Alice in Waterland Group Walks
Following the publication in 2010 of Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford, author Mark Davies is pleased to offer guided ‘Alice’ group walks of various lengths (normal maximum 20 people). The walks can be tailored to the interests of the participants, by varying the proportion of literary and historical content. Some suggestions - entrance to the Christ Church buildings is NOT included – follow:
1. Alice in Waterland Walk: a 75/90-minute circuit of Christ Church Meadow, drawing on the exterior of Alice’s former home of Christ Church and the adjacent meadows and rivers, to explain the real-life relationship between author Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, and also to reveal the inspiration for many of the episodes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The route follows the paths walked by Alice and Carroll on many occasions, and includes the place where they hired rowing boats for their many trips on the River Thames, reference to the real people on whom some of the characters are probably based, and reference too to important locations which are farther away – the ‘Treacle Well’, for instance, and ‘The Pool of Tears’. Nearby is the Museum of Oxford (entrance free), which has some of Alice’s belongings on show.
The walk also encompasses some other Oxford classics of children’s literature and pertinent aspects of local history and geography – including the origins of the city, flooding, and University boat races. This is a flat, undemanding route; wheelchair users are welcome. Group rate £60.
2. River Pilgrimage Walk: a 90-minute, 2-mile upstream pilgrimage following the route of the famous rowing trip of 4 July 1862 towards Godstow, where the phenomenon of ‘Alice’ had its birth. Starting near the site of the original ancient ‘Oxenford’, the river towpath passes remnants of Oxford’s industrial past, before a largely rural route encompasses a river lock, the site of Osney Abbey (inspiration for one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), and a Victorian bathing spot near the junction with the Oxford Canal. This is followed by the extraordinary expanse of Port Meadow, where lies the hamlet of Binsey (and The Perch Inn), where the walk ends. Group rate £60. Binsey’s diminutive church and ’treacle well’ - the destination, like Osney and Godstow, of countless pilgrims of the past – is a short distance away; guidance is unnecessary, but can be arranged if desired.
3. Walk ‘with a Purpose’: as for 2., but with the ‘purpose’ (see ‘The Lobster Quadrille’ in Wonderland) of returning via some other locations pertinent to the story of Alice and Lewis Carroll, namely the Oxford University Press in Jericho (a nursery of the Pre-Raphaelite artists, many of whom Carroll photographed); the chapel where Carroll preached his first Oxford sermon; the Museum of Oxford, where Alice memorabilia is displayed; and the exterior of Christ Church, where Alice Liddell grew up and Lewis Carroll studied and taught for nearly 50 years. The 4-mile round-trip includes the Oxford Canal, Oxford Castle, and the course of the sub-terranean Trill Mill Stream. Approximately four hours (five if visiting the ‘treacle well’). Group rate £120.
All walks begin at the Alice in Wonderland Shop at 83 St. Aldates, which contains a huge range of Alice memorabilia, in the very same building depicted by Lewis Carroll’s illustrator, John Tenniel, in Through the Looking-Glass. See www.aliceinwonderlandshop.co.uk. Or ring: 01865 723793.
Or, if walking is not for you, why not take a guided cruise on an elegant, silent, and non-polluting Edwardian-style electric launch. Lengths can vary from a short cruise to Godstow and Port Meadow to a whole day charter taking in every important location between Godstow and Nuneham, constituting the nine miles of river on which the ‘merry crew’ of Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters made all their rowing expeditions. See www.oxfordrivercruises.com.