Sports at Oxford

Sport at Oxford

Remarkably, despite a full-time focus on study, Oxford students still find lots of time to play.

Pick any early morning (in normal times) and you will find them rowing down the river, jogging along the towpath, speeding round the Iffley Road track, scaling the climbing wall or ploughing up and down the fantastic Rosenblatt Swimming Pool.

In fact, Oxford students take part in at least 57(!) sports for which they can win ‘Blues’ or ‘Half-Blues’ and the right to wear a dark blue Oxford University Blazer (or blue and white-striped zebra-wise in the case of a Half-Blue) emblazoned with the crest of the appropriate sports club.

Ballroom dancing is a one of the many sports at Oxford

No, Quidditch is not a blues sport, but if you do anything from American Football to Yachting via Clay Pigeon Shooting, Croquet, Powerlifting and Ultimate Frisbee, there’s a team and a competition for you to take part in.

Sport at Oxford University really came into its own in the 19th century. Before that young men went hunting nearby or played Real Tennis. Merton College still has its Real Tennis court, with two professional coaches, though the court at Oriel College is no longer extant. A pity, as that was the court where Charles I was interrupted by a trumpeter come to sue for peace in 1642 (no, the peace talks failed, but Parliament did agree to send the King cloth for a new tennis suit).

The first Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race was held in 1829, though it was in Henley rather than London. Later onlookers used to watch races from barges with distinctive round windows – you can still find one hidden near Donnington Bridge. Today there are college boathouses all along the river Thames at a short distance from Folly Bridge and rowing’s popularity is undiminished. There are two major competitions held in Oxford every year– Torpids in the sleepy spring and Eights in the energetic summer rowed over several days.

Each college chalks their accomplishments on the walls of the quads

Cricket too has always been very popular and some great names have honed their skills on the playing fields of Oxford – CB Fry, Colin Cowdrey, the Nawab of Pataudi, Imran Khan and Jamie Dalrymple to name but a few.

We also shouldn’t forget that the game of Rugby was invented by an Oxford man (though fortunately he went to Rugby school beforehand, or presumably ‘Oxford’ would be a game as well as a University). His name was William Webb Ellis and one day he decided to revolutionise football (or break the rules, depending how you look at it) and pick up the ball. You can see him immortalised in stone above the High Street entrance to Brasenose college, head down, arm round a ball.

‘A healthy mind in a healthy body!’ was the rallying cry of the 19th century public schools and once at Oxford, the ‘hearties’ looked down on the ‘aesthetes’. However, it all got a bit out of hand when sport seemed to be many young men’s sole reason for coming to Oxford.
The dons started to protest. Neville Coghill at Exeter commented in 1938 that ‘great athletes are seldom great scholars’ and a Pembroke don balked at the ‘conflict of time, energy and interest’ which led to some students ‘skimping study’. On the other hand, A.L. P Norrington, President of Trinity College, was concerned at the ‘tendency of undergraduates to mooch in the afternoon instead of taking exercise’.

In fact, sport was a requirement for a Rhodes Scholar, who couldn’t merely be a ‘bookworm’ and was expected to be an enthusiastic and capable participant in ‘manly sports’. With the belated acceptance of women scholars, the adjective has been deleted, however, it is true that Rhodes Scholars have contributed hugely to Oxford’s sporting successes.
It is also true that sports don’t seem to have interfered too much with the spectacular success of certain individuals. Take Sir Roger Bannister, who not only manage to run the very first sub-four-minute mile (on our Iffley Road track) but also became an outstanding neurologist and eventually Master of Pembroke College.

So what’s the attitude of today’s University to sport? The Oxford University Sport website tells us ‘A growing body of research is highlighting the many benefits that getting active has, from mental health, through to life expectancy and even academic performance. While Oxford has a truly world class pedigree when it comes to sport, we want to spread the simple message that sport really is for everyone.’

And the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Martin Williams, gives a balanced yet positive appraisal: “There is always a way to balance sports with studying, and we actively encourage students to get active while they are here.”

It was at The Iffley Road Track that Roger Bannister run the first sub-four minute mile.

So, there’s no excuse for mooching around!

Walking Tours of Oxford are a great way to exercise and if you are really keen on sport, we can also show you (from a distance) some of our amazing sporting facilities and tell you more about its history.

 © Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum

The Pitt Rivers Museum by Victoria Bentata

Hidden away at the back of the Oxford Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum is extraordinary and not to be missed. Entering it for the first time is like discovering Aladdin’s cave.

It consists of a huge ground floor room with two galleries laden with objects. Yet, despite its size, it is strangely intimate, like an eccentric uncle’s attic. This is partly because of the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ squeezed into the available space, but also because of its extraordinary variety. From the massive Canadian totem pole to the tiniest rings and charms, from rifles to masks, mummies and glass surgical instruments, everything is unexpected and surprising.

The high ceiling allows space to breathe, but there is little room to move without encountering an exhibition case. And each case is so crammed with fascinating objects that you can spend an hour just looking at its contents and deciphering the labels. These are often hand-written and have been here since the early years after the Museum was opened in 1884.

The Natural History Museum next door displays animals, insects and minerals. In contrast, the Pitt Rivers Museum is an ethnographic museum and all its artefacts were made and/or used by human beings.

In the museum they are grouped by type (e.g. textiles, weapons, baskets, dead enemies…) and their original function was to demonstrate progress. Pitt Rivers described what he saw as the journey from simple to ‘civilized’ in an essay on ‘Cultural Evolution’, something in which the Victorians implicitly believed. Of course, in the race to progress they were in pole position.

General Pitt Rivers himself was originally a Grenadier Guard who was assigned in 1850 to test a new rifle, the Minié. As a result, he developed a passionate interest in the historical development of firearms. This in turn led to a fascination with history and archaeology and to collecting the material objects you can see today.

Thanks to the attention to detail and passion of the museum’s first curator, Henry Balfour and the brilliant work of anthropologist Beatrice Blackwood, who was not only an adventurer but a meticulous cataloguer, the Pitt Rivers became the exciting yet academically robust museum it is today.

To visit the museum virtually go to: Click here We recommend a virtual tour first and then a closer look at whatever interests you. They have lots of home-schooling resources, perfect for lockdown projects.

We recommend a trip to the Pitt Rivers Museum as part of a day spent in Oxford, ideally after a Walking tour with Walking Tours of Oxford. Looking forward to welcoming you when times change.

 © Victoria Bentata 2020 for Walking Tours of Oxford

is surely one of the most extraordinary museums in the world.

VE Day celebrations in the UK

8th May 2020

On Friday 8th May, we celebrated VE Day here in the UK and I imagine all over Europe. It marked 75 years when World War 2 finally came to an end in Europe. It was to be another 3 months before the world was at peace.

In usual times, the celebrations would have involved large gatherings and parties all across the land. Here is my hometown, there was a Tea Dance planned. Of course, due to the Coronovirus pandemic, all events had to be cancelled.

Nonetheless, the British people still found a way to mark the occassion. We decorated our houses with anything we could find in red, white and blue. Initially I did not have any bunting so my talented daughter threw together some homemade bunting from off cuts.

We listend, not as in days gone by, on the wireless but with the benefit of being able to see on television, the address made all those years ago by Sir Winston Churchill. The birthplace of Churchill is located just 30 mins outside of Oxford near Woodstock – Blenheim palace which is the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace! It makes a great day out from Oxford and more details can be found here

Located nearby you can also visit the grave of Sir Winston Churchill in the graveyard of St Martin’s Church, Blandon. For more details See here

We then listened to the Queen speech before taking to our front gardens and driveways for a traditional afternoon tea!

Traditional afternoon tea

In my household, we hooked up with my sisters and parents via Zoom so that we could enjoy together whilst being apart.

After dinner and some family games, we watched more on television including listening to ‘We’ll Meet again’. The words more poignant than ever and I for one, cannot wait ‘to meet again’.

Our local pub might be closed but was still decorated!

We hope that tours will be up and running by September and look forward to welcoming you to Oxford. Stay safe.

Award Winning Tours 2020

Award winning Tours

Wow! Once again, Walking Tours of Oxford, is thrilled to announce that we have won the prestigious ‘Gold Service Award’ from Feefo. Throughout 2019, my team has worked tirelessly to ensure that high standards are met on all of our tours. This is a phenomenal achievement. Each guide has been carefully selected to ensure the very best experience adhere to the guiding etiquette in Oxford. All guides are fully qualified – members of The Institute of Tourist Guiding and The Oxford Guild of Tour Guides. This means we have undergone an intense 9-month training course and sat at least 4 exams at the end of that period. We are exceptionally grateful to all clients that choose Walking Tours of Oxford and review on Feefo. In addition, we have also been awarded ‘The Oxfordshire Prestige award’ which is a real honour and speaks volumes about the quality of tours offered by Walking Tours of Oxford. Everyone is special to us. Thank you. Heidi and team

Tolkien movie

Tolkien movie

Having been a Green Badge guide in Oxford for over 6 years, JRR Tolkien has become very much part of my every day life!

I was thrilled when I learnt that there was to be a new movie on his life.  It is always helpful to be able to see something played out on screen!

So last weekend I took myself of to the cinema to see #Tolkienmovie with great excitement!

The movie focuses on Tolkien’s time as a young adult. From the loss of his mother and the time he spent in a boarding house.  During the time he met the love of his life, Edith Bratt.  It also very much focussed on the formation of the ‘TCBS’ (the Tea Club and Barrovian Society’ of which Tolkien was a member.

I enjoyed the movie particularly seeing the Oxford locations (some of which I had seen being filmed back in November 2017) although I do feel it may have stretched the truth on occasion!

During the peak summer months of May, June and July (with possible extension beyond) we are operating CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien tours in Oxford.  These are scheduled to operate every Saturday at 2.30pm.

Starting from The Eagle and Child (the pub strongly associated with The Inklings) and will weave through the streets of Oxford.  At the end the tour will visit inside Magdalen college (entry included but subject to availability).  There was a brief scene from the movie filmed inside Magdalen.

As with the majority of our tours, we keep numbers small to ensure the very best experience.  Book early!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cs-lewis-and-jrr-tolkien-walking-tour-of-oxford-tickets-54793890000

Below are some pictures taken of the filming during November 2017 – come and discover them with us!

#tolkien #tolkienmovie #cslewis #theinklings #tcbs #oxford #walkingtoursofoxford

Tolkien filming

Parking in Oxford

Throughout 2018 we had a few clients who arrived late for tours due to parking problems.  Please do allow plenty of time when travelling to Oxford. Car parking is not plentiful in the centre of Oxford and is discouraged.  The best option is to use one of the 5 park and rides outside Oxford and then hop on the bus into town.  This is how I always travel in.  It will cost you £2 to park the car for up to 12 hours.  Note that you will require the last 3 digits of your car registration when paying at the machine so if you have a hire car – remember to make a note!  Here is the link to the Park and Ride website:

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory/8/car_parks_in_oxford/category/56/categoryInfo/13

If you do prefer to drive into Oxford then you could try The Westgate car park:-

https://westgateoxford.co.uk/your-visit/getting-here

Another car park would be Worcester Street:-

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory_record/351/worcester_street_car_park/category/53/city_centre_car_parks

Or Gloucester Green:-

https://www.oxford.gov.uk/directory_record/339/gloucester_green_car_park/category/53/city_centre_car_parks

See you soon!

Heidi and team

Morse / Lewis and Endeavour pub tour 2019

Discovering the pubs of Morse / Lewis and Endeavour

It was a glorious day when I set out on an endeavour to find the pubs of Morse & Lewis located outside of Oxford.  Along with me came Phil, a good friend who also happens to be an excellent photographer!

It wasn’t just about a boozy lunch – sadly I was driving, but about locating and getting to know the scenes in preparation for our new tour.  It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.!  The tour will be unescorted and the final details are yet to be confirmed. Please check out my website for more information.

The Perch, Binsey

A charming 17thcentury public house with thatched roof.  Binsey is a small hamlet located approximately 2 miles north west of Oxford. It is possible to walk here from the centre of Oxford and is a pleasant stroll along the canal, across Port Meadow and then following the Thames.

The Perch featured in the Morse episode ‘Daughters of Cain’ and the area has many other literary connections.  Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote a poem ‘Binsey Poplars’ when he found the riverside trees felled.

During the summer months, it is a busy venue and has an enviable large garden out the back.  Continue through the garden and you will come to the Thames which is definitely worth a stroll to.  One can imagine the various scenes from Morse / Lewis and Endeavour filmed, if not in this exact location, then surely very close by.

 

After taking our photos, we headed to the church – St Margaret of Antioch.  There has been a church on this site since Saxon times.  We were fortunate that the church was open and able to visit inside.  However, the real interest lies outside in the ‘Treacle Well’ which has connections to the patron saint of Oxford – St Frideswide.  It also features in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland stories.  Three dormice live down the bottom of the well.  When Alice asks why, the reply is ‘because they were sick’.  The word Treacle is an old English word for medicine.  Discover the full hidden meaning of the Alice stories on a specialist tour!

 

The Victoria Arms, Marston

Affectionately known locally as ‘Vicky Arms’ this is a slightly more modern pub. There has been a public house on the site previously, the one before us today was rebuilt in the 1840’s.  Located on the eastern bank of the River Cherwell, this was the pub I was most excited to visit as I had not been before.

Warm and welcoming, we ordered a couple of drinks from the very friendly barman and then headed into their gardens.  Anyone who knows Morse & Lewis will recognise the outside and it was here that they filmed The Remorseful Day; where Morse recited A.E Housman’s poem – The Remorseful Day.  I could just visualise the film crew setting up and John Thaw and Kevin Whatley preparing for their lines.

A wander around the inside brought us to the plaque (see picture) for The Remorseful Day along with another interesting sign to say that this is where Cromwell prepared to invade the city of Oxford during the English Civil war.  Although upon speaking to the Manager, and considering the dates, this is probably a little stretched!

After our lunch, I had wanted to visit the third pub – The Trout at Wolvercote used in the filming but it was with dismay that I realised the time.  I had to get back for the school run!  We headed out to the car and made a brief stop just around the corner where you find ‘Cromwell’s  House’and then it was time for the adventure to end and homeward bound.  I will return to visit The Trout at a later date.

Both these pubs are walkable from the city centre or you can, of course, drive yourself.  It is not a great distance between the locations but who wants to drive when fully immersing themselves in the world of Morse!

I am tempted to join a couple of the tours myself and will certainly be bringing friends along at some point.  Any comments on if you think it would benefit from a guide during the tour are welcome. Please leave comments below.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope I have given you a feel for these locations.  They do say that a picture speaks a thousand words and I am grateful to Phil for taking such insightful photos.  All photos are copyright @philknight.

Gift vouchers available

All our tours – public or private – are available to buy as gift vouchers!  Please see home page for the new booking button.  A superb gift that ‘keeps on giving’ as reviewed earlier this year.  Christmas, birthday, anniversary …… Walking Tours of Oxford will ensure the very best experience for that special someone.

 

2019 Morse tours now available to book

I am delighted to advise that the 2019 Morse / Lewis and Endeavour tours are now available to book!  Schedule and booking details as follows:-

All year from Saturday 5th January – Thursday 19th December.  Every Saturday and Thursday @ 2pm.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-2019-tickets-49747788976

Plus mid season from 1st April-31st October

Every Tuesday and Friday @ 2pm

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-mid-season-2019-tickets-49847180258

Plus peak season from 1st June-30th Sept

Every Monday and Saturday @ 11.30am

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/morse-lewis-and-endeavour-peak-2019-tickets-49847236426

That is 6 glorious tours a week to choose from in peak season.  Tours get booked well in advance so do book early!

New for 2019 and exclusive to Walking Tours of Oxford

Add afternoon tea at The Randolph hotel for the ultimate treat!  Contact me for details.

See you soon!

Heidi, Elizabeth and team!

Interview for Fifty and Fab

Interview

Thank you to my sister, Michelle Green of Fifty & Fab for including me in her recent interview section.  Check out her blog and grab yourself a discount on Morse / Lewis and Endeavour Tours!

https://www.fiftyandfab.co.uk/blog/embracing-life-in-midlife-heidi-from-walking-tours-of-oxford