Rambles in England, Part 3

Oxford, Harry Potter Hall, and Tolkien’s Grave

BodleianOxford teems with literary connections, and as a lifelong reader of British lit, I couldn’t wait to wander the lanes connecting Town and Gown in this concretion of shops, inns, and venerable walled colleges.

Having survived our first left-hand driving terrors (“Drifting! Drifting!”), Thor and I located our charming B&B, then followed a public footpath through a cow field and along a brook featuring picturesque swans.


We emerged near The Turf, the “oldest pub in Oxford,” established around 1640, according to their sign (though some sources say 13th century). Fortified with ale, sausages, and mushy peas, we set out to explore.

JowettWalkmagdaleneBridgeA fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, I was delighted to visit locations from Gaudy Night, my favorite of her novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Past the elegant Bodleian Library, we wandered down Jowett Walk to Magdalen Bridge.

The next day, we toured Christchurch College and its Great Hall, where scenes from the Harry Potter films were made.

One of the stained glass windows there features images from Alice in Wonderland, so naturally our next stop was Alice’s Shop, full of every trinket remotely related to the story.






We made another pub stop at The Eagle and Child, meeting place of the Inklings—a literary group that included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.


As we left Oxford, we stopped for a visit to Tolkien’s grave, where he and his wife are buried with a nod to Lord of the TolkienGraveSaraRings. He is named Beren, and she Luthien.



About Sara Stamey

Award-winning author Sara Stamey’s journeys include treasure hunting and teaching scuba in the Caribbean and Honduras; backpacking around Greece and New Zealand; operating a nuclear reactor; and owning a farm in Southern Chile. Resettled in her native Pacific Northwest, she taught creative writing at Western Washington University. She shares her Squalicum Creek backyard with wild critters and her cats, dog, and paleontologist husband Thor Hansen. Visit her BVC Ebookstore bookshelf.


Rambles in England, Part 3 — 8 Comments

  1. Did you go inside the Eagle & Child?

    I did, New Year’s week in 1972, and sat on the benches in the little annex where the Inklings had met. It was so small! Those men, none of whom looked exactly small in photos, must have been sitting cheek by jowl.

    The proprietor was charmed that I wanted to visit this forgotten place, and gave me the address of the then-proprietor’s daughter, now a middle-aged married woman. I knocked on her door, and she was delighted to tell me stories of the days of the Inklings, and showed me the sign that had been over the place in the Inklings’ days, weather-worn and faded, replaced in the sixties.

    The only story I recollect is that Warnie, Lewis’s brother used to get drunk there (I forget the word she used, but it was a sort of apologetic euphemism along the lines of well-to-live) and as he was always kindly and gentlemanly, even drunk, the locals would spirit him into the basement when the proctors came around.

    • Sherwood, thanks for this fabulous addition! Unfortunately, we didn’t go inside (though we did have lunch at The Turf, which was also really small, with very low ceilings that made Thor hunch over to get in). I wish we’d had more time in Oxford — so many wonderful sites there.

      • Oh dear, some day I must visit it. Some years ago there was a graphic novel in which the Inklings combated Evil. It was in and of itself not very good. But overlaying that disappointment was the larger grief that it did not match up to what I thought it should be. My idea was that their Crimefighting HQ was at the E&C, in the cellar. You would of course access this from the nook, which either spun around on the axis of the table, allowing you to step off into the secret passageway behind, or opened underneath the table into a slide that allowed you to slide down into the laboratory below.
        As you can see, my mental vision was so spectacular that no real comic book version could ever compare.

  2. Dammit, people keep going to Oxford without me. I could give y’all such a tour, all the hidden places…

    (Also, I have simple native-son longings in me. I haven’t been back for years, and I still miss it – though really I suspect that what I miss is ’60s and ’70s Oxford, not so much the city it is now. They’ve put up new colleges and everything…)

    • We should organize an expedition, with Chaz to lead the tour. I’ve always wanted to go to Oxford. Hmm. Good side business for you, Chaz: tours by a native.

      Though what you said about missing 60s and 70s Oxford rings very true. I think that’s why I’m not all that sad about leaving Austin. It’s still a great town, which is why people are moving here in droves. But it isn’t the place I loved when I was young. And changes here irritate me much more than the same changes in other places.

      • Nancy, I know the feeling. Born in the sleepy town of Bellingham, WA, where my great-grandfather started the first bakery, I kept leaving on extended sojourns to other parts of the world, and every time I returned there was a new shock of “development” — including my old horse pasture bulldozed for a mobile home park. And it just gets worse — now we’re threatened with a huge new port facility for shipping coal to Asia, multiple coal trains per week, etc. It is easier to take “progress” when it’s not so personal.