- Getting there
OS Explorer 180 and 170 Start grid reference: 484092.
Wolvercote is two miles north of Oxford city centre with its bus and train station. The easiest pedestrian route from the station is along the canal which takes you to the east of Wolvercote, with the Thames Path at the west end.
- Route Finding
Route finding is very easy on this stage, although you need to cross a busy road in Oxford.
Overnight: The Trout Inn (01865 510930) offers accommodation and food, and there are many places to stay in Oxford.
Lunch: Plenty of choice in the city. Otherwise, the Isis Tavern (0871 951 1000) is a few miles south of the centre. Open Thursdays to Sundays, it can be reached only by foot. The King’s Arms at Sandford Lock (01865 777095) also serves food, as does the Bowyer Arms at Radley (01235 523452) at the end of the day. There are toilets in Wolvercote village, and Oxford city centre.
- The Route
This stage of the journey takes the walker right through the middle of the city of Oxford, although the river itself is protected from the bustle and traffic.
North of the centre, on the other side of the path you can see Port Meadow, given to the city by King Alfred and used as common land for over a thousand years. Just before you reach the city, a short diversion leads to the Norman church of St Margaret of Antioch, Binsey, once a popular pilgrimage spot known for its sacred well with powerful healing qualities.
Through the city and over a busy bridge, and the path emerges opposite Christ Church Meadow, with a view of Christ Church Cathedral. The smallest Anglican Cathedral in England, it was built by the Normans on the site of the Saxon church that housed the shrine of St Frideswide, Patron Saint of Oxford. With the re-founding of Cardinal College as Christ Church by Henry VIII, the Cathedral became a college chapel as well – unique in the world.
Past the boat houses and on until you reach the village of Iffley, with its 12th century church which you can see over the bridge. The doorway contains decorations copied from the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the destination of one of the most famous pilgrim routes in the world. The end point of the day is the boathouse of Radley College.
DAY 3 LIVING WITHOUT APPROPRIATING
‘Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens.’ (Psalm 68:19)
‘Go I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.’ (Luke 10:4)
However long or short your pilgrimage, you will have to take with you what you need for the journey. For a short journey, a small backpack containing water, food and wet-weather gear will be adequate; for a longer journey, difficult decisions will have to be made as to what to take and what to leave behind.
Living lightly to the things of this world has always been an aim of Christians. From the instructions to the first disciples, to the foundation of groups of holy men and women sworn to poverty, chastity and obedience, the accumulation of possessions has long been recognised as an obstacle to a life of communion with Christ. Things, stuff, objects which fill up our lives gradually become a physical barrier to spiritual freedom.
For most of us today, a dramatic shedding of all our material goods and responsibilities to emulate the early Christians would not only be almost impossible but inadvisable. But there is a middle path, a way that treads carefully through the landscape cluttered with unnecessary material and status objects, appreciating them without becoming defined by them.
This way of life has been called vivere sine proprio – living without appropriating. Living without appropriating means not allowing material considerations to prevent us going beyond our limits. It means taking risks in God’s name, for God’s name. It touches every part of our life, from placing all that we have in God’s hands to all that we do and all that we are. We need not be afraid of enjoying God’s gifts but we must always bear them lightly, ready to share them or give them away.
As we walk through a city with its shops devoted to consumerism and consumption, let us resolve to sit lightly to the things of this world, rejoicing in their qualities, for all were created by God, but resolved not to become enslaved to them. Let us think, too, of the homeless of this city and others, of refugees and displaced people, and those who do not have enough for even the basic necessities of life.
There are other kinds of baggage, however, and in resolving to journey lightly through this world, these burdens too must be laid down. Unrealistic expectations of yourself and others around you, assumptions about people, and a narrowness of heart and mind can all add spiritual weight to a journey. On this journey, as the first steps into a new walk with God, we must put aside old ways of thinking and being and instead take up an attitude of expectancy, of hopefulness, of willingness to be transformed.
As you walk, try and remember what you are carrying in your backpack. Is everything you need in there, or are there some things you wished you had brought? Are you carrying too much? Think about your spiritual luggage. Do you have everything with you for a journey with God – expectation, hope, confidence, trust? Are you carrying some burdens that could be put down now – regrets, past hurts, grudges, old sins? At the next gate, make a conscious effort to leave them behind and move on more freely, walking more closely with God.
Lord God, whose son shared the lives of the poorest people, help us to sit lightly to those things we possess, not afraid to share them or let them go completely. Help us to carry with us only that which we need; a loving heart and an awareness of your presence.