Category Archives: Oxfordshire

Faringdon and Folly


Faringdon seems a normal and very pleasant market town until …

you approach the Pump House where there is a stone diving helmet and some words that when you first read them do not make sense … ‘a man who never has an occasional flash’  … ‘of’  … ‘silliness’ … ‘Mistrust’.

But start at the right place and you get ‘Mistrust a man who never has an occasional flash of silliness.’

In the Pump House is an exhibition about Lord Berners who lived in Faringdon House.

He was a composer , painter, and author. Besides writing an opera and five ballets , he composed the film music to “The Halfway House ” in 1944. As an artist he staged at least three exhibitions in various London galleries. His writings included First childhood, The Camel, The Girls of Radcliff Hall, Far From the Madding War, Percy Wallingford and Mr. Pidger, Count Omega, The Romance of a Nose and A Distant Prospect. To his parties were invited many famous people we still know of to this day, such as Igor Stravinsky, Salvador Dalí, and H. G. Wells.

The museum has displays to remember how he dyed pigeons at his house in Faringdon in vibrant colours and entertained Penelope Betjeman’s horse Moti to tea and painted its portrait.

As well as being a composer, painter, and author, he also built the last ever major folly tower in 1935.

He built the folly tower on the hill overlooking Faringdon.

He liked silly notices and there is a notice ‘Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk.’
Nearby is a piano. The keys no longer play after a long time out in all weather. Lord Berners had a small clavichord keyboard in his Rolls-Royce.

When you look about you can see that Lord Berners continues to influence the people in the town in the number of dyed pigeons and silly notices.

St Andrews – Headington – at Epiphany


In Old Headington, a village within the city of Oxford, you will find St Andrew’s Church. It flies the Saltire or Saint Andrew’s Cross, the Scottish flag in the heart of England.

The church was open, and warm and welcoming.

One chapel was decorated with white cyclamen with the three Magi kneeling,  bringing their gifts after a long pilgrimage: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

On the other side of the entrance was a window, the lead-work forming tree branches, and the glass delicately painted with leaves.

The church had a new organ. Next to the organ were music books. One older book had a marker at Epiphany.

“OH WORSHIP the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness,
Kneel and adore him the Lord is his name!”

(Post dedicated to John Clapp whose stone I saw in the memorial garden behind the church. He had been the organist in this church from 1993 – 2009.)

Annie’s Tea Rooms – Walk – Thrupp

On Christmas Eve in 1874 there was a railway disaster near Thrupp.

Heavy snow lay on the ground, and a Great Western Train from London Paddington had added an extra coach at Oxford and left at 11:40 AM. The carriage was needed to deal with the crowds of people wanting to get to the Midlands for Christmas.

Passing Thrupp a wheel tyre on the additional coach broke and the carriage left the rails. The rest of the train plunged down an embankment beside the Oxford Canal. 31 passengers died in the crash. 60 were seriously injured.

We parked the car at Thrupp near Annie’s Tea Room.

We crossed the Oxford Canal and then went under the railway. The line was busy with both freight and passenger trains.

The path went through a plantation for a mile or so until emerging beside the meandering River Cherwell. The slim spire of the church in Kidlington could be seen across the fields and was visible for most of the walk. We crossed open meadows with horses, and after the village of Hampton Poyle, saw sheep and cows.

The route then took us to what remained of Hampton Gay. The 16th Century Manor House had burned down in 1887. There is still a farm with a number of cottages nearby.

By mistake, we went off the designated footpath at this point and ended up going under the railway through water and coming to a field with a notice saying  ‘Bull in this Field.’

So we turned back and found the way we should have gone. The path took us under the railway, alongside the River Cherwell.

The last part of the walk was along the canal towpath ending back at Annie’s Tea Room  where we enjoyed Sweet Potato Soup with bread and butter.

There were no boards or memorial to the 1874 railway disaster anywhere we could see.

Central Library Oxford Closes for a year and a half


The Central Library in Oxford was open for the last time until the Westgate redevelopment is complete – late in 2017. The front is to be rebuilt as part of that redevelopment.
There will be a temporary library with less facilities from the end of March in the Oxford Castle area.
The current library looks quite different from the Central Library I knew ten, twenty, and thirty years ago. It is far more open plan.

Cowley Road Carnival


The Cowley Road was closed today (Sunday 5th July 2015) for the Cowley Road Carnival.  There was a lot of loud vibrant music, some outside concert venues and pubs, some outside more makeshift venues, and some from sound systems on people’s front steps. There was also a lot of food outlets, and other entertainments.
 
The theme of the parade was ‘Creating our Future’. Oxford Brookes University is celebrating a 150th anniversary.

The groups in the procession, included many school children.


 There were wild and wonderful costumes.

So colourful! So much hard work went into the costumes!
Dance and music groups were in the procession including Horns of Plenty, with their Street Jazz. They were at Alice’s Day in Oxford yesterday, and back at the Cowley Road Carnival,
It was a wonderful colourful parade, lots of fun, although some had a more serious message for the future ….

Time is running out.

I know it is for me. Can it really be 33 years ago that I lived off the Cowley Road, not far from the Divinity News Agents (long since disappeared). But Tesco is still there, as a Tesco Metro.

Demolition of the Westgate Centre Car Park in Oxford

The multi-storey car park at the Westgate shopping crentre is being demolished as part of a redevelopment that will see a lot more shops, including a John Lewis.

Tom Tower can be seen behind the demolition excavator.

Demolition began in February.

A temporary multi-storey carpark has been fabricated the other side of the Oxpens Road to take some of the cars.

Harcourt Arboretum

This was our first visit to the Harcourt Arboretum for fifteen or twenty years.

It was a pleasure after all these years to meet the writer of the Views of the Ock Blog. He and we were taking pictures of the peacock near the entrance.
 
They don’t allow dogs and so we did not visit while Harry was around.

There were a dozen or more different types of daffodil in bloom. In three or four weeks time the bluebells will be in bloom.

We rediscovered the Acer Glade where a tree was dedicated to my dad, and amazingly found the tree.

As well as the trees there were some fun things: an Easter Egg hunt, trails for the children, a barn, and a charcoal burner. Charcoals had been used to mark some of the wood round the charcoal burner.

Trip to Oxford – a lot of birds and books


I was struck by the deer carcass at the covered market – its head stuck in a plastic bag to catch any blood and hide the stump. There were many more turkeys strung up with their heads similarly covered.

I read some beautiful words of Praise to God from a book of Celtic prayers in the Norrington Room in Blackwells bookshop. I moved from theology to the self help books, and then to Psychology.
 
Outside the University Church on High Street there were more birds strung up – without explanation.

Harwell Feast

The English Civil War Society were one of the features at this year’s Harwell Feast. The event began with a Parade of vintage vehicles and floats. There were crafts, a car boot sale, all the fun of the fair, and a couple of arenas with entertainment. The Winchester Regiment, of the English Civil War Society,  had set up camp in a field adjoining the show area, and marched in to give a display of pikes and musketry. Despite rain through much of the day there were still a lot of people enjoying the event.