WAY OUT WEST FOR WIZARDS AND FLYING SAUCERS!
‘Twinned with Roswell New Mexico’ said the sign, but where in the world could that possibly be?
Well it was certainly no wild arid alien desert area, so that was not the common factor. In fact there was so much water around at the time of the visit that a swimsuit or rubber boots would have been more at home.
Honeystreet it turns out is a tiny collection of cottages, a sawmill and a pub located alongside the Kennet and Avon canal and village of Alton Barnes in the Southern England.
The Barge Inn pub is renowned for being the unofficial base for many British UFO spotters and crop circle enthusiasts and that was the connection!
Over the years investigators have made repeated visits to the area to check out the going’s-on in this deeply rural area of Wiltshire. They claim a plethora of flying saucers and UFO sightings, along with what have been hundreds of crop circles being found in the immediate vicinity around the pub.
The pub location was also used for the detective TV series ‘Morse’ that gave the pub even more recognition, but it was in the detective’s home of Oxford that my trail had started the previous day.
In the University City it’s hard not to be in or close to one of that TV series numerous locations, as so many places were featured and continue to be now also by the spin-off TV crime series Lewis!
Arriving by rail is certainly a good option as it cuts out car hassles in and around the city and the short walk from the station was no inconvenience.
Once in the city itself, which is one of the top international tourist choices you will not be alone!
Visitors from all over the world flock to admire its ancient university colleges, stunning museums, galleries and the waterside walks. The spires of the city colleges even have what some may think a slightly alien comer with the Said Business School sporting a very contemporary green one to add to them.
The most popular museum for visitors The Asmolean is in fact the world’s first public museum, recently re-opened following a multi-million refurbishment. With treasures ranging from ancient Greek and Roman statues to Egyptian mummies and more recent items like Lawrence of Arabia’s robes. Also have paintings, sculpture, ceramics, silver, glass plus art from the Far East. The next has to be the Pitt Rivers museum the University of Oxford’s museum of anthropology and world archaeology it does hold a vast, if dense collection of artefacts.
Access to the colleges does vary a great deal so you do need to check in advance, organised parties are sometimes the case and some colleges do charge. Visitors are asked to respect all signs within their confines being places of study and they are student’s homes, when all is said and done.
One of the favourites is certainly Magdalen College (‘Maudlin’ its pronounced) it was founded in 1448 by William of Waynflete. With royal gifts and donations Magdalen became the richest college in Oxford by the reign of Henry VIII. But Christ Church even before its Harry Potter’s Hogwarts connection has to be tops for a visit, follow in the footsteps of the world’s favourite wizard through Oxford’s most spectacular College. Many of the scenes in the Harry Potter feature films were shot in various locations at the College and around the cloisters and quadrangles.
Christ Church had long association with another Oxford name, that of ‘Lewis’, children’s author Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he was inspired and wrote it whilst at the college.
All this feeding of the mind leads to the body too and a coffee break at The Grand Café on High Street it claims to be the site of the first coffee house in England (as claimed by Samuel Pepys) its interior would feel at home in Vienna. Brunch, teas, light lunches where you can watch not flying saucers but a kettle flying up and down when the door opens and closes, crazy but true!
A back packing mecca, Oxford caters for travellers from both ends of the financial spectrum, a town centre hostel for the bag toter’s or The Randolf for those with much deeper ‘five star’ pockets and a chauffeured arrival.
Open top bus tours, college tours, walking tours and river tours no shortage of chances to see and experience the city and what it has to offer.
Away from Oxford and you don’t have to go too far to find alternative tourist sites. The railway centre at close-by Didcot is a hit generally with families as they offer train rides and a steam railway educational experience more so in the spring, summer and autumn than winter when its more a period of maintenance.
A short hop west and there is the town of Wantage with its old market square and the statue of King Alfred who was born in the town, a man of learning who would have been at home in the colleges should they have been there in 9th century!
Carry on further west and you are well into the Vale of the White Horse and its Bronze Age chalk cut image high on the hill overlooking the village of Uffington. There is another school boy story here this one is no wizard, there is a tiny museum in the village dedicated to book Tom Brown’s School days and its author Thomas Hughes some early references in the book are about being at school at Uffington. A little further west again and you could check out the antique shops and arcades of Hungerford, who knows what you could find in those? A good option if the weather is not so accommodating.
The last leg will take you to four more… heading for Alton Barnes and another giant white horse cut into the hillside close to the counties’ highest point of ‘Milk Hill’ this one more readily understood than the impressionistic Bronze Age version at Uffington, but this whole valley is being scrutinised constantly from below and above as some people think.
But what is not understood here is how this part of Wiltshire has become the UFO capital of the UK, the subject is taken very seriously by many who home in on the area. The Barge Inn has taken a rather central role in becoming the unofficial head quarters for the dedicated UFO and crop circle officinardos.
Something that was certainly very well made-up in the pub was its home produced food. The Barge Inn offers a great range of homemade wholesome food, it was rich in flavour and portion size and the expansion does not stop there. As currently under construction is a large wooden extension that will almost double the size of the building. Its construction in sawn timber appears to be paying homage one thinks to the Honeystreet sawmill just yards away.
Maybe the ‘The Barge’ knows something that we don’t and they are making room for visitors from another world or maybe just a conference venue or dining room extension? But one thing is certain if any aliens do decide to turn up, I would recommend that they fuel up there for their return journeys, mine kept me going for the day!