Oxford. Well, not quite. I enter a lot of competitions and it payed off in the form of a short break in a restored dovecote just outside the city. March seemed like as good a time as any to go there. Not quite Easter but warm enough. it turned out to be the warmest week of the year to date. this was to be our residence. Look at that sky.
We drove down hopping off the motorway and opting for the side roads. Partly out of nostalgia (the past is another country…) and partly because motorways are more than a little bit boring. What it id do was give us the opportunity to engage in one of our stranger pastimes, wandering round standing stones.
This is the Rollright Stones which are at Rollright! (The link here is to Julian Cope’s excellent Modern Antiquarian web page, there will be more.) We hit the site at dusk and were not alone for long as people seem drawn to these places. We encountered all ages and found offerings, letters and carvings in the circle which people had left. They say paganism is a small religion but I reckon more people in the UK still have a little of the old ways in them.
The Dovecote proved to be beyond expectations and I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting a complete break. No mobiles, no internet though there is a telly, a sauna and a peace that is hard to find in our overcrowded island.
Imagine waking to this sight. The sun peers into the roof window drowning the whole building with light. No problem as its totally dark at night so not too much wine before heading up the spiral staircase to bed in the rafters!
Our first morning Oxford was our destination. The bus is handy enough from the main A road at the top of the drive. Hey but this was a bus with wi-fi. I’m morally against driving any more than I have to whilst on holiday (or whilst at home). Half an hour winding through villages with chocolate box thatched cottages took us on to the home of Lord Sebastian Flyte and Lara and her daemon.
I’m lucky that my job gives me reason to have a readers card for the Bodlean and access to the inside of the Radcliffe Camera. (Yes, it is in the X-Men Movie) Naturally I had to get hold of one. I spent the day with the theme from Brideshead Revisited going round my head and longed for an Oxford not full of bored school exchange students and building work.
We ate in Jericho. A most amazing Greek place and well worth the walk even though we were now in need of sunscreen. Our route took us past the Oxford University Press (OUP) and through much of Lyra’s Oxford. I cannot even pretend to know which college is which but enjoy the images.
Lyra would know this as Dead Man’s Walk! if you have no idea what I’m on about read the book.
Tempting though it was this seemed a little too expensive and a little too touristy.
After a long hard day in Oxford retreat to the dovecote gave us a wonderful view of the stars from a sky with little to no light pollution. The promised Muntjack deer never appeared from the farmland but , hey, you can’t have everything.
Day two took us further back in time, into prehistory in fact. Being so close to the Vale of the White Horse it would have been churlish not to visit. Not so warm this morning but it was early and we had jumpers on! The white horse at Uffingham is a slime green before it is cleaned. It is not cleaned, it appears,before Easter! The meadow larks were out in force however and yet again the pagan past crept up on us as we mingled with other early morning visitors. It’s a peaceful place please don’t get the impression we were swarmed with dozens of other folks. Trust me if your look to the top right of this picture that is the ‘white’ horse cut into the grass.
A mad flight of fancy took us on the drive to Wiltshire and over, past Swindon, to Avebury.
A ploughman’s lunch, including my first ever pickled egg, at the Waggon and Horses in Beckingham. If I were to say ‘lunch is the very thing. Hallo, you sir! Lunch for three, directly, and keep the horses back for a quarter of an hour. Tell them to put everything they have cold, on the table, and some bottled ale, and let us taste your very best Madeira.’ would it give you a clue?
Some of the shots of the stones show you just how they could have been when they were first erected. I swear these things vibrate when you hug them…go on call me a rock hugger I dare you!
Now you too are a druid!
The sky had cleared and once again we were lightly grilled by the English sunshine.
But onward, along the Ridgeway to Silbury Hill. No one actually knows what this amazing, conical hill is. It’s man made but not a burial. So, ritual then, that old fall back position beloved of archeologists. Explain to me then why people all over the world build ‘pyramids’.
Despite all the digging and tunneling I doubt we’ll ever really know and that’s alright by me.