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Post created: 17th April 2022.
Length: ~1,250 words.
Queen Victoria doesn’t look pleased. I’m not sure if it’s: The incessant stream of traffic encircling her; the screams coming from the pubs in response to footballing-related events; or the smell of the burning oil and animal fats as the take-aways gear-up for the end of said footballing event.
I’m trying to take some detailed photos of the ‘imposter’ Banbury Cross; the one which people think is ‘the’ Banbury Cross, but isn’t. I’m extending my ‘Ancient Sites’ collection, both by moving from the Prehistoric into the Medieval period, and loosening my definition of the term, ‘megalith’. That means telling the story of the ‘modern’ (a mere 163-year-old) Banbury Cross, in order to explain why it has little to do with the stories of the original crosses (yes!, there was more than one!) – and what happened in between.
Job done, I wander along Oxford Road for my second megalithic encounter – ‘Weeping Cross’. This one is also a modern forgery too, but in this case only a few years old. The original Weeping Cross was taken-down around the time of the Napoleonic Wars, when Oxford Road was first turned into a modern, ‘metalled road’. I’m here because it’s not possible to talk about the history of local roads, and why the footpath that disappears across the field from here was once the more major road, without telling the story of Weeping Cross.
That’s the required ‘work’ for today done. Now it’s time for some leisure...
With the sun starting to fall to the horizon, I head off south into the relatively (by local standards) expanse of nothingness that exists between Bodicote, Bloxham, Milton and Adderbury – with the aim of plonking myself down in the middle of it. Despite that I’m still unlikely to escape the sound of the motorway which, this afternoon, seems to be incredibly busy.
Today is the full moon: As the sun sets in the west, the moon will rise in the east. In lieu of a high hill, I’m heading for a promontory on the Ironstone slab that sits on the intersection of Sor Brook and Bloxham Stream. Hereabouts the watercourses have cut into the Ironstone slab; when you stand there, all the ridges for a few miles around are on the same level, making it ideal for watching sunsets, moonrises, and all manner of planetary phenomena.
I come here often. I might have gone to another spot the other side of Bodicote, but that’s even nearer to the incredibly noisy M40.
I’m also going to relax with some ‘hedgerow tea’.
To make the tea, just before I stop I gather some of the wind-blown ash twigs that litter the ground along the path. When I find a nice spot on the edge of a field I dump my bag down and throw a sheet on the dusty ground. Then I unpack my Kelly Kettle, set the fire in the base with the handful of sticks, fill the kettle, put it on top of the base, and then light it.
While it heats I go in search of tea. In the hedgerow a few meters away are some new nettles and a large growth of goosegrass. I ‘grasp the nettle’ (yes, I got stung, but I’ve learned to ignore such piffling injuries), and some tips from the goosegrass, return to my impromptu camp, and stuff them into the small saucepan I carry in my day-pack.
As the kettle boils, the sun is going down over my left shoulder. I pour the water in the saucepan, put the wire grille over the base of the kettle, and then put the saucepan on top to stew the tea over the embers of the stick fire – then go and watch the sunset while I wait.
When I return I pour the tea into my mug; only to notice that the moon is rising over my other shoulder, so I put the mug down to cool while I do a little photography.
I decide to make a time-lapse of the moonrise. While the camera looks after itself I sit and sip my lovely, naturally sweet-tasting tea. Fresh nettle tea tastes so much better then the rather dank-tasting stuff bought from the shops; and adding the goosegrass (roughly a ratio of 1-part nettles to 2-parts goosegrass) adds a deeper tangy, almost peppery flavour that’s really aromatic.
I sit... and sit. It’s so nice to be here, ‘out’ in the smells and noises of the darkening countryside.
The air is beginning to cool. It would be so lovely to stay; though there’s the slight complication that I’m expected home, and the reason I’m expected home is because I haven’t bought my bivvy-bag and bedroll.
I finish my tea and pack away. Thin whispy clouds are being strung-out on the high-level winds of the twilight sky in the west – there must be some weather coming in. Having spent a long time sitting, I have to rush back into town again, though there’s no need for a torch because the twilight from the west, and the rising full moon from the east, are sufficient to see my way.
Wispy Clouds in the Western Twilight Sky
Use the slider to move the panorama from side to side
More than anything, after all the recent hassles, today it’s just nice to be out. To dump all the extraneous electronic communications of the modern world, and the self-obessed mass media, and just come out into the open air and sit and ‘do nothing’. I think the world would be a far better place if people sat and did nothing for a while.
After a few rough years since my eye problems, things are beginning to look up! (pun intended). And though my night vision in one eye is still nothing like it used to be, I’m beginning to be able to feel my way in the dark again – alive with the sound of bleating lambs, small critters in the hedgerows, and crows, pheasants, and blackbirds out for a moonlit forage. And in the relative dark of the world right now, I begin to see the path ahead clearly!