My home town.
I was born and brought up here and until recently, when I decided to move aboard ‘Futurest’ to travel the country, I have lived in this place all my life, even though I have been absent for much of that time, through being away at school for some years at first and then travelling throughout the World in the Merchant Navy for the next twenty years.
Banbury’s 500 year old Wisteria in White Lion Walk
It was one day during that latter period on a brief and hurried weekend’s leave from my ship that purely by chance I was invited to a party in town by a total stranger that I had met in a pub that evening and at the address to which he took me I met a girl for the first time which was to change my life forever.
It took only a few minutes after we had met for me to decide that this particular lady was somebody exciting but special and in spite of the fact that every other day of my life I was meeting exciting people from all over the rest of the World and the chances were that I would eventually settle and live elsewhere, later during a longer leave we two were married at a local church and last week on my birthday, had she survived, we would have been together for fifty years.
My surname too belongs to an old Banbury family who I have been able to trace back seven generations before me in the town. But my children on attaining adulthood, very quickly moved away to make their lives elsewhere, quite rightly so too in this modern age, and because I had no near cousins and, so far as I can ascertain now, no distant relatives living in the area either, to keep the name going, you can imagine that being at the tail end of a steady three hundred and fifty year history associated with Banbury and with no male grandchildren at the moment to carry the name on, I feel a certain guilt at being the last of the line.
However I am not about to suffer any mental breakdown as a result of these musings since who really gives a damn anyway. So long as my genes have been passed on, my duties in this life towards Nature have all been fulfilled no matter what names they are labelled with. Nonetheless for whatever reason, I do now feel somewhat attached to Banbury.
Probably the most important aspect of my relationship with the town today is that I have friends still living here and these associations go back a long way, making it important that I do not sever myself completely from the town. Many of these people I have managed to meet during this visit and it’s been lovely to see them again. It always is and I need to continue to return to Banbury for this if nothing else.
The character of the old historic town of Banbury has been changed enormously during my lifetime with the modern addition of a noisy motorway passing close by and a large shopping mall, as well as the boundaries of the town being stretched due to multi house building programmes over the years, which necessarily have gobbled up many of the small surrounding villages. Banbury is now so similar to many other towns in the Midlands and Southern England that it has lost much of its old charm.
However the countryside around remains quite outstanding and though it may lack the breathtakingly stupendous impact of the country that I was privileged to view in the Southern Hemisphere last Winter, its low rolling aspect of multi-coloured fields and lush green trees and hedgerows where cattle and sheep contentedly graze and wildlife happily abound beside babbling brooks and sparkling streams, is always well worth returning to.
The warm spell of sunshiny weather that we had here during April encouraged me to get out into this countryside a couple of weeks ago and thus persuaded me that I needed to walk to the house of my friends John and Maggie in the old village of Bloxham; they had invited me to stay the night with them. It’s only three miles by road but walking the footpaths and bridleways via the village of Milton I managed to stretch the enjoyable distance to six miles.
Bridleway on my walk to Bloxham
Upper Grove Mill near Bloxham
Crossing the mill stream
A ford across the Sor Brook near Milton
Cattle watering hole
Bloxham Church, the tallest spire in Oxfordshire
As I passed along hedgerows of white blossoming Blackthorn with yellow Dandelion at their feet, feeling quite at ease with the warmth of the Sun on my face and listening to the vigorous courting songs of the Robin, Thrush and Blackbird, I was assailed with a heady mixed fragrance of wild flowers and farmyards, while in the rolling distance fields of vibrantly green wheat and bright yellow rape coloured the patchwork of my view. I was happy that I had taken the exercise and afterwards I thoroughly enjoyed spending the night with my friends. They are great hosts and always make me feel most welcome.
Our two little ships were dry docked at Tooley’s Yard in the town in early April but our planned passage south has been delayed, while I await the delivery of a hearing aid from the local Horton Hospital on 15th May. We have made a special arrangement with C & RT (the Canal & River Trust) to remain a little longer for this purpose. I am very grateful that the necessary delay has happened at Banbury.
‘Futurest’ being ‘blacked’ at Tooley’s, Banbury
Janis, making good use of the time, is away for the week in Gibraltar doing her RYA Day Skipper Practical sailing course so I am busy with my usual boat sitting duties till she returns.