A Thinking Man’s Guide to Oxford

I’ve come to love lazy paddles. It’s a mindset, an ease, deep breaths. The purpose isn’t to see how far you can go, but to float; to enjoy time on the water; to look for birds, or treasure; to talk; enjoy a beverage; watch the sunset.

Last evening’s lazy paddle netted an Eastern Kingbird sighting (a first), Bald Eagle and Ospreys, multiple Great Blue Herons and Green Herons, either a sandpiper or sanderling scurying along rip-rap; a majestic sunset on the river; rich amarena cherry ice cream, pulling up to the Scottish Highland Creamery by kayak; and a full moon rising over Town Creek.

Other than the ice cream, the evening cost nothing. As we were floating and the sun was teasing some clouds, I said, “Most people don’t do this.” It seemed a shame. I was grateful to share it all. Lazy paddles hold the key to how to enjoy Oxford.

Oxford, Md., is a town with pricey real estate values. It’s not full of shops or things to check off your agenda.  But if you don’t need a guide book to tell you what to do; you are good with self-guided and easy-paced; Oxford has no end to what it can offer the thinking visitor or resident.

Benches

2016 oxford park bench

All over town there are park benches sitting alongside the waterfront. Some of them are obviously located, some of them take some searching. Where there is a bench, it is public access. Take a load off, sit down. Watch the water. Read. There are benches at small beaches. Gives you more reason to explore.

Oxford Park

2016 Oxford Park collage

The park is the crown jewel of the town. It’s a shady lunch spot after a bike ride. It’s a playground for kids. The living shoreline is a study in fighting erosion, while also leaving some beach for kids to play on and rocks full of periwinkles to explore. It’s the first image that comes to my mind when someone says the word, “park.” It’s changed a bit over time, but the soul of the place is still the same. It’s easy to build your day around Oxford’s park.

The Strand

2016 Harper Strand

Over the past couple years, the beach end of the Strand, just down from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, seems to have become a local hot spot. When my girls asked why everyone went to the beach at the Strand, I asked them to tell me where there was another public beach in Talbot County. At this point the sea nettles have taken hold for the summer, but the beach is still full of folks setting up picnics, putting in kayaks, paddleboards, or rafts, and taking advantage of a shallow, scenic expanse of beach. There aren’t many to be found in the area.

Architecture

St Pauls Church

Oxford is not a town that overwhelms you. But it will expand your soul if you slow down and take it all in. The churches, the houses, the boat yards, and restaurants, all speak to and from the water that surrounds them, and walking the few miles around town never fails to slow down my heart rate and put a smile on my face.

Community

OCC in Spring

One thing you can learn pretty quickly about Oxford, is that it is an odd mix of people, odd being a good quality. In a quick cruise through town, you’re likely to meet watermen, restaurant workers, landscapers, retired folks from various walks of life, volunteer fire fighters, artists; you still find kids on skateboards or riding bikes, and the lunch crowd waiting in line at the Oxford Market‘s deli, is equal parts blue and white collar.

If you are just giving the town a once-through, maybe you don’t catch that, but I think you will. And if you decide you dig the town and make more than one trip, or become a frequent visitor or resident, you will find out for sure. A family recently moved from Los Angeles to Oxford, citing the feeling of community as one of the reasons for their move. I get what they say and felt.

I wouldn’t be doing my day job if I didn’t make mention of the Oxford Community Center. Any place that you can go, for free, and watch The Big Lebowski on the big screen; see Shakespeare performed on the lawn; catch a lecture or concert; see a World War II photography exhibit; or be a part of a community potluck dinner, is worth looking into.

Outside

2016 TC sunset

Oxford has its icons. Those places and activities like taking a ride across the river on the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. Or eating steamed crabs and taking in the sunset at The Masthead at Pier Street.  Or fine dining at The Robert Morris Inn. Each of those things is a singular and signature Oxford experience.

But this is a “thinking man’s guide to Oxford,” because it is about free and low cost means of finding out what the town is about. Oxford is more than just going out to eat or a place to tie a boat up. It is a place to savor slowly.

Between a 5-mile running loop I have around town, walking dogs, biking for ice cream or a beer at a dock bar, I tend to cover some miles through town, and almost always find something new to take pictures of. I find reading perches and sunrise and sunset vantage points.

Oxford is a town I fall in love with anew every day because I find different ways to be outside in and around it. Like a lazy sunset paddle and ice cream. Best enjoyed when shared.

Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the director of the Oxford Community Center by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, trying to share my walk and story.

8 thoughts on “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Oxford”

  1. Enjoyed reading your article from down in Tar Heel Country, from the land locked city of Raleigh. Well done!
    Makes me long for the little hamlet I called home for my youth, but allowed me another brief visit for a while through your prose. Give your father my regards!

  2. Awesome job Mike. I enjoyed reading your guide and i couldn’t agree with you more on your views on Oxford. It is a magical place, maybe not everyone gets it, but i do and with that i am proud to have grown up on the shore in Talbot county, working in Oxford and living there from time to time as well. I forever will be shore proud even if i don’t live there now.

  3. Michael “Mikey” as I fondly remember our youth, I can’t help but wonder how you could omit the sandbox in your backyard as part of the thinking man’s guide. Many battles were portrayed with plastic, green, army men. Tonka toys littered the surface and roads were built for matchbox cars. Your Mom treated me to my first (not last) fried pb&j sandwich. We had great times in our youth enjoying Jack’s Point. This was my first (not last) visit to your artistic muse. Thank you for bringing back memories of one of my favorite places on Earth. I’m sure there is an “Oxford Park” in Heaven. It will be only a few streets of gold from “The Strand”.

    1. Ha, Jon, so funny, was talking about you not that long ago when I met another Abbott at the Community Center, who grew up in Oxford, went to the Oxford school, a bit older than we are. I mostly remember you on a bike, careening around the corner of Richardson St onto Bonfield Ave at high speed 🙂 Alas, the sandbox is no longer.

      1. My sister Jen remembers more than me about the school. She attended at least one year there and I think my class was the first to not attend. In reflection, kinda sorry I missed out. Still a lot of fond memories of Oxford and Talbot Co. I really appreciate your blog. It makes me smile and reminds me of a much slower pace. On a side note, KB is one of my favorite Bay Hundred ladies and glad to see she found a kindred spirit to share life.

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