Laying down my sword and shield

Although I do have some more posts in mind that I could write, I seem to have run out of steam on blog-writing for now, so I think I’ll set it aside for a second time. Having done that in July 2020, I later resumed, so I’ll take it up again in the same way if the mood takes me.

I began this blog as I started coming to terms with the new life forced on us by the pandemic, one year ago, 17 May 2020. I wrote at a Stakhanovite pace for three months, wound it up, added a couple of afterthought posts in August, then resumed more consistently, at a slower pace in October, prompted by my continuing curiosity about some aspects of the story, and by continuing constraints on movement and sociability, which put a premium on motivated local walks. It now totals over 100,000 words.

This second leg of the blog differs somewhat from the first in that it has been less observation-driven and more book-driven: reading has more often prompted the walks, though I’ve always checked out and refined my notions about what I’m talking about on the ground. In that context, I’ve also read and written more about archaeology and medieval history. I’ve profited from contacts in the local history community that I made partly through the blog, and especially as a result of giving an online talk about ‘Blogging the Floodplain’ for the Oxford Preservation Trust in October – thanks to William Whyte for the invitation to do that. Thanks especially to Stephanie Jenkins for her generosity in answering questions and sharing things she thinks might interest me.

It’s always great accidentally to encounter moving spirits on walks.

Pointing the way: Stephanie Jenkins, keeper of the Oxford History website; Judith Webb, freelance ecologist

Thanks equally to all those who’ve taken an interest in the blog, which routinely attracts a dozen or so visitors a day, and sometimes more (especially if I write and publicise new posts). Readers have mostly come from the UK but also more widely. The map below sets out WordPress’ current report on my ‘All Time’ stats: over 14,000 ‘visits’, distributed over much of the map. (Of course you only need one reader each from Canada and Russia to sweep up large stretches of the globe). The blog currently turns up high enough on searches for much routine traffic to come via searches. The Guardian did its bit to arouse interest by printing my account of the Castle Mill Stream walk as one of its ‘riverside walks’, which it has then proceeded to disseminate on through endless travel outlets. Thanks to my cousin Katy Parnell for suggesting I send it in.

Thanks finally to all those who’ve taken an interest in the project and accompanied me on walks. I’ll probably forget one or more people, but they include in this second period Glenn Black (to whom thanks for information and ultimately a tour of the area around the Redbridge Stream), Sue Clark, Chris Crocker, Andrew Edwards, Robert Evans (to whom thanks for the introduction to Sunningwell) Liz Frazer (to whom thanks for the introduction to marshy Marston), Judith Herrin, Andrew Kahn, Tony Morris (to whom thanks for the introduction to the Devil’s Quoits), Rebecca Nestor, Juan Neves, Katherine Paugh, Mark Philp, Robert Quick, John Robertson, Jan Royall, Lucie Ryzova (for whom thanks for the introduction to the Tree Lane route to old Cowley), Hamish Scott, Benjamin Thompson & Nancy-Jane Rucker. I also enjoyed having lunch with Graham Harding and wish him well with his proposed book on Port Meadow. In my experience, while lockdown has stifled some kinds of sociability, it’s promoted other kinds.

2 thoughts on “Laying down my sword and shield

  1. Your blog is so interesting. Here’s hoping you will be tempted to pick up your burden again when you go down to the riverside, as although there are many good books about Oxford there is surprisingly little online

  2. Dear Jo – Sorry to see you go. But I’m sure, like Arthur Knights, the bugle will once day summon you again to pick up your sword and shield … Thanks for the thanks T 🙏 __________

    Tony Morris 07985 935320 __________

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