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Old 'Blighty"

overcast 22 °C

Arriving in Dover we headed toward Oxford, (we had missed out earlier in our travels) much more pleasant travelling now as the temperatures are back in the mid-twenties. Arrived at a lovely little country pub, The Swan in Ilsey not far from Oxford. Many pubs were happy to allow you to park overnight in their carpark if you popped in for a drink and a meal. Had a lovely chat with the barman and he told us about the oldest road in UK just up along the ridge, so we went for a walk to check it out. It is called the Ridge Way and has been used for at least 5.000years as a trading route and safer means for travelling, high enough to see threats and able to drain excess water from so it was reliable and predictable. It is also a site where Birds of Prey can be seen.
With rain setting in we drove to a park and ride site in Oxford, traffic was mad, and caught a bus into the centre of Oxford. Dodging the rain, we crossed the river where the Head of the River is held and went to check out Christ college Oxford, home to stories like; Morse, Lewis and Endeavour and the environment which nurtured such minds as Lewis Carroll, J.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis. It has held onto its deep traditions and the language that goes with it but is also admired for the rigor of its current academic achievements. Sites around the college have been used in various films which of course includes Harry Potter. The historic dining hall which still serves as the dining hall for current students was the setting for the dining hall in Hogwarts although through sneaky camera tricks Hogwarts looks far bigger than does Christ College. There is also the famous Tom Quad which frequently appears in crime mysteries set in this space. The gardens set around the entrance to the College are something to behold.
On from Christ College we checked out the Oxford Museum, the Ashmoleon, the Bodleian Library, the covered market and St Mary's Anglican Church which chronicles, among other things, the tragic and horrific demise of both Catholic and Protestant martyrs, depending on the political/religious flavor of the time. For some reason authorities seem to save the most brutal deaths for religious adherents allowing zero possibility for anyone with differing beliefs. As the day wore on the rain became heavier and heavier.
Spent the night in the park and ride then headed off to Blenheim Palace just outside Oxford, it is the largest non-royal palace in the UK and was created by the first Lord Marlborough (not quite the image we were used to as “The Marlborough Man”) following a grant from Queen Anne as a reward for halting the French at the battle of Blenheim in the 1600’s. This is also the place Winston Churchill was born. Lots of deep history with all the baubles and trinkets that go with the history and the setting. Over the centuries as it has fallen in and out of debt various Lords have married daughters of American millionaires. One such was the Vanderbilt heiress whose pushy mother insisted that she reject her love and seek the title. It is reported that she so disliked her husband that she was known to use a large table centre piece to block her view of the Lord whilst they ate. The home is also a treasure trove of interesting paraphernalia regarding Winston Churchill for whom Blenheim Palace was a favorite place. Looking around at the splendid setting it is not hard to appreciate how he developed a sense of destiny coming from all that history and grandeur.
Leaving Oxford, we headed toward Stratford with aims of checking out some of our literary history. We went first to Ann Hathaway’s cottage/farmhouse. It is amazing to imagine that it has been maintained in a continuous line since about 100 years prior to her time there and whilst it has been changed and added to you still get a sense of what it could have been like in her time. The family were middle class primarily wool growers, and the fortunes of the house were impacted by the success or otherwise of the wool industry.
From there we headed into central Stratford to check out Shakespear’s birthplace. This is where he was born, grew up and then where he brought his wife and growing family to live until he was able to buy his own place. This was the most interesting of the places as it still hosted the glove making workshop next to the home and was chiefly set up as it had been in his time. For anyone who has read Maggie O’Farrell’s Hammet, it was very recognizable.
As our ticket was a three in one, we also visited the ‘New House’ which was a distinct disappointment as it was merely the site of the house he bought for his family after he had made good as one of the King’s Players, but it felt like a bit of a letdown.

Spent the night in a Sainsbury’s carpark.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 18:07 Archived in United Kingdom

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