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By Radcot Bridge, where the river makes a bend, there is, as in several places we shall come to hereafter (and pass by without notice), a straight cut made for the convenience of the navigation, along which the path runs—but the old way is the pleasantest. Short cuts, like all other utilitarian contrivances, are harsh, rigid, right-angled affairs. They allow of no amplification or adorning. Fancy cannot find in them a curve to play about in, nor will Beauty forsake the chequered shade, where "the green leaves quiver with the cooling wind," for the shelter of their tarred palings. We will leave the cuts to the bargemen.
And the river here has a great many choice turns, and quiet nooks where the angler finds just employment enough to give a relish to his meditations, and the rambler is tempted to lie down and let the minutes roll away in dreamy enjoyment. Willows, alders, and poplars skirt the banks, and send their contorted roots into the stream; while their reflected forms and colours mingle with the hue imparted to the water by the tints of the sky, and the aquatic plants that float gracefully on the surface; and sky, trees, and water, with a solitary angler plying his craft under the shadow of the foliage, blend into lovely little pictures that the eye delights to gaze upon, but which are too general to impress themselves upon the memory. These cool shady spots alternate with stretches of open country, spotted over with outlying farm-houses and clumps of elm or chesnut; and the river itself is enlivened by the frequent recurrence of a picturesque weir or lock, or the occasional passage of a barge. On the south side a low range of hills forms the distance, and in front are the thickly wooded heights of Bucklands, so frequently mentioned in Covvper's Correspondence as the family residence of his friends the Throckmortons. The manor was the property of Thomas Chaucer, the son of
"That old Dan Geffrey, in whose gentle sprite
On the north side the grounds are flat, and the tall spire of Bampton is the only object that arrests the attention.
Tadpole bridge, which is about three miles below Radcot bridge, is the next noticeable place we arrive at. The road over it leads from Bampton to the London and Faringdon road near Bucklands. Bampton, which is about two miles and a half from the bridge, is a good-sized market-town, with nearly two thousand inhabitants. It has considerable trade, some manufactures; and a large cattlefair is annually held in it. The church is a spacious and very fine one, with a lofty spire, which is visible for many miles in every direction: there are also some vestiges of a castle. Philips, the author of 'The Splendid Shilling,' was born in Bampton, of which his father was rector.
For the next few miles the way is wearisome enough to test the patience of the pedestrian pretty severely. The country around is flat, formal, and dingy; and the uniform commonplaceness of its character is nearly unbearable. It is as smooth, tame, and tedious as a French tragedy, Rapin's History, or anything else that is "most tolerable and not to be endured."
At the distance of a mile or two from the river on the Berkshire side there are, however, a few places worth visiting, and the road by which they are reached is pleasanter than by the river. The first of these places is Pusey, near Bucklands, where is kept the famous Pusey Horn, which was given
to the family by Canute ; at least such is the tradition, and there is an inscription to the same effect upon it: "I, King Knoude, give William Pevvse this home to holde by thy londe ;" but the letters, though ancient, are much later than the time of Canute. The manor still belongs to a Pusey—the famous agriculturist, and brother to the still more famous theologian. At Hinton Walridge, two miles farther, there are considerable remains of an ancient encampment. At Longworth, the next village,
there is another and much larger one, called Cherbury Camp, which, according to tradition, occupies the site of a palace of Canute's. Churney Basset, a hamlet attached to Longworth, and which once belonged to the monks of Abingdon, has a Norman chapel. Fyfield is a large village, with a fine church, which contains some interesting monuments. One to the memory of Sir John Golafre, who founded a hospital at Fyfield in the fifteenth century, contains his effigy in armour on an open altartomb, with a figure of a shrouded skeleton beneath.
From Fyfield the road leads directly to the NewBridge, where we rejoin the Thames. New Bridge, which is some centuries old, is a substantial structure of several arches. On the left side of it is the long marshy tract called Standlake Common, but which-in winter rather resembles a lake, and at other times a bog. The village of Standlake is some distance farther ; it is a dull, swampy, sloppy, aguey place; and the only thing worth looking at in or about it, besides the church, which is a pretty good specimen of Early English architecture, is a farm-house, called Gaunt House, which is said by Antony Wood to have been built by John of Gaunt and Joan his wife. There was formerly a brass to the memory of the latter in Standlake church, inscribed "Orate pro anima Johanue Gaunt, nuper uxoris Johannis Gaunt, quae obiit x die Martii A.d. MCCCCLXV." The house was fortified and garrisoned by Charles I.
At Standlake the Thames receives the Windrush, a stream which rises on one of the slopes of the Cotswold Hills near the borders of Worcestershire. It flows past the towns of Burford and Witney, and a great many villages, and after acourse of about thirty-five miles falls into the Thames by several distinct channels. Although not navigable, it is an important stream from the number of mills which it turns.
Below New Bridge the river winds along in solitary undisturbed peacefulness. No road approaches it, the houses are few and far between, and at a distance from the banks; and the only visitant is a lonely fisherman, whose presence is never felt as an intrusion into the most secluded scene. The scenery too improves as we advance. The Oxford meadows are low and subject to be flooded, but there are a goodly number of trees and plenty of cattle about them, and they have altogether a fertile, cheerful look. The Berkshire downs give a different and more varied, as well as attractive character to the other side. The rambler will here stroll leisurely along the river, enjoying a succession of quiet and thoroughly English scenes. He will pass Moorton, Northmoor, Appleton (where is an old manor-house), and Little Blenheim, but he will probably not be tempted to turn aside till he reaches Stanton-Harcourt, where he will of course make a lougish stay.
Stanton-Harcourt, though but a small .village, possesses considerable and various interest; its situation is pleasant, its associations not unattractive; and it contains several objects deserving regard, especially the remains of the ancient mansion and the very handsome old church. At a short distance from the village are three large upright stones, commonly called "the Devil's Coits;" they are of the ordinary red-veined sandstone of the district, and are supposed to be monumental. Thomas Warton, in his History of Kiddington, conjectures that