I walk with the dog on Oxford’s Port Meadow most mornings. The view southwards has been ruined by crass, bulky flats erected by Oxford University with the help of Oxford City Council planners too thick to understand what they were breaking (this is not mere abuse – we have had an investigation, a new supervisory committee, a judicial review and the country’s first retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment as a result of the planners’ stupidity).
Looking north and west, however, it is pure beauty. These were all taken on a single walk early one morning. If there is a sameness about some of them, it is partly because they were all taken within a few hundred yards of each other and partly because I could not decide which of two variants – of angle or post-processing – to choose.
The headline picture is of a flock of lapwings (or peewits if you prefer) who obligingly flew across at just the right height to appear both as themselves and as a reflection (all right, I watched them go to and fro until they fell into place).
The picture below is of the scene to the north. The village of Binsey (see below) lies to the left behind the round tree. In the centre, hidden in mist, is Godstow and the ruins of its nunnery. Right of centre is Wolvercote – we used to live there, and our top-floor bedroom had the reciprocal view down the meadow. To the right, mist at its feet, is a hedge of trees. If you like local-authority-speak, the land behind that is the “Nature Reserve”. To those of us who remember when Oxford’s rubbish was trundled up there, it is “the Tip”. When it was covered over, Oxford City Council managed to avoid the tweeness so beloved of council pen-pushers and made it rough and wild. They look after it well.
The next picture looks due west, across the River Thames to Binsey (the first water is part of the flood-plain Port Meadow; the river lies just this side of the trees).
Every so often, an attempt is made to develop Binsey – recent plans have included a small housing estate and the expansion of the pub into a large and vulgar eating-house. The Oxford City planners were baulked of their prey by the incontestable facts that there is inadequate road access and frequent flooding.
The view to the south-west, at least at that time of day, is darker and hemmed-in.
The attraction lies in the reflection of trees and sky in the still water.
To the south, the prospect used to be of trees and distant spires. Now Oxford University’s Ceaușescu Towers block off the view, leaving the tower of St Barnabas peeking forlornly from behind the prison-like blocks. I like to think that a special corner is being prepared in Hell, yet uglier and hotter than the rest, for the property spivs of Wellington Square and the stupid, uncomprehending planners who kow-towed to them and allowed these monsters to be built.
Click on any picture to see it full size. There is a map below. The full set can be found here.
All photographs by Chris Dale 2014. Most were taken along the grey track running south from the Allotments on the map below. You can switch between map and aerial view, move the map around and zoom in or out. Ceaușescu Towers had not been built when the aerial photograph was taken.