10 reasons to live in Oxfordshire
A strong sense of community, outdoor spaces galore, markets and independent shops - Oxfordshire is one of the best places to raise a family and here our Local editor Camilla tells us why.
1. Thing about the area
Oxfordshire is a beautiful rural county full of wonderful walks, many of them beside the River Thames, which winds through the county's centre. It's also within easy reach of the big smoke if Oxford (the jewel in the county's crown) isn't big enough for you.
Oxfordshire is full of smallish market towns and villages with a strong sense of community. You really get to know and care about the place and people, which makes it an idyllic place to raise children.
It also means parents are heavily involved in the schools, so a disproportionate number of primary schools in the county are good to outstanding.
Oxfordshire feels like Mumsnet central! So many of the women are educated, intelligent, savvy, bolshie and not afraid to stand up for themselves.
There's a high level of support available to mothers: from NHS-run midwife-led maternity units to volunteer-run groups such as breastfeeding support groups, birth choice groups and endless free or cheap toddler groups.
2. Child-friendly café
This is a tricky one – there are lots of amazing cafés and brasseries in Oxfordshire, but your preference usually depends on where you live. For families in North Oxfordshire, there's the incredibly good Huffkins in Burford. Those in South Oxfordshire have The Waterfront Café near Benson, with excellent cake, lots of outdoor space and duck-feeding on tap.
Average semi-detached house price
Average class size for primary schools
Oxfordshire: 26 pupils
UK: 25.9 pupils
3. Child-free night out
I'd recommend Henley-on-Thames, as it's the only place I know of with nightlife beyond a decent pub.
Where Oxfordshire really excels is food – it has a high proportion of stunning country house hotels and eateries, from gastropubs like The White Hart at Fyfield to high-end Michelin-starred restaurants like renowned Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
Leave the kids at home and get dressed up for a fancy champagne afternoon tea at The Manor at Weston on the Green, just a stone's throw from Bicester Village (see best places to shop below).
4. Outside space
The Cotswolds, where the hills and rolling fields are studded by golden stone houses, provide some truly spectacular views.
Wittenham Clumps is highly recommended for a family-friendly walk. It's a super space for all kinds of exploring (from mini-beast hunting and impromptu forest school activities, to den building and map-reading) and in autumn provides unparalleled opportunities for freegans in search of foraging. The Earth Trust is based here for more organised events, or just turn up and enjoy the wonderful views from the top.
The Harcourt Arboretum near Marsh Baldon is a lovely space for running around, especially in autumn with big piles of leaves to kick about.
Also stunning, and a great way to support traditional skills such as dry-walling, is the Wychwood Wild Garden in Shipton-under-Wychwood. Well worth a visit if you're in the area – and the nearby Lamb Inn is meant to be excellent, as is the Shaven Crown just down the road.
5. Hidden gem
Oxfordshire is so packed with hidden gems, it's impossible to choose just one.
Come and visit so you can find your own – then let Camilla know so she can share it on Mumsnet Oxfordshire!
6. Community venues
The Didcot Cornerstone is a wonderful resource for families as it hosts a wide range of courses and events, from craft and dance classes to art exhibitions and stage productions.
There's excitement locally about its upcoming production of The Night Before Christmas, which Camilla will be reviewing for Mumsnet Oxfordshire's blog.
Of a similar ilk, but further north, is Chipping Norton Theatre. It also offers community and education programmes and is said to have one of the best Christmas pantomimes going.
Donnington Doorstep is a community centre providing a range of open-access and targeted services from antenatal support and playgroups through to outreach and training programmes.
Orinoco – The Community Scrapstore – is a community charity that promotes re-use, art and creative play through education and direct action. It sells scrap items for art, play and creative projects, new art materials, household paint and a range of DIY materials. Everything in the store is incredibly cheap and the household paint is free – an excellent resource for parents and community groups.
7. Visitor attractions
Central Oxford has a great selection of free museums, so please have a look at the 10 reasons to live in Oxford to find out more.
There's always something free to do if you like the great outdoors. Otherwise, try fun things like the mini petting farm at Milletts Garden Centre.
Cotswold Wildlife Park has animals and a train – entrancing for toddlers. For older children, there's an adventure playground and the reptile house would probably appeal to even the most disinterested teenager. It isn't cheap, but it is big and diverse enough for a whole day out and makes a perfect backdrop for a picnic.
Staying in the Cotswolds you could easily while away a day out browsing round its picturesque towns and villages – I can highly recommend Burford and Stow-on-the-Wold.
9. Places to live
From north to south, there is something for everyone. The little market towns in South Oxfordshire are handy for Reading and London, as well as being beautiful and friendly. But it's stunning further north in the Cotswolds. It will all come down to personal taste, budget and where you need to be for work and family. If you're planning on moving to Oxfordshire why not start a thread? Local members will be able to give you lots of information.
10. Places to shop
Bicester Village is a designer shopping outlet much-beloved of label fans on a budget.
If it's produce rather than clothing that you're after, Oxfordshire is blessed with a vibrant market culture where you can buy everything from earth-encrusted local beetroot to hand-made knitwear and jewellery.
If you'd like to be kept up to date on what's happening with Mumsnet Oxfordshire (or if you just want to show your support) then like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or read our shiny brand new blog for in-depth reviews and features.
About the editor
Camilla is Local editor for Mumsnet Oxfordshire. She has a two-year-old son and two cats. In her spare time, she volunteers as a breastfeeding peer supporter with the local Baby Café.
She moved to South Oxfordshire nearly three years ago and it was love at first sight.
She says: "Working as a Local editor allows me to discover more things about the area I live in, communicate them to others and hopefully facilitate some new life-long friendships through the Oxfordshire Meet-ups.
"Please come and join the conversation - this week we're discussing Matching Mother & Daughter tattoos, which have been in the local press and are apparently the current 'big thing'."