ENGLAND PART 2
After our terrific day touring part of the Cotswalds, we relax with wine, cheese and crackers before enjoying spaghetti accompanied with wonderful bread purchased from a bakery in Burton. After our meal, we huddle around my little tablet to enjoy a slide show of photos from our last reunion in Cape Cod. In the evenings to come we will see wonderful photos and hear interesting stories of Doris’ travels in Sri Lanka and India, Lois’ travels in India, and Joys’ extended stay in Paris this past year. Have I ever mentioned that I married into a family of avid travelers:)?
I reaffirm that sunrise does occur shortly after 4 a.m. in England, but this morning at least I am able to go back to sleep. We are up at six a.m. though since this morning Paul must be delivered to the Whitehill Quarry at nine a.m. to participate in the stone fence workshop he signed up for online. You read that right, Paul is going to learn the English version of the art of stone fence building. Pretty cool huh. We women are going to hike around Burford and explore that city for the day.
Unfortunately, it is raining this morning. Lois, who has volunteered to drive on our outing, could have done without this added challenge I’m sure. I know that Lois is used to driving in Boston but here Lois will be driving on the opposite side of the road in a car with a stick shift which means she will be shifting with her left hand in addition to driving in a strange city in a foreign country plus it’s raining! Lois’ faces all this adversity with a “can do” attitude! Doris is the navigator and has programmed her phone with the name of the workshop site, in the assumption that the computer will lead us directly to our destination.
Lois drives us out of Oxford without incidence and we are off. After driving some way on a lightly traveled highway the phone navigates us in a direction that doesn’t feel right. We also haven’t seen any sign for Burford which is only a mile or two from where Paul is attending the stone fence workshop. The rain continues intermittently as Lois navigates us through sleepy little villages on this beautiful road, which by now we all agree probably isn’t taking us where we need to be! Oddly enough, we drive by a new stone fence that is partially built but there is no one around nor is there a sign about a workshop being held here.
As we meander through the picturesque countryside the time is slipping away and it is obvious Paul won’t make it to the workshop by nine. Up ahead we see a sign to Burford and Lois turns onto the road. We drive through Burford and Paul uses his written directions from the workshop organizer to guide us to the quarry. Lois pulls the car into the entrance of Whitehill quarry around 9:30. A man welcomes us and informs us that the rain has delayed the start of the workshop so Paul hasn’t missed a thing. We leave Paul with the other students and we will return to pick him up later this afternoon.
Lois drives us back to Burford and the four of us decide to go to the bakery/café we purchased sandwiches, bread and breakfast rolls yesterday, to have a cup of tea in hopes that the light rain will soon end. The rain dwindles to a sprinkle now and then so our foursome; armed with a map describing walks around Burford we found at the visitor center, strike out on a hike that will lead us out of Burford, into the countryside and then circle back to Burford.
The unique thing about hiking in England is that all trails are marked with a sign proclaiming “footpath” with a painted, yellow arrow pointing out the direction of said path. If you want to follow a particular trail you must have a map/book which gives you directions like ” you will cross over a stile, walk until you reach another stile where you will now walk through a meadow, after walking by a small barn, cross another stile and walk across road into a farmstead, go up the farmyard drive, find the footpath marker on your right”. I kid you not. The trails we have hiked in the states are marked with the name of the trail, pointing out the direction you are to go in, and give you the distance to the next marker. This seems to be more efficient and easier to me but hey. Well, we made it over stiles, through the meadow, up the driveway but we can find no footpath sign once we get to this point. We wander around peering into the farmers’ fields and hedges, making sure we haven’t missed the sign, and then we retrace our steps to the road by the meadow and decide to walk down the road. We end up in a village (or is it the outskirts of Burford?), where we find a footpath sign and decide to follow this track. The narrow, weed choked path is situated between two fields and after a short distance we end up amid several houses with no footpath sign in sight. Good grief.
We walk by a house with banners hung in the yard identifying this home as a participant in the local arts celebration that is ongoing this week. The four of us walk in and study the paintings that the mother and daughter artists have on display. We chat a bit with the family and mention that we have lost the circular trail we had hoped to hike. The man and woman suggest we take a trail they often trek to Burford and recite directions to us. And I paraphrase, “Go around two bends, up a steep hill(I missed this part), walk quite a ways then at the bottom of a hill you will find a footpath sign pointing to the right, eventually you will find a small church and more signage that will take you back to Burford.
We thank the couple, walk out the door, go around two corners, and come to a street that turns right. I am ready to walk down this street but my three companions relate the steep hill part of the directions to me, and straight ahead there is a steep hill so up the hill we go. We meet a man and woman walking towards us and inquire if we indeed are on the right track. They assure us we are and tell us that at the bottom of the next hill we will find the footpath sign.
We do find the sign, turn right and walk along a vivid yellow canola field. I discovered on our tour with Steve, who informed us that rape seed fields stink, that I have a reaction to the pollen the canola fields are producing. I walk the full length of the field holding my coat over my nose and mouth in hopes I can reduce the effects I had from this stinky stuff yesterday. Our quartet reaches a very tiny village or a farmstead and again finds ourselves disoriented. We do see the charming stone church called St. Oswold to our left but according to the directions we received we should have walked directly to the church. We find the answer to our misdirection just outside this cluster of buildings in that we have been following the bridal path sign which sports a blue arrow. Oh well, we are still in the right area.
We walk to the stone church as the clouds are beginning to break up, giving us a dramatic view of the isolated church. We enter the 13th century church and look over the interior. There are 14th century wall paintings seen on the walls in a couple of places plus some uncovered Roman mosaic to astonish the visitor, (o.k. I looked the dates up on the internet). This church still holds services and they leave the ancient church open to the public. They only posted rule I remember is one asking that you shut the door behind you. Amazing! Of course when we leave the church, the only footpath marker we find is definitely going the wrong direction to take us back to Burford. We retrace our steps through the pasture and this time we are greeted by a friendly group of steers who decide they want a close up look at us interlopers.
Once we are back on the road, it isn’t long before we come upon another small cluster of houses. As we hesitate at a fork in the road, a young woman comes to the door and asks if we are walking to Burford. We tell her yes, and she points to our right and tells us we will find the footpath after walking a short distance. We thank her and walk in the direction she indicated. We find the sign with the yellow arrow directing us off the road into a grassy field. This part of the trail is lovely, as it follows a lazy, meandering stream. We see a moorhen, some mallards and a pied wagtail so I particularly enjoy this part of our hike. We can see the spires of the church that dominates Burfords’ skyline, and although they are quite distant, at least we know we are headed in the right direction. Before long we reach the highway and soon are back in Burford.
We eat a late lunch and then we stroll the streets of Burford, looking into shops, taking photos, and doing a little grocery shopping. Doris and Lois purchase some cheese at Mrs. Bumbles of Burford, and we return to the bakery we stopped at yesterday so I can buy another lardy-lard cake for Paul and my breakfast. That really is the name of the roll, and as you can imagine it is very rich and heavy.
Before you know it we must go pick Paul up at the quarry. We wait at the gated entrance and watch as people carrying various tools walk out of a tree line just beyond the gate. Soon Paul appears, carrying a couple of picks, and I can tell by his face that he has enjoyed his time at the workshop. Paul tells us they didn’t actually build any fence today, that will happen tomorrow and he won’t be attending, but he did learn some new things, including a way to organize the rocks before starting to build your fence.
We return to Summerville by early evening and everyone congratulates Lois on a job well done! The rest of the gang decides to go out for supper to a pub in Oxford, but I opt out as I am worn out. The leftover shepherd’s pie is calling to me from the fridge and after I shower, I heat up a portion and enjoy every bite of the yummy dish. The Miller sibs return after I am in bed and by Paul’s report the food was good and they had a good time.
We enjoy a lazy Sunday morning, which is gloomy with clouds again. Paul, Lois and I go walk in the nearby park after we have eaten breakfast. We each take a turn at riding the zip line which makes us laugh out loud. We go by the smelly bird aviary which is overrun with parakeets, lovebirds and other exotic birds and I find this a bit depressing. We giggle at the miniature golf course, and sit on a bench by the duck pond to enjoy the swans, ducks and ducklings.
This afternoon we meet Ian, a guide I believe Doris arranged for us, who will give us a proper tour of Oxford. He is a slender man, with twinkling eyes and a passion for the history of Oxford. Since, I have already talked about walking around Oxford; I am not going to spend a lot of time describing our tour. Needless to say, the man was full of information, spewing out ancient dates, names and all kinds of info about the origins of Oxford University and more.
I will tell you that I was admonished by Ian for standing on the grass in the yard of the college we toured. Was it New College? It seems that the colleges that make up Oxford University are in constant competition on who is the best in many different categories and that includes the state of their grass in the courtyards. I believe there are 30 plus colleges in the University. I will also relate to you, since I am a big Harry Potter fan, of both the books and movies, I was delighted to see the inside of the Bodleian Library which was the infirmary in the Potter movies. The building is beautiful by the way. There is a cool bridge across one of the streets we walk and it is nicknamed the bridge of sighs, because it resembles the bridge of sighs in Venus. We also tour a huge church that has some fantastic stained glass windows and painted glass windows vividly depicting biblical scenes. Ian leads us to and explains many of the buildings in this part of Oxford but truthfully, most of the facts have long since evaporated from my brain!
At the end of our tour with Ian, we decide to have high tea. That sounds simple enough but it appears everyone in Oxford is having high tea and the cafes we walk into are filled to the brim with customers. We finally find a small cafe with a vacant table and here we order tea plus a snack. In my case I order a scone which resembles a thick biscuit. The tea and scone are very good but they should be because the price is quite high. All the food we purchased in England was high priced!
The five of us take our time walking through the streets as we make our way back to High Street to catch the bus to Summerville. Tonight we enjoy one of the slide shows of past travels I mentioned at the beginning of this blog and we play a game of Apples to Apples. Another enjoyable day in England comes to an end.