Up on the outskirts of Oxford is a small nature reserve maintained by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust. It may sound unassuming, but they acquired it from the estate of CS Lewis, who bought the land to develop the reserve. So the natural beauty of the place has been preserved, with the addded magic of it being part of CS Lewis' heritage, a window into Narnia.
On one side is a stone bench built into the land. It is a beautiful place to sit and watch the world go by in its own right. Imagining CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien meeting here to discuss their latest creations makes it even more atmospheric.
The BBOWT now look after this reserve, allowing it to be kept open to the public and cared for. They are always looking for volunteers to help if you are in the area for longer than a brief visit. It is also used for school study trips including pond-dipping experiences. Elements of this use can be seen across the reserve including, for example, bird boxes on trees. It's a great place to watch nature.
Paths wind their way around the reserve and you can just wander. If you want to follow a proper trail, however, or are just feeling a bit unsure about which way to go, then there are signposts around the reserve. There is a children's discovery trail available on the BBOWT website
Views around the reserve are gorgeous. Risinghurst is already above Oxford, and the small hill in the reserve gives you occasional peaks across the local countryside. Within the reserve there are great views too, be it across the wood or reflected in the pond. In the spring there are banks of bluebells, in autumn, carpets of copper leaves. Every season is lovely here.
There is a second pond, again surrounded by trees, but much smaller. You will find this part of the way up the hill. Lewis supposedly wandered around the reserve while writing The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and for all Narnia fans a walk in the reserve is a great chance to enter into the atmosphere of his word.
The reserve was part of Lewis' estate, by his house, The Kilns. The Kilns is still inhabited, running as a scholarly centre as well as a place to visit. They run house tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but these need booking well in advance. If you are having a full day out rather than just a walk, it's a great chance to get an insight into Lewis' life, with his library, bedroom and sitting room preserved for visitors to see.
The hill in the reserve and its basic parks mean that it is not easy to navigate with prams. There are routes round which you can manage, as long as you don't mind lifting them up steps sometimes. Wheelchair users would not be able to get around. Parking is on the street outside the reserve, but there is not much space available. A brief circuit of the reserve takes 30-40 minutes, but you could easily spend several hours here.