Monday, 10 August 2015


...which was the name for Oxford as described in the Domesday Book.

Chris and I have just spent thirty-six hours there and for me, with the streets heaving with people from all corners of the world, it was long enough.

We stayed at the very pleasant Hartwell Hotel at Iffley, from where it was but a few minutes walk to the locks at Iffley. No cargo boats ply up the Thames today but the river is very busy along this stretch with tourist boats of all shapes and sizes. And the weather could hardly have been better. Indeed, it was almost too good!

Iffley Lock area, the church in the background. 8 August, 2015

The Thames at Iffley is very 
picturesque with the lovely old church (locked!)just visible through the trees and, with weirs, locks, bridges and so on, the river system is quite complex. 

The bridges are themselves attractive and, when J.K.Jerome wrote his classic account of a journey from Kingston to Oxford and back the scene must have been colourful indeed. 'Three Men in a Boat', written in 1889 is not only extremely funny but gives the reader a real feel for the atmosphere which then prevailed - at least for the comfortably off.

Chicory was abundant. 8 August, 2015

Chris and I took a shortish walk along the very busy footpath towards Oxford on Friday evening. At the time of J.K.Jerome's novel the Victorian cycling craze was at it height and now, 130 years on, we still had to be wary with the recent boom in cycles resulting in hundreds thronging the banks. The brilliant blue of chicory, Cichorium intybus, was everywhere; I suspect this was not as common in the 1890's.

We would pass close by the Botanic Gardens but, as we will be going there in a couple of week's time, we gave them a miss.

I love Hemp-agrimony for its insect-attracting
properties. Oxford. 8 August, 2015

No worry. The river banks were a riot of colour with Hemp-agrimony, Eupatoria cannabinum, abundant. The link with true Hemp, Cannabis sativa, comes through the leaf-shape, which is distinctly cannabis-like. For me the plant is of interest as the pink flowers attract many insects - but there was walking to be done.

Purple Loosestrife - a most garden-worthy
plant. Oxford. 8 August, 2015

We called in to a riverside pub for a drink, but not before admiring the Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria, whose spikes of flowers brightened the banks. Chicory is far too untidy for a herbaceous border but the Loosestrife is well worth a place and plant breeders have done much to 'improve' the plant.

Chicken-of-the-woods near Oxford.
8 August, 2015

Nearby, erupting from the trunk of a willow, was the brilliant yellow Sulphur Polypore, Laetiporus sulphureus. Sometimes called Chicken-of-the-woods, it is considered a delicacy in Germany, but needs to be gathered before the tissues become woody.

So on into Oxford to visit the Ashmolean Museum and indulge in a little retail therapy.

A little weary, we broke for a coffee, with a pensive-looking Chris ignoring Balliol College in the background. Thus refreshed we retraced our route back to Iffley for the evening meal.

Indian Balsam beside the Thames at Oxford

The following day we returned to Oxford, again using the riverside pathways. Indian Balsam, aka Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera, was present although, fortunately, not in great quantities. It would have been unfamiliar to Jerome for, although it was recorded as a garden escape around 1850 it was not until the 1940's that it began to significantly spread. Beautiful though it is, there is danger that it will become a serious problem along rivers and canals, so it is usually eradicated where possible. 

Pulicaria dysenterica beside the Thames at Oxford
9 August, 2015

Common Fleabane (shown), Angelica, Water Mint, Reed Mace, Meadowsweet and many other plants brightened our walk, but the heat was again making us weary so we headed back to the hotel.

Across the meadows to Magdalen College.
9 August, 2015

Past Magdalen Meadows, with Magdalen College in the background, we headed south and climbed gratefully into the car. I love Oxford but the heat, the crowds and the generally frenetic nature of the city made us happy to leave. Daventry ahoy!

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