roman garden

Nature trail at the National Herb Centre

Last weekend we wanted somewhere nearby to visit to make the most of the warm weather.  I’ve not been to the National Herb Centre for years, but decided that we should go and check out the nature trail.

The National Herb Centre’s just outside Banbury; it’s a herb centre obviously, with every variety of herbs for sale that you could possibly imagine.  They also sell other plants, fruit trees and more. As well as this, there are 6 display gardens, the nature trail, a shop and a restaurant.  They also run lots of events for children throughout the year, although there wasn’t anything on while we were there.

N loved checking out the garden centre goods on sale. He wasn’t too sure about these recycled garden ‘ornaments’.

quirky recycled garden ornaments

But got very excited about seeing this stone Land Rover.  I had to stop him from sitting on it!

national herb centre gardening shop

We headed straight to the nature trail walk.  N wasn’t keen – I think he’d seen the hill we’d have to walk back up.

refusing to walk the nature trail

It took a while for me to get his to move from his sitting place.  I diverted him by stopping so we could look at the display gardens.  Compared to last time I visited where they looked immaculate, they were a bit overgrown as Autumn’s arrived.  This was the roman garden.

roman garden

We also found a horse chestnut tree so tried to find some conkers, but we could only find cases, spotting the others still securely on the trees.  Then it was down to the nature trail.  N was excited about the path because he didn’t think there was room for anyone to come past.  Oh, and it was a great place to just sit and admire the view.

sitting at the top of the hill - nature trail

We listened to the crickets chirruping, watched a couple of birds of prey circling, and picked a few blackberries along the way.  At the bottom of the hill there’s a lovely wooden structure to sit and relax before walking on towards the pond.

national herb centre resting place

Of course while on a walk you need to have a stick.  N had found one, and used it to pretend to chop down the long grass on the walk.

one boy and his stick

The pond was full of reeds, and there were lots of these teasels surrounding it.  I love how these look in the sunlight against the trees or sky.

teasels at the herb centre

By that stage of the walk it was getting close to lunch time so we decided to head back.  You can walk some way round the full trail, but we didn’t do much of it.  On the way back up the hill N decided to pick me some flowers.  He does like picking up leaves and different flowers, so next time we head out for a walk, I must remember to take a little bag for him to collect bits of nature so we can create a collage afterwards.

picking dandelions

Heading to the restaurant we spotted a big Connect Four game, so of course we had to have a game.  They have one at nursery so I thought N might have an idea of what he needed to do. But it seems not, and he just wanted to fill it up.

garden connect four

The menu in the restaurant was good for hot food.  Sundays they even do roasts, then there were a variety of salads, sandwiches, hot food.  N had a children’s lunchbox at the bargain price of £3.95 for a roll, crisps, drink, raisins and a fudge bar, plus colouring book and crayons.  I have to admit the ham roll wasn’t great – he didn’t eat it all, as the ham was a bit greasy and the roll looked to me like a hamburger or muffin roll.  My chunky chips caught his eye so he swiped a few of those.

I had issues with my panini.  I didn’t fancy many of the fillings so opted for tuna and cheese, but like so many places, it was basically all tuna.  I didn’t spot any cheese.  I think I’m too fussy when it comes to sandwiches as I like to prescribe exactly how they are (at my old work, I would ask for cheese with a touch of tuna).

lunch at national herb centre

It’s obviously a popular place for lunch as there were reserved tables, as well as several filled outside.  The hot food did look good.  Maybe we’ll come back another time for lunch.

I’d said that we could go and find the playground, so I didn’t have chance to stop and smell all the different mints or thymes as we walked through the herbs. It was worth finding, just to see the view over the valley.

view from the herb centre

They had some lovely obstacle style play equipment, with bridges and balance beams.

chain bridge

But the big draw was the wonderful climbing frame, complete with telescope and steering wheel.

up the climbing frame

There’s also a mini maze which is lovely to look at and the perfect height and difficulty for young children.

herb centre maze

N loved wandering through it.  I’m not surprised as it was a bit unexpected to find it there; it looked wonderful in the sunlight.  Although it appeared that the sundial was broken!


We really enjoyed exploring the National Herb Centre, and there’s definitely more for us to discover on another visit.  I’ll have to keep a watch out for the special events in case there’s one worth booking onto.

Check out these other ideas for Oxfordshire Days out

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  1. Looks like you all had a blast. It looks absolutely gorgeous there. The only think we’ve got is a botanical gardens that’s about an hour away… lol

  2. All that Roman garden looks really cool. Looks very toddler friendly. Baby Mash would probably live this.

  3. Oh wow, what a very special place to totally relax and enjoy. I would love to just lay down in the grass and look at the clouds and breath in the fresh air. I hate the city!

  4. This looks like so much fun! I love how they have fun things for the kids too. Especially that giant Connect Four game!

  5. This place looks very peaceful and I would love to have a seat just like N. I love how you capture the beauty of the land and I’m coming to visit soon.

  6. Awww looks like you had a great time. I love those mazes, that would be awesome to go through.

  7. Wow! You guys certainly had some fun adventures! I love that recycled bus and those dogs! Lovely pictures!

  8. I have never heard of The National Herb Centre before. This looks like an amazing place to visit indeed. I love the sun dial. Thanks for sharing.

  9. wow! what a nice place to visit! I love the photos!!! 🙂

    Little man enjoyed the trip eh?!

  10. What a fun time, thanks for sharing. I love the lawn ornaments, especially the vw bus.

  11. This place looks wonderful. There is an herb garden near me and I tried to visit as often as I could over the summer. I love the hedge maze and the scenery is gorgeous plus I felt like I was along on the trip through your narrative photographs.

    I thoroughly enjoy these kinds of posts. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Looks like a great place to visit. So hands on. That obstacle course looks like a lot of fun.

  13. Natural Herb Centre? Never heard and never been in that kind of place. I bet if you bring me there I wouldn’t be able to identify more than two! LOL! And they have a restaurant too, whoah, probably all-organic/natural stuff! 😀 Good thing you guys enjoyed! 🙂

  14. What a great, informative review! Such beautiful pictures. I usually give a restaurant two chances, unless they do something terribly wrong.

    1. Thanks Sara. Really please with how lots of my photos are turning out, although it does help with good lighting as I’m an auto fan.

  15. What a lovely sounding place to visit. Herbs are such a great sensory experience, we have been investigating them in activity hour here on the farm though my greenhouse is nothing on these beautiful grounds! thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids

    1. Thanks. We didn’t really get to the herbs for sale. I’ve spent ages there before – just love how many different varieties there are and how wonderful they all smell, chocolate mint, lemon thyme etc. N wasn’t keen after sniffing the rosemary!

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