Last weekend I went on a little jolly to Oxford to visit my dear friend (who blogs at Bloomsbury Bell but has been naughtily neglectful of late!) Naomi. We used to work together at the V&A but just over a year ago she upped sticks and moved to a beautiful little village just outside of Oxford. I miss her terribly so it was with much excitement that I boarded the Oxford Tube at Victoria and wended my way through the misty streets of a very early Sunday morning London before heading out into the countryside. In just over an hour I was dropped off at the outskirts of Oxford, Naomi picked me up, and we drove straight to the tiny village of Swinbrook, home of the Mitford sisters.
I am a typical Londoner and so any sight of fields and farm animals sends me off into raptures of delight. I found Swinbrook absolutely beautiful; it is surrounded by gently rolling open farmland and sparsely populated with handsome period cotswold stone cottages whose golden yellow walls melt seamlessly into the countryside beyond. In the middle of the village sits the church, which has been there since the 18th century judging from the date of some of its oldest gravestones. In this quiet, peaceful spot are buried four of the Mitford sisters. Nancy, Unity and Diana are next to one another, and Pamela lies slightly apart, next to her cousin. Their graves are marked by simple, unshowy stones, and I felt really rather touched by seeing them there. Having been fascinated by them for such a long time, to see where they have been laid to rest was quite moving, and I am so glad that they are all together in such a beautiful place that is saturated with memories of their extraordinary lives.
After wandering around the village and enjoying the Autumn settings and bracing, woodsmoke-scented air, we moved on to a nearby pub for a hearty roast and a good catch up. Then it was back to Naomi’s village via Woodstock, home of Blenheim Palace, where we stopped for a quick potter around and a peek through the grand gates down to the house…before a nice cup of tea and a sit down. After some more chatting we went on a tour of Naomi’s gorgeous little village, complete with adorable general store, local pub, and amazing manor house, as well as some spectacular views across the open countryside. All too soon it was time for me to reluctantly return back to the Big Smoke, so I said my goodbyes and boarded my bus back to the metropolis. A whirlwind of a day but an absolutely lovely one – it reminded me of how precious and breathtaking the English countryside is, and I was delighted to finally be able to pay my respects at the grave of one of my favourite writers, and see the scenes that I have so often read about through my own eyes.