I am gutted I have not been to Cogges before but I would definitely recommend you go now if you have not already. It is a museum, walled garden, woodland, adventure playground and activity centre all rolled up in a 700 years old beautiful Victorian Manor House, Cotswold stone farm buildings and 17 acres of open space. The history at Cogges is palpable but it is homely and relaxing at the same time.
We went for a Halloween-themed October half-term event, which transformed the Manor House into “The Witch’s House”. You go from room to room, each with special spooktacular lighting, creepy feely items and an array of potions, bats and magical creatures to navigate. The attention to detail is amazing; whether it is the kitchen with a bubbling cauldron, the table with mortar and pestle ( thyme and mini-beasts for crushing), the apothecary with UV lights/ bottles and fortune telling bowl (which actually changes when you touch it), the living room (with a picture of witch and the cat on the broom stick atop a very old TV), the dining table (with eyeball spaghetti, blood & poison wine bottle and witches in waiting); you are sure to be wowed! You will also occasionally hear shrieking owls or cats as you explore the house. Climb up the narrow steep stair case to find a snoring witch in the four poster bed.
All the set up in the backdrop of an old historical building with spectacular lighting and sound effects certainly add to the spookiness of the event. I was really not sure what to expect as we started going from room to room; scared is not really the right word, but reluctant for sure, half expecting a witch to jump at us, but luckily there is nothing as such. It’s all good fun. We went around three times and each time found something new we had missed. Another family did the same. Mum telling me the little girl was a bit scared at first but grew in confidence as they finished the first round.
The Manor House and historic farm buildings are generally open to visitors most of the year, even when no other event is taking place. You can explore each room as you listen to stories of the past or step into Yew Tree Farm of Downton Abbey.
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What impressed me the most is how much else there was for children to do. It is not your typical commercialised farm; expect to see free range chicken and heritage ducks roaming around freely and boards telling you not to run after them. You can feed the farm animals (food available from reception) and see the sheep, goats (all are named after Downton Abbey characters – Sybil, Lady Mary, Elizabeth and Branson), Shetland pony, pigs, guinea pigs, turkeys and ducks.
You will find several Cotswold stone farm barns and pig styes as you go past reception. There is a small sandpit, lego and duplo bricks and ride on tractors in one of them. The other one had a short video of the production team of Downton abbey running, another one was housing chickens- you get the feel for the place right! There is also a soft play area in one of the courtyard buildings but we did not venture into it.
Beside the house is a large walled garden, created over a period of several centuries from 1600. Volunteers sometimes do guided tours but you can just as easily enjoy the smell of the herbs and plants growing around without them. Even in this weather, they looked gorgeous. Beyond the walled garden is an orchard, producing heritage varieties of fruit. Many different types of apple trees were at display with many designated picnic benches scattered around here.
There is a pumpkin trail around the walled garden and orchard grounds for halloween. It costs an additional 3£ but you can use these 3£ towards a gift from the shop on completion of the trail.
Pass the moat to come to the Woodland adventure playground. The timber adventure play fort- built where the original house once stood- is impressive with ladders, climbing wall, wobbly bridge, ropes, cargo net and balancing logs leading to two slides and fireman pole. There is also another climbing structure with balancing logs, a zipwire and nest swing.
You can see in my pictures how sunny it was until the British weather hit us with a sudden (out of the blue) thunderstorm. All parents and kids took refuge under the woodland frame. It worked until the rain got stronger and it started trickling through the frame. We then decided to run back to the Manor House and off to our car as soon as the rain stopped (as we were soaking wet by now). There was still more exploring to do; we couldn’t get to see the remainder of the woodland area, but that is a good enough excuse to come back to a place which seems quite special 🙂 We stayed about three hours but would have stayed for much longer if the weather was better. Having said that, it is one of those places with a good combination of indoor and outdoor play, so don’t let bad weather put you off. When we were running around from rain, dry families were coming out of the witch’s house. It was just bad timing for us!
I must also add there was a little play area with a tractor and a climbing frame with a slide just opposite the cafe – perfect to keep kids occupied while you have a cuppa. There were too many children on top of the tractor so I could not take a picture.
Cogges is a popular location for TV and the big screen, such as the 2019 movie Colette starring Keira Knightley, or ITV period dramas Downton Abbey or Arthur & George. The house is home to an incredible array of artefacts and is a popular location for many feature films and TV series.
Main car park is Cogges Hill Rd, Witney OX28 3FR (by The Blake School). Blue badge parking at OX28 3LA but there is no access to the main car park
From the 21st – 31st October, Cogges is open for the Witch’s House only; your tickets also give you access to Cogges grounds all day. They do many family focused events throughout the year, so keep an eye on their website.
PRICE: See updated price on website HERE
For the witches house event: Price:8.5£ child, £12.50£ adult, under 3s Free
Normal price *Gift Aid / Non Gift Aid Adult: £9.00/£8.18 , Child: £6.00/£5.45 for children aged 3-16, under 3s are free, Family £28.00/£25.45 for 2 Adults + up to 3 Children
FREE Parking on site
Toilets and Baby changing facilities on site
Cafe on site
Well-behaved dogs on a short lead welcome but only Assistance Dogs are allowed in the Manor House