Blog: Scholars Trip - Oxford & Stratford
On the first day of the scholars trip, the 8 academic scholars enjoyed a private tour of Williams Grand Prix headquarters - one of the world's most successful teams with 16 constructors' championships and 9 world champions. They saw the development of the Grand Prix cars over the years and were treated to lessons in G-force, aerodynamics, and airflow, and striking the balance between speed and safety. Everybody had a go on the 'Quick Responses' machine. GP drivers are expected to score between 60 and 70 touches in 30 secs and top scorer from Sandroyd clocked an impressive 44. On leaving, they enjoyed a picnic by the Thames, before visiting some Oxford Colleges and the Ashmolean Museum.
We started the morning by visiting the athletic track where Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile and then it was off to Oxford to learn all about the Bodleian Library, including the Divinity Hall featured in Harry Potter. We wandered through the Covered Market, before visiting the Natural History Museum with its dinosaurs and stuffed Dodo. Lurking at the back, the eclectic and fascinating Pitt-Rivers Museum transported the scholars into a world of shrunken heads, totem poles, witches in bottles and a gory array of weapons. We then had the private tour of Merton, and saw the table outlooking the meadows where Tolkein and C.S Lewis mused over Middle Earth and Narnia. The day was completed by a trip to the cinema to see 'Aladdin'.
We left Oxford early morning to head north to Blenheim. The scholars were amazed by the scale and ostentatious furnishings of the Palace, and the beauty of the grounds with its lakes, statutes, bridges and Italian gardens. I heard the story of Winston Churchill birth and his lifelong connection with the Palace. At lunch, we played chess in the grounds and it was not long before they cracked the secrets of the maze - it is meant to take 25 minutes to find your way out and Sandroyd posted a record time of 2mins 42secs! Heading further north, the scholars stopped to meet Richard Smith, Farm Manager at Daylesford Organics. It was fascinating to listen to someone so passionate about organic farming and to gain an understanding of the business challenges and opportunities. It was impressive to hear how Daylesford has grown and diversified, and is appealing to and tackling the hot issues of the environment, health, and sustainability. The scholars were also privileged to watch Richard working his young collie, Ash, to shepherd the sheep. From there, it was a short journey to Stratford on Avon.
Today we spent all day in Stratford on Avon. First we visited Shakespeare's birthplace and saw the bed and room in which he was born. He was a son of a glover living in a two up, two down cottage, and from these humble beginnings he went on to become the world's greatest playwright. After lunch at Zizzi's, we caught a matinee of 'As You Like It' at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was a truly spellbinding performance with a captivating Rosalind and a hilarious Touchstone. We were lucky enough to meet Rosalind played by Lucy Phelps at the Stage Door. We walked down the River Avon to Holy Trinity Church to pay homage to great bard at his grave. We finished the day by going on Stratford's Big Wheel with fabulous views down the Avon, over the RSC and the town, and then playing ultimate frisbee in the evening sunshine.
After an early wake-up call, we left Stratford for Bletchley Park - home to Alan Turing and the codebreakers during the WW2. It was fascinating to see all the secret work they were engaged in trying to crack the German Enigma codes and we saw the Bombe machine that is considered to have sparked the invention of the computer. It was particularly pertinent to be visiting on the anniversary of D-Day as it was due to the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park that the Germans falsely believed that the attack would take place at Calais. Tati found a picture of her ancestor William Gordon Welchman, who worked as a codebreaker at Bletchley. We then headed off to the beach, however, we were diverted to Splashdown due to the weather to meet their Yr8 friends, who had just finished CE. This finished 5 days when the scholars were given the opportunity to engage in engineering, literature, mathematics, agriculture, history, and further university education.