OXFORD: Diamond Jubilee celebrations


By Tim Saunders

Four days of fabulous events over an extended bank holiday.

That was the nation’s way of celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

With so many festivities to choose from we decided to focus on one county and settled on Oxford. We weren’t disappointed.

With bunting and Union Jacks plastering the country, we arrived in Carterton on the Saturday for the town fete, which featured an interesting vintage car display of Morris and Morgan vehicles.

From there my wife Caroline, baby daughter Harriett and I headed for Burford where we stayed the night. As I am currently reading The Remorseful Day, the last Inspector Morse novel by Colin Dexter, which features this area, Burford was of particular interest to me.

Accommodation prices were ludicrously high over this period so we had decided to tour in a much affordable Marquis Majestic 165 motorhome. This proved a great choice particularly with its fixed double bed, which meant that we didn’t have to keep making it up each day. We simply picked a quiet roadside and set up home for the night.

On the Sunday, despite torrential downpours, there was an excellent street party in Burford’s Sheep Street (which also featured in the last Inspector Morse). There we saw stilt walkers, a popular china smashing stall and live music. Not just that but food and drink was provided for free by the town council – quite a surprise in these straitened times. Salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones, cake and coffees all offered at no cost by the kind hearted council and residents of this historic town. No wonder there was such a strong turnout with visitors arriving from outlying villages and further afield, too.

However, this was to prove just a warm up for what was the icing on the jubilee cake. Bourton on the Water, in the heart of the Cotswolds, was an example to the whole of the UK, especially all those mean, miserable, penny pinching towns that held no celebrations whatsoever.

At Bourton on the Water no expense was spared. The town crier (from Cheltenham Spa as Bourton doesn’t have one of its own) introduced each event in his own inimitable style, creating a grand sense of occasion. A whole day of entertainment included Morris and clog dancing, live music, duck races and even football in the cold river. It provided hours of entertainment not just for the locals but many American and Chinese tourists.

These free events were an excellent way of uniting communities and enabled us all to forget about recession. Those shops that decided to remain open seemed to do a brisk trade, too.

Across the UK there were a great many celebrations marking the 60 year reign of Queen Elizabeth II and while many did not charge, a proportion did. For instance, it cost a shocking £10 per person to attend one street party in Dorset.

Oxfordshire’s excellent events showed that it was not necessary to pay to attend a good party. And that’s how it should be.

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