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Sunday 06 May 2018

OUR TRIP TO OXFORD by Mrs Liz Arkell 

Very early on Sunday 22nd April, thirty-five members of the Arts Society Dorset County set off in a  most comfortable executive coach from Tesco’s store in Dorchester for a three day trip to Oxford.

Paul, our very competent driver, supplied us with sweets as well as water for the journey. After a short comfort stop en route we arrived at Blenheim Palace, the very grand home built for the Duke of Marlborough and his successors and birth place of Sir Winston Churchill. We toured the imposing rooms of the palace, marvelling at the beautiful porcelain display, tapestries and the Winston Churchill Exhibition. For a small extra cost, some members took the opportunity of visiting the Duke’s Floor, the Upstairs Bedrooms, and the Downstairs Servants Floor. With so much to see, as well as the magnificent parkland landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1760’s, it was an excellent start to our trip.

We then drove to our hotel the 4* Oxford Belfry situated about 13 miles outside Oxford, near Witney. After a very welcome drink at the bar before dinner provided by our generous hosts David and Amanda, we were ready for our dinner and the chance to relax in our most comfortable rooms. 

The following day after a good breakfast we joined the coach once more to Oxford where we were divided into two parties and given an excellent explanation of Oxford’s place in the country and its  history, before a walk around Balliol and New College, two of the oldest colleges. We also visited the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library and the Sheldonian Theatre, in which we were able to climb up inside the cupola at the top of the building and get a spectacular view of Oxford’s “dreaming spires”. After lunch next to Blackwells, we visited the Natural History Museum and then the Pitt Rivers Museum, a veritable treasure trove with collections of archaeology and anthropology collected mainly by General Pitt Rivers in the 1880’s and also by the scholars, travellers and missionaries at the time. 

On our last day, 24th April, after checking out of the hotel we again returned to the city to spend some time in the Ashmolean Museum, founded in 1683 and recently subject to a massive lottery grant which has completely transformed the old museum. With the guidance of another excellent guide we were given a brief tour of the most significant exhibits in several of the early galleries.

After lunch we again joined Paul and the coach and sped to Hughenden Manor outside High Wycombe to the home of Queen Victoria’s favourite Prime Minister. There was a talk on Benjamin Disraeli his life and times. We also visited the Ice house in the grounds which was used during the last war for making maps of the cities in Germany that the bomber command stationed nearby used for their bombing raids which hastened the end of the war. All this was highly secret and therefore was not discovered until about 2004, a real highlight of the visit.  

We must congratulate both Amanda Ross and David Norris, who, together with Tailored Travel, gave us all such an excellently organized few days.