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. Round Hill. ... 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

Godstow

Once upon a time there were three abbeys in Oxford: Godstow, Osney, and Rewley. Along came King Henry VIII. Then there were none. All that remains of Rewley Abbey (founded by Cistercian monks at the end of the thirteenth century) is a segment of the precinct wall, and an arch, easily missed as you walk down the side ... 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. ... CONTINUE READING

A River Runs Through It

Running through every story on this website is a silver thread: the river which has shaped Oxford’s destiny, indeed the very reason for Oxford’s existence. The water even takes on a different name as it flows here, turning briefly from Thames to Isis (supposedly from the Latin ‘Tamesis’) though few people now use that term, except in literary circles. ... CONTINUE READING

The Trap Grounds

As you wind across the boardwalk through the shoulder-high reeds, with a soft grey cygnet quietly lapping beside you, you might well be forgiven for thinking you are in some enchanted rainforest. It is hard to imagine that this land was once a rubbish site, covered with metal, splinters of stone and brick, plastic bags, decomposing waste, even ... CONTINUE READING

Park Town Arch

In his article on ‘The Expansion of Towns - Planned and Unplanned' [Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 43 (1957), p.106] D.W. Riley identifies certain towns as possessing 'an efficiency, culture, and charm which are the gradually matured expression of generations of settled living'. He might well be describing what is arguably the greatest Victorian suburb in Britain, ... CONTINUE READING

Canalboats

Stretched out along the canal they lie, from Wolvercote to Hythe Bridge, in every shade and hue, from psychedelic hippy swirls, via sensible dark-blue college livery, to load-bearing gunmetal greys and rusty blacks. And it’s not just the canalboats themselves which fascinate. It’s what’s on their roofs, what’s on their decks, and what’s around them, on the tow-path and ... CONTINUE READING

Binsey Poplars

The thatched cottages of the picture-postcard village of Binsey lie little more than a mile from the railway station. Its farm, Medley Manor, is a pick-your-own cornucopia. Its twelfth-century church protects a holy well dedicated to Frideswide, Oxford’s patron saint. And its welcoming pub, The Perch, boasts log fires, mulled ciders, ‘Grouse & Whinberry’ crisps, and a long ... CONTINUE READING