Saturday, 26 January 2013

A wander around Oxford's Port Meadow

While Lincoln City were busy throwing away greater possession and chances to lose at home to Forest Green Rovers and slip back ever closer to the relegation zone, I was thankfully spending today doing something far more relaxing.

I spent the day wandering around Oxford's Port Meadow with my wife, who is currently studying for her PhD there.  Oxford, not the meadow...

I knew nothing of the place beforehand, but its actually a fascinating mixture of nature and history.  The site is 300 acres of common land, given to the freemen of Oxford by Alfred the Great for their help in his wars against the Vikings.  The right to graze cattle there was recorded in Domesday Book and has been retained ever since.

The site features an interesting and varied mixture of archaeological remains for those who know where to look.  There are Bronze Age round barrows, an Iron Age settlement, the ruins of a Medieval nunnery and 17th Century fortifications.  The site has never been ploughed and certain areas are designated as Scheduled Ancient Monuments.  One sign, on the walls of Godstow nunnery, makes particular mention of this and the laws regarding metal detecting.

On the natural side, the site is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and is basically a flood-meadow on the banks of the River Thames.  Going, as we did, just after the bad weather meant that you didn't need to be an experienced naturalist to work out what a flood-meadow is...

Port Meadow also has the distinction of being the place where Lewis Carroll first made up a story that would go on to become Alice in Wonderland.

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