Friday, 9 May 2014

Always catching up, never there on time - Part one

May already?
We have been busy busy busy for like forever and now we are coming back down to normal.  I have been preparing two presentations simultaneously for my science group and then we had family staying up to Easter. The weather then became such that we were obliged to do something about the jungle that once was our garden. All the bad weather we had been getting before, whilst it was just the job for weeds, it was not the kind that encourages you into the outside without 'great big waterproof coats and hats on' and wellies etc, to misquote A. A. Milne.
In early April we took a walk around Oxford, the idea stemmed from my science interest U3A group.  Someone decided it would be a nice idea to look at each of the famous names that were associated with some of Oxford’s many colleges.    

One of the typically small streets you encounter close to the older colleges in Oxford

We each had a person to study and planned a walk which would take us past the many plaques that are found where something important happened or someone lived or studied.  
We took the bus which is free, with our bus passes, and which gets to Oxford in about fifty minutes to an hour. It took us through a number of roads that we do not use if heading that way by car, but which were often the only roads pre-bypass days.  The first detour took me right into the main gate of the Royal Military College of Science, the college I used to teach at.  I recalled seeing a bus there and had not taken too much notice, but this time I was interested because of a touch of nostalgia.  I have been retired for some years and had not been inside the college since I left. 

Once at Oxford we headed for the rendezvous point and looked for other members of the U3A.

Oxford is an ancient place with many buildings from different eras.   It also has one of the best bookshops in the world, namely Blackwell’s.  If you are familiar with Terry Pratchett’s concept of ‘L’ space, Blackwell’s is a very good example.  For those not aware of Mr Pratchett’s scientific breakthrough, it is as follows.  When a large enough quantity of books are collected together in one place, the presence of so much information distorts space and creates a new kind of space, which he has dubbed L-space.  Wherever L-space exists, such as inside small second hand bookshops or places like Blackwell’s, the interior becomes larger than the exterior. You can find this effect in many small looking second hand bookshops throughout the world, where the amount of books inside the seemingly small shop is much larger than the outside suggests.

Queens College Oxford
Oxford, land of the bicycle
Our day in Oxford was warm and dry, the kind of weather we had not seen for some time. Walking around the town we systematically went from plaque to plaque looking at the colleges and houses where notable people had lived, worked or studied.   One place which was interesting was where the old Jewish graveyard had been. This had been destroyed and built over many centuries ago and now has a plaque in both English and Yiddish telling the story of how this came about and how it is now restored as a monument.
My particular personage was sir Edmund Halley, the man who first discovered that some comets were periodic and successfully predicted the return of what has now become known as Halley’s Comet.  He studied at Queens College Oxford and lived in a small house nearby when he became a Savilian Professor of Geometry.  Geometry meant Maths at the time and he had the necessary skills.  It had required complex calculations to predict the return of his comet.
Sir Edmund Halley's house

Although I have lived close to Oxford for many years, the walk took me places I had not seen before and I discovered a number of nooks and crannies that I had passed by previously.  One new place was the grounds of the College of St Edmund, where a statue of St Edmund of Abingdon has been placed, sitting on a stone seat.   He taught at Oxford around 1200, but did not get into theology until 1222.
St Edmund of Abingdon still studying hard

This stone commemorates the famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, debate with Charles Darwin on the Origin of Species.  The stone stands outside the natural History Museum where the debate took place in 1860.
We finished up inside the Natural History Museum and then after a coffee and bun rest stop, wended our way back to the bus stop to catch the bus home.

A few days later, just before Easter, the family were staying with us and on a really nice day, we all went to Buscot Park. 

This is a house and grounds run by the National Trust, but lived in and managed by the present Lord Faringdon.   The grounds are impressive with walks and lakes, an ornamental stream and formal gardens.  It contains lots of interesting places to see within the grounds and house and we spent all day there.
Buscot House
 Inside the grounds there is a large walled garden, with fruit trees and a variety of different flowers.
The walled garden

An espalier apple tree
 Trees trained to grow against a wall are known as espaliers.

 Against one wall on an out building we saw a masonary bee nest, with a cloud of bees coming and going around the entrance.
 Around the grounds tthere are long walks on formal paths, stretching off in all directions.
 A long ornamental pond with a waterfall leads down to the lake.

One of the inhabitants of the ornamental pond

Another tree lined path
One end of the lake

A gnarled tree
 Chris' recent picture put me in mind of this tree.
There were lots of trees and shrubs in bloom
 Strangest of all were the terracotta warriors which line one path.  Unfortunately we were too early and they still had their frost protection on.

We were very lucky with the weather and walked ourselves to a standstill and still did not see everything.

Soon after that it was Easter and after Easter, we had more family visiting and finally it was nearly May. To be continued...


  1. Yes, your tree reminded me of my tree! Nice to see a bit more of Britain with which I am not too familiar. I have been to Oxford once but spent only part of one day there. There's still too much of Britain that I have never visited.

  2. Looks like you had a lovely day for your trip.

  3. I love Oxford, and would to go back one day. Got too caught up in shopping and missed many of the sights. Buscot Park looks especially lovely. Can't believe how far ahead of us your spring is. We have a long way to go yet!