Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Talbot Inn - Eynsham - Oxford Green Belt Way & The Thames Path

We had intended to visit the Cotswolds today, but the weather forecast spoke of rain and more rain, so decided to take a walk close to home instead.
We began with lunch at the Tablot Inn, which stands just outside our village of Eynsham, and about six miles west of Oxford and on the B4044.
This one-bar pub, with its exposed beams and small restaurant area, dates back to 1774, though it was called the Horse and Jockey in those days. It was renamed in 1836 and purchased by Arkell’s in 1997. This means that it has a great selection of Arkell’s real ales that are dispensed from  barrels lined up behind the bar.

Eating before the walk calls for a light lunch, which is why Auntie Liz and I both selected warm chicken salad, which we washed down with a couple of glasses of 3B, Arkell’s Best Bitter,  first brewed way back in 1910. Some suggest that the 3 B’s stand for Big Boy’s Beer – perhaps they are right, but we drank it anyway.
Warm Chicken Salad

The walk that takes in a section of the Oxford Green Belt Way - a recently established 50 mile circular walk round Oxford’s Green Belt, was created by the Oxfordshire branch of Campaign to Protect Rural England, . Since it was established it has helped residents of Oxfordshire appreciate the glorious countryside that surrounds our wonderful city.

Crossing Swinford Toll Bridge

You reach it by turning left after leaving the pub, walking on for 250 yards until you reach Swinford Bridge, one of the few toll bridges left in England. Walkers and their dogs can cross free of charge, but cars are charged 5 pence each to make the crossing. It’s a busy bridge and the footpath is narrow, so great care is needed when walking with a dog. A short tight lead is a necessity.

Once over the bridge you will notice a footpath sign and some steep steps on the left that take you through a glorious wild area and onto the Thames Path and the Oxford Green Belt Way. Another way sign indicating that Oxford is to the right takes you to the Eynsham Lock and on as far as you wish to walk.
Pythius splashing about in the river
Thanks to the fact we were walking both the Thames Path, and the Oxford Green Belt Way we managed to turn it into a great little circular walk, which took us into the edge of the bosky Wytham Wood  and along a delightful little path that runs besides the mighty Thames. Pythius had the time of his life, for although the riverbank is quite steep in parts, he managed to find some shallow areas that he could splash about now and again.

As to the wood, well dogs are not allowed in Wytham Wood, but the small section fenced off that walkers are allowed to pass through when walking the Green Belt Way are a dog’s delight. (Walking passes for the wood are available on application to the University – but not for dogs!) Wytham Wood is recognised as the birthplace of ecology. Studies that show the effects of changing climate conditions that have been conducted there go back more than 50 years.

The bosky wood
The ancient trees, with their massive moss-covered branches that twist their way towards the sky and the tangled undergrowth that is also fighting its way upwards to meet the light, are not just impressive but mystical. Had a couple of trolls or a hobgoblin or two trotted out of the wooded area to greet us, we would not have been surprised. Inspector Morse could have greeted us too, for this is one of the many Oxford areas that has provided a story line and backdrop for this popular television detective series.

The Oxford Green Belt Way
We turned from the Green Belt Way and headed back towards Swinford Bridge having reached the FAL Farm and a large sign indicating all that this amazing farm stands for. Turning left and joining up with the Thames path again we made for home, having walked about a mile.

Pythius has his say:
Helen always misses out the fun bits when she writes up our walks. What she didn’t tell you was that on the way back, as we walked along the river path I dropped my ball in the water and was unable to save it. (The bank was too steep and I am a little frightened of deep water). I hadn’t meant to drop it – it sort of left my mouth quite unexpectedly, then a couple of splashes and there it was bouncing about in the water.

Waiting for Helen to save my ball.
 Helen decided to be brave (really brave) and laid down on her tummy, then gradually (very gradually) eased herself over the damp grass towards the bank, having found a piece of old iron which she used to scoop the ball from the water once she was down far enough.
What she didn’t know, as she clung rather desperately to clumps of long grass that saved her from falling in head first, was that Auntie Liz had picked up her camera and was ready to take her photo. Perhaps that would have worked and it would have been included in this blog had Auntie Liz realised that you have to turn the camera on before taking pictures. She didn’t so sorry folks I have no photographic evidence of Helen’s dramatic moment when, for a second I thought she was going to fall in!

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