South Oxfordshire and its beautiful countryside make an ideal home for a variety of wildlife – it’s the ideal place to visit if you love to watch animals up-close. Stroking a donkey, holding a falcon, or seeing a red kite swoop from the sky – there is so much to see in the county if you know the right places to go. Below are five animal adventures which can make a summer break in South Oxfordshire even more memorable.
1. Dawn Chorus Wild Walk and Breakfast at Waterperry Gardens
Early birds should be able to catch some great glimpses of wildlife at Waterperry Gardens on May 26th . If you can make your way to the gardens by 4:30 in the morning then you can get a tour of the beautiful gardens with an expert guide identifying birds from their song. The dawn walk is followed by a hearty breakfast in the teashop and then a slide show of the gardens’ “more elusive residents”. And don’t forget that there is more to Waterperry than just birds as the gardens’ colourful flowers, plants and herbs are well-worth seeing in the full light of day.
2. Visiting the donkeys at Wallingford
Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary near Wallingford (‘Causton’ village in Midsomer Murders) is another great place you can visit. This charity is devoted to giving a shelter to ill-treated and abused donkeys. When you see gentle creatures like Loppy, Brewster and Mr Crusty you will wonder how anyone could be so cruel to such beautiful animals. There is a donkey show at the sanctuary on Sunday, July 3rd and if you can’t make that then you can visit any other day between 11am to 4pm; admission is free!
3. Falconry at Mapledurham
Enjoy real animal adventures when South Oxfordshire’s Mapledurham House hosts a falconry event on June 19th. You’ll be able to watch some amazing bird-of-prey displays against the backdrop of the magnificent country estate grounds. There are expected to be lots of birds in the village on the big day; eagles, hawks, owls and vultures have appeared at previous displays.There will be a static display at the event, where people will have a chance to have their photos taken with the birds. You’ll have to watch carefully when some of the birds are in flight though as some of them can fly at 150 mph!
4. Red Kites in the Chilterns
A trip to the Chilterns will give ‘twitchers’ another great chance to see some exotic birds – this time in their natural habitat. Red Kites were driven to extinction in England by the end of the 19th century but (thanks to some Spanish imports) were successfully reintroduced to the South Oxfordshire skies between 1989 and 1994. Tear your eyes away from the Chilterns’ beautiful wooded hills and you might well catch sight of a kite’s dazzling red plumage and forked tail.
5. Dog walking on Shakespeare’s Way
There are lots of superb walking routes in South Oxfordshire – whether you have two legs or four. The South Oxfordshire part of the Shakespeare’s Way route takes some beating. Relax, take your dog off the leash and soak in summer sights such as the gently-flowing River Thames, the rolling hills of the Chilterns and the scenic charm of Watlington village.