The Retirees go Abroad – Visiting the Cotswolds – Banbury, Burford and Moreton-on-the-Marsh

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Sunshine greets us at 7.30 am. Autumn is in full gear with the days being considerably shorter, the mornings colder and the hotel central heating overheating the room. However today may have some promise. We are going to Banbury which is famous for – the nursery rhyme

Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross,

To see a fine lady upon a white horse;

Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,

She shall have music wherever she goes.

No one knows what the rhyme is really saying and there have been a number of speculations about it. Whether the Cross is one of the three crosses destroyed by Protestants in the 1600s or the crossing of the Jurassic Way with an old Roman road no one is certain but it does not relate to the Cross at the crossing of the High St today nor does the bronze of the fair lady riding the white horse but both pretenders have some of the tourists fooled.

I had done some research and found that it was claimed that Oliver Cromwell planned his part of the Battle of Edge Hill from the Globe Room at the Yea Olde Reine Deer Inn so I thought a visit and soak in the atmosphere might be a good idea. But the pub did not open till 11.00am so we headed for the tourist information centre which was somewhat hard to find. We made our way to Castle Port Shopping Centre and behind the centre is the canal servicing Banbury and the canal boat basin and repair yards. One mariner was in the midst of sailing through the canal so we watched and helped raise the draw bridge, lower the lock waters and see the narrow boat safely on its way.

Now where were we? Yes the information centre. It is in the museum but what is this Tolley’s Slip and Repair yard – free to enter. So in we went and what a little jewel. History of the canal and industry in Banbury through the centuries. We chatted with the receptionist and the manager of the dry dock (even got to see inside the dry dock where they were repairing a boat). The industry is alive and well with many young people taking on apprenticeship but the problem for the industry is the repair of the old wooden work boats constructed with timber beams steamed to be bent into shape and shaped with an adze – very few shipwrights have those old skills as most new boats are built with steel). As the manager said “If you cut a piece of timber short you cannot add a bit on but cut steel short and you weld on the missing bit”.

It is past 11.00am and time to return to the Olde Reine Deer. We get there order some coffee and it is delivered to us in the Globe Room where it is said that Oliver Cromwell planned the attack on the Royalist Army marching on London. Well this may not be true because the Battle of Edge Hill took place outside nearby Kineton (you will have read my blog on Kineton Edge), it was the first battle of the first Civil war and occurred in October 1642 with Parliaments army lead by the Earl of Essex and the King’s army by his cousin Prince Rupert. Cromwell did not arrive in time to participate. Too much thinking at the Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn perhaps. Anyway it was interesting to visit. The room contained a copy of the painting of Charles 1 and part of his Army in the field to give it some authenticity.

And so we leave Banbury and its romantic remembrances of Oliver Cromwell. Onto Burford. A tourist village. So we have lunch at the Mermaid and then visit the Oxford Shirt Shop and find something for someone for Xmas – shush it is a secret. When returning to the bus I spot the Cotswold Arms and the autumn colours of the vine draped over its rocky facade. Then onto Moreton-on-the-Marsh; another tourist village. We march up one side of the High Street (Kerry finds the scarf of her dreams for £3 quid) then march down the other side, a beer and Pimms with a bag of crisps in the Black Bear and around the block – I spot a hotel where they have preserved the old coach entrance and snap a photo and then before we are swept up by the bus I catch a glimpse of the Town hall standing solemnly and alone on an island in the High St.

The tour has ended and we will return home (the Novotel at Long Eaton) by our car and hopefully find something more interesting.

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