Oxfordshire is a beautiful which lies along the River Thames, stretches westward and northward into the Cotswold Hills and eastward into the Chilterns. It is mainly known for the City of Oxford, but there is far more to the county.
Oxford is the seat of the oldest university in Britain, and one of the most prestigious in the world. Oxford has a wealth of ancient colleges and university buildings with beautiful buildings which define and shape the town. At Oxford the Cherwell meets the Thames. Down by where the rivers meet are meadows belonging, like much of the city, to the colleges. Oxford Cathedral, uniquely, is buried within Christ Church College, rather overlooked. Oxford though also has another side as a manufacturing town, centred in Cowley.
The Thames forms the whole of Oxfordshire’s southern border, stretching for about 70 miles. The south of Oxfordshire is in the middle and upper reaches of the Thames Valley. At Kelmscot, at the south-western corner of the shire, the Thames is a modest river, though just navigable. Downstream from here as the river widens, the county is a place of idyllic villages, down to Oxford itself. At Oxford the river, and thus the county border, takes a sudden turn south, with few towns of any size until the river reaches Reading. Dorchester on Thames was in Saxon times a major monastic centre and the seat of a bishopric which covered much of the eastern Midlands, though it is now a small village. Caversham lies opposite Reading. Some miles below Caversham is Henley on Thames, a very wealthy town and famous for the annual Henley Regatta. Lower still is Marlow, Henley’s quieter cousin.
North of Henley and Marlow the Chilterns begin. The Chilterns are better known in Buckinghamshire, but there are many fine walks to be had in the Oxfordshire hills.
The north of Oxfordshire in contrast is within the Cotswolds. Some of the finest Cotswold towns are to be found here, the main town being Chipping Norton, with an impressive high street and coaching inns all in the honey coloured stone found throughout the Cotswolds. The rivers Windrush, Evenlode and Cherwell cut through this part of the Cotswold Hills.
North of the Cotswolds lies Oxfordshire’s second town, Banbury, once a centre of the purest Puritanism, not noticeable these days but it insists on being politer than the county town.
County Town: Oxford
Main Towns: Bicester, Burford, Caversham, Chipping Norton, Dorchester, Goring-on-Thames, Henley-on-Thames, Oxford, Thame, Witney, Woodstock.
Main Rivers: Thames, Evenlode, Cherwell, Windrush.
Highlights: Blenheim Palace; Cropredy Bridge battefield; High Street, Burford; Oxford; Rollright Stones.
Highest Point: Bald Hill, 843 feet (SU 729 958).
Area: 756 sq miles
County Flower: Snake’s-head Fritillary
County Day: 19th October (St Frideswide’s Day)