The prettiest, cutest outdoor museum that I have ever been to. Oh, and did I mention it’s all OUTDOORS?! Perfect for those of us who are still a bit wary of visiting places during this pandemic. Lots of character buildings, flowers, farm animals, a playground, all in such a quaint location. And what’s special about these character buildings is that they are all from the local area, saved and restored here at this museum. This place is called the Chiltern Open Air Museum and we had a lovely, sunny visit here last week.
Location: Chiltern Open Air Museum – Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4AB
Parking: FREE car park within the grounds
Food: Yes. Although the cafe is closed, they have a window open at the Skippings Barn (number 13 on the map) where you can purchase snacks, drinks and ice cream from outside. You can also bring your own picnic.
Cost: £5 per person during August, under 4s free. (It normally costs more but the price has been reduced as we can’t go inside the historic buildings during the pandemic).
You MUST book your tickets in advance, as they are limiting numbers. You will get emailed a barcode which you show on your phone on entry. Bring a mask as entry is through the gift shop.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays
10am – 5pm
Click here for a closer look at the map. You get a map on entry, so no need to print this out.
As you can see from the map, this museum is very much like an outdoor trail, with lots of interesting things to see. And you know we love a trail. You enter through the gift shop, so for a very short while you have to wear a mask. After that, everything is outside so you don’t need to wear a mask until you exit. The grounds are huge with lots of spaces for people to social distance, and there is hand sanitiser outside different buildings.
We followed the path and the first thing we saw was lots of cute, fluffy sheep. This was Cherry Orchard. We stood at the gate and they all came out of their barn and trotted towards us, as if they were coming to say hello. I think they were just coming for their food though!
We kept walking along the path and came to the Village Green, a lovely open space surrounded by gorgeous character buildings. This is where you can buy food and drink if you need to. We sat here on the grass and had some snacks before setting to explore. And I have to say, I was genuinely surprised at how interested my kids were at peeking into the old buildings – looking at what was inside, the old furniture and how rooms looked in the old days.
This is Haddenham Croft Cottage, from the 1830s. The walls are made of a special type of local earth called wychert. The cottage was at risk of demolition in the 1970s because it didn’t comply with modern building regulations. Luckily it was saved and brought to the museum. Thank goodness because look at it, it’s gorgeous! It even has a pretty garden.
Here we have the Thame Vicarage Room (there are loos you can use behind this building). This was originally built in 1896 and is an example of a Victorian wooden framed, pre-fabricated building. The second photo is of various vintage bicycles they have saved.
The Harpenden Well Head is by the Village Green, and the kids enjoyed rolling a penny into it. Apparently you will be able to hear spirits talk!
These cute cottages caught my eye, the thatched roof is just so pretty! And the garden is so lovely to walk through. These are Leagrave Cottages, and they were originally barns, converted into cottages in the 1770s. We could peek in and see inside too.
Behind it we came to two military huts, one from WW1 and the other from WW2. The children were getting excited now, wondering what they would see inside of the buildings. Tyler was amazed to find a little bedroom inside this one.
Opposite the huts is a pretty front garden leading up to what looks like a tin shed. It’s actually an Amersham Prefab. After WW2 there was a housing shortage, so these prefab bungalows were quickly put up. They were only meant to last 10 years, but some lasted until the 70s. This one was on the Finch Lane Estate in Amersham.
We peeked inside the windows and went round the back to where there was a vegetable plot! There were so many furnished rooms, my kids really enjoyed looking in, especially spotting the old toys. And one of my Instagram followers tells me a Call the Midwife episode was filmed here!
We also found a strange looking church – the Henton Mission Room, built in 1886.
Lily was getting tired now, as it was a hot day. I tempted her to keep going as I said there was a playground next! I had to carry her past an orchard, which wasn’t that long a walk, and we arrived at the playground. They loved it!
The playground has two wooden structures with climbing stuff and a bridge inside and slides. One is designed like a castle, the other like a wagon. We were here for a while, so I sat on the grass and just let them play. There were other children but it wasn’t too busy on the day we visited.
We could see goats in the field next to the playground. After a while, we walked to the left and came to the cutest looking toll house. There was a member of staff inside and she told the kids all about how people had to pay to use the road in the old days, and how a man lived in this house 170 years ago. It was all furnished inside.
The kids loved it! They ran around the back and peeked in. There was a tin bath and the lady asked the kids, “Where do you think they had a bath?” Tyler said “The bathroom?” She said there was no bathroom, there was only a tin bath and families would have to take turns and share the bath water – Tyler was shocked! Around the corner was the old outside loo, which he said was awesome lol.
Beyond the toll house is Wood End and Acre Wood according to the map. There would normally be a cafe here but it’s not open during the pandemic. The kids were tired now and the sun burning hot, so we started to make our way back to the exit. We will have to come back to do the Woodland Trail, and see the farm and other buildings we didn’t get around to.
Just near the entrance/exit is this medieval building surrounded by beautiful pink roses. This is Astleham Manor Cottage, first built in the 1500s in Shepperton. It was originally timber-framed but replaced with brick in the late 17th century.
Further up is another block of loos if you need them, and to the right is the gift shop and hand sanitiser at the door. I put my mask on and we bought a few souvenirs.
This was a really lovely afternoon. We spent about 2 and a half hours here. The sunny weather added to atmosphere for sure – definitely check the weather forecast before you book tickets as I can imagine it wouldn’t be so magical on a grey rainy day. I can absolutely recommend this place as somewhere to visit this summer – we loved it! Even the drive to the museum is pretty, just past Gerrards Cross and through winding country roads. Not too far from Slough, but quite a different world!
Let me know if you visit and what you thought.