Sunday, 7 September 2014

Four early morning walks in Oxford

Note: 'Early' means before 7 am.

I had four early morning walks during my recent family holiday to Oxford. Walking in Oxford can be marvellous - or else made disappointing by dense crowds, the intrusions of sturdy beggars, and the sense of being walled-out-from so many gems.

But if you pick your places and times, and have a pilgrim's purpose - all these problems may be circumvented - and depth and richness of experience will be your reward.

1. Christ Church Meadows

I began by walking from Jericho, cutting across to St Giles, down the Broad and past the Radcliffe Camera (as featured in the Notion Club Papers) to the Magdalen end of the Meadows, looping around to the Christ Church end.

The Meadows are one of the loveliest spots in England when you have them to yourself on a summer morning. I men only one other person. There is the natural beauty of the river, and also looking across at the beauty of the old colleges lined-up across the top of the meadows, and reflecting on the fundamental spiritual health of early generations who built them.

I came back to Jericho via the canal from Hythe Bridge, and past numerous (some astonishingly scruffy) houseboats.

2. The Parks and St Cross churchyard

The Parks are surrounded by the Science labs and research units of the university, and centred on the cricket grounds. They are very pleasant - especially at the far end where there is a view across the River Cherwell to summer pastures and the possibility of a diversion to really rural countryside.

Alternatively, from another corner of the Parks one can reach Mesopotamia - a narrow strip 'between two rivers' - actually a spit of land dividing the Cherwell. It was a favourite route for the Lewis brothers between the home in Headington Quarry and Magdalen College.

However, this day I went to St Cross Churchyard to visit the grave of Charles Williams (and Hugo Dyson and Kenneth Grahame). It is a gorgeously verdant, overgrown backwater - very quiet at this time of day.

3. Port Meadow Willow Walk

This is a very pleasing narrow, streamside walk leading-out onto Port Meadow from Jericho. It goes to an excellent spot beside the River Thames, the rather OTT-named 'Rainbow Bridge' and a great view back across Port Meadow and out towards The Trout at Wolvercote (an Inklings pub).

4. The suburbs of North Oxford

This might not have a wide appeal; but I had a wonderfully enjoyable Victorian suburban morning walk that began with visiting Tolkien's two houses in Northmoor Road in its route zig-zagged past broad leafy residential streets, most of the women's colleges, the Dragon School and into The Parks (again) via the Lady Margaret Hall entrance - crossing the dewy grass and ducking under trees next to the cricket square, and by various means to Blackwell’s bookshop.

NOTE: The above photos of the places I walked were taken from Google Images - acknowledgement and thanks are due to the gifted photographers who made them.