We get the Park & Ride from Redbridge and disembark on Broad Street, enjoying the mellow stones and dreamy spires (but not the hoards of people) as we walk the well-trodden path to the Natural History Museum and Pitt Rivers. We've been doing this for years; it is part of the children's childhoods and I expect M and I will continue to do it long after they've had enough of accompanying us (and indeed J has already missed out on this trip, being as she is in France improving her muscles picking apples and at the same time perfecting her accent for next year...).
Oxford started life properly as a Saxon Town during the 10th century (it wasn't of much interest to the Romans or the Celts). It is at a crucial convergence point of two rivers (the Thames and the Cherwell, were we go punting every summer) and lies between the two ancient Saxon Kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia, hence it's value to those tribes.
It is famous the world over today for its University, which is the oldest English-speaking university in the world. Teaching has been going on in Oxford since 1096. By 1190 it was functioning as a recognisable teaching establishment. Its oldest college, Balliol, was established in 1249. In 1167 a row between Henry II and Archbishop Thomas Becket resulted in English students being banned from attending the University of Paris and as a result they gathered in Oxford for learning purposes. Oxford appears to be around twenty years older than its arch rival Cambridge (which is where M went, so I have to be careful when expressing any opinions :o) ).
It is also famous for its bicycles, which the students use to get around and which are generally to be found padlocked to every conceivable fence or railing space.....
In 1860, the newly opened Oxford University Museum of Natural History hosted one of the most important debates in scientific history when Samuel Wilberforce (Bishop of Oxford) and Thomas Huxley (biologist and writer) argued furiously about Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection and the questions it raised about man’s place in the natural world and religious belief. Darwin was unwell and couldn't attend but Huxley argued for him and was called 'Darwin's Bull Dog' as a result of his performance.
It's a fantastic place and well worth a visit (and that's coming from someone who finds museums rather sleep-inducing at the best of times, even while admiring them). It is packed full with specimens and has a marvellous time-line of evolution and adaptations around one wall, as well as being home to several specimens collected by Darwin himself on his travels.
|50,000 year old Rhino vertebrae found in the North Sea|
|The Dodo, hunted to extinction in Mauritius because it didn't know it should be afraid of men.|
|European Skate Leech|
The Museum has a connection with Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice In Wonderland and was an Oxford resident and don. Personally, I never enjoyed these books and found them distinctly weird.
The Nat Hist Mus backs on to the Pitt Rivers Museum, which is an amazing room crammed full of the most weird and wonderful exhibits and collections from around the world (including shrunken heads). It gives me the willies, so apart from the first time when I went in after hearing M rave about it, I haven't been back inside that room. Instead I tend to dither about on the stairs trying to convince myself it'll be fine and the odd energies coming from all the things in the room won't affect me at all, before I come to my senses and return to the Nat Hist bit while M and F marvel at all the oddments to be found in Pitt Rivers. Like Morris Dancing and The Shipping Forecast, Pitt Rivers is a place I am glad exists while having no wish to sample it's delights myself personally.......
On this trip I found myself rather mesmerised by the incredible cabinet of insects on the right just as you enter the Nat Hist Mus. After a while L joined me there. He sat down dolefully on a chair and proceeded to read how to be an SAS expert in survival while I sat on the floor and stared at all the wonderful things in the cabinet with my mouth open.
I am not a fan of killing and pinning as you know, but the insects in this cabinet are not recent specimens, so it was an opportunity to admire them......
You've got off lightly here btw- I came back with at least 50 pics from this set :o) The first one is, of course, the fantastic Atlas Moth (Attacus atlas), the largest moth in the world (wing span of one foot!), who usually lives in South East Asia (6000 miles from the UK).
There is a fantastic story of one who turned up in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester, in 2010. It landed on the window of a suburban house and is believed to be the only one that has ever been found in the UK. It's worth having a quick listen to the BBC report of it here. The adults only live for a week, but this one laid eggs which grew into pillars.....
I was a bit befuddled in the head after all those wonderful insects. L complained that I wasn't making any sense and had a head full of butterflies as we walked down to the tenth century Saxon Tower of St Micheal On The North Gate. We dropped L off at Waterstones next door and the rest of us climbed the tower for the view over the city....
St Michael's contains the door to the cells through which Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop) was led to his execution by burning at the Stake in nearby Broad Street in 1556.
On the way back to the bus home we passed a couple of things that seem to sum Oxford up.....A joke about Handel and a grown man pedaling a stationary bicycle blowing bubbles and wearing a rabbit's head (I know the pic is blurry but somehow it seemed more appropriate than a crisp, sharp, clear one)....
I managed to dive off into Hotel Chocolate for a few minutes and splurged on some choccies, which I am looking forward to eating all by myself...... :o)
This is allowed because it's now half past five and it's DARK already :o(
Oh well, a lovely day out has more than made up for the loss of that precious daylight hour at the end of the day. Roll on Spring!