• Places

    Greetings from Oxford

    I’m currently on vacation in Oxford (and I’m typing this on my phone so that should be… er… interesting. Now when you think of Oxford, there are of course the colleges…

    Christ Church
    Christ Church

    …and Radcliffe Camera (part of the ginormous Bodleian Library)….

    Radcliffe Camera
    Radcliffe Camera

    …and the Bridge of Sighs, which links the two halves of Hertford College.

    The Bridge of Sighs
    The Bridge of Sighs

    But what I found most impressing are the grazing sites that have been in use for hundreds of years. There is Christ Church Meadow, which as the name suggests is part of the college grounds – and it’s also home to the college’s herd of longhorn cattle.

    Christ Church Meadow with the college cattle
    Christ Church Meadow with the college cattle

    The view across the meadow with the college in the background

    And then there’s Port Meadow, where I took a long, long, oh-gosh-my-feet-hurt walk today. It is mentioned as a piece of common land in the Domesday Book, a survey of English landholdings comissioned by William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest in the eleventh century. And since then, Port Meadow has been in continuous use as grazing grounds.

    Port Meadow
    Port Meadow

    Indeed, it was used as common grazing grounds ever since Alfred the Great granted all freemen of Oxford the right to use this piece of land as a reward for their bravery against the vikings. But even before that time, the land hadn’t been ploughed for thousands of years.

    How intriuguing to imagine the seemingly endless stream of generation upon generation of cows that have grazed here!


    The small village of Binsey to the west of Port Meadow
    The small village of Binsey to the west of Port Meadow

    The history of the English countryside is not necessarily something that features heavily in our books, so walking across Port Meadow today served as a nice reminder of the importance of that history and how it has helped to shape the country we all love so much!


  • Uncategorized

    Visit to England

    A week ago I was in England for a funerary visit (a very jolly affair, meeting up family members) but despite a cold (mine) and the cold (it was freezing over there!) I did do a few fun things.

    First a visit to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, which was wonderful. Here I am with my daughter and one of two pics I took before my battery died (as usual).

    Exactly a week ago I was snuffling my way around Bath in very frigid temperatures–don’t let that blue sky fool you. We visited the Roman Baths and Pump Room and particularly enjoyed the warm, steamy inside parts of the tour.

    You can buy a glass of disgusting Bath water for 50p but I think it just isn’t the same when it’s not drawn from water where people with various unpleasant ailments are bathing. We didn’t have afternoon tea at the Pump Room but we did have a Sally Lunn bun with lemon curd which we inhaled without even thinking of a photo opp.

    Out into the cold again for a look at the Circus and Royal Crescent. Brrr.

    At this point we were so cold and our train on which we had supercheap (as cheap as rail travel gets there) reservations was a long way off, so we went to see a movie, The Artist, which I highly recommend.

    We also had time to drop in to William Herschel’s house, one of my favorite places in Bath. I have a soft spot for Herschel, who was a brilliant wacko (he thought people lived on the moon) and his house is beautifully restored.

    He started his career as a musician and several of his instruments, including a serpent, are on display as well as artefacts relating to his career as an astronomer.

    Here’s a gown belonging to his sister Caroline, a brilliant astronomer (a better one, according to the museum staff, than her more famous brother). She must have been tiny!

    And I have to show you this pic of another English eccentric, my brother demonstrating his marmalade making exploits–yes, that’s a chair upended on the kitchen counter to drain the pulp. It’s Seville orange season, a busy time of year in England.

    Have you visited any of these places? Ever made marmalade?

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