Although Oxford is famed for its stunning architecture, among the grand buildings lie gorgeous green spaces calling out to be explored. From beautiful secret gardens, hidden behind College walls to vast expanses of English wilderness, the city has it all.
Christ Church Meadow
Set against the dramatic backdrop of Christ Church’s grand architecture, Christ Church Meadow is a tranquil open space perfect for whiling away a sunny afternoon in the city. This flood meadow is enclosed by the River Cherwell and the River Thames, so it makes a great spot to watch students practising their rowing. The college-owned green space is completely free and accessible to the public during the day, and is even home to a herd of longhorn cattle, rumoured to be a gift to the University from Bill Clinton!
Slap bang in the heart of Oxford, University Parks offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Open to uni students, local residents and visitors, this 70-acre green oasis has a bit of everything, including tree-lined walks, colourful plants and a duckpond. The riverside parkland is home to the university cricket club and a real hub for sports, where depending on the season you can catch a game of lacrosse, tennis, football or rugby. The Oxford University Quidditch team play here too, so Harry Potter fans will want to keep their eyes peeled for that! Take a walk along the river, which leads you straight out into the glorious Oxfordshire countryside.
Founded in 1621, the Oxford Botanic Gardens are the oldest of their kind in Britain. From herbaceous borders just bursting with life and colour to glasshouses that take you on a horticultural trip around the world (think tropical jungle to desert), the gardens are a great place to lose yourself for an afternoon. You’ll feel miles away from the grand, stately architecture of the city as you explore this lush, floral haven.
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Step through the walls of many of Oxford University’s colleges and you’ll discover beautiful hidden gardens and parkland, so quiet you’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled across a secret garden. It’s not only frowned upon but also generally forbidden to trespass on the pristine lawns of the college’s quads, but there are other places to explore. Magdalen College has extensive gardens, grounds and parklands, including a delightful walk along the River Cherwell, which are all open to visitors. There’s even a Deer Park, home to a herd of fallow deer, which can be viewed from the pathway. New College and Worcester College in particular have stunning and peaceful gardens that are definitely worth a visit. Make sure you check visiting hours for each College garden before you arrive.
The wild nature of Port Meadow provides an antidote to the formal beauty of the landscaped college gardens. This calming spot along the River Thames has a rich history that stretches back to 2000 BC. The Freemen of Wolvercote have ancient grazing rights on the land, so chance are you’ll meet ponies and cattle roaming around. The area is home to lots of other native wildlife and wildflowers; visit in May and the ground is carpeted bright yellow with beautiful buttercups as far as the eye can see. Just be warned, the meadow can become flooded on occasion, so if it’s been a rainy few days it might be best to wear your wellies.