Walking In Wonderland And A Spot Of Croquet

So there I was walking down Cornmarket Street in Oxford and I saw a White Rabbit on a bike held stationary on a frame, he was peddling furiously to produce a cascade of bubbles as a tubby tuba player performed theme tunes like Superman and The Wizard of Oz. I know your thinking I shouldn’t have had that last pint the previous night but it was just a small slice of the diverse and bizarre happenings going on in the centre of my home city.

Thursday was my day for exploring before the final push ahead of my weekend in Portland so I set off for Marston and Court Place Farm, home of Oxford City FC. Blimey how it had changed, the new community arena and artificial training courts were very impressive but what really pleased me was to see the place buzzing with visitors. There is a community college and a large party of language school students were also heading into the clubhouse and teaching rooms, I even found a couple of ladies rehearsing a play at pitch side. Sadly I won’t get to see a game this trip but it was nice to see the amazing strides the club has made.

Next up was a steady walk down Marston Road to cut through to the cycle track into the University Parks, more surprises awaited me. The Somerset pub caught my eye with its Thursday 2 pounds a pint offer – I will check that out later. Turning down into Canterbury Road I was surprised to find a Russian Orthodox Church squeezed in a terrace. The Church of Saint Nicholas the Wonder Worker looked lovely, later research showed it was opened in 1973 and is used by several different faiths. Hitting the cycle track the cattle grid was a clue to the cows I was to encounter ahead, they seemed friendly but I was worried they might sense my fondness for a burger so I sneaked past them. The gate into the parks took me past the weir with the nudist area Parsons Pleasure somewhere beyond that – I remember on a 6th form punting trip our posh English teacher got an eyeful as she inadvertently steered us right by the less then shy clothes shedders.

A bit further up the main path opened up to the full glory of the park and the cricket pavilion and square. Every alternate year the University team hosts the tourists in a game, a few of us used to take time off work and spend three glorious days emptying cool boxes of beer as we watched the West Indies or Australia. There was no action to see but plenty of sunbathers peppered the lawns and little groups gathered under the shade of some mighty trees. From there it was just a short walk up into town, St Giles was looking good with hanging baskets overflowing with colourful plants, and then came Cornmarket and the White Rabbit. The costume (I suspect it wasn’t a real giant cycling rabbit) must have been stifling in the heat but he waved happily to families as they gathered, a collection tin was filling up well with funds for an African children’s charity.

Town was heaving with visitors so I headed down to the Thames for a cool beer at The Head Of The River pub. I still had a few calls to make and called at old Oxford Prison complex to see how the beach was doing and even had a little knock at croquet on the lawn, it’s ok but will never replace football.