10 April 2017

Port Meadow / The Perch

Misty, moody, grey. Brightening later. The day was perfect for a walking tour, and we set off.

Where did we set off to? Just north of Oxford city centre is the suburb of Jericho. Just north west of Jericho is the wide expanse of Port Meadow. After our usual favourite coffees at our usual favourite spot, Turl Street Kitchen, Mum and I walked north. We stopped at Illyria Pottery in Jericho, because I had previously met the owner/potter there, and wanted to say hello. She wasn't available, but her husband was in the shop, so we got to chat with him for awhile (he is working on his DPhil at Oxford (what Oxford calls a PhD), so I loved hearing about that, and his field of study around Shakespeare). He enthusiastically encouraged us to walk through Port Meadow (since I never had before, and wanted to) and to have lunch at The Perch, which I have always longed to do. He is the one who drew me the map.

Port Meadow is a historic and ancient plot of open common land that is the grazing space for cattle and ponies. It has never been plowed, and it has been a common land since the bronze age. It is known as Oxford's oldest monument, and it hasn't changed much at all since prehistoric times. 

The Freemen of Oxford were given this land (since they helped defend against the Danes) by King Alfred. He founded Oxford in the 10th Century. The Freemen were given the right to graze their animals without fee, and that was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 and that right has been the same to this day. 

The meadow borders the river Thames, and really is a lovely walk. I was eager to see some ponies while we walked through, but alas, they were at the far end out of view and did not emerge to say hello.

Following the map, we crossed the Thames over a footbridge, and saw some long boats in the water. Crossing over another footbridge, we then bordered the river for a bit, before turning westward toward a tiny village called Binsey. The history was palpable. Some of the buildings have thatched roofs. The Perch was no exception. As a 17th century inn, this cosy pub was classy, comfortable, and welcoming. A fire was going as we walked in, and we sat by a window looking out to garden and numerous outdoor tables.

The reason I always wanted to come here was that C.S. Lewis loved his walking tours, and this was a place he would stop with his walking pals, for a pint of beer, and probably some good food, too.

Every step was worth it to spend some time there. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was so cosy, and I would love to go back one day. We worked off all our food on the walk back into Jericho, and then eventually back into Oxford. We estimated we must have walked about 7-8 miles that day. 

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