Archive for the ‘Beckley’ Tag

The Abingdon Arms, Beckley, Oxfordshire and 2011 Office Xmas Party   1 comment

The research group Christmas Party was, like last year, at the boss’ house on the outskirts of Islip (famous as the home of Edward the Confessor, last of the Saxon kings). It is dark, these days, by 4:30 but the party started at 7:30 and I fancied a run after these last few weeks of dread illness so I donned a shitload of reflective gear, put fresh batteries in my headlamp, hand torch, and flashing red lamp, plotted a route along fence rows and bridleways and scheduled a stop at 5.5 miles in Beckley to try out the Abingdon Arms. Unfortunately, I realised just prior to leaving the labs that I forgot my compass; one colleague suggested I just follow the river (the ‘Confessor’s Path,’ as it is known). Pshaw! “New miles and/or a new pub…gotta have rules,” I replied; another, less-concerned-for-my-safety colleague suggested I use the position of the moon and this worked out more or less fine.

PLANNED route from work to party via Abingdon Arms (including the deleted dash to the rail station, after)

The run went off pretty smoothly as the moon was Azimuth ~70° and generally SE to SSE in direction. The campus filth had already locked the gates to Mesopotamia Walk along the Cherwell so I had to do an alternative over to Jack Straw Lane and pick up the trail in Headington but all was pretty copacetic on the run. I found the Abingdon Arms without incident and ordered up a most perfect pint of Oxfordshire Gold (it is a Brakspear house). There was a fire going but my clothes didn’t dry during my stay. It is a sprawling, old pub with trenches worn in the doorways from centuries of use. The barman was friendly and the only other customers seemed to know him well enough that the young girl was mocking his chicken-chasing misadventures earlier in the day…her older sister, sister’s partner and his nan and grandad were in for dinner and all held a lively and disjoint conversation of the type that implies they all know these stories by heart anyway. Fun as an eavesdropper.

The Abingdon Arms web site is better than most, giving history of the pub and surrounding area during the time the pub has been there and before. The pub is three centuries old which isn’t so unusual but to get decent information about a lot of the other old bars is like pulling hen’s teeth. I don’t want to plagiarise too freely, but I found it interesting that Evelyn Waugh used to spend time here regularly and that the view inspired some of Lewis Carroll’s inclusions in Through the Looking Glass.

The group has ballooned up to huge proportions in recent months and the party was packed even with some absences. We all spend so much time together (a lot of them also do so socially) that there is fuck all to talk about and yet we blathered on long enough that I had to take up an offer of kipping at one colleague’s house for the night (having missed the last train). So, the last leg of the planned route, the mile from the party to the train station, was scuppered. The consolation prize was his fine collection of single malts…damn the luck, eh?

Commuter run Oxford to Bicester, Long Route   1 comment

The run home last night was intended to take me through Elsfield, Beckley (with a pub stop), Horton cum Studley (with another pub stop), then past the Boarstall Duck Decoy before depositing me in Arncott on roads I’m familiar with and which have bike lanes to jog.

There is this habit amongst landowners here–not all, but a lot of them–of stripping the trail markers off Public Paths and Rights-of-Way in the hopes that it will discourage the legal use of the trails.  Of course, they are correct, it does, however most of us that use these paths have trail maps and either a compass or, for the 21st Century hikers, a GPS bothe combinations of which result in us trampling across their farmland willy-nilly.

That’s what happened to me several times yesterday and I wound up following landmarks (pylons, hills, old Army encmpment sites, larger buildings, and farm tracks) to make sure I touched all the bases.  This added more than 5 extra miles to the trip and sent me through quite a bit of deep brush, blackberry thorns, and thick forest undergrowth.  What a bunch of assholes.  The one bright spot in all this was, as I was off trail and in the deepest brush I spotted this bra and pantyhose discarded a few feet over (ouch!):

Anyway, both pubs were closed.  It was quite humid and warmer than it has been lately.  And, at about 16.5 miles I plunged my foot into a badger hole and this morning my ankle is black and swollen.

23.5 miles total, 3h 10m.

Well, probably more like 3:25, since I stopped the clock when I entered the Plough at Arncott for an ice, cold Fosters.  Chat was mostly on the run…they seemed gobsmacked anyone would do something so stupid.  Later, it was World Cup chat and as I finished my water (following the Fosters), someone said, “yeah, even the American’s played well this year.”

“I don’t know about that.  They seemed pretty much like a club team,” I answered.

“Well, they almost beat England,” the barkeep added in.

As I reached the door, laughing, I replied, “well, that’s not exactly a stunning endorsement now, is it?”  It’s probably a good thing I run a lot.

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