Abingdon Scene (Part I)
Octagon Newsletter … March 1987
By Philip Sumsion
Abingdon-on-Thames and the surrounding district have many calls to fame, apart from the one so well known to lovers of the MG car. Despite the sad closure of the car works, Abingdon continues to receive a stream of pilgrims intent on seeing what remains of the plant that produced their favourite vehicle and to gaze on scenes so familiar from the countless books on the subject of the ever popular sports car.
Once the visitor to Abingdon has studied the hallowed remains of the factory, wandered through the narrow streets of the old part of the town, and studied the boats and locks on the river, perhaps some thought should be given to travelling a little further afield to view some other notable historic sites.
One such site is that of the 'Uffington White Horse', one of the oldest and most mysterious of the hillside carvings of white horses in Britain … there are quite a few in the southern part of the country. The Uffington horse is stylized and graceful. Its origins are quite unknown, although some authorities are convinced it dates back to well before the Roman conquest of Britain.
Over 360 feet long, the horse is carved into the chalk hillside of Whitehorse Hill, on the summit of what is an ancient iron age fortress. One intriguing fact concerning this relic from the past is that it can only be seen to full advantage from the air! One can only marvel at the skill and imagination of the designers of the fantastic creature.
Before leaving Uffington the visitor should also seek out Dragon Hill close by. On this hill is the spot where St. George, noted patron saint and pest exterminator, performed his well-known dragon slaying act. Sceptics do not believe this story, but no one has been able to explain why grass never grows on the patch of ground where it is reputed the dragon's blood was spilled and has poisoned the soil for evermore.
Uffington is about 15 miles from Abingdon on the B4507 road between Wantage and Swindon.
Abingdon Scene (Part II)
Octagon Newsletter … April 1987
By Philip Sumsion
The Abingdon area abounds with splendid pubs. One of the finest is to be found in the village of Clifton Hampden located on the river Thames just a few miles downstream from Abingdon. The pub in question is the 'Barley Mow' and by this time, if you are a reader of Jerome K. Jerome's books, you will have recalled that this famous Inn is mentioned in Jerome's epic Three Men in a Boat. (Maybe you have seen the film.)
Built in 1352, the Inn is of classic 'black and white' construction with a superb steeply pitched thatched roof. Great care must be taken when entering the building, as the door is so low it is necessary to bend very low to avoid banging your head on the door frame. The low entrance way is, however, just a foretaste of things to come. Almost nowhere in the whole building is it possible for a person of average height to stand upright. However, once you have found a seat, not always an easy matter as it is a very popular place, the beer and food are excellent. However, I was somewhat taken aback at the price of the food, definitely not the usual British 'pub grub' rates, but I suppose the fact that the place has an international reputation and clientele to match, it is not really surprising.
Another warning is needed as you 'reel' out of the inn (adding another severe blow to the 'cranium'), watch out for the traffic! The main door opens right onto the road in the middle of a right-angle bend! If the local MG club should be out for a run, beware of MGs hurtling around the bend … although if they are anything like the Victoria MG Club, the chances of them passing a hostelry of this calibre are pretty slim.
Clifton Hampden is located on the A415 about 4 miles East of Abingdon.
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