A Nice Surprise at Christ Church, Oxford

Posted on October 15, 2010 by Holly Hayes
Part of: UK and Western Europe

For me, the biggest highlight of our brief return to Oxford was my visit to Christ Church College on Monday morning. The morning light was gorgeous and I arrived around 9am to take photos of the east side of the cathedral. It's hard to get a good view of the small cathedral from this angle (or any angle really), but there is a great spot through a gate that I knew about.

View of the east end of Christ Church Cathedral through the gate, with professor on bench at lower left.

Closer view in the lovely light

I took lots of photos through the gate and was quite happy, but then a professor who was sitting in the garden walked up to the gate and asked if I'd like to come inside the garden to take pictures. I've stood in this spot many times before, and have never had such good fortune! I was thrilled - it's a lovely garden I'd never been able to set foot in before, even when I attended lectures in the college. The professor said it's called the Master's Garden, adding that he retired two years ago to the Yorkshire Dales but still comes back to Oxford to enjoy it regularly. I mentioned I had recently attended Oxford and we chatted about that for a bit, then he returned to his spot on the garden bench, smoking his pipe. He wasn't wearing any tweed that I can recall, but I'll let that slide.

View from inside the garden

A nice view of the cathedral I've never seen before

I was still happily taking pictures from various angles in the garden when he approached me again, offering to let me into the cathedral garden too if I wanted. If I wanted! He opened another gate, which gave me access right up to the back of the cathedral, and said that if anyone questioned me, I should tell them that "Professor Sir Richard Gardner said you could be here." He also pointed out a huge tree that dated from 1675 and another one that was associated with the Cheshire Cat.

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Views from inner garden

Ancient tree

Needless to say, I was in heaven, and so grateful to the friendly professor. When I was ready, he walked me back out to the main gate, saying that he had recently taken up watercolors and was trying to capture the wonderful light on canvas. I asked him about his academic specialty and he said it was fertility medicine, adding that his doctoral supervisor at Cambridge had just won the Nobel Prize for his development of IVF. He said he was disappointed they'd waited so long to award it, as the recipient was now too ill to really know what was happening - but at least his family got to receive his £940,000 prize. Whoa.

Then I went around to the main entrance to the cathedral, where I got to skip the line and £12 admission fee thanks to my Oxford alumni card (the only thing it turned out to be useful for during our visit). Here are just a few highlights of the many photos I took inside.

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Cathedral interiors

Main quad (Tom Quad) of Christ Church College

Detail of Tom Quad