Port Meadow – Oxford, England - Atlas Obscura

Oxford, England

Port Meadow

Legend says this public grazing area hasn't been plowed for thousands of years.  

Port Meadow is a large common land area in the middle of Oxford, which has allegedly never been plowed at least since the prehistoric period. It has been used for free pasture since the Saxon times, according to the records in the Domesday Book.

The meadow is used for horses and cattle even to this day. You could easily find ungulates grazing here, along with a plethora of wildfowl such as geese, plovers, shelducks, and teals.

According to legend, the land was gifted to the Freemen of the city by Alfred the Great as a reward for taking part in the defense of the kingdom against Dane invaders. However, this theory is considered unlikely. 

There are quite a few well-preserved archaeological and historical sites across the meadow, including the remains of Bronze Age burial mounds, Iron Age dwellings, foundations of English Civil War-era fortifications, and stone bridges built for horse racing in the 17th and 18th centuries, fortifications from the English Civil War era, and stone bridges built for horse racing in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While not widely known, it is also an important site in the history of literature. On July 4, 1862, a mathematician named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took the three daughters of Henry Liddell, dean of Christ Church, on a now-famous boat trip from Folly Bridge to the village of Godstow, passing along Port Meadow. At one point, requested by the second daughter, Alice, Dodgson improvised and told a fantasy story “with nonsense in it,” the strange adventures of a curious little girl named Alice. This story was published three years later under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and became one of the most beloved classics in the world.

Know Before You Go

When visiting, be aware of horses and cattle and keep your dogs under control. Please do not approach or harass the animals. Be careful about your footing, especially in winter, when the meadow sometimes becomes flooded.

Community Discussion