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Best Alternative Spring Walks in Oxford
Image Credit: Graham Higgs

Best Alternative Spring Walks in Oxford

3 May 2017 |

With spring in full swing you’ll soon be looking to make the most of the milder weather and head outdoors - but sometimes it can feel like you're treading familiar ground. For a shot of novelty, we’ve put together a handy list of some great alternative spring walks in Oxford, allowing you to experience a few different sides to the city of spires. Whether you’re looking for a fascinating alternative Jewish history of Oxford, a stroll along the city’s secret rivers and waterways, or even an erudite mathematical tour, you’ll find some great walks and activities in the city this spring.

Oxford Waterways Walk
 
Believe it or not, the city of Oxford is in fact built on a series of islands. Riddled with rivers, bridges, mills and waterways, many of the names of local streets and pubs give an insight into the city’s unusual aquatic heritage. Starting at Oxford Castle and finishing at Sandford Lock, this walk gives a historical overview of some of the bodies of water that still define this landscape. Major features include the Castle Mill Stream, which played a key role in defending the city during Saxon times, plus a one-thousand-year-old wharf and the meeting of the ‘Four Streams’, whose confluence forms a cross aligned to the cardinal compass points. Literary references abound: Chaucer was sufficiently inspired by Oxford’s waterways to pen his ‘Miller’s Tale’, and the repeated flooding of Christ Church Meadow in the 1880s were thought to be the basis for certain watery episodes in Lewis Carroll’s surreal ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’.


Image Credit: River Cherwell, Dineshraj Goomany
 
Find out more information about the Oxford Waterways Walk here.
 
National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail
 
Looking for an alternative history to Oxford? See the streets in a whole new light while following the Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail. A tour of Oxford’s intriguing and extensive Jewish history starts off at the site of two medieval Jewish cemeteries. The original cemetery was established on vacant low-lying floodlands by the West Bank of the River Cherwell (tradition held that a Jewish cemetery should always be situated outside the gates of a walled town); the Jews were later given a plot of land for a cemetery in front of what are now the Botanic Gardens. Take the gate at Rose Lane into Christ Church Meadow and turn right; the path reaches the old south-east corner of the medieval city walls and follows the back of Merton College. This is called Deadman’s Walk, and was the traditional path of Jewish funeral processions from the Jewry to the Jew’s garden. Elsewhere you can feel the ghostly presence of the ‘Jew’s Mount’ at the site of the Oxford Castle, where historians suppose the Mount to have been destroyed in 1790, and visit the Old Fire Station which was once the site of a great Victorian Synagogue in 1878.


Image Credit: Christ Church Meadow, Tevjan Pettinger
 
Find out more information about the Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail here.
 
Oxford Botanical Walk
 
If you’re a budding zoologist, or just keen for a good dose of green, this walk is the one for you. The walk allows you to experience Oxford wildlife without even having to step outside the city: visit the flighty fallow deer in the meadow at Magdalen Grove, where spring is a good time to see them, and go swan-spotting on the River Cherwell.  Visit the factory which housed Frank Cooper’s Marmalade in the 1800s, which was manufactured in Oxford and used to be one of the most famous brands of marmalade in the world. For more learning about the natural world, pay a trip to the building that houses the University’s Department of Plant Sciences, home to important research into tropical forests and eco-projects seeking to combat climate change.
 

Image Credit: Botanic Gardens, Tevjan Pettinger

Find out more information about the Oxford Botanical Walk here.
 
Maths in the City
 
Oxford has nurtured many great minds, but the mathematical prodigies who have lived among its spires are nothing short of legendary - just last year an Oxford Professor was awarded a £500,000 prize for finally solving a maths puzzle that was 300 years old. In this engaging and informative tour put together by the Oxford Mathematical Institute you will take in some of Oxford’s most spectacular architecture. As you start to look closer, Oxford seems to be steeped in strange geometric buildings, as the great circular site of the Sackler Library attests, not to mention the mysterious hexagonal structure of The Beehive at St John’s College. You can then meander over to Wadham College to gaze at the Penrose tiling outside the bar; it was mathematician Roger Penrose who invented these particular tiles in the 1970s, which make a pattern that never repeats. To round it off, go and marvel at the roof of the Sheldonian Theatre, the mathematics of which allowed it to have the largest unsupported roof of any 17thcentury building.


Image Credit: Sheldonian Theatre, David Nicholls
 
Find out more information about the Maths in the City Tour here.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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