Try this: a river walk, the perfect inn & fruit picking too
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Mr Muddy spent Saturday at Ascot doing what you do at the races. Drank champagne, bet a lot of money, pretended he was single (joke!).
Meanwhile, I decided to haul my children into the unknown for an afternoon, trying several things that had been on my Muddy list for ages.
I’m ashamed to say that despite being a student locally back in the day and also living only half an hour from Port Meadow I had never been on a walk there until Saturday. It’s truly shudder-worthy as it’s an absolutely lovely area steeped in history- Port Meadow is, in fact, older than the university itself, and has been used by grazing cattle and horses since pre-Doomsday. It’s never been ploughed in all that time. Port Meadow can be muddy and waterlogged in winter but of course is dry and easy walking this summer.
I parked (for free – you don’t say that often in Oxford) just past the newly opened Jacob’s Inn in Wolvercote at the Godstow Car Park. There you find the river to your right and you can walk across the open plain of Port Meadow.
I chose to walk over the bridge, past the fantastic The Trout Inn on the left, down the road for a few minutes, over another bridge and left onto the other side of the river which was less field and more park ‘track’ with runners, walkers and bikers all happily co-existing. It also had the Godstow Abbey ruins and Godstow lock as interesting landmarks for the kids as we ambled along.
My oldest child is not a natural walker – I mean, he can do it and everything, but he’s likely to do it with his chin thrust forward and arms dangling in neanderthal complaint by his sides. On this day though, he really enjoyed it. Quite the Darwinian moment. But then, there was plenty to occupy him. River boats, kayakers, the lock opening and shutting, geese flying overhead, cows resting by the river, swans gliding by, massive blackberry bushes spreading their healthy menace and jeering with their swollen fruit.
It took about 40 minutes (with a 4 and 6 year old) to make it to The Perch Inn and it’s enchanted garden. It’s very famous of course, but I hadn’t been for years and I’d forgotten how fantastic it is. I’ve added it onto my Best pubs with great gardens list because it really deserves it.
But actually it’s more than a pub/restaurant with a great garden. It’s exactly what I’m craving to see as I go around the counties. It’s an old 17th century building, thatched and low ceilinged and ingelnooked up, and that’s great –but it’s also a bit daring and quirky and surprising and romantic.
For me, the best pubs combine these two disparate sides, tradition and English eccentric. The food has to be good – if that doesn’t work it’s all for nothing – but it sometimes feels to me that it’s just as hard to get the feel of a pub or restaurant right as it is the food.
The pub was fully booked so I can’t really comment on the food proper, but there was an exquisite little outdoor shacky bar thing, where I ordered a box of delicious tapas for £4.50 and the kids had cornets of chips for £3.50 (a bit steep, I thought but I was so enchanted I didn’t care). We sat in the garden, not quite believing how well the day was going and how pretty everything was.
Three kids’ chips, drinks, my tapas and a glass of sauvignon to steel me for the rest of the trip cost £25. Obviously a ‘proper’ meal would be more than that, but perhaps on a weekend walk you don’t want more anyway.
So off we went, through The Perch (literally, from back door out the front) and down the road for 500 metres veering left, then finding Medley Manor Farm to do a spot of fruit picking, and snaffle a homemade icecream for afters.
I’m fast discovering that, like pubs, pick-your-own farms have distinct personalities. Medley Manor Farm is not a destination in its own right like Rectory Farm in Stanton St John, but it’s no less charming for it.
It’s rough and ready, with a single stall handing out punnets for the raspberries (£6 for a large punnet) with just-picked vegetables to the left and placed attractively on hay bales. And of course there are the ice creams, made by George & David in Oxford from the fruit on the farm. They’re £3 a shot, but they are big.
We met the farm owner Charlie, who was lovely – it as his cows we passed on the way down Port Meadow. They won’t be there next week though – they’ll be, um, visiting Marks & Spencer…
By this point the kids and I had been on the go for about three hours, so we turned back to retrace out steps and go home. I had brought sweets to entice the kids to keep going and we needed them. We were all knackered.
This is a long posts, but I hope I’m getting over to you that it’s a fantastic day out, so local, and of course you can walk right into Jericho in central Oxford (or even start from there) if you wish. Maybe get a taxi back to Godstow if you can’t make it back on foot.
Let me know if you try it.
There are two car parks which you can use to access Port Meadow.