On a blustery spring day in the middle of the spring break, our Pathway Manager Daniel led a tour of Oxford by bicycle. What was a gloriously sunny spring only a few days ago, the cycle tour contended with some of the wildest weather the British Isles has to offer, with flurries of snowfall and icy winds. Nevertheless, the cycle route went ahead and was planned to cover some of Oxford’s key sites as well as some lesser known spots of interest.
We started off by traversing the Headington Hill (descending, much to Nisa’s joy!) and headed down the famous Cowley Road towards Magdalen Bridge. I pointed out the myriad of international cuisine served on Cowley Road, before crossing Magdalen Bridge, the well-known hub for punting activities and home the Magdalen College School and the imposing bridge tower.
From there we criss-crossed our way through the town centre, using the many cycle paths and ended up in the Covered Market, home to souvenirs and independent shops along with some of the best food vendors in Oxford, including my favourite Butcher – David Johns, suppliers of the finest Christmas Turkeys!
As all tourists must, we circled the Radcliffe Camera, bouncing our bicycles on the cobbled street and peered through the gate at one of the greatest academic centres in the world, All Souls College. I explained the academic achievements of its alumni and that each graduate is gifted the status of ‘fellow’ upon graduation and what this honour means. Our next stop was the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, named after the 17th-century Venetian bridge bearing the same name. I revealed the alternative reason for its title; that students after graduating walk beneath and let out a sigh of relief as their studies are completed. Naturally, we replicated this on our bicycles!
Turning to face the Radcliffe Camera with the steeple of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin peering behind, I showed the precise angle to take one of the most scenic photographs in Oxford, capturing the Radcliffe Camera, the Church behind it and in the foreground, a scenic lamppost and blooming cherry blossom tree. A definite desktop background!
Leaving the centre, we pedalled down St. Giles. Before passing Blackfriars College and the Ashmolean Museum, I showed the spot where Hugh Cranmer and Thomas Latimer met their gruesome fate at the Martyrs Memorial, where they were burned at the stake for Heresy against the Church in 1555 AD. Looking ahead, we passed the pub that hosted the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis as they penned some of their great works of literature; The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit.
Cycling north, away from central Oxford, we passed through the district of Jericho, home to the world-famous Oxford University Press (OUP), where we marvelled at their grandiose building. A pertinent place for EF Academy students given that they have all studied English Language using a book published by OUP at some point in their lives!
We continued our route out of the city, crossing the canal and following it’s path through Port Meadow, where we stopped for lunch alongside Oxford’s resident canal boats. With rapidly freezing fingers, we circled back through University Parks and past the Cricket Pavilion to ride alongside the architecturally unique Keble College and stopping for a hot chocolate in front of the spectacular (and under renovation!) Natural History Museum and Pitt Rivers museum. These have housed a staggering display of biological specimens and anthropological finds since its foundation in 1884.
We ended our route by cycling back to school along the Marston cycle path, enjoying the rows of blossoming trees, avoiding the dreaded Headington Hill. Cold and well-informed, the tour ended, but it was a lovely chance for students who arrived during lockdown to see their host city for largely the first time!
At EF Academy Oxford, our Activities Coordinator, Pathway Managers and teachers are committed to offering students opportunities to learn and grow outside of the classroom.