Above and Beyond

If ever you find yourself dreaming of spires then it is to the University Church of St Mary the Virgin that you must go. And, while you are there, you must surely invest the £6 required to take you up to the top of the tower. There is a sense of mounting excitement as you climb the creaking staircase, ... CONTINUE READING

Ox Photo

A year ago, on the centenary of his departure to the great darkroom in the sky, we published a Story in honour of Henry Taunt (1842-1922). Author of richly illustrated guidebooks and publisher of countless picture postcards, he was, without doubt, our city’s most prolific photographer. He also happens to have sported of one of Oxford’s finest ever ... CONTINUE READING

The Beaches of Oxford

It’s always worth reminding oneself of the benefits of a philosophical education. Parson’s Pleasure is a secluded stretch of grass embankment leading down to the River Cherwell at the point, just before you reach the land known as Mesopotamia, where the water curls south and makes for Magdalen Bridge. It was here, boarded off from the public gaze ... CONTINUE READING

Folly Island

This is the remarkable story of an island that shrunk. Every Oxfordian knows where it’s located but only a few can tell you what goes on there, let alone how it got to be so small. First, the name. Why is it called Folly Island? To find out we need to go back to the Norman Conquest – ... CONTINUE READING

Henry Taunt 100

Imagine, if you can, a world before mass tourism and before the internal combustion engine. A world where the summers were languid and the air smelt sweet. A world devoid of selfie sticks. ‘Those ancient courts and quadrangles and cloisters look so beautiful, so tranquil and so solemn … In other towns you hear at all times ... CONTINUE READING

Cherwell Boathouse

The punting station beside the Cherwell Boathouse has a very different personality from its two bigger siblings downstream – at Magdalen and Folly Bridge. It’s altogether harder to locate for a start ­– tucked away since 1904 at the end of a quiet residential road in North Oxford. Refreshments take their cue from the location. Whereas the Head ... CONTINUE READING

Round Hill, Port Meadow

On frosty winter days or in the lengthening evenings of May its profile can be picked out easily if you know where to look. On a grey morning with angled light it melts mysteriously into the surrounding grassland. Four thousand years haven’t quite eroded it, and the floodwaters of the nearby Thames never immerse it completely. ... CONTINUE READING

Peacocks and Trout

Quick! Out of the car park (thank goodness it’s too difficult for coaches to get here), across the narrow road (eyes right for the even narrower medieval bridge), through the porch (note the Stonesfield slate roof), over the flagstones (part of the original seventeenth-century fisherman’s cottage), along the refurbished interior (smells of 'artisan breads' and 'rustic thick-cut chips'), under ... CONTINUE READING

A Little More Allotment

Mrs Thatcher was not a friend of allotments, despite (or perhaps because of) being a grocer’s daughter from the famously potato-growing county of Lincolnshire. In July 1980 her government attempted to repeal Section 8 of the 1925 Act. Had she succeeded it would have meant abolition of the last remaining safeguards against local authorities wishing to dispose of ... CONTINUE READING

Allotments

The Right Worshipful Lord Mayor of Oxford, Mrs E F M Standingford, couldn’t quite believe her eyes as she stepped decorously through the gates of Osney, St Thomas and New Botley allotments, one warm August afternoon in 1986. Patiently waiting for her on the other side was Mr Trevor Green, and beside him a pumpkin of gargantuan proportions. Over ... CONTINUE READING