Addison's Walk

culture

Living in a city that is popular with tourists can be an odd experience. It often doesn't really occur to you to visit some of the more popular ‘attractions' if you live there all the time, but as a result you can miss out on some great experiences. My mum visited today, and insisted that we should look around Magdalen College. I'm very glad that she did, because it was really beautiful. The buildings themselves are very pretty, of course, but I'm afraid that living in such an old city has spoiled me for ancient buildings — "Pfft, that bit only dates from 1723".

On the other hand, Addison's Walk and the Water Meadows were breathtaking. The Walk is circular, and skirts around the edge of the meadow, flanked by avenues of trees and streams. The meadow itself was a sea of purple and white snakes head fritillaries. They are quite a rare plant, and I don't think I've ever seen so many in one place. There were yellow and blue wood anemonies and primroses flanking the path, and birds singing everywhere. It's hard to believe that you're in the middle of a noisy city.

Even more magically, there was a plaque half way around, inscribed with a poem by CS Lewis called 'What the Bird Said Early in the Year':

I heard in Addison's walk a bird sing clear: "This year the summer will come true this year, this year. Winds will not strip the blossom from the apple trees this year, nor want of rain destroy the peas. This year time's nature will no more defeat you nor all its promised moments in their passing cheat you. This time they will not lead you round and back to Autumn one year older by the well worn track. This year, this year, as all these flowers fortell, we shall escape the circle and undo the spell. Often deceived yet open once again your heart quick, quick, quick, quick, the gates are drawn apart."

I hadn't heard the poem before, and coming upon it unexpectedly — at exactly the time when it was meant to be read — was beautiful. I love the final line. In Oxford you feel as if you are never far from gates or windows opening on to other worlds.

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