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Frank's travels around Britain.

Oxford & the Cotswolds.

A truly stunning area. England at its finest. Every turn is beautiful. Just like Rye, all the towns & villages are full of shops selling you expensive stuff that you didn't know you needed and great places to eat. I was a little disappointed with Oxford's old buildings being used as W.H. Smith or Virgin Records. It is, of course, home to the University of Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is known as the "city of dreaming spires", a term coined by Matthew Arnold in reference to the harmonious architecture of the university buildings. The River Thames runs through Oxford, where for a distance of some 10 miles it is known as the Isis. With hindsight, I think I should have taken a tourists bus ride to see it properly. They certainly don't encourage parking in the city.

I took an evening stroll by Godstow Locks and the Oxford Union canal. There was a ruin of  the nunnery, this abbey became the final burial place of the famed beauty Rosamund Clifford (died circa 1176), a long-time mistress of Henry II. There were birds coming home to roost and it was all lit by a red summer sunset. The country pubs teeming with people, it certainly looked like a rich persons playground.

The highlight of the area were the villages of Burford, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-the-water. The A429 is the Fosse Way, a very famous Roman Road,  that linked Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in South West England to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia). It is remarkable for its extremely direct route: from Lincoln to Ilchester in Somerset, a distance of 182 miles, it is never more than six miles from a straight line. Picture perfect places that must provide film processors with so much work.

The stone cottages, the pretty streams & rivers ooze the expense it must cost to live there or even just to rent a holiday cottage. The whole area must be full of Grade 1 or 2 listed buildings. It was perfect to sit in the sunshine and indulge in a cream tea. There is nothing like fish & chips out of the paper in Lancashire ... well clotted cream, red jam & a fresh scone, washed down with a cup of tea all made in the West Country, just quintessentially English!

Bourton-on-the-Water straddles the river Windrush with its series of elegant low bridges beside neat tree-shaded greens and tidy stone banks. Standing back from the river are traditional Cotswolds buildings, many of which are now tourist shops for the day-trippers and visitors. Bourton-on-the-Water has been described as the 'Little Venice' of the Cotswolds and is one of the most popular tourist spots in the region being serviced by the many shops, cafes, and attractions, now that's real ad-mans speak for very nice. There is one river, not a series of canals. Its infested with coach loads of tourists (like me!) coming to sit on the banks and cool their feet after tramping miles & miles of the Cotswolds. It is stunning but I suspect that a spring or autumn evening would empty the village & it would be the gem of an already stunning area.

Links for information on this page:

Godstow Abbey


The Cotswolds area