London Day Three. A Morning Walk Exploring Historic Oxford
I first learned of Oxford University from reading the biography of J. R.R. Tolkien. I read it on the back cover of the Hobbit, my first introduction to Middle Earth, when I was , I believe, in the 11th grade in high school. (I love, and I am still inspired by his writings including the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, especially, the Silmarillion. ). I read that he attended and taught at Oxford University. I later learned Oxford University was one of the oldest and most respected Universities in the world. I knew little else about Oxford until I decided to visit this famous city on my recent trip to London for Queen Elizabeth II ‘s funeral.
I now know a little more. But I also now realize how much more there is to learn about both Oxford the city and the University. It is a beautiful and amazing place. . I will try and share a bit of what I learned, and saw, in this blog. I didn’t sleep well, again, that Friday night but I was still up early to get to the Paddington Train Station to catch the 8:20 train to Oxford. I took the Underground from Kings Cross to the Paddington Train station. While on my subway car I found there were some other folks who didn’t sleep well either. I love people watching on subways.
I made in on time and boarded the train for the one hour , 56 mile, ride to Oxford.
I love riding trains and this one was modern and clean. I watched the changing landscape as the train left the city, passed through the suburbs and eventually into the countryside. It was a scenic ride and more photos can be see in the link I will share later in the blog.
It was a sunny and pleasant September morning when I arrived at the bustling train station in Oxford. I was surprised by the amount of taxis, cars and buses at the train station. This, like my last minute trip to London , was unplanned so I just started following the crowds into the busy town.
I loved exploring new cities. I usually do a lot of research before a visit but, as I noted, this was last minute. I did a quick search on Google on the train ride and learned a must see in Oxford was the Christ Church Cathedral, so that is was were I headed.
It was a pleasant walk through the old streets. There were many pubs and restaurants with such charming names like the Cow and Creek, The Lettuce and the Slug, The Child and the Eagle.
It looked like drinking ale was a very popular activity in Oxford and they had some pretty good and interesting ales to drink.
As I walked along the old streets I saw this ancient stone tower, and, of course had to investigate.
I learned, from the two pleasant young ladies preparing to open the Castle and Prison Museum . that it was built by the Saxons before the Norman invasion in 1066. It was over a 100o years old. It was incorporated into a castle that defended the town in the 12th century. It later became part of a prison.
I had was also told these two trees large atop a mound from the old castle could have inspired two trees in Valinor in Tolkien’s Silmarillion. ( I just started watching the new series The Rings of Power based on Tolkien’s writings , and they were in the opening scenes. ) I hoped to return later in the day to learn more but, unfortunately I wasn’t able to. I hope to visit again.
I left the tower and continued my walk toward the Christ Church Cathedral. I was surprised at the traffic and especially the number of tourist buses in the town.
It was early in the morning but the streets were already bustling with students, locals and tourists.
I followed the many informative signs on the sidewalks. I came to St. Aldates Street and followed it to the famous Christ Church Cathedral. It was closed to the public due to the death of the Queen. I learned that the Cathedral also serves as a Chapel for Christ Church College. So I continued to walk to the visitor center at Christ Church College passing through a stone arch and viewing the beautiful gardens,
and the impressive stone buildings.
At the visitor center I learned that Oxford University actually is made up of 39 semi-autonomous colleges., Christ Church being one of the largest and most affluent.
I could not schedule a tour of the College until 2:30 so I decided to walk around the 200 acre Great Meadow located between he College and the Thames River. First I walked along Merton Field and Deadman’s Walk named since in the Middle Ages the Jewish population had to carry their dead outside the city gates.
I left this path with a morbid history and walked around Merton Field. I then followed a path around the Great Meadow. It is open to the public during the day. The trail was beautiful. I loved the ancient trees. It is said J. R.R. Tolkien loved walking in the Great Meadow and that this trail and these trees inspired much of his writings.
I can see why, it was almost an enchanted, magical place.
The was a small River Cherwell that flowed into the Thames River. There were many kayaks and collegiate rowers on the river.
Many people were running and walking along the path near the river , some with their dogs.
It was a pleasant Fall walk. I saw a few wildflowers and
some birds on my walk as I approached these large trees where the trail ended.
Near were the path met the Thames River I left the grounds of Christ Church College and roamed the streets and alleys of Oxford. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website some more photos from my visit to Christ Church and hike in the Great Meadow. London Day Three Oxford Christ Church September 17 2022.
As I have noted, I hadn’t did much research before this trip and so I was unaware of the history of the city, and the many building belonging to the 39 colleges associated with the University.
I walked up narrow Bear Lane. I was already hungry and saw this tavern The Bear . I soon learned it, and many of the taverns and restaurants didn’t start serving food and ale until noon.
It was about 11;15 so I continued to walk the street of this quaint and old town. I imagined the many famous people who also walked these streets over the centuries.
I visited a few of the places I saw on my walk including the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, another of the 39 colleges making up Oxford University.
Here I again found a memorial to Queen Elizabeth II and a condolences book which I again signed.
I also saw some other famous Oxford landmarks. like the Radcliffe Camera and
the Bridge of Sighs. This bridge connects parts of Hertford College. It seemed every street had a college and famous building or landmark associated with it.
I walked down along the old city wall that enclosed Oxford during the Middle Ages.
Along the wall I say many interesting statutes,
I walked down to Magdalen College where I hoped to walk in another large meadow. Here there was an admission. It was now near noon and I had plans to try and find J. R. R. Tolkien’s grave before my afternoon tour of Christ Christ so I decided to have lunch .
I walked back to the Bear Tavern where I found a line of who I believed were retired professors waiting to enter and have a Saturday afternoon drink.
I sat outside and had a very filling traditional fish pie. It was delicious too. It was a great morning exploring the streets of Oxford. I learned so much and realize I only scratched the surface of the beauty and history of this charming town. I looked forward to learning a little more in the afternoon. Here is a link to another gallery with more photos of my morning in Oxford. London Day Three Oxford morning September 17 2022.
“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.”
-William Butler Yeats