Categories: UK and Europe 2015, World tour 2015
Our French camping companion in Oxford, Eleni, was solo cycling across England Scotland and Wales. It’s always great to see other cyclists out on the road especially strong woman cycling solo, the road sustains us all.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford holds a treasure trove of ancient artefacts and wonders from around the world. The Museum began in 1664 and since that time has assessed a huge array of art, natural history and scientific knowledge, often donated from private collections. How theses collections came to be housed in the Museum is at one level the consequence of a genuine pursuit of knowledge while on another the spoils of imperialism, treasures stolen from foreign lands now free and accessible. The Ashmolean isn’t your stuffy old world museum, it’s very hands on with a plethora of truly amazing exhibits that enhance the understanding of the human experience. I was lucky enough to visit here 3 years ago and looked forward to coming back, but after a couple of hours. My head was spinning with all that I saw, trying to contextualise its meaning. I did like the classical marble sculptures from 15 century Italy, the detail was phenomenal, not surprisingly some figures hadn’t aged well many with an arm head or curiously their penis missing?
We ambled around Oxford on a warm sunny afternoon, past the languid couples punting boats along the river to the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens. They were founded in 1621 and are the second oldest in Europe. Apparently the oldest are in Italy. I love Botanic Gardens and those at Oxford didn’t disappoint. I marvelled at the walled garden rooms with symmetrical plantings: Heirloom espaliered roses and multi coloured iris along with the thriving vegetable patches. But what took my breath away was a 220 year old white mulberry tree just coming into fruit. I sat and pondered this magnificent tree which has been giving up its sweet bounty for generations. How many people have waited in anticipation for this marvellous tree to bear fruit?
After a glorious couple of days in Oxford and with Therese suffering from the flu, we opted to take the train to London. While the bikes traveled in the goods car for free, we mistakenly helped ourselves to a couple of premier seats in first class, not normally for the likes of us common cycling folk.
Arriving at Paddington Station we spent the day cycling around London taking in the highlights. London itself was in virtual lockdown for the opening of the new Parliament, but still it was good to revisit some places I had seen before along with a few new ones.
Cycling and train travel are complementary. Who wants to spend hours getting lost or fighting traffic trying to ride out of a major city?
Our plan was to cycle down to Harwich in Suffolk and from there take a ferry to the Hook of Holland. After boarding the train we got chatting with David, another cyclist and teacher. It is interesting how you can come from vastly different experiences but arrive at the same point politically. The train stopped halfway between Colchester and Ipswich at Manningtree. From there we had a gentle afternoon’s ride in beautiful conditions along the River Stour estuary to Harwich, passing through seaside villages and rolling country pastures.
We camped in our tent out back of the delightful Castle Hill. For the princely sum of a fiver. Unbeknown to us it was a rendezvous for a mixed group of 40 or so cyclists on a ride to Amsterdam who were catching the overnight ferry. We exchanged pleasantries and stories of the road.