Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Trees of Oxford
Better get a move on, as the seasons change and summer hits us this weekend. And so, since Maidie and Minnie seem to like the tree shots here, back to early May blooming in Oxford, albeit against the backdrop of a biting wind. The copper beech in youthful leaf can be seen from the windows of friend Hen's parents' house in Norham Road, part of that Victorian estate so robustly planned and exuberantly if somewhat pompously executed over decades. The University Parks are nearby, and usually we excurt around them in the spring, but as we opened the front door a gust and a downpour greeted us, so we promptly shut it and curled up with our books.
Great joy of the university gardens, it seems - though I remember New College in midsummer with great fondness - is the extensive reach of Worcester College's back yard. Planted in 1832, it still has a few robust, disease-resistant Princeton Elms on the lawn, of which I'm told this is one, though it looked more like a London Plane to me.
Alas, I can't identify this handsome, ivied bark just west of the college buildings
but I do know my Dicksonias when I see them, those handsome tree-ferns which populated New Zealand and Derreen.
Horse chestnuts overhanging the lake:
and another taken from Turl Street between Jesus and Exeter (now, by the way, is real prime flower time for the noble chestnut):
Magnolias all have lost their flowers now, but here's a last spurt for one in Worcester
and another just outside St Mary's
One final shot of the copper beech on a sunnier afternoon before I strode off for the station along the canal
to compare with another a couple of weeks later in Kensington Gardens.
Finally, nature's permanence in ancient Oxford: my thanks to Rev Carl for pre-empting where I've reached in Gaudy Night - pure enchantment, by the way, with a dash of malice and hysteria thrown in - and quoting his favourite Wimsey line: 'How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks'. Though this one seems to have had her continuity much reduced to the mere power of one.
This just reminded J of the fabulous beetle board at the Oxford Museum of Natural History (the one with the unmissable Pitt Rivers Museum at the back), headed by a possibly apocryphal comment by the Oxford-educated geneticist and evolutionary biologist J B S Haldane. When asked by theologists what could be deduced of the creator, he replied that he must have 'an inordinate fondness for beetles'. The board tells us why: