Why do I like Binsey so much? Even though I have never lived there? True it is only a short walk away, but why?
Yes I have had romantic and now finished business dealings there as any small check in Goole or Twitter or this blog may find.
But that’s not why either.
I rather suspect it is a magical place far, far more than you may realise.
As you walk the 1.5 miles from the station in Oxford across Port Meadow or, as I do, cross the more ancient North North West route to Eynsham that ran this way at Walton Well Road, look around you.
This is a land that King’s and Queen’s, Saints and Warriors have passed over. On their way to Binsey and its Church and well.
It has barely changed since then. It may have moved only a few feet up or down. The drainage has certainly improved a little, at least in some respects. The problems of placing of a ‘dam’ across the river by building Botley Road were not missed in its construction.
‘Seven Arch Bridge’ stopped some people in their tracks when it became apparent no-one else had noticed or thought clearly. That was not something you built by accident. Stone meant money. And you don’t build dry bridges by mistake either. Ask Alison.
But try looking up Binsey Oxford in Google. Then think about the number of references it pulls. Text, Image, Video.
How come so many links? Pages and pages of links. From everything from Myths and Legends to Kings, Queens, Consort’s, Saints, Clergy, Students, Dons, Poets, Painters, Lovers… A 3000 year old history a short walk on a Summers day. Or in Winter, but put some wellies on first. This land floods in winter like it has done for the last 1400 years or so. There’s a lament about it in WHERE THAMES SMOOTH WATERS GLIDE so nothing new there.
If you follow the route across Port Meadow, then you are approximating that North North West ancient route through Wytham and on to Enysham. With now dredged fords, missing bridges and pathways. A place you might hide when bad King’s came calling. To be cured of their ways by the water of the well.
There are villages all around you that are only bumps in the ground now. Big bustling villages with 27 Inns by one report. Englishmen, Pilgrims, Dons and Clergy do like their Ale and Beer and Food. Me I prefer the Ginger variety and a snack in the gardens.
This is a place where International Battles started. Because things didn’t go quite as hoped. Still it got us Elizabeth, so all was not lost. A place where little girls were verbally told stories about Rabbits and Watches which Alice then insisted was written down later (Thankfully). Did you know, one of the first readings by the Author of Alice in Wonderland was in the garden at The Perch? Yards away from where the ‘Red queen’ was suppose to live. There is a lot more to that particular story than meets the eye at first glance. This was a story told to girls who knew every character as mimic of some real person. A fun, dig in the ribs, with ‘modern’ fairies attached. Was “I’m late. I’m late” a reference to Oxford time and Railway time? Who knows?
I wasn’t there either at the reading or the verbal delivery. There are so many points in history that would be worth a time trip, it would be difficult to choose even if you can.
And more recently
“From 1928 through 1948, the Perch was popular among Oxford University students as a venue to hear the latest jazz. Although it ceased to be a jazz venue after 1949, in 2009 the Perch was named by the Brecon Jazz Festival as one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the United Kingdom.”
Do take the time to look through the refs before you go though. It makes for much more interesting walks.
And I will pose you this riddle. If you are sitting in the Garden in the Perch and that is the Isis in front of you. Where is the Thames? Ask Alison or in the Pub. (Sorry).
And if you think that is all? I’ve barely scratched the surface. Why did the well drift out of favour? What might have caused its magical powers to drift away? Perhaps it caused its own doom or other factors were in play. Why a well that close to a river in any case? It is not as though you would be short of water thereabouts.
Magical and interesting or not?