Oxford for Free

“Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days – such as that day – when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft airs of centuries of youth. It was this cloistral hush which gave our laughter its resonance, and carried it still, joyously, over the intervening clamour.” Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

Oxford is still as described by Evelyn Waugh, it’s timeless and beautiful. So beautiful it is thought that Hitler ordered it not bombed so he could make it his capital (ex the Bodleian Library where staff found documents detailing Operation Sea Lion and Hitler’s plan for Oxford).

I loved living in Oxford even though I spent most of my time working. I made a big effort to get out and about and in particular find out where are the best places to go for free. Of course I had a lovely blue bicycle with a basket (see the picture above, that’s my bike parked at Rose Lane). Naturally it was stolen, but on the other hand when you’ve had a bike stolen, that’s when you know your are an Oxfordian. I was always a “true blue”, so it was easy to become an Oxfordian, even the colours stayed the same 🙂

A word picture “Gates close at 9” by Caroline Brady July 2013

Christ Church resplendent in the sun
A jogger pounds the Broad Walk
Ice cream to cool down
Dead Mans Walk is waiting

Rowers single stroke to hands away
Treebeard sighing softly
The herd are grazing in the shade
Alice chasing rabbits

Tourists swarm the kissing gate
Punting on the Cherwell
I walk in Tolkien’s footsteps
Still searching for Sebastian

Here are a few places to check out in Oxford to get you started:

The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology
The Ashmolean is Britain’s oldest Museum founded in 1683. There are so many exhibits you will probably not fit them all into one day. I recommend the Egyptology section as they have a lovely collection of Egyptian artefacts here, so that’s a good start. Skip the restaurant as it is quite pricey and I give the cream tea (afternoon tea) a very poor 1 out of 10. There are plenty of little Cafes around, and I’d recommend Brothers in the Covered Market.

Christ Church Meadow and the Isis (Thames) towpath
This is my favourite place in Oxford.

Walk 1: from the Plain, walk across the river Cherwell bridge, past the Botanic Gardens, and take a left down Rose Lane. At the bottom of the lane enter Christ Church via the Kissing Gate. For the nicest (and longest) walk keep to the left path and follow it along the Cherwell until it meets the Isis (Thames). Keep an eye out for Ents and you will see Treebeard just before the Cherwell meets the Thames. Continue your walk along the towpath and up through the Avenue towards Christ Church College and exit at the St. Aldates Gate. On your walk keep an eye out for punts, rowing teams, ducks, geese, swans, the herd grazing in the Meadow, Magdelan College Tower and a lovely view of Oxford’s Dreaming Spires.

Walk 2: Start on the High, then left onto St. Aldates, left through Christ Church College gates, right onto The Broad Walk, left along The Isis (Thames) towpath, left along The Cherwell, slight left at Meadow Cottages along Merton College Walls, right out the kissing gate onto Merton Lane passing Merton & Corpus Christi colleges, onto Magie Lane, across The High onto Catte Street, past The Radcliffe Camera, The Bodleian Library, All Souls College, Hereford College Bridge of Sighs, onto The Broad, past the Heads (Sheldonian), onto Magdelan Street East, past The Ashmolean, onto St. Giles, and ending up completely by accident in the Bird and Baby (The Eagle and Child favourite meeting place of the Inklings, a wrtiers group led by none other than JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis).

I love these walks and it is so hard to believe that such a tranquil place exists in the heart of a city. Take a picnic and a book, it’s very easy to spend the entire day here. Free self guided Oxford walk.

The Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library is the Library of the University of Oxford, i.e. it is a working library. There has been a library at the University since the 1300’s. It’s free to explore the Old School’s Quadrangle and the Exhibition. The architecture is outstanding. A tour of the Library costs £12.

The Pitt Rivers Museum

The building was designed by Dublin architect T.N. Deane. The museum got started with 26,000 objects gifted by General Pitt Rivers. There are well over half a million objects on display now. It’s also  teaching department of the University of Oxford. They have a brilliant photographic, sound and film archive. The museum run lots of interesting exhibitions, activities, and workshops. It’s free entry. For more information visit the Pitt Rivers Museum website.

South Parks

The Park is a great place to visit at any time, especially during the summer. It’s a great play to play Hurling and you will find a number of Irish people playing the game in the park. There is also a bonfire and fantastic fireworks complete with chants of “burn the Catholics” on November 5th, celebrating Guy Fawkes and his failure to burn down parliament. Climb to the top of South Park and you will find one of the best views of Oxford’s Dreaming Spires. Visit the “Covered Market”, pick up some food and take a picnic to the park. For more information on South Park visit Oxford City Council Website.