I spent most of the weekend on or by the river Cherwell, so I thought it was time for a blog entry to celebrate our short-walk holiday destination:
When we walk down to the river (which is not very far, and sometimes the river comes to us), we arrive at a place where two millstreams are diverted from the main course of the river which then goes down a weir, leaving two very elongated islands between the streams. The top end of the larger island is known as Parson’s Pleasure, and it is quite paradisiacal on the rare occasion when we have nice summer weather.
People go there to sunbathe or study, to have their picnics or foreplay, practice tightrope walking or taichi, or to go for a swim in defiance of the numerous signs warning them that the water is actually deep.
In a bygone era (not quite sure when, but in the mists of Oxford’s history, definitely before they built the cycle path which cuts across the islands), Parson’s Pleasure was one of the many riverside bathing places that are still marked on our old map, although nobody values the pleasures that you can get for free any more. Apparently this one was special because dons (i.e. male Oxford academics) used to do skinny-dipping here, while women were banned from the area. Local lore has it that one fine afternoon, a punt -- looking a bit like this one:
-- as I was saying, a punt full of undergraduates of both genders (can’t have been that long ago, then) lost its way and came gliding past the gloriously undressed academics. While most of them used their hands to shield their private parts, one don is said to have covered his face instead. Asked about this, he replied: “Oh, my students know me by my face!”
Well, I guess all this ended when female cyclists gained permission to ride past the area, some time around 1990, I think. But even without the naked dons it’s still a great place to be on a fine summer day …