On a dark and muddy walk last night, I found out that Port Meadow was flooded. That’s not so unusual, but I thought I’d come back and take some pictures this morning anyway. They’re over the fold. Local interest only.

A first view of Lake Oxford…

Port Meadow is one of the finest parts of Oxford.

I mention it in Marxism tutorials from time to time with my students — it’s the biggest nearby piece of common land, and the expropriation of the mediaeval commons is a rather important part of Marx’s historical narrative at the end of the first volume of Capital. If the puzzled looks I get are representative of a wider population, then it’s safe to say that a large majority of the students who live here for three or four years never set foot on it, or even know that it exists.

This is curious, given that it’s quite large (forty acres), and only a short walk from the town centre. And I wonder whether that’s a consequence of the fact that more and more Colleges are providing more and more housing for students in the centre of Oxford, and so student life here is even more focused on the OX1 postal district than ever used to be the case. Whatever the reason, it’s their loss.

At the entrance to the meadow, I learn that I have just missed a talk on how to be a mammal detective. I don’t even know what a mammal detective is, but that may just show how cut off I am from the popular culture of a younger generation: the talk is for 8-13 year olds.

Looking north from the southern tip of Port Meadow.

Aquatic bipeds.

This is a good view of just how high the Thames is right now — the bridge only just clears the water.

In some places it’s difficult to tell where the river ends and the meadow begins.

Looking towards the Perch at Binsey. I’ve been told it’s under new management, but I haven’t been to see if anything has changed there yet under the new regime.

Yes, alright, we’ve had a shot a bit like this one already.

More aquatic bipeds pose for a group portrait.

About here, the river is beginning to resemble a river again.

Looking towards the entrance (exit?) of Godstow Lock.

Godstow nunnery, currently nunless.

Looking upriver from Godstow, at the northern end of the Western Bypass…

The Trout at Godstow. It’s a fine pub, even if people like Bill Clinton and David Cameron seem to like it, too (see also here).

I think that everyone disobeys the first part of this notice. (They seem to like eating crisps.) I don’t know about the second.

I had both kinds of animal life on this walk — some bipeds earlier (scroll up) and now, above and below, some quadrupeds.

This quadruped is making a fashion statement.

Wolvercote is basically a fine place, but some local activities are pretty disturbing. (I wonder how strong the correlation is between areas that have morris dancing and areas that vote Lib Dem.)

The Thames has only managed a medium-sized incursion onto Wolvercote Common, which is what the northernmost bit of Port Meadow seems to be called.

And I thought Goose Green was part of the Falkland Islands.

Aquatic bipeds on what’s basically a large puddle on the Common.

Given that it’s usually hard in more normal circumstances to walk the length of the meadow without getting your feet wet, I thought I’d head round and return home along the canal.

The Plough at Wolvercote, where I used to go drinking with Ewen, before he died.

Looking up the canal, towards Wolvercote Lock. You’ll notice that the more restrained Oxford Canal is better at maintaining itself within its banks than its unrulier cousin, the Thames (or Isis).

This is pretty high-tech, as far as I’m concerned.

Bernard and Shirley? Surely not. ‘Benevolence’, though, is a good name for a boat.

And a sign that we’re heading back towards Jericho, where the walk ends…

0 thoughts on “Winterreise”

  1. Do not, on any account, go to the Perch. It’s been ghastly gastropubbed. £13.50 for sunday lunch, I ask you!

    Lovely to see you the other day, btw.

  2. Is that the walk from the Timeout book? I did that with a friend this summer, and the Plough is indeed recommended – but mind the muddy field just before you get there (which I guess is Wolvercote Common)

  3. I liked the Perch best when it had that giant chess set out the back. Before they fenced off that big patio eating area. Not that I ever played chess, but it did give the place a pleasurable Alice through the Looking Glass feel.

    Love the pics.


  4. We have “do not feed the peacocks” signs at my workplace. And “we have free-roaming peacocks. Do not chase them as they can become upset”. They bother me, because people as pedantic as me will read them and decide it’s okay to feed/chase the peahens and the chicks.

    Peafowl will eat pretty much everything. They’re the avian equivalent of goats. And as with goats, once you’ve fed them, you can’t get rid of them and they’ll follow you around for ages, getting braver and more likely to make a grab for your sandwiches.

  5. The Wolvercote common area’s flooding went higher than that when I passed it on the train a few days back. I should have taken some photos then, as it was also quite misty, but thank you for these.

  6. Jim: Thanks!

    Antonia: Lovely to see you, too. For me, the Perch has always been a place to walk to on a Summer’s evening, have a drink, and walk home again, so if the food is overpriced then I’m probably not too bothered as long as the beer is good.

    Ben: I don’t know the Timeout book, so don’t know whether it is or not. But from Walton Well Road I went onto Port Meadow, crossed over to the Thames Path, walked up as far as the Trout, down the road from Godstow to Wolvercote, and then back along the Canal. It’s a pretty obvious walk, which basically circumnavigates Port Meadow (the river separates you from the Meadow on the way North, and the railway line on the way South).

    Anne: Not sure I remember the chessmen. Hmm.

    Lorna: I like “the avian equivalent of goats”.

    Sarah: So the Thames’s assault on Wolvercote Common was less minor than I had thought. Alternatively it was the rain, and the Common has really poor drainage.

  7. Port Meadow has been flooded for quite a while now. And the Perch – under-even-newer-management-than-it-was-last-time-it-was-under-new-management – is probably to be avoided: has got horrendously expensive, and really very dark.

  8. The Trout is a place I have been meaning to visit since the week I arrived in Oxford. Hopefully, when the weather is better, it will come to pass.

    So far, I have only managed to get as far at The Perch, partly because I have no idea where The Trout is, save “near the Port Meadow.”

  9. From the Perch, just carry on going North up the Thames Path, go past Godstow Lock, past Godstow nunnery, and through a gate and turn right, go over the bridge (I think) and there it is. It’s actually quite hard to miss.

  10. Chris – one of the other crimes has been to take away the bar in the Perch… I didn’t stay long enough to work out whether they still had good beer or not.

  11. You mean they’ve thrown away the giant chess set? Bloody vandals! I spent happy summer evenings at the Perch playing boozy giant chess with friends…

  12. You’re right about today’s undergraduates not knowing their way outside the city centre. The son of a friend of ours was an undergraduate at New College and came with his mum to visit us in Grandpont. It turned out he’d never set foot south of the High Street, didn’t know his way home, and hadn’t heard of Christchurch Meadow.

  13. That’s the great advantage of joining a political party as a student. All that canvassing means I’ll never get lost in Oxford!

  14. Students today eh? In my day we lived off the ducks we caught on t’Meadow. But we had it tough.

    Seriously though the Trout is nothing special, (other than as a good destination for a nice walk). Now the White Hart in Wytham is fabulous. The food is excellent and mostly local. To get there: walk to the Trout and turn left, walk up the road to Wytham about a mile and a bit away, and go left through the centre of the tiny village. Best to make a reservation, it’s often quite full on Sundays, and quite rightly because the food is top notch.

  15. Oh, that’s a good recommendation, Richard: thanks: I’ve not only never been; I’ve never heard of this place.

    I’ve never had food at the Trout, so I don’t know what that’s like, but it is a good place to have a drink by the river and admire peacocks.

  16. Port Meadow is, I was taught at school (one of the school bridges across the canal in your brilliant Port Meadow series), a real common. Lots were (are?) drawn every year for the grazing at the Grapes, in Yarnton. I think. It used always to flood like this. I am sorry about the Perch, but it always has problems. The Trout relies on Americans and Peacocks and I still like it.

    Now, what about Aeroplane Bridge in Wolvercote?

  17. The White Hart is very good indeed. Decent Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on tap as well. Wytham village very pretty, all thatched roofs and a tiny post office.

    Can I also recommend The Blue Duck Tavern? It’s on 24th St and M St NW. Bit of a trek from Oxford though.

  18. Thanks for that, Julian.

    In other Thames-side pub news, I’m told that the Trout has just closed, having recently changed ownership, and we’re waiting to see what kind of creature it will become. I’m pessimistic. And I chatted to a colleague the other day about the new-look Perch, and he only had bad things to say about the food there (expensive risotto just about the only thing on the menu, took ages to arrive, and turned out to be horrible).

  19. I used to live in Wolvercote (left a year ago) and the walk described was one of my favourites. typical Sunday afternoon pursuit.
    I remember when the water on the meadow froze one winter – the ice was filled with skaters of all ages.

    What has happened to The White Hart in Wolvercote?

    The Trout has changed hands again?….it is a beautiful location but the food was never great – could take ages to actually get it – not good when one is hungry.

    think that the aeroplane bridge is the one between the Trout and the village – near the barbeques

  20. I’ll be going to Binsey later this November (2008) (from Detroit), drawn there in the first instance by the Frideswide history and her well at St Margaret’s. This delectable set of posts and photographs make the walk sound truly possible, even for those with no sense of direction, but a good appreciation of trees, and a useful disregard for food. Queries: A) Do both paths (along River and Canal) lead all the way between Binsey and Wolvercote? What’s the story on footbridges above Walton Well Rd? B) To get to the Godstow nunnery ruins one just wanders south from Wolvercote? It’s on the east bank of the River? C) Are there any pleasant places to stay in any of these villages? (I am not high maintenance regarding accommodations.) –I know, I know, I sound like I need to know everything before I go: but I’m going to have short, cold days, and I mean to have as marvellous a time as possible. (Advice on North Leigh Roman Villa, Minster Lovell, and Ewelme Almshouse also appreciated.)

  21. Hi, Ellen — Thanks for this, and welcome to Oxford.

    A) The Thames path takes you from close to Binsey to Godstow, just down the road from Wolvercote. The canal path takes you from near Oxford station, up to Wolvercote. If you started in Binsey, the most natural route to take would be the Thames path, and then follow the road round to Wolvercote when you get to the Trout. But with a diversion over the southern tip of Port Meadow at the start of a walk, you could go to Wolvercote up the canal towpath, too. The Thames path, though, is a nicer walk. Footbridges above Walton Well Road? There are plenty of bridges on the canal, I think:the next one, for example, takes you to just opposite the Anchor pub at the corner of Polstead Road.

    B) More West than South from Wolvercote. Just follow the Godstow Road. It’s on the West bank of the river, very close to the Trout. If you come up the Thames path from Binsey, you can’t miss it.

    C) I don’t know about local accommodation, I’m afraid. Or about the other places you mention — sorry!

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