decided to head home to beat the traffic. Had a quick pit stop at the toilets first though.
Harcourt Arboretum stats:
Distance from Bicester: 30mins
Sat nav: Oxford Lodge Peacock Gate OX44 9PX Click to load sat nav
Wheelchair friendly: Yes (Can be narrow and uneven in areas though)
Equipment upkeep: 10/10
Facilities: Toilets and parking no cafe though
Age range: All ages
Fun factor: 8/10
Dog friendly: No only guide dogs
Pushchair Friendly: Yes
Bikes and Scooters: No.
Relaxability: Lots of space to chill out, Explore and watch the kids play.
I absolutely loved Harcourt arboretum and i cant wait to go back with the kids i honestly believe they will have a great time.
My highlights would have to be the peacocks and the bluebells but it was just really nice being able to walk in woodlands without the fear of treading into a pile of dog turd.
I think i will be buying an annual pass on the next visit. Its just so cheap and really close by. I can see us spending a fair amount of time here over the next year.
Have a look at some of the events throughout the summer on their website HERE
If You’d like to see some of the other woodlands we’ve visited have a look HERE