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Sunday, February 3, 2008

An Excursion to Blenheim Palace

A Story in no Need of Embellishment

Blenheim Palace
Yesterday, Laura, an American grad-student I met at St. Ebbe’s, invited me on an excursion to Woodstock to see Blenheim Palace. We didn’t go into the palace itself, which costs money, but walked around the public walkway and had lunch by the lake on the estate. We then decided to walk around the victory pillar that stands in the center of grounds, in hopes of seeing some of the sheep and pheasants that were kept down that way. We set off down a road that ran to the left of the pillar, lamenting the lack of gentlemen to offer us their arms.

The view from our picnic spot

The road bordered the sheep pastures, and ended at a private gate, so instead of walking back down the path, we decided to cut across the field to another path on the other side. Thanks to the rainy English weather, the field was quite muddy, which produced a round of Jane Austen quotations: “Her hem six inches deep in mud!” “She looked positively medieval!”, and speculations on how we would be received if we were to walk into Mr. Bingley’s manor dressed as we were (“wearing trousers!!”). The sheep we passed by seemed equally reproachful, and the looks they gave us were not so much surprise at our presence, but surprise at that we had the audacity to be walking across their field.
We finished our trek across the field and found ourselves back on a paved pathway. But, caught up in conversation as we were, instead of following the path back to the entrance we’d come in through, we continued in the direction we were already traveling in—away from the victory pillar. Upon seeing a gate at the end of the path, we debating going back, but decided that we’d first see if the gate could be opened to the outside of the grounds, and if so, we’d just follow the wall back into the town. The gate proved to be another public entrance, so we exited through it and found ourselves on a road bordered by a narrow strip of grass.

We continued to follow the wall of the estate, and soon found ourselves separated from the road and once again walking across fields where we were greeted by the sight of a rabbit sprinting to her burrow. After attempting to recall as many of the words of Bilbo’s (via Tolkien) The Road Goes Ever On and On, we once again met up with the road. Uncertain, however, as to whether or not the road led into town, and knowing the wall (eventually) would, we decided to continue to walk along its perimeter. As a result, we soon found ourselves between a rock wall and a prickly fence, which blocked the way to the road.

Between a rock wall and a prickly place

At this point, we began to wonder how far we had walked, and so scrambled up the wall a little ways to see if we could see the victory pillar. We couldn’t. The only thing in sight was a small wood. At this observation, we concluded that in exiting the gate, we had somehow ended up in some other world, albeit one with cars. With nothing else to guide us, we continued to follow the wall, now through some pretty dense foliage.

Finally, the fence separating us from the road ended, and walking out to the street, we found a sign welcoming us back to Woodstock.

Laura bravely leads the way

We took the road back into town, and rewarded ourselves with tea at The Bear (Couldn't find a link).

Then, appropriately tired, we took the bus back into Oxford.

Our journey across and around the estate, marked in orange. All told, we walked over 5 miles.

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