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Banbury >  Google™ Map Sep 2021  Oxfordshire Coat of Arms

banna (personal name) + burh Old English (a) fortified place. Population - 46,853.

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Sep 2021

Oxfordshire Coat of Arms

Right then, let's nip this elephant in the bud. Here's Banbury Cross and here's a fine lady upon a white horse or rather a bronze one and inexplicably snapped from the back.

Banbury Cross
Banbury Cross

But why ride all the way here by 'cock' horse, whatever that is, to see what she's up to, whoever she is, and what's with the bells on the toes? Here's the thing. Nobody else seems to know why, neither.

The children's nursery rhyme is rooted in something much older with rumours of Lady Godiva, puritanical purges and pagan fertility festivals rife. With nobody any the wiser that looks to be Banbury done so it's time to move on, next!

Oh! Hang on! There appears to be a sizeable town here and it's going to need a right good looking at.

Except it's a town that's already had a reasonably good looking at thanks to a, quite frankly, unnecessary road closure and a diversion through a crawling one-way system having been irritatingly close to touching the lodgings.

That's 20 minutes that won't be gotten back meaning the Saturday market is all but packed up by mid-afternoon, shame.

Banbury - Market Place

That's never a good first impression but it's bet this place was packed earlier, probably, and perhaps there are more permanent pickings to be had behind the formidable frontage of the former Corn Exchange?

  Whately Hall Hotel (Horse Fair)

The lodgings in question are the Whately Hall Hotel, a building that dates from 1677, they say.

Banbury - Whately Hall Hotel

That makes for an inevitable priest hole and ghost although they're unlikely to be encountered in the modern block round the back.

Still, the wedding party were less noisy than expected and there's a marvellous-looking back garden to sit and relax in when things are back fully up and running following you-know-what.

Meanwhile, back at the front of the former Corn Exchange, the front is just that, a facade to the modern Castle Quay Shopping Centre that, sorry Banbury, could just about be anywhere.

Inside here, however, is a big clue as to exactly where you are although the fine lady appears to have left her white horse while she pops to the shops.

Banbury - Castle Quay Shopping Centre

No sound of any bells, though, so she must be sat in a Costa™s sipping a coffee although other purveyors are available.

  VanJordans Coffee House (10 Horse Fair)

Plenty of other purveyors, actually, they love a coffee and a caff here in Banbury. It's little late in the day for an all-day breakfast so the old-skool lure of Jenny's will have to wait until tomorrow morning, maybe.

SlyBob's pick, however, is VanJordans Coffee House that's back near Banbury Cross. They're rightly proud of their percolating with a nice line in classic cakes if it's a little latte in the day, eh?

Meanwhile, back at the back of the Castle Quay Shopping Centre, there's a bit of a hipster zone with outdoor seating on which to ingest your kombucha and plant-based snack.

The unexpected waterway is a treat and will get you down to Oxford, what with this being the Oxford Canal.

Banbury - Oxford Canal
Banbury - Oxford Canal

The farthest SlyBob got was the back of H&M™s and the bus station but you can also walk to Coventry or thereabouts at roughly the same rate of knots along its 77-mile towpath.

Once a vital link from London to the Midlands, the railways and some, erm, 'cost-saving' construction saw to its inevitable decline. There's not much by way of traffic today, neither, but the first weekend in October brings Banbury Canal Day. This looks to recreate the canalside bustle of the Industrial Revolution just with face painting and burger vans.

Less scrupulous destination attractors might lay claim to being in the Cotswolds but Banbury is being brutally honest with 'The edge of' the Cotswolds. That's not strictly necessary since everybody has heard of the Cotswolds but absolutely nobody really knows where the Cotswolds really are, really.

That means Banbury is no Bourton-on-the-Water, say, but there are more than enough twisty lanes to maintain your interest.

Banbury - Parson's Street

Church Lane, not shown, is a hotspot for hipsters and they're hogging the the Apothecary Tap to slurp their hazy pales. That means it's standing room only and no room for Bob who would struggle to sprout a foot-long beard in a lifetime never mind in their early twenties.

There's a chance to get inked at no less than three tattoo parlours meaning the local sign suppliers are right out of Ts and Os, which is a shame because SlyBob have had a brilliant business idea. Banbury could do with a rival to Spudulike™ but 'Top Potatoes' won't be opening anying soon.

There is, dare it be said, rather more diversity than you might find elsewhere in and around the Wolds and there's a Polish supermarket here that's the size of an out-of-town Tesco™s.

One understands the homesick hankering for a dumpling or a fine selection of sweetmeats not seen before but is bottled water from Warsaw really so superior? That leaves a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth, air miles-wise, eh?

  Voujon (22 South Bar Street)

Traditional Georgian townhouses line the main road in from the south but the opposite pavement provides a chance to partake in an activity that's even more traditional.

Banbury - South Bar Street

Yes, a visit to a random Indian Restaurant in an unfamiliar town and advising trippers, and they themselves, suggest this is the best. That's hard to argue with, the Tawa special served on a sizzling silver platter and the owner's patter peppered with references to South Shields.

Pre and post-prandial potions are provided just down at The Swan with an outdoor area and nostalgic New Wave noises from the late 70s and early 80s. A near-perfect combination with the naans.

All fairly pleasant, it's thought you'll agree, but having had time to reflect there's something niggling and it just won't go away. Not bottled, Polish water or unnecessary road closures but what the heck, exactly, is a 'cock' horse?

It might be, quite literally, an ungelded and lively stallion or to 'ride a cock' is to sit astride or it might be a child's hobby horse although that's a long way to go if you don't already live in Banbury.

The cross, itself, is tiny, insignificant even, sitting atop a monument to commemorate the marriage of one of Queen Vic's daughters, no less, and it didn't even exist until 1859.

The original cross, it's thought, sat in front of the former Corn Exchange and was destroyed by religious radicals in 1600, so predates the modern nursery rhyme by nearly 200 years.

Sorry to spoil it kids but hey, what else are you going to ponder when stuck in traffic thanks to a, quite frankly, unnecessary road closure?

  The Exchange (High Street) wetherspoon

The Spoons have a tradition of naming their pubs based on the history of the town or the old building they invariably inhabit. The inevitable offering in a town of this size is called the Exchange since this was formerly a telephone exchange.

There are no awards for their nearly-out-of-date ale but the Director of Contrived Waterhole Naming only gets a feeble (1/5) for some, quite frankly, flimsy research. Deary me, they might as well have called it the Cock Horse.