Half-term day trips: Rural Tring, Whipsnade and Thame

Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire were the destinations of a series of day-trips during half-term.

Pitstone, Ivinghoe and Tring

Back in February we visited the pleasant town of Berkhamsted. On Bank Holiday morning we pushed a little further north to the area around Tring, as two museums were open. The Pitstone Farm Museum (situated in the village of the same name) and the Ford End Watermill in Ivinghoe are unusual in only being open on a handful of days a year. The reason being is that both are volunteer-run and require a good number of volunteers in place to operate.

Tractor rides at Pitstone Farm Museum

The Pitstone Farm Museum is a real medley of attractions. At its heart is a preserved farm, however farm buildings have been turned into historic shops including a fascinating Smithy. There are also tractor rides, preserved vehicles, model railway and canal, crafts and stalls, and a brilliantly reconstruction of a Lancaster Bomber cockpit, to name but a few. There’s also a pleasant cafe selling home-made food at down to Earth prices.

Neighbouring Pistone is the attractive village of Ivinghoe, probably best known for the nearby Ivinghoe Beacon, one of the highest points in the Chiltern Hills. Also open for the Bank Holiday was the Water End Mill. This watermill is hundreds of years old and sells itself as being one of the only functioning watermills still to use its original machinery. There are friendly volunteers on hand to answer questions and activities for children to play with. The highlight undoubtedly was seeing the mill in full action, rattling away and actually grinding to make flour, which is for sale.

Miller collecting flour as it's made at Ford End Watermill

Back towards Pitstone we stopped for the short walk to Pitstone Windmill. Unusually this wasn’t open on the Bank Holiday, however there are fine views to be had from the windmill. In the past there used to be a cement works nearby, however today the scene has returned to its rural origins.

Pitstone Windmill

We wrapped the day by hopping over the border from Buckinghamshire back into Hertfordshire, with a stop in Tring itself. The town has a modest, pleasant high street, although as with many of the towns in the area there’s not much open on a Bank Holiday. There is branch of Costa on hand, however.

Tring high street

To view our photos from this trip, visit our Flickr channel.

Whipsnade Zoo

Just over the border into Bedfordshire and not many miles from our last day trip is Whipsnade Zoo. One of better known attractions of the area, Whipsnade is now run by ZSL that also operates London Zoo. It’s not cheap day out, costing £19.50 for adults, plus £4 for parking. This is however a family ticket for those with children. Whipsnade should be around a half-hour drive from Ricky, although as we found this is subject to the whims of the M1.

Whipsnade steam train passes camels, deer and yak

Covering a large site, there’s plenty to take up a day. We spent 5 hours at Whipsnade and still didn’t see it all. This, in some part, was due to the sign-posting, which we felt to be lacking and unclear at times. It was good to see animals with a good amount of space to roam on the whole. Some animals, such as wallabies and the odd “it’s not a rabbit, it’s not a deer, what is it?” mara and are allowed to wander around the site. Anyone disappointed at finding no elephants at London Zoo can now see them at the roomier Whipsnade, where the smaller elephant seemed to be content squirting water around. Other highlights included the rhinos, meerkats (which we dutifully compared), camels, giraffes and cheetahs. For children especially there’s a petting zoo and a steam train ride.

See a selection of the animals we saw at Whipsnade on our Flickr channel.

Thame

Having browsed a number of local towns on Flickr we decided we liked the look of Thame, situated in nearest Oxfordshire, just over the border from Buckinghamshire. Thame is a market town with a splendid historic centre and a good clutch of both independent and chain high street shops. A branch of Costa has opened in recent weeks, which is generally a sign of good times for a town, while we’re big fans of the brilliant independent book shop ‘The Book House’ and the extensive family butchers opposite. There’s also a branch of the glorious Steamer Trading Cook Shop, however after the huge spending spree this resulted in on visiting the Marlow branch, we sensibly gave it a wide berth on this occasion.

Thame town hall and high street

We picked up a number of local walk leaflets from the town hall to ensure we saw the best of what Thame has to offer. This included a nature reserve a few minutes walk from the town centre and to the north of the town the River Thame which eventually runs into the similarly named River Thames. There’s also a fabulously traditional looking cricket ground where spectators seem to gather to picnic around the boundary.

Thame is a 40 minute drive from Rickmansworth along the M40. See more images of our Thame visit on our Flickr channel.

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