In this instance, 1200 AD is enough to be new when 2500 BC is the other date we are dealing with.
Today was my first field trip with the program and it was wonderful. We started classes on Wednesday, and while I have thoughts and reflections from that experience (which was wonderful), I wanted to take this time to tell you about the stuff we got to do today.
As the structure of the program dictates, these first several weeks of study are all about British culture. The course is a cursory glance for sure, but it seems that every part of known Britain history is fair game. After a day of lectures covering the earliest portion of British history, this course started off well with a day-long field trip to experience the history and culture first hand. I should mention that everyone in the SCIO (Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford) program takes this course. We are all in the same lectures and we all go on the same trips, but our homework is different depending on our disciplines.
The trip was in reverse chronological order as we visited the Salisbury Cathedral, Old Sarum, and then Stonehenge.
The day started at 8am as we got on a charter bus and headed for the city of Salisbury (about two hours away from Oxford). Upon arrival, we were informed when our tour of the cathedral tower would be, and then we were given time to wander. I was in the third group, and so I walked with a couple of my new friends around the cathedral grounds.
The building itself is amazing (as you can see). It was finished in the 1200’s, and then added on to after. Much of the stone work and wood supports inside the cathedral are original and have endured all these years. At one point they mentioned some renovations that took place in the 1700’s, and I suppose I am becoming acclimated to the culture because I would mentally write off those renovations as being “recent.”
After walking around a bit, we headed to a tea room outside the cathedral (but still inside the grounds) and sat down for tea. I had a pot of english breakfast with a gluten-free scone*. Let me tell you that sitting with good people, drinking good tea, in the rain, and in the shadow of an incredible building is enough to make a day memorable for a long time to come. The group I was with was all in the last tour group, and so after chatting for a bit, I had to excuse myself to make it to the tour on time.
I don’t feel like including much of the details of the information included in the tour here, and instead I will just let the pictures talk for me.
After the tour, I grabbed a wonderfully warm lunch of potato and leek soup (it was a chilly day) and talked with more friends. The only reason I am relaying the exact contents of my lunch are simply because the soup felt very British. After lunch, it was time to head to the next place: Old Sarum.
Old Sarum is the ruin of several defensive fortifications that rises above the surrounding landscape on a hill. The hill was originally the location of a Roman fort and when the Roman Empire receded, the spot was occupied by the Normans. They then added to the fort by constructing a castle with a keep and establishing a defensive stronghold there. For its age a surprising amount of the defensive landscape remains, and some of the foundations of the buildings remain as well. I have pictures, but they are not near as good as many others, so let’s go ahead and skip to the final stop on our trip.
Stonehenge. I don’t know if I have ever actively thought about wanting to visit this monumental location, but when I found out that it was on the itinerary, I was thrilled. I know it’s just a bunch of rocks (I was resisting snarky comments most of the time we were there in case some people really loved it) but the history and mystery around them is enough to make them more than interesting to me.
I enjoyed the cathedral most of all, but Stonehenge was nevertheless awesome. After spending a considerable amount of time at this wonder, we headed back to Oxford after a full day. It was a great day. It was wonderful to go on something that I didn’t plan, and even more so, it was great to spend time with friends. The friend time was best at Stonehenge, but it was great throughout the day. I have met some great people here, and I look forward to spending the rest of the semester with them.
Grace and peace.
*I have found out that European gluten still messes with me.