Four days from Oxford

Old Mar 27th, 2023, 05:49 PM
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Four days from Oxford

Hello, everyone. I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions/advice for me. I am going to England with my 80 year-old mother for two weeks in August. This will be my mother's first time to England. She is not much of a traveller and, like many people her age, is mobile but has arthritis and other issues which make walking more than a kilometer or so a day difficult. Lots of stairs are definitely not great. So in planning this trip I have realized that many of the ways I travel and things I would normally do would not work well for my mother and I really want her to have a great, relaxing time.

We will be staying in London for four nights and then going to Oxford for a week where we'll stay on campus and take a summer course. While we're in London we'll do a one-day bus trip, probably to Canterbury and Dover. We will leave Oxford on the morning of Saturday, August 12 and take a 1:40 p.m. flight from Heathrow on Wednesday, August 16. When my mother does travel, she usually takes a lot of luggage, so I can't imagine her just doing HBO. But hauling luggage around will be very difficult for her so what I'm thinking is that I'll just take a pull carry-on which she can pull (for short distances) and I will pull her (hopefully not immense) suitcase.

I have never driven in the U.K. (although I've been there quite a few times) but have driven daily on the left for more than 30 years now so am thinking renting a car would be a good idea. I feel very comfortable driving and manual transmission is no problem. I would imagine this would be easier for my mother rather than having to deal with luggage and public transportation.

Anyway, any suggestions about how to manage this and where to go? The center of Oxford seems to be a car-free zone, so I was thinking about taking the train to Reading, getting a car there, and then returning it back to Reading on the morning of the 16th and getting a bus to Heathrow. It seemed to make sense to return the car where you picked it up, and also not to be too far from Heathrow.

Any suggestions about what to do in those three and a half days? At first I was thinking we would drive to somewhere on the sea (the Isle of Wight?) and spend three nights in one place, maybe going back to Reading on Tuesday evening, but if walking at length isn't really something that my mother can do, all those nice ideas like strolling through the countryside or walking along the coast or happily browsing through old town squares are perhaps not all that great. So now I'm thinking about making it a bit more of a road trip, driving around to various spots further afield and enjoying the scenery on the way and stopping by places enroute.

Many thanks in advance for any suggestions or advice you might have.



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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 06:52 PM
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Welcome to Fodors.

If you are staying in student digs are you sure it is accessible for your mother. Modern buildings will likely have lifts but a lot of accommodations in the colleges have stairs.

"While we're in London we'll do a one-day bus trip, probably to Canterbury and Dover." I personally think that isn't a great idea -- in fact a very bad idea. You have hardly any time in London as it is. Plus Dover Castle is enormous and the walking through the various sections is pretty physical. All buses and cabs in London have easy access.

If it was me I'd do London (just London) the first 4 days and its a shame you don't have more time there. Then take the train to Oxford for your week, then collect a rental car at the train station in Oxford - driving out of the city from the station isn't difficult. From there I'd head west into the Cotswolds -- Burford, or Stow-on-the-Wold, or Chipping Campden - someplace like that and stay the nights of Aug 12, 13, and 14. Driving tours around the Cotswolds with visits to gorgeous villages and gardens - can be as strenuous or gentle as need be.

Then I'd drive to Windsor by mdi-day on the 15th. Visit the castle if your Mom is up to it - there are lots of stairs but there is step-free mobility entrances to various parts. They do have loaner wheelchairs. St Georges Chapel is flat except for 2 or 3 steps to the side door. Or -- just see the castle from the outside and have a nice lunch in town. Stay the night of the 15th either in Windsor or at a LHR hotel.
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 09:04 PM
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Thanks a lot for your comments, Janis. I had previously enjoyed reading your detailed and informative thread about your trip to London so feel like I'm in very good hands when it comes to advice!

About the bus trip, I was thinking about the Cliffs of Dover as opposed to the Castle. There are bus trips which just have Canterbury and the Cliffs on their itinerary (sometimes with a pub lunch in what looks to be a nice seaside town in Kent). But good to know that the Castle is NOT a good idea at all.

My mother is an extremely social person who gets 90% of the pleasure of travelling out of the people she meets, so that was one factor that made me think a bus tour to Canterbury might be good as no doubt we'd have a pub lunch with some other participants. I had also thought of Bath/Stonehenge but then figured we'd be going somewhere west after Oxford rather than east so Canterbury might be better. A bus tour also sounded like a nice break from the crowds of London and having to move about on your own, perhaps in the heat.

I've been to London a few times (wonderful city, as you say), but have never been to the Cotswolds so thanks for suggesting a few towns there. I was worried that it would be an absolute zoo there in peak tourist season, particularly since we'll be leaving Oxford on a Saturday as opposed to a weekday. I'll start looking at that again. I love your comment about how the driving and visits can be as strenuous or as easy as you wish. Great to keep that in mind.

I hadn't considered Windsor. I'll check that out as well. So I guess with your plan I'd either drop the car off at Windsor or at LHR?

You're totally right about the accommodations at Oxford. Luckily, they have us prioritized for a ground or first floor room, so it should be okay. There are no lifts. Again, my mother is completely mobile (thankfully), but walking hurts her legs. Even though she is a huge BBC Morse fan, she is definitely not interested in going on the Oxford Walking Tour that the course offers. She's an active person and gets around, but 80 is 80. Joints wear out...
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 09:24 PM
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Hi,

The problem is the Cliffs are best seen from . . out in the Channel ona a boat, not from land.

"So I guess with your plan I'd either drop the car off at Windsor or at LHR? "

I'd drop the car at LHR. If you stay the night in Windsor, keep the car and drop it at LHR the next day and take the rental shuttle to the terminal. If you end up staying the last night at a LHR hotel, what I'd probably do is drop your mother at the hotel with the luggage, then returning the car and catch a cab or sometimes the rental agency will have a car service on call for these short drop off's. But -- Some of the different rental agencies actually have drop off locations at LHR hotels where you leave the car in the car park and just drop the keys in the lobby. That would depend on the specific company/hotel.

"My mother is an extremely social person who gets 90% of the pleasure of travelling out of the people she meets,"

I get that - I just don't think that specific tour (nor Stonehenge / Bath) would be good for someone with mobility issues. One place that might be a good day tour would be Cambridge. Totally flat, lovely city -- only issue is it is quite similar to Oxford.
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 09:26 PM
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We deleted your duplicate thread
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 09:34 PM
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Meant to ask -- does she use a walker, rollator or will she accept using a wheelchair at times? That will help.

Where are you staying in London? A few years ago I visited London with an injured knee and using a cane. Could not use stairs and many (most actually) tube stations were impossible. Yet I was still able to get all over the city even to places like Eltham Palace in far SE London. Here is my report of that trip which might help with some of your London issues.

London 'Tube-less', Fine dining, Fun excursions plus a GTG
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 10:36 PM
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No, she doesn't use a walker. Nothing like that. She's very mobile but just can't walk for a long time/distance (like a mile is probably tops). I can't imagine her sitting in a wheelchair either. It's basically arthritis and the normal wear-and-tear on joints that age brings with it. So you would not notice it or really be aware of the issue unless you were also that age and understood what your knees and legs feel like when you're 80. At 55, I'm not there yet but am trying to put myself in her shoes while planning this trip (pun intended).

We are staying in Bloomsbury, on Gower St. Apparently both Russell St. station and Goodge St. are lift only. My mother is quite claustrophobic so I'm not sure how she will do with the Tube. Even I get a bit freaked out at some of those stations with the incredibly long escalators extending down, down, and down. I was thinking of maybe taking taxis everywhere with her (in London) but then reading about the gridlock makes me wonder if that would be a great option (again, peak tourist season). So that was another thing that made me think of doing a day trip outside of London as dealing with public transpo or taxis in the city might be really tiring and difficult.

When my parents went with another couple to Paris for a week they didn't go on the metro once. They took taxis everywhere. I'm not sure if that was related to claustrophobia or pickpockets or just to make life easy. Mom's been on subways in Tokyo but they seem to be much more spacious inside and not nearly as deep underground as the Tube.

I'm not rich but it is likely the one and only chance my mother and I will have to go on a trip like this, so I am happy to spend the extra money for taxis or extra car rental drop-off fees in the name of ease of travel for her.

BTW, we are staying in Gower St. mainly because I found it so difficult to find a twin room with space between the beds. Lots of funky hotel rooms for one person in boutique hotels with no windows, but that wouldn't work. Staying at a Holiday Inn sounded like a cop-out and, just from what I could gather from the Web, Bloomsbury seemed better than Victoria/Pimlico which also had some twin rooms. The hotel definitely looks like it's in London rather than in suburban North America or somewhere (complete with beans and sausages for breakfast), so I think it'll be okay, although it is 400 m or so from Russell St. Station.

Thanks again so much for your comments and I'll be sure to check out the thread you linked.
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Old Mar 27th, 2023, 10:58 PM
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"Oxford for a week where we'll stay on campus"

Oxford doesn't have a campus, so probably worth working out where you are staying and where the course is to make sure you haven't just exhausted your mother.

Interesting question that I've never thought about is how to enjoy places near Oxford with low levels of walking

A Cotswold town is a possibility, like Burford.
Bletchley Park, centre for research against the Germans in WW2 and the first modern computer might interest
Cirencester
Reading seems an odd call
Bath might be good but you might need to use taxis withing town
Stratford for the Bard
Winchester for the Cathedral or Salisbury

however, what are your and your mother's interests?
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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 02:16 AM
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Get her to watch Midsommer Murders and/or Father Brown. She'll put the Cotswolds on top of her list after seeing the wonderful towns and countryside.
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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 02:23 AM
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We spend half the year in London and half in Oxfordshire, about 5 miles from Oxford itself. One thing you should be aware of when renting a car is that Oxford, wonderful though it is, it is one of the most car unfriendly towns in England. Parking is both a nightmare and very expensive. Add to this that the redevelopment of the train station and Botley Road is about to star soon and will last for a year will only add to the inconvenience. That said there are a number of park and rides around the periphery of the city which may work for you if you do not have parking at the clog where you are staying.

As for day trips from Oxford, other than the Cotswolds which may be very busy in August, Blenheim Palace is close by is worth considering although not sure about the level of walking. The New Forest and Beulieu is only 1 hour 20 or so down the A34 and Lymington is also close by as is the Isle of Wight that you mentioned (though that will require a ferry).
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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 06:12 AM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
We spend half the year in London and half in Oxfordshire, about 5 miles from Oxford itself. One thing you should be aware of when renting a car is that Oxford, wonderful though it is, it is one of the most car unfriendly towns in England. Parking is both a nightmare and very expensive. Add to this that the redevelopment of the train station and Botley Road is about to star soon and will last for a year will only add to the inconvenience. That said there are a number of park and rides around the periphery of the city which may work for you if you do not have parking at the clog where you are staying . . .
Oh -- I never imagined they would be using a car during the week in Oxford. That would be a non-starter for me for sure. I assumed they were asking about a car for the 4 days AFTER the course is over. Especially with this bit "The center of Oxford seems to be a car-free zone, so I was thinking about taking the train to Reading, getting a car there, and then returning it back to Reading on the morning of the 16th . . . "

BTW Jean1968 -- No matter where you pick up the rental car (assuming you use one of the national/international chains) you can drop it a LHR. I've done countless one-way rentals in the UK and while there are occasionally drop off fees usually there isn't. And even if there is a drop off fee -- it will be much lower than the sometimes extortionate rate in the States.
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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 05:51 PM
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Thank you all so much.

Bilboburgler, we will be at Christchurch College and staying in student accommodation there. Our meals are at Christchurch Dining Hall. I think we should be okay about getting around at Christchurch as the people at Oxford seem to be very aware of mobility issues. I have a feeling Mom won't be the only 80 year-old taking part... Thank you for your suggestions. As you say, you really have to rethink travel and, for me, what would be a traditional visit to England (lots of walking), when suddenly that's far from ideal. I love Westminster Abbey and think my mother, as a (somewhat lapsed) former history major, would be blown away by it as well, and we may go to Canterbury, so Winchester and Salisbury are not at the top of my list (Cathedral/church overload). But I'll look into them more as well as your other ideas. Reading was just chosen when thinking about a place to pick up and return a car, and its proximityaccessibility to both Oxford and Heathrow, but Janis and others now have me thinking of not focusing so much about car pick-ups and drop-offs and also going towards the Cotswolds rather than south towards the Channel. As for our interests, a very sensible question!, having this chance to study, no matter how brief and non-demanding it may be, at Oxford is a huge dream come true for both of us so that's really what the trip is all about. The days pre- and post-Oxford are just icing on the cake. I was originally going to go in 2020 (you can imagine how that turned out), on my own, and had booked three nights in Torquay post-Oxford to follow in Agatha Christie's footsteps a bit as I am definitely a fan. As well, scenery in the Dartmouth area really appealed to me based solely on the BBC's show "The Coroner." (Yes, I know how that sounds.) But Agatha Christie's stories are not a passion of my mother's, and Dartmouth and Devon seem a bit far to travel to (?) and things I would have done there like biking and lots of walking are not on, so the Agatha-pilgrimage will have to wait for another time. All of which still does not really answer your question -- in essence, we're both curious people who would find just about anything interesting. Both of us are readers (although not particularly into Jane Austen), Liberal Arts types, and fairly clueless about science and technology. We will be taking a basic art history course at Oxford; the Thursday excursion is to the Courtauld Gallery. We are of Scottish protestant blood from way back and my parents go to a mainstream protestant church, but it's not Church of England, so Anglican Cathedrals, while interesting, are not a must-see. Finally, we both love the sea and my parents grew up next to the Atlantic on the other side of the ocean, so there is definitely a desire to visit an English seaside town. If this is not possible post-Oxford, then having lunch on a bus tour in someplace like Deal in Kent might be an okay substitute.

Is there a word limit to these posts?? LOL.

Kleeblatt, my parents both watch BBC (murder) mysteries basically daily, so the Cotswolds are definitely not a tough sell! She is also likely quite familiar with Oxford thanks to Morse. ;-) I'll be sure to mention a Midsommer Murders/ Father Brown binge-a-thon though in preparation for the trip.

Crellston, thanks for your input. As Janis says, we'll just get the car on August 12, the day we leave Oxford. I will look into Blenheim and other spots you mention. As I wrote above, I am interested in someplace close to water, so there's definitely an appeal to Lymington. Thanks for the recommendation.

Janis, thanks for the clarification about rental cars. I will go with the one-way idea -- sounds much easier and doesn't seem like it will break the bank.

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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 06:18 PM
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"Is there a word limit to these posts?? LOL."

Not really . . . but paragraph breaks would help

Do I understand your course is taking a day trip into London to visit the Courtauld? The Courtauld is great - especially after the re-design, ironic that you are traveling all the way from Oxford -- the Gallery is less than 1.5 miles from your hotel in London. So a very long coach trip for what you could have reached in an 8 minute cab ride.


I'll throw out a different idea than the Kent coach tour. Maybe consider taking the train to Brighton. A seaside town, the amazing Royal Pavilion, and an easy train trip.

No matter which direction you end up driving I would avoid Reading even if to just pick up a car. Reading station is in the center of the city and a slog to drive from/to. Oxford is anti-car -- however the rental agencies near the station are on the far west side of town and easy to get out to the west toward the Cotswolds. From say Hertz at the station it is less than 20 miles to Burford over a pretty direct/easy route. Stow-on-the Wold - would be about 30 miles.
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Old Mar 28th, 2023, 11:18 PM
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Great feedback

Do take time to go to a college chapel evening ceremony. Christchurch is not the only place with a pretty chapel and a quiet word with a Porter should get you a chance to join in with another college if this interests. Denominations with the CoE are pretty flexible as it ranges from low to high church and Chaplins are often barking anyway, so go for the choir and the carvings.

Time for the Ashmoleon?

Sea side... in my mind normally connected to walking. You could go to Poole harbour (one of the larger harbours in Europe, mainly a SSSI) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Site_o...tific_Interest which sounds technical but is very pretty and there are boat trips around the harbour etc. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attrac...t_England.html



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Old Mar 29th, 2023, 06:59 AM
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Janis, yes, that's correct about the Courtauld. Glad to hear your positive take on it. All of these types of one-week summer classes at Oxford have a field trip on the Thursday related to the course. Our art history tutor gets rave reviews so I'm sure it will be quite interesting having her guide us around some of the late 19th/early 20th century works that the course focuses on. (But, as you say, ironic that we're staying right in that area while we're in London.)

I'll look into Brighton. I've been there before. But that was in 1987...

Roger on Reading. Avoid.

Bilbo, thanks for the plug for Evensong. Apparently we can attend that at Christchurch so we'll make a point of doing that. The Ashmoleon is on our 'plan to visit' list as well. I'll look into Poole. Boat trips are always nice.

So I guess one possibility for August 12th - 16th would be to pick up a car in Oxford, wander down through the Cotswolds from Saturday morning to Sunday evening, then head towards the coast after breakfast on Monday. We could drive up to LHR after an early dinner on Tuesday, drop off the car, and stay overnight there. Our flight isn't until 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday, but probably it's too risky time-wise trying to drive or take public transportation into Heathrow from outside the capital area on that morning? There is, for example, a bus that goes from Southampton to Heathrow, leaving at 9 a.m. and arriving at 10:45...


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Old Mar 29th, 2023, 07:49 AM
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I'd want to be closer on the last day, but yes a wander south makes sense
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Old Mar 29th, 2023, 12:44 PM
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This may or may not affect your plans if you are potentially thinking of hiring a car from the railway station.in Oxford.

I will be staying in Oxford in May and planned to hire a car from near the railway station (I actually booked with Hertz off Botley Road) to head west for a bit of a road trip around the Cotswolds and back through South East England, returning the car to Heathrow. However, as stated in an earlier comment by Crellston, I learned that the whole of Botley Road will be closed from April to October due to reconstruction of a rail bridge, causing major disruption to traffic in that area. Botley Road is the main road which heads out West making a very simple exit from the railway station. I did consider that I could work my way around Oxford to find another way out but decided to flag it! I cancelled the booking and am now hiring a car from LHR and staying in accommodation with carparking half a mile from city centre but on a road coming in north from the A40. Exiting north back to the A40 then heading west appears to be straight forward.
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Old Mar 29th, 2023, 01:47 PM
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If Botley Rd is closed (see crellston's post up thread re works around the train station/west Oxford) I'd maybe check with Enterprise. They have a location near the Enysham Rd/B4044. and still an easy drive out towards the Cotswolds.
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Old Mar 29th, 2023, 09:58 PM
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Bilbo - closer on the last day, yes, probably the safest idea.

Kath, Janis and Crellston - wow, looking at the map and info put out by National Rail, etc., cutting off Botley Road really makes getting from Christchurch out to the A34 (where it meets the A420) difficult. But I guess we could get a taxi which would take us from Christchurch directly south down to the Southern Bypass Road and then up the A34 to the B4044 and Enterprise Car Rental. Looks like a huge detour (likely what you meant, Kath, when you talked about "working your way around Oxford"), but it's just 6 miles so pretty doable by taxi I guess. Or would this be some kind of huge traffic mess??
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Old Mar 30th, 2023, 01:16 AM
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"If Botley Rd is closed" Not sure why the if in bold, but barring a hugely unlikely U turn by the council and Network Rail, it is closing wef 11 April allegedly for seven months ( which probably means a year! )

"would this be some kind of huge traffic mess??" Jean, I fear you are probably correct. Locals are expecting traffic snarl ups as a result of the closure as drivers seek alternative routes in and out of the city centre. The journey from CC to Enterprise is certainly possible by taxi though it will clearly take a lot longer than normal.

It may be worth looking into Zipcar as they may have pick up locations close to where you are staying. A couple of rental companies do offer drop off and pick up options. I THINK Europcar offer this Ann maybe some of the other may offer this as a temporary measure as customers are going to find it difficult to use them given they are all located in much the same area.





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