There is nothing more pleasant than a stroll through Magdalen College’s grounds on a spring day, when the college is dazzling with daffodils, crocuses and other spring flowers. The surprise that awaits visitors after they emerge from a quiet cloister and step into the openness of the lawns is perhaps the most dramatic, as who could imagine this exuberance of nature to flourish in the heart of the busy city?
Many visitors have heard of Magdalen’s famous deer park, which has been established for over 300 years, but not many associate Magdalen as the home of the rare snake’s-head fritillary (also known as fritillaria meleagris), Oxfordshire’s iconic flower. This is not the only vulnerable plant which you will be able to admire upon your visit, as an enormous London plane tree, planted in 1801, can be found in the south-west corner of the lawn in front of New Buildings.
Magdalen’s display of fritillaries which mix with a variety of daisies and daffodils, must be one of the most impressive spectacles across Oxfordshire. Snake’s-head fritillaries, the most celebrated plants that are threatened and rare, occur in floodplain meadows flowering usually at the beginning of April.
In spring time the triangular meadow which lies to the east of the college, is filled with pink and white chequered bells which have been growing in here since about 1785. Don’t be surprised if you come across other names as snake’s-head fritillaries are aslo called: chess flower, chequered lily, chequered daffodil, drooping tulip and leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers);
Want to see more? Visit the full gallery to admire Magdalen College in spring time.
All around the edge of the meadow is a tree-lined path known as Addison’s Walk named after Joseph Addison, the early 18th-century poet, Spectator essayist and playwright who was a fellow at Magdalen. The long and picturesque path follows the River Cherwell while also offering good views of Magdalen Tower and Magdalen Bridge. Addison’s Walk is a delight at any time of the year, especially in spring when hundreds of daffodils, primroses, snowdrops and snake’s-head fritillaries are in blossom turning it into the most impressive sight.
This beautiful and tranquil path most likely dates from the 16th century, although the name Addison’s Walk has only been in use since the 19th century as originally it was called Water Walk. You can reach it via a gateway and a little bridge, and once entered you will be transformed into a completely different world where clocks become unimportant. The herd of fallow deer in Magdalen’s Grove is one of the most magical treasures in Oxford while the nearby woods provide opportunities for some of most spectacular wildlife.
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