Oxford to Glastonbury

December 2007

Our walk from Oxford to Glastonbury was made to get to a gig. We started in Oxford, as Will was heading there to visit his girl. It was early December, good crisp weather for walking.

The adventure was a rum affair, plagued by small injuries looked to maybe stop everyone. We made it to Glastonbury eventually, after some 2 weeks.

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This is some of what happened:

On the second day of walking, we met a lady who remembered us from Pilsdon Manor 12 months earlier. She put us on her mobile phone, and we were soon chatting with the people we had met there. It was an odd blessing from an earlier journey, a small reminder that we were on track.

We busked in Abingdon, near Oxford, and the teenage girls in the shopping centre were amazed. “People don’t come here. We don’t get this stuff in our town.” The older generation were soon promenading past, in giggling gangs, half-stepping half-dancing to the tunes.

Walking beside the Thames, we peeked over a nice old stone wall, and spotted a roundhouse in the garden of a great mansion. Intrigued, we walked around the property, till we saw people at work. We stepped forward, asked a few questions about the place.

small-pict0123The lady who talked to us admired our woolly clothing. We were then given permission to look around the roundhouse, and we were invited to stay the night. The man who owned the place invented the spinning magnets used in CAT scans, and was running a feudal house, feeding and housing a great workforce of skilled people. In the morning, after breakfast, we were escorted to the edge of the territory.

We met a 17 year old roundabout labourer, and spent many hours talking with him. He left mid-chat, to rendezvous with his girlfriend of two years. The relationship, he admitted, was slightly hazardous. When he returns, he tells us “It’s all over. She’s dumped me.” We stay and talk for another hour, and he gives us his Swiss Army knife, a fat one with all the functions.


We met a gang osmall-pict0090f Wallingford anarchists, who told us all about Stephen and Matilda, and their civil war for dynastic succession. They advise us to “breed breed breed.”

The Ridgeway is said to be the oldest path in Europe, used for thousands of years for trade and pilgrimage. It took us all the way to Avebury, passing many stunning ancient sites. The White Horse in Uffington is on the path, next to Dragon Hill where St.George is said to have done in a dragon. A night in the Uffington pub was most exciting, the landlord letting us sleep on his living room floor after many songs and pints.

small-pict0171Wayland’s Smithy is an impressive neolithic burial chamber. It is named after the Saxon god of metal work (Weland, Volund, Volundr). It is on the Ridgeway near Uffington.

small-pict0167We stayed on canal boat with a herbalist near Bath. It was a tiny boat, and we took up all the available floor space. While filling the water containers from a spring beside the canal, Will knocked the copper kettle into the canal. He had to undress and jump in the December grotty water, and fish around the bottom for 10 minutes before the bits were found.

We busked a few times in Bath, and had crowds of people dancing crazily on the cobbles. We were offered to be recorded by a nice fellow and his wife. Singing in the dark deserted streets, long after shops closed, an old academic shuffled up and told us “those are the best harmonies for fiddler’s green I’ve ever heard.” The next day, a young fellow, while we were singing Ryb an Avon, stepped forward and said: “Oh yeah, butter wouldn’t melt in your mouths, boys”.small-pict0092

We tried busking at the Bath Christmas fair, which is an upspringing encampment of little green huts selling sausages, mulled wine, and trinkets. People seemed really happy to have songs given, and crowds of children dragged their parents over. But then the yellow-coats arrived, and threatened us into leaving. So we located a friend met earlier that day, who was working a stall, and made us official crowd-pullers for his licensed enterprise, no longer untamed buskers. The yellow-coats glowered, but we had achieved legitimacy, and enjoyed well the cider and bratwurst rewards.

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Staying in Glastonbury, we woke at 7 and sung a jingle down the telephone for a local radio programme. The lyrics were all about today’s Frost Fair, which is the town’s winter street festival. The tune was taken from a World War 1 marching song. The organizers were later told, by not a few people, that they had been en route to another town, when they heard the jingle (which the radio repeated throughout the day), and decided to turn around. That was good.

We sung our very best gig, for the Fabulous Furry Folk, in Glastonbury Assembly Rooms. It was a triumphant and rousing fanfare of trad music, and we had a roaring time.

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One Response to “Oxford to Glastonbury”

  1. Jimmy says:

    Hello roamers. My daughter and I would like to walk from Oxford (she has just finished her degree) back home in Somerset. Can you please give us a route to follow? Look forward to hearing from you. Seems you are living the dream. Enjoy

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