This section in The Stripling Thames by Fred Thacker
Right bank. Camping 0.5 mile up Evenlode 01865 881081
Beneath this Evenlode, a litle river arising likewise out of Cotteswald, speedeth him into Isis,
which riveret in the very border of the Shire passeth by an ancient monument standing not far from his banke,
to wit, certaine huge stones placed in a round circle (the common people usually call them Rolle-rich stones,
and dreameth that they were sometimes men, by a wonderfull Metamorphosis turned into hard stones).
The draught of them, such as it is, portraied long since, heere I represent unto your view. For without all forme and shape they be, unaequal, and by long continuance of time much impaired.
The highest of them all, which without the circle looketh into the earth, they use to call The King, because he should have beene King of England (forsooth) if he had once seene Long Compton, a little towne so called lying beneath, and which a man, if he go some few pases forward may see.
Other five standing at the other side, touching as it were one another, they imagine to have beene Knights mounted on horsebacke, and the rest the army. But lo the foresaid portraiture.
Camden's Round Circle
These would I verily thinke to have beene the monument of some victorie, and haply erected by Rollo the Dane,
who afterwards conquered Normandie. For what time as he with his Danes and Normans troubled England with
depraedations, we read that the Danes joined battaile with the English thereby at Hoche Norton,
and afterwards fought a second time at Scier stane in Huiccia, which also I would deeme to be that
Mere-stone standing hard by for a land Marke and parting four shires, for so much doth that Saxon word
Schier-stane most plainly import. Certainly in an Exchequer booke the towne adjacent is called Rollen-drich,
whereas it is there specified Tursdan le Dispenser held land by serjeanty of the Kings dispensarie,
that is, to be the Kings Steward.
Evenlode passeth by no memorable thing else but La Bruere, now Bruern, sometime an Abbay of white Monkes; after hee hath runne a good long course taketh to him a brooke, neere unto which standeth Woodstocke, in the English Saxon language Wudestoc , that is, a woody place , where King Etheldred in times past held an assembly of the states of the Kingdome enacted lawes. And heere is one of the Kings houses full of State and magnificence, built by King Henrie the First, who adjoined also thereunto a very large part compassed round about with a stone wall, which John Rosse writeth to have beene the first parke in England, although we read once or twise even in Doomesday booke these words, parcus sylvestris bestiarum on other places. In which sense old Varro used the word parcus , which some thinke to be but a new word. But since that Parkes are growen to such a number that there be more of them in England than are to be found in all Christendome beside, so much were our ancestors ravished with an extraordinarie delight of hunting. Our Historians report that King Henrie the Second, being enamoured upon Rosamund Clifford, a Damosell so faire, so comely and well favoured without comparison, that her beautie did put all other women out of the Princes minde, in so much as now she was termed rosa mundi , that is The Rose of the world ; and for to hide her out of the sight of his Jealous Juno the Queene, he built a Labyrinth in this house, with many inexplicable windings backward and forward. Which notwithstanding is no where to be seene at this day. The towne it selfe, having nothing in it at all to shew, glorieth yet in this, that Geffrey Chaucer our English Homer was there bred and brought up. Of whom and our English Poets I may truly avouch that which that learned Italian said of Homer and the Greeke Poets,
This is the man whose sacred streame hath served all the crew
of Poets. Thence they dranke their fill, thence they their furies drew.
For hee, surpassing all others without question in wit, and leaving our smattering Poetasters by many degrees behind him,
When once himselfe the steepe hill top had woone,
At all the sort of them he laught anone
To see how they, the pitch thereof to gaine,
Puffing and blowing doe clamber up in vaine.
1859: The Thames, Mr & Mrs Hall
The distance from Ensham to Godstow Bridge is about three miles;
between these bridges we meet the Evenlode, a pleasant river, which,
rising on the edge of Worcestershire, and passing by Moreton-in-the-Marsh,
Charlbury, and Combe, and refreshing Blenheim Park, here joins
the Thames, and proceeds with it to Oxford.*
* The Evenlode receives the Glyme, and conveys it to the Thames; the Glyme takes it course through Blenheim Park, and waters the ancient town of Woodstock. The palace built by Henry II. is entirely gone, but "Rosamond's Well" still yields delicious draughts to the wayfarer. Several naiads of various ages are in attendance to welcome visitors. Of the house in which Chaucer lived and wrote, a few fragments remain in the garden of a modern dwelling. Of the manor-house, where Queen Elizabeth was some time imprisoned by her sister Mary, nothing now exists. Blenheim, however, takes the place of Woodstock "unsurpassed in clumsy magnificence and untruthful grandeur". The mansion contains many good pictures, which are heir-looms; the library is extensive, but unavailable for any useful purpose. Nature and Art have combined to make the grounds and gardens beautiful.
All along to the right of the river highway, we keep in sight the wooded heights of Witham — a pleasure enhanced by the numerous windings of the river, which exhibit the hill in every variety of form. This "bit" is the more valuable because of its rarity, as contrasting with the ordinary flatness and sameness of adjacent lands.*
* There is a tradition that King Otta had a castle on Witham Hill, which is confirmed by the Chronicle of the Monastery of Abingdon, as appears by the following extract, p. 8:—
"Bellum— inter Offam regem Merciorum et Kinewolfum regera Westsaxonum, tunc temiioris fectum erat castellum super montem de Witham."
The Chronicle adds that this war had the effect of driving from Witham a colony of nuns just settled there.
1909: The Stripling Thames, Fred Thacker -
A mile and a half above King's Weir the river Evenlode curves into the Thames on the Right bank,
the first above Oxford of all those romantic little twenty or thirty mile tributaries which
one day it may be my fortune, as it would assuredly be my delight, thoroughly to explore.
It runs a very torturous course of about thirty miles from a Worcestershire village of its own name; and it has, says Plot, nitrous waters like the Windrush.
Half a mile along Thames beyond its mouth, a now disused canal called "Cassington Cut" enters at "Cassington Lock". The spot is marked in my memory by heaps of sun bleached reeds. This canal joins the Evenlode about three miles up the course of the latter.
1916: Footbridge over the River Evenlode, Henry W Taunt
Evenlode Footbridge, Henry W Taunt, 1916
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12471
1885: The Royal River -
[The Evenlode] seems a poor insignificant stream as it delivers its waters through a reedy mouth to the Thames; but it has itself received the River Glyme, which passes through Woodstock and Blenheim Park, and feeds the large lake, now choked with weeds. The Evenlode is the last of the Cotswold offerings thus embodied in verse by Drayton:-
Clear Colne and lively Leech have down from Cotswold's plain,
At Lechlade linking hands, come likewise to support
The mother of great Thames. When, seeing the resort
From Cotswold Windrush scrowers; and with herself doth cast
The train to overtake; and therefore hies her fast
Through the Oxfordian fields; when (as the last of all
Those floods that into Thames out of our Cotswold fall,
(And farthest unto the north) bright Elnlode forth doth beare.
Although both originating from the same area, the Windrush and Evenlode surprisingly differ, they look the same type, but the Windrush is a happy river flowing through open lands, and the Evenlode through darker terrain, deeper valleys and thick woodlands.
Hilaire Belloc's The Evenlode
Listen to 'The Evenlode'
I will not try to reach again,
I will not set my sail alone,
To moor a boat bereft of men
At Yarnton's tiny docks of stone.
But I will sit beside the fire,
And put my hand before my eyes,
And trace, to fill my heart's desire,
The last of all our Odysseys.
The quiet evening kept her tryst:
Beneath an open sky we rode,
And passed into a wandering mist
Along the perfect Evenlode.
The tender Evenlode that makes
Her meadows hush to hear the sound
Of waters mingling in the brakes,
And binds my heart to English ground.
A lovely river, all alone,
She lingers in the hills and holds
A hundred little towns of stone,
Forgotten in the western wolds.
Hilaire Belloc also wrote The Historic Thames first published in 1914 when he was 44. This is not a work for the casual entertainment of the boating man. It examines the topographical, sociological, military and religious significance of the Thames. If, in it, there is any nonsense, it was clearly not intended!
Arthur H Vernede wrote this delightful poem about the places around here -
BY WINDRUSH, THAMES AND EVENLODE
What word-magician, more than man,
Silvanus, Faunus, Aegipan,
Or poet-godsire, unavowed,
Nameless himself, his haunts endowed
With names, delicious, quaint or queer
That sound like music in the ear
Of travellers who take the road
By Windrush, Thames and Evenlode?
I'd be contented with a hovel
At Ambrosden or Minster Lovell
Far from the flutters and the flicks,
A nook at Noke, a box at Bix.
I often ponder which would suit
Best of the Baldons, Marsh or Toot.
From Adderbury one could hop
To Adwell or to Addlestrop;
From Heythrop, Hook and Chipping Norton
There's all the Cotswolds to cavort on.
Though I aspire, when feeling lordly,
To Chastleton or Stratton Audley,
I'd be resigned to something smaller
At Filkins, Faringdon or Fawler.
At other times I set my heart on
Ewelme or Wychwood or Tadmarton
Or Duns or Great or Little Tew.
I wonder was it ever true
That folks at Oddington were fou?
Did men and cows at Cuddesdon chew
The cud? Was Horspath closed to cars?
Was Shotover a seat of Mars?
Seeking for slumber, one would not
Choose Nettlebed or Clattercot;
At Easington we'd sleep like logs,
And snore like pigs at Broughton Poggs.
How good to spend a summer's day
At Hampton Poyle and Hampton Gay,
Or fade and leave the world unseen
At Coombe or Weston-on-the-Green!
How sweet at Swerford-on-the-Swere
To linger for at least a year,
Or list the lazy waters lap
By Bablockhythe or Goring Gap,
Or, free from frenzy, fleet the time,
Glamoured at Glympton-on-the-Glyme!
1951: Edward Ardizzone -
Glorious weather again. The morning spent drying out, tidying
and paying a visit to a nearby pub for liquor.
In the afternoon we find the ideal site and stay there. We bathe and idle till dark.
At the entrance into the cut is the site of Cassington Lock of which little trace remains. The cut is a disused canal that joins the Evenlode about three miles up the very torturous course of that little stream.
1800-2: the Duke of Marlborough built a short canal from the Thames to a wharf on the Cassington to Eynsham road.
Further upstream, below Eynsham Lock was Eynsham Wharf Stream with a towing path on the north bank.
Eynsham poaching Song, Henry Leach -
Three Eynsham chaps went out one day,
To Lord Abingdon's Manor they made their way,
They took some dogs to catch some game,
And soon to Wytham Woods they came.
Laddie io laddie io Fol the rol lo ra laddie io
We had not long been beating there,
Before our spaniel put up a hare;
Up she jumped, and away she ran,
At the very same time, a pheasant sprang.
We had not beat the woods all through,
Before Barrett, the keeper, came in view;
When we saw the old beggar look,
We made our way to Cassington Brook.
When we got there 'twas full to the brim,
And you'd have laughed to see us swim:
Ten feet of water, if not more;
When we got out, our dogs came o'er.
Over hedges, ditches, gates and rails,
Our dogs followed after behind our heels.
If he had catched us, say what you will,
He'd have sent us all to Abingdon Jail.