2018 Day 14 – Oxfordshire

It would be remiss of us to be so close to Winston Churchill’s resting place and not to pay our respects, so we set off on foot in the morning – St Martin’s Church, Bladon is only a short walk away.

St Martin’s has stood for over 800 years. Many of its older gravestones have worn blank and are a little unkempt – it’s clear the Parish is badly in need of gardening volunteers.

It’s a shame really, even though the Churchill family plot is well cared for and the church itself is spotless.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why Churchill was not interred at Westminster Abbey, as I believe was offered to him. One look at his burial site and the answer is clear – he’s been laid to rest with his beloved Clementine. Not side by side, as are the rest of his family, but with. That wouldn’t have been possible in the Abbey. I’m pretty sure that would have made the decision for him. The letters he wrote to Clementine were so tender and full of love, there could be no mistaking his complete devotion to her.

Inside the church is a small display of the funeral and ceremony, various memorabilia and a guest book for visitors. The latter contains heartfelt and moving messages of thanks, for Churchill’s leadership, courage and our freedom. We add ours.

A stained glass window was erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s passing. It’s magnificent, detailing many things from his life in the design, including his military career and family crest as well as his favourites – his whiskey, art, bow ties and pets.

Most poignantly, all around the edge are his words. Excerpts from his speeches have been etched into the design. It’s truly representative of his life.

I’m really glad we came to pay our respects. It’s quite terrifying to think what our lives might be like under a different outcome.

Bumbles aplenty keep us amused on the way home, but I still have restless feet so the afternoon sees us at the nearby North Leigh Roman Villa.

The Villa is an extraordinary find deep in English countryside. It was initially discovered in 1813 and subsequently excavated over many decades. The villa was a large thriving household which would have housed a series of families or possibly generations.

The first section of the villa was built in either 1AD or 2AD with subsequent sections being built on up until 4AD. In the 4th century there were up to 60 rooms associated with the villa but by the 5th century, it lay abandoned and was then lost to time.

One of its most interesting features is that it had underfloor heating, the infrastructure for which is currently laid bare in its foundation stones. Hot water would have been pumped through these, probably from the bath houses contained within it, to provide warmth throughout. Quite ingenious, those Romans.

Also a feature is an almost intact mosaic floor, intricate in its design. It’s in a locked room as the site is unattended today but we can still still see it through the glass.

A little slice of Roman life, 2,000 years of history, right here in the Oxfordshire countryside.

Lots of bunny burrows on the way home – eagle eyes Chris spotted one in the ruins but he hopped off before I could see him. 🐇