Adventures in Russell-Land Part III

The continuing adventures of two faithful Friends of Russell, who recently followed that great lady’s footsteps through the south of England.


The lasting impression I have about that very wet day traipsing up and down the streets of Oxford was how close together all the colleges stood.  You would go past one doorway after another, and catch tantalizing glimpses of beautiful green lawns surrounded by impressive stone buildings, sometimes covered in ivy, all impressive and often showing intricate carvings and spires, each was unique.


It seemed no one wanted to construct a simple or unattractive building for his or her college. It was as if the aesthetics of the grounds and the distinctive architecture were a part of the learning process, the body taught within sturdy walls, and the soul nourished by the beauty without.  A fancy, perhaps, but Oxford is a remarkably beautiful town.

The rain had let up some as we walked up the curving High street that now glistened from the downpour. We knew our destination was ahead, yet it was still startling to see the Tower of Magdalen College looming in the distance.


The tower where each May 1st at dawn the choir sings and hundreds listen and revel in the beauty of the singing, and if the stories are true, the high spirits brought on by drink.  The Magdalen Bridge is almost at the base of the tower and each year overly enthusiastic participants jump into the Cherwell from the bridge, and they come to grief because the river is rather shallow.


We walked through Magdalen College and found ourselves at the back in a garden dominated by an ornate blue gate that opens to the river.


From this vantage point we could view the bridge and the punts, although on this rainy day no one was enjoying the joys of the river.


Retracing our steps we re-entered Magdalen College and viewed the magnificent chapel and the equally impressive dining hall.  Being invited to dine at high table here would make the pulse of just about anyone quicken.



Then we strolled outside and along the wall that separates the college from a deer park, and spied a white deer in the distance.


Foot-sore and wet, we finally ducked into a small teashop and ordered a cuppa and a scone, letting the warm liquid revive us and the confection fill our stomachs.  We had walked a great deal of Oxford that wet day. We were grateful for our beds that evening.

The next morning greeted us with the first bright sunshine we had experienced since landing in England, and we determined to enjoy a few hours of it before climbing back into our auto for the drive Southwest toward Devon.

Having visited one of the bridges Russell has mentioned the day before, we decided to walk down to Folly Bridge, mentioned in the postcard sent to Ms. King, with the enticing words, “More to follow,” written on it. The day was bright with a cool breeze, and we enjoyed our walk, passing a bookstore with a sign stating that it sold books on Theology, and wondering if Russell perused the shelves.  The sign was Oxford Blue, a very distinctive color used throughout the town.


We passed Christ Church College, and admired its beautiful War Memorial Garden, then crossed over Folly Bridge and took some pictures of the river and the punts.


On our way back to the center of town, we stopped and captured a shot of the Martyrs’ Monument and the impressive Randolph Hotel that takes up most of a city block.

Satisfied we had done all we could in the time we had, we climbed into our car, programmed Phillida to take us to Lew Down, as that was as close as the Nav system for this car would accept for our next stop – Lewtrenchard Manor House – and we set out, once again, into the congested streets of Oxford to drive out of town.  We only made one wrong turn, but it was a doozy.  Merrily had to negotiate a very narrow lane, clogged with lorries, that deposited us into a dead-end, with very little room to turn around and retrace your path.  She managed, with admirable skill, and we were soon on the correct road and heading away from Oxford. Our last impression of the town of spires and dreams was that it was glowing golden in the morning sun.

Next, Lewtrenchard Manor House and Dartmoor.

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  1. Merrily on June 30, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Alice, great job, you really captured the flavor of that day. I can still taste the teacakes in that little shop! Oxford is indeed a special place – and I’m looking forward to the chance to share our experiences at Lewtrenchard with the rest of the group!

  2. Pat Floyd on June 30, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I’m reveling in every installment of your journey with each one seeming even better than the last. What a treat to see these pictures of Oxford that I’ve read so much about in books by Sayers, Colin Dexter, James, and others as well as the Russell books. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  3. Laraine on June 30, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Such a pleasure to read Alice and Merrily’s reports! Thanks to you both, and to Laurie for sharing the space for these tales. I’ve wandered a bit of Oxford over 20 years ago, and love that I recognize much of it in your reports.

  4. AmyLizzie on July 1, 2009 at 12:32 am

    Very beautifully written – I have many lovely memories of Oxford, studying there and visiting, you brought them all back : ) Thank you.

  5. Ann on July 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for sharing all this with us! I’m really enjoying hearing about and seeing all these lovely sites. Makes me want to do something similar. Have you considered setting up your own tour? Something like: “A guided tour of Mary Russell’s England” 🙂

  6. strawberry curls on July 1, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Ann, although Merrily and I are both managers, and extremely good at organization, I, for one, would not want to take on the responsibility of shepherding others around.

    I will say Merrily and I put this trip together in a matter of a few minutes by agreeing on what we wanted to see, deciding how much time we would spend at each location and where we might stay. Then we parceled out each persons responsibility of booking hotels, flights, rental car, and researching a few locations. The entire planning and booking process took place in less than 24 hrs, thanks to the internet. Put two strong business woman together and they get things done. LOL

    Actually a trip like this just takes some planning, time and unfortunately, some money. I had to wait until I was over 60 to be able to do this type of trip, although I did spend two months in the U.K. when I was 20, but that was on a very, very limited budget and was a very, very long time ago.

    I would encourage anyone to travel when they are young, even if it is on a shoestring budget. You will never regret it, I didn’t. 😉

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