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Monday, 23 March 2009

Beyond The Dreaming Spires



It's a funny thing about Oxford, but even though I left three years ago I still get that 'coming home' feeling every time I step off the train. It's the only city where I really feel at ease (being, as you've probably gathered, something of a country girl at heart). I went back there last Monday to visit my supervisor, and felt inspired to show you some of 'my' Oxford.

Of course Oxford is most famous for the "dreaming spires" of its older colleges, but I didn't get as far as my ex-college on this trip; in summer I'll go back there and take some photos of Oxford as it lives in most people's minds. In the meantime, I beg your indulgence as we take a short walk through another part of the city.

I call it 'mine' because I used to live on a narrowboat on the Oxford canal. Walking up the towpath, which runs between the canal and the river, brings back more memories than I can ever recount, of long summer days and frozen winter nights. The summer memories were stronger this time, because I was fortunate enough to take this walk in blazing sunshine.


I have walked these paths more times than I can count - once the most direct route to get home from the railway station, and now the quickest route from the railway station to meet my supervisor. It's also a pleasant way to stroll, and when I have more time I also like to continue further to the north and out of town along the towpath.


It's hard not to feel sad passing the boatyard, once a place of constant activity, now boarded up because someone decided it would be more profitable to build some flats. So far as I know, the planning permission still hasn't been granted, but the damage has been done so far as the boating community is concerned. The boatyard is dead now, though the campaign goes on in the forlorn hope that one day we might get it back.


A little further along the towpath, and you can see one of my favourite pubs - the Old Bookbinders, even the name is evocative! - peeking between rows of houses. It's had a lick of paint, but I hope it's still as colourful and characterful as it was when I used to go there.


On a parallel road, closer to the town centre, the huge building housing the Oxford University Press is another landmark which most tourists probably miss:


And a little further down the same road, heading south again, is the building housing the Chinese Studies Library, where I spent many happy hours of study (for some reason, despite never officially studying Chinese).


These may not be the views which first come to your mind when you think of Oxford, but it's the heart of 'my' city. I hope you've enjoyed the walk!

15 comments:

Real Live Lesbian said...

Thanks! I *did* enjoy the walk. Beautiful photos!

Domestic Executive said...

Ouch, that hurt. Tantilising me with my favourite city. I am so looking forward to going back later this year to catch up with friends and walk the paths I so love. Oxford has a magic that never leaves you. Whether it's the dreaming spires, the indoor market, the canal, the musueums, the culture you'll always leave Oxford with a strong sense of your place in a long history. As a previous employee of the other University in Oxford I will of course see the best view as down the hill looking down on our sister institution!

Great pictures, as you can see you've evoked a lot of feeling for this very special place.

Kazzy said...

Thanks for the tour! I never visited Oxford, but my husband spent some time there. Very cool.

Jeanne said...

I got to spend a day in Oxford when I was over visiting my daughter the summer after she graduated from college and lived in London. Took a double-decker bus tour -- and didn't see anything as great as your pictures.

Jenny Beans said...

I loved seeing your Oxford. What beautiful photographs, and there is a definite sense of longing in this post. Thank you for sharing this part of you here.

Debbie said...

It isn't what I pictured but it was lovely none the less.

Loz said...

It's funny how distance can make the heart grow fonder and allow us sometimes to see things with new eyes. Did you take all that for granted when you were there?

Heather said...

Thanks for showing me a lot of Oxford I haven't gotten to experience yet. Hopefully Asher and I are on the mend and with the advent of warmer weather I look forward to exploring more of the city. I'm so curious to know how it was living on a narrowboat. I've just seen them for the first time while in Cambridge for my husband's collaboration meetings. The look so cozy and inviting. I would love to put all my stuff in storage and live on the river (because I way too much stuff to even fit in our house let alone on a boat). I would love to hear more about it.

Ian said...

Yes, I have, especially the Old Bookbinders.

Lynda said...

Wow, really beautiful & I love all the old buildings - thanks for sharing a peek of 'your' Oxford with us, I enjoyed seeing it through your eyes !

erin - heart in ireland said...

That is awesome :)

Seems like you lived in a cool area, I love along the canals in England. I'd love to visit Oxford!

JOE TODD said...

Thanks so much for the tour

lena said...

Thank you for such a wonderful walk.
I guess for those who never have been there it is really interesting to see the city differently, not like it is portrayed in city guides or all over the net.
The pictures are very beautiful :)

marina villatoro said...

Wow, I spent a day in Oxford 18 years ago, and I didn't remember it like this at all!

Wandering Educators said...

WONDERFUL photos - sure makes me want to go there. thank you!

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