Wednesday 15 May 2024

Henley On Thames and Oxford Day 1

 May 14th.  Woke to rain and cooler weather.

Nothing daunted, we will wear our coats.  Mine purchase specifically for this trip.

Tesco purchased yogurt and granola breakfast (yum yum might try and emulate this at home).

Left at 9am and Satnav cooperatively led us out of Slough and onto the A404.   Last night Little Sister and I had a discussion.  At the time I was feeling a little travel weary and wanted to go direct to Oxford but oh no, not my young Energiser Bunny.   So we assessed routes and decided that Henley On Thames looked like an excellent brunch/pot of tea place.   And so it proved to be.  

Today was fun collecting strange and unusual names.   

Spartan and Tough Mudder, Frogmill Spinney, Nettlebed, Marsh Baldon and Toot Baldon, Benson (without the Hedges)  Many of the village names brought a smile.  But also shop names were great too!  M. Feller and Daughter was a butchers shop and New College was in fact exceedingly old.   

Anyway back to Henley On Thames.   Jigsaw Puzzle picture scenery on the way and then an “oh wow” moment as we crossed the little bridge, up to Market Place.   We drove past many large fences,  and ornate gates,  enclosing large properties.   One had an hedge cut in crenellations.  I read that some elite and rich folk live around here including Boris Johnson, Michael Hesseltine and that at one time George Orwell had a house here.   In town I saw a Real Estate agent and if I have enough left over from my travel fund I might purchase this one!

We were safely delivered by Lady Satnav to a large Carpark next to a Waitrose.   I am slowly crossing British supermarkets off my list. So far Sainsbury’s, Tesco and now Waitrose.   Lido and Aldi are on my list.  I wonder if there are any others.   In my book, tiny ones like Spar and Coop don’t count😉. 

At the car park we decided to wear our raincoats as it was slightly overcast and looked foreboding.   There were four empty car parks on my side of the car and just as I stood with my door open, putting on my coat a man decided he needed to park in the exact next door park. Scowling at me until I moved he proceeded to manoeuvre into ‘his’ spot.  As I told Little Sister, he was definitely not British like the Empire although he may have been from the UK!

We strolled down the street admiring old buildings, yarn bombed post boxes (we posted cards in this one) and proceeded to the Thames.   

Marquees on the far side are presumably for Regattas.   The road over the bridge was very busy but we did scamper across and walked up the other side of the street.  

One great find for today was a small shop dedicated to Teddy Bears.   The lady in the shop told us it dated from the 1800s and is a Grade II listed building.   Ceilings weren’t made for tall folks in those days!   

She said that the wood in the ceiling beams came from ships ballast.

We wandered in and out of several shops but didn’t feel inclined for clothes shopping today although it was fun to look.  Styles are different here and particularly the use of different fabrics.  There seems more variety in the fabrics than at home.   I am tempted but aware of space limits when living out of a suitcase.  We’ve developed an affection for wonky buildings though and Henley On Thames had several of those.

Then up the street to Coppa where Little Sister wanted a coffee and I decided to go for the same.   Now I know for sure that British tea is better than British Coffee - at least it was for me today. But we welcomed the refreshment (and being called “Madoom” by the Very Polite Waitress. An independent book shop across the road caught our eye and we both browsed and found a book to take to Amsterdam for Young Ollie.   The window was decorated advertising a new book called Dead and Scone and there was a giant scone replica. - large enough to cause injury if not death.

I don’t eat many sausages but this butcher had a tremendous variety.

Back to the car and onwards to Oxford on the A4130   Satnav took us to a dead end street a stones throw from the car park we were aiming for.  In disgust we turned her off and followed God given commonsense for a few minutes to enter a vast Westgate car park.   Fortunately we found a park right by an exit through John Lewis Customer Pickup  i.e. a good landmark for us for our return,   Once out in daylight we lost our sense of direction momentarily and the Google Maps lady didn’t help as we didn’t know which was North or South or anywhere else.  Across a small bridge and a dark skinned janitor at the Campus we had unwittingly entered left his trolley and guided us to where we needed to go.   Premier Inn is right in the town centre so we checked with them then wandered off.   

My oh my …. A short walk and a turn to the left and I had my first glimpse of the Radcliffe Camera. 

Another box ticked.   Down the High Street to the Hop On Hop Off Bus Info centre where an obliging older Oxonian told me where I could walk in cloisters and pointed us off in the direction of New College. 

An enjoyable stroll past an “a ha”moment of students cycling to and fro, under a covered bridge/gate and then to the Porters Lodge.   A “just as I thought he’d look” man of a similar age to myself took our £ and guided us off into the beautiful Front Quadrangle and then the Cloisters made famous by Harry Potter.

Indeed there were two young girls recreating movie scenes wearing scarves of Gryffindor colours.  It is amazingly light in the cloisters - I had imagined them to be more gloomy.   There was a chapel where a board said their internationally acclaimed choir sang Evensong most days.   Do all chapels have choirs that are internationally acclaimed?   We have had a surfeit of churches and chapels for a while so will regroup and husband our strength for Carlisle Cathedral which is next on The List.

We also saw All Souls College entrance where a sign at the Porters Lodge said “If you’re looking for Harry Potter you’ve come to the wrong place”.   Ha ha.  Saves answering asinine questions day in day out.  At St Edmunds College we could go up and there was a great spot to photograph the quadrangle and manicured lawns.  I marvelled at the steep steps leading up to the upstairs rooms.

During our brief afternoon wander we heard so many sirens and saw so many police vehicles and ambulances that we began to think Oxford is either a hotbed of crime a la Inspector  Morse or there are lots of accidents which is more probable as one portion of the High Street was freely open to pedestrians but cars, motorcycles, bicycles and large electric buses all shared the space.   We kept to the pavements.   I’m having trouble adjusting here where although on the road  it is drive on the left, on pavements it is walk on the right. 

In the cloisters I found an effigy of St Thomas of Canterbury aka Thomas Beckett.  

On our return up the street I found a bench seat labelled with a plaque to Colin Dexter (a la Inspector Morse books)

And the plaque commemorating Boyle of Boyles Law (ah memories of High School Science)

A sustaining High Tea in a shop boasting it was the site of Great Britain’s Oldest Coffee Shop.  It has been there since 1650.

Then up the street to The Covered Markets where Little Sister did a Happy Dance - there was a wool shop with just the wool she wanted.

Saw two interesting clocks - one sounded out the chimes each quarter hour

and the other at Marks And Spencer is only correct twice a day!

We are here for three days so more to come.


Frugally challenged said...

I was once Rector of Spital in the Street. Would that qualify as a peculiar name?

Maggie said...

Interesting to read about styles of clothes and fabrics being different here, that's not something I would have thought. The yarn shop look great, glad your sister found something to take home.
Oxford is on my list of places to visit, perhaps I'll get round to it sometime this year.

Clare-Aimetu said...

You're having so much fun discovering our country. A few things you may not know: the post box was gold because every Gold Medal winner in the London 2012 olympics had a post box in their home town painted gold. Coop does have some big shops, hope you find Asda and Morrisons too. The quarter chime is called a Westminster Chime, Big Ben in London chimes the quarter adding a line of tune each time. Have a fabulous time exploring England.

Leonore Winterer said...

Another great day exploring - Oxford would definitely be on my list too if I went to the UK! I have to protest though, Aldi is a German super market, the British just borrowed it ;)