Nearly 8 weeks after my initial DVT diagnosis and then later, a more severe diagnosis of clotting in other parts of my body, it was time for me to attempt an actual adventure out of the house. While my mobility has been greatly affected by these latest medical developments, every so often I wake up and feel like I can face the day. When this happens, I absolutely HAVE to jump on it, if I didn’t I would be permanently housebound and this would drive me nuts.
When I moved back to the UK in 2014, I made it one of my personal missions to explore as much of this beautiful country as I could before holidaying in Europe or far away exotic Indian Ocean islands. What better way to get to know a city and its heritage than by visiting one of its most historic buildings, a museum.
I woke up feeling like I could take on the world and after a brief internet search of things to do, I came across the Oxford Museum of Natural History located in the beautiful city of Oxford, a place I had never been and merely an hours drive from my doorstep. Admission to the museum is free (Music to all parent’s ears) however a donation would be appreciated.
Parking in Oxford
Fortunately, the museum’s website was very informative and quite useful in making the decision to use a park and ride. There is very limited roadside parking in and around Oxford centre and there is no parking at the museum itself. City Centre parkades can cost up to £20 for the day, a little expensive for a family day out on a budget.
We opted for the Pear Tree park and ride where we could park our car and pay £6.80 to get a combined parking and return bus ticket for the family (2 adults and up to 3 children). The buses run throughout the day every 10 minutes and drop you right in the middle of the bustling and very busy town centre.
I am not sure if these park and rides are always so busy but the buses get jam packed pretty quickly, this meant that we were separated on board (as I had to have a seat) but this worked out well as the Oxford local next to me was able to tell me which stop to get off at to be closest to the museum – It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, the bus stops a few times to collect travellers en route to town but once in town, we got off at George street (Stop A2).
Once we got into the town centre, we had a short walk of about 12 minutes from the bus stop to the museum. I was a little worried about this as I had already had a long car ride but it was a pleasant stroll through the town Christmas market (Warning! Take cash… or don’t if you don’t want to buy EVERYTHING) and down the tree lined streets filled with autumn glow. The town was heaving with people, locals and tourists alike but the overall vibe was fun and energetic, despite the misty rain falling. My husband describes Oxford as ‘Camden on holiday’ with a diverse melting pot of people all with similar cultural interests.
The museum, founded in 1860, proudly parades its Neo-Gothic architecture for the visitors and residents of Oxford to see. The building is as beautiful on the outside as it is inside and has all the feel of historic heritage. Once inside it is near impossible to look straight ahead as your eyes will immediately wander upwards to the sprawling ceiling and its impressive architecture. Whale carcasses suspended from the rafters and taxidermy bears at the entrance are merely a taste of the treasures hidden inside.
Despite the number of people crammed into the town centre, the museum itself was actually pleasantly occupied. There weren’t too many crowds that one could feel claustrophobic and the museum had chairs laid out sparsely along the exhibits for their mobility challenged visitors, namely me. I was able to sit down when the standing became too much and thanks to the open plan nature of the museum, easily spotted my family when I was ready to brave the next few steps.
The museum is one large floor space that has been partitioned by various exhibits including taxidermy, skeletons, dinosaurs, rocks and fossils all accommpanied by their written facts and findings. There are so many different types of creatures to see and many sensory experiences for the children, like touching a hippo head and cuddling a badger. My youngest was particularly excited about the dinosaurs and couldn’t wait to have a picture with the triceratops. On the ground floor, you can also find a lecture hall, the gift shop and then the doorway to the Pitt rivers museum (I will have to visit on my next trip).
Upstairs on the 1st floor, you can find a coffee shop and a gallery, while sitting having a bite to eat I also spotted the individual pillars that are sourced from different rock and stone from all over the country. Sadly, by this point I was not able to do much more walking so was not able to look at the gallery. The cafe was sufficient but it definitely had more of a student budget feel, there was not much on offer and the seating was limited but it was relatively inexpensive and all four of us had a snacky lunch and drink for £14!
Down the rabbit hole.
It isn’t a suprise that Lewis Carroll drew inspiration from the museums zoology, entomology, palaeontology and mineral collections to create some of his characters in the legendary tale of Alice in Wonderland. I feel like a heathen not knowing as much about the famous author as I should have and now have an excuse to venture back into Wonderland to experience all of the ‘Alice’ adventures that Oxford has to offer.
Overall this was a fabulous day out and for a little over £20, we had a family day out for 4 including a light lunch and the exploration of a new little town and its treasures.
Oxford, I will be back!