"Sunderland Avenue" Oxford Things to Do Tip by KennetRose

Oxford Things to Do: 426 reviews and 770 photos

  The hornbeam trees
by KennetRose

This is well away from the tourist Oxford - right up the Banbury Road as far as the Oxford Ring Road. The point of literary interest is the avenue of hornbeam trees.

We first meet Will Parry, Lyra's companion in her quest, in the opening chapter of The Subtle Knife. Tired and lost and on the run after bringing about the death of a Special Branch officer seeking information about his missing father, he finds himself on the Ring Road at midnight, where he sees these trees. "Planted along the grass at the road's edge were two lines of hornbeam trees, odd-looking things with perfectly symmetrical close-leafed crowns, more like children's drawings than like real trees..."

Under the trees is something even odder, as Will discovers when he follows a cat which vanishes. "It looked as if somebody had cut a patch out of the air". Through the patch Will steps into Cittagazze, a Mediterranean city in another universe where he will have his fateful meeting with Lyra. Through here too, Lyra will step into our universe in the morning rush hour, nearly getting herself run over in the process. And through here will pass Dr Mary Malone, particle physicist and former nun, on her way to play the serpent in a strange reenactment of the story of Adam and Eve in an even stranger Garden of Eden...

The scene, with its vanishing cat and the following of an animal through a hole into a surreal world, contains another teasing allusion to an Oxford writer, the most famous of them all, Lewis Carroll.

I confess that I've been a bit playful myself, with the photograph.

Directions: At the North end of the Banbury Road, by the Cuttesloe Roundabout

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jun 4, 2003
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