Recently, I moved to leafy, dreaming spires-filled, Oxford. I now have a garden with a tributary of the River Thames at the foot of it. A garden, after a long stint in London, is rather a fine thing. Also, Oxford is only an hour by train from London, and opens up the possibilities of Bicester, Banbury, Reading, Slough, Leamington Spa and all manner of places I’d frankly never considered visiting before too. (One day maybe I’ll even get out at Slough).
Oxford falls within the Network Railcard area. In fact, Oxford, Cambridge, Reading, Canterbury, Brighton, Salisbury, Southampton and London amongst others all fall within the Network Railcard Area. You have to go to a station, fill in a form and pay thirty quid for a card, but you don’t need a passport photo and you get a third off in the Network Railcard Area for a year if you are too old to be allowed a 16-25 railcard but not old enough for a senior railcard and are, erm, single so not in need of a Two Together Railcard.
Recently, I was invited to dinner at Whittle’s restaurant in Audley Binswood, a short taxi ride from Leamington Spa. I said yes partly because I’m interested to see what kind of place I might persuade my father to retire to. I’m open to suggestions of long tours abroad for people who don’t realise they are pushing 70.
Audley Binswood is a retirement village with a classy restaurant that’s open to the public. The gym looks like something out of the film Rebecca – with its stained glass windows and high ceilings. There is a pool with seating beside it where people can play chess. Massive oil paintings borrowed from museum collections hang from the walls of the pristinely-updated country house.
The restaurant is on the top level of the main building and the wine list is provided by Berry Brothers & Rudd – the really, really old wine shop in St James’ London. My palette likes smooth wines and dry yet fruity-ness (can you tell I’m not a wine buff?) so of everything I tasted, the Berry Bros. & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret came out tops for me.
The meatballs are excellent and the desserts were to a good cream-tea standard. The spread was what you’d expect from a quality hotel.
How to get to Audley Binswood
Audley Binswood from London
The cheapest tickets I could see for an evening journey a couple of weeks in advance were £12 return with Chiltern Railways – the interface isn’t as easy as I’d like – and the cheap fare at the top has usually gone, but I used the best fare finder and that was the cheapest.
Audley Binswood from Oxford
The cheapest tickets I could see for an evening journey a couple of weeks in advance were £11 return with Chiltern Railways.