Tales From the City- Oxford University Parks

Photograph taken by Susan Sheldon Nolen (C)2013

The Spring Blooms along the Hayrick Border

I was back in Oxford on a Bank Holiday. I always vow to never travel on Bank Holidays and yet here I was thrashing my way through the crowds. The line at the Thornton’s Ice Cream window was a mile long. The sun was out, and well, this is England, when the sun is out, it’s summer no matter what the thermometer actually says. I headed over to one of the colleges for an appointment, and afterwards decided to dip behind a wall, which led towards the entrance of the Oxford University Park.

Photograph of the Oxford Pond by susan sheldon nolenWhat a delight that was! The sun still hot, it was a fabulous break from the crowds out and about, determined to grab every last bit of sunshine. I was very surprised at the progressive  mind-set of those in 1853, who had the brilliant idea to create this park. For some odd reason I don’t readily think of the 1800’s as having a need for parks. Surely there was loads of open spaces about, unlike our crowded world today? But, thankfully they did. It’s some seventy acres in size and I spent a good hour or more making my way back to The Banbury Road. How I wished I had my camera with me, but the trusty old Iphone would have to do! I strolled past ponds, flowers beds, and many young lovers on the benches. As I walked by, I noticed, oh, oh,  she’s leaning away from him, that’s not going to last, and look at that couple, he can’t take his eyes from hers! How she leans in towards him!  It was an amusing way to walk past the young lovers in the park, guessing their futures.

photograph of an old oxford tree by susan sheldon nolenThe trees always get to me, perhaps I was a Druid in a past life, but I have a thing about trees. It was in 1860 that they planned to build an arboretum and recreation area in the grounds. It was a successful venture that I am thankfully getting the full benefits of.

English: High Bridge High Bridge across the Ri...

English: High Bridge High Bridge across the River Cherwell to University Parks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Near the High Bridge, the grounds were dug up during the war for Victory Gardens, some eighty plots handed out. An Air Raid shelter was created under the cricket pavilion and any open space in which an aeroplane could land, was quickly littered with obstacles preventing such a occurance by enemy planes. The lovely bridge over the River Cherwell allows punts to glide under it with all the romanticism one would expect. It was first built in 1887, but in 1957 the bridge was rebuilt with Alfred Goldstein’s design. I believe it is the first pre stressed fixed arch bridge in the world. Quite exiting, but more so to stand on it and gaze down at the punters trying to push-off from the banks!

photograph of punters in oxford by susan sheldon nolen

It didn’t matter which way I went, for in every corner in the park was  something lovely to see.  Here a foot bridge lazily strides across the water.

Photograph of the Bridge in Oxford University Park by Susan sheldon nolenI lingered by the pond and spoke to a dog walker with her Jack Russell Terrier, who was rooting around the deep grass as terriers do.  King Charles walked his dogs here in 1685, so we were in good company. How I would love to live on the border of this park and go for a morning stroll with my Ted! The lovely pond was not built until 1925 and completely dug out by hand! Can you imagine? What a lot of hard work that would have been! I dread digging out the ground in the garden for a new plant!

If you do get a chance to go to Oxford and have a mooch around, I’d take the time to stroll through this park. It’s a lovely break away from the rush and hustle of student life, and a way to step back in time, when sheep and cattle walked along the paths as late as 1937. That must have been an interesting walk indeed!


About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
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