Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Things to see and do in Banbury

Having spend quite a bit of time exploring Banbury on our recent cruise, I thought I’d pass on a few things to look out for, all within walking distance from the canal.

First the stuff you already half know about.

Well of course there’s Banbury Cross.  Not having a cock horse we walked up that way. Some people never get that far, but if you can manage to walk past Wetherspoons in High Street without going in, you’ll be at the cross in half a minute.  Banbury used to have three crosses, used as places of pilgrimage until 1600 when the puritans demolished them.  The current one is Victorian and is a typical Victorian gothic edifice.  Perhaps a bit more exciting is the statue of “A fine lady on her cock horse” just over the road.

Another place rescued from architectural vandalism is the Globe Room at the back of the Reine Deer Inn.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about this lovely old room where Olly Cromwell is said to have planned the battle of Edgehill is that it survives at all!  In 1810 the brewery tried to flog it off to Americans or whoever, but a campaign, which seems to have gone national, fought the sale, then some of the oak panels and windows were sold, only to be bought back again.  It’s a good yarn and you can read the story here. Or you can visit the pub and have your meal in there.

Then of course there are Banbury cakes which you can buy in some of the bakery shops. Pretty much like Eccles cakes but more oval and having a touch more spice.  The recipe goes back to 1586 they say.

Now stuff you might not know about.

Turn right (North) at Banbury cross and walk a couple of hundred yards up Horsefair (A361) and have a butchers at St Mary’s Church, it’s well worth it.

Image result for st mary's banbury

We’ve walked past it a few times before, but this time, we went in.  Wow!




Not yer typically English church is it? Does it look Italian or am I wrong? Except perhaps for those lovely box pews According to the two ladies who were looking after the place when we went in, the organ is a belter and when the place is full at Christmas the atmosphere and the sound is great.  Well, not quite full, because the Fire regulations won’t let anyone  sit forward of that pillar you can see in the middle of the upper seats.  It’s the same the other side.We thought it was perhaps because of the weight, but no, it’s because there is only one small exit door to the stairs.  Anyhow, well worth looking in.

Then lastly, right next to the canal to the south of the town centre, comes a smell familiar and evocative to anyone who has ever been involved in iron casting. Mmmm I love it. The Swan Foundry.  You can’t go in for a look so you just have to peer across the canal at the moulding cases and smell the burnt sand.  Foundries are fascinating places but a health and safety nightmare I would think.  The interesting thing is that although this foundry is primarily involved in iron mouldings, they also have a facility (whether here in Banbury or not, I can’t tell) for making propellers. 

Standard Scale

But don’t get excited folks, look closely and you’ll see these wouldn’t fit a narrowboat, for it seems these propellers are for model boats only.  High precision things made by the lost wax process. However, if you’re thinking of making a working model boat, look ‘em up here. It looks like they’re the biz.


Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Very interesting, Neil. And how simple to miss those things we see regularly. When David and I lived in Church Enstone, we often came to Banbury along the A 361, and I never even thought about the interior of the buildings we passed.

Next year, on the cut, all that will change! Lots more walking and investigating are on the menu!

Cheers, Marilyn

PS Apropos a previous exchange re apple cider vinegar - I consulted a man who makes it - only has apples, honey and water, so beautifully natural!

Herbie Neil said...

Happy to have helped inspire your future explorations. As to your cider vinegar, well it illustrates my point perfectly. The ingredients look healthy enough, but if they were in a packet showing their chemical constituents, that would have to show that the apples contain Alpha-Linolenic-Acid, Asparagine, D-Categin, Isoqurctrin, Hyperoside, Ferulic-Acid, Farnesene, Neoxathin, Phosphatidyl-Choline, Reynoutrin, Sinapic-Acid, Caffeic-Acid, Chlorogenic-Acid, P-Hydroxy-Benzoic-Acid, P-Coumaric-Acid, Avicularin, Lutein, Quercitin, Rutin, Ursolic-Acid, Protocatechuic-Acid, and Silver. Most of these are not harmful, any more than lots of the other chemicals on food labels. However there are very nasty “natural” things in there too. When apples are pressed for juice they release Amygdaline - a cyanide and often a nasty mycotoxin called patulin, and of course if the apples had been sprayed with insecticide, and most of them are, then goodness knows what else. If they were a synthetic product they probably wouldn’t be allowed. And as to the honey, well recent studies into Australian honeys show that 70% of them contained potentially harmful natural toxins that exceed international safety levels. The toxins are called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs), which are known to cause liver damage in humans, and are suspected to lead to cancer when consumed in high doses. All “natural” of course, these chemicals naturally occur in the nectar of many flowers. Many of the honey samples studied contained over four times the permitted safe levels. Who is to say the European honeys don’t contain equally nasty things?

And as for water, don’t get me started, take out the poisonous chlorine and fluorides, and overdoses of certain minerals and you are still left with DiHydrogen Monoxide (look it up for a laugh) which is the single biggest killer chemical on the planet.

Me? I just eat and drink what I like. And that includes all three of the above and plenty else besides. Variety is the key. Just remember, just because something is "natural", it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily any safer than anything else. BTW everything, repeat everything, ever made in a chemistry lab starts off somewhere with a raw ingredient which is either animal, vegetable or mineral and completely natural. And a lot of it is quite nasty.

Have fun and do look up the DiHydrogen Monoxide site if you've not seen it before, it's brilliant.



Herbie Neil said...

Marilyn, please forgive my previous rant. I'm an incorrigible devil's advocate and can't resist rising to the bait, just ask Kath, so don't take it personally. Just for the record, being brought up as the son of a fruit and veg grower, I am a great advocate of fresh food, unfortunately I like it too much which is why I am so overweight.