I had been granted permission to have a private showing of The Painted Room in Oxford's former Crown Tavern. Not very often open to the public, the room is located above a mobile phone shop and a betting shop, completely hidden from view.
The Crown Tavern was an inn in the centre of the city owned by Thomas Davenant. Later in the 17th century, the author, biographer (and some say professional gossip) John Aubrey wrote an account of Shakespeare visiting this place:
Shakespeare 'was wont to go into Warwickshire once a year, and did in his journey lye at this house in Oxon where he was exceedingly respected.'
Now Aubrey is not always the most reliable source for these sorts of things - we know Will went into Warwickshire much more than once a year - but Will must have been well known to Davenant because he almost certainly becomes his son's Godfather in 1606. Later in his life this godson - also called William - went on to become a playwright, theatre impresario and Poet Laurete...and if that sounds a bit 'like father like son' well William Davenant, when he'd had a few to many sherries, used to boast that he was Shakespeare's illegitimate son!
Whatever the history, this incredibly well preserved room is a fascinating piece of hidden history. The amazingly well preserved wall paintings date from 1564-1581 and are almost still as vivid as the day they were painted. Unbelievably they were only discovered in 1927 by the Oxford Preservation Trust who are now the custodians of the room...they used to have their offices here when John Betjemin was their secretary!
A huge thanks to Stephen from OPT who showed me round and put up with my hopeless number of filming retakes! If you would like to see the Painted Room, they are opening up as part Open Doors in Oxford 10 & 11 September click on the link for more
So after all that excitement it was off to Cuxham, 16 miles south. I started off following the Thames as far Sandford on Thames and then headed for the Baldons and Chiselhampton.
It was great to be back in the country lanes and trackways again...I'd missed them. I have no idea what it is going to be like approaching London...I was thinking, I hit the Thames at Kew which would have been a remote village to Will...now it's just part of zone 2!
No cows today but there was a brilliant sign on one stile:
There were no cows thankfully, but at least I'm not the only person who can sense their danger!!!
Popped into a gorgeous little church - St Lawrence's - in Toot Baldon, a welcome respite from the sun.
I flipped through the prayer book that was open for people to write down things that they would like the congregation to pray for. My goodness, the stories contained in here were so touching, a tiny window into the fears and hopes that people are facing and dealing with, from the sweet and gentle to huge life dilemmas. It was such a human moment and made you feel very alive in the world...we're all worrying and dealing with life, all at the same time...all in it together, sometimes we forget that. Not sure how profound that sounds (I have such walked 16 miles in the heat)...but again made me think how perceptive and brilliant it was of Shakespeare to be able to communicate all those fears, desires, hopes and joys with the mouths of characters and situations which at once are in a fiction but seem ever so real.
Saw this lovely King George V post box - look how small the space is for the envelope!
Anyway, here I am in Cuxham at the end of Day 5...and just over halfway!!!
I now have 4 days to do the other half! Gulp! Big day tomorrow, 22 miles to Marlow.
Today's new things: legs now impervious to stinging nettles and jelly tots are a forgotten treasure too!
Day 5 stats: 16 miles | total so far 80 miles