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Here’s the real reason that thousands of Chinese tourists were flocking to Kidlington

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Dave Fawbert
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2016 has been full of mysterious events that we simply cannot fathom. Events that, a mere twelve months ago, we could not have possibly have imagined happening.

And – granted – this is probably not the biggest or most important of these, but it’s been foxing the nation’s amateur detectives ever since July. Just why were coachloads of Japanese and Chinese tourists descending on a seemingly nondescript village in Oxfordshire?

Residents of Kidlington first spotted the phenomenon in the summer, with tourists taking photos and knocking on doors for selfies with locals, with some thinking it could be something to do with Inspector Morse – famously set in nearby Oxford – or perhaps Harry Potter or Midsomer Murders – equally ‘British village’ phenomenon.

It was thought that the mystery had been cleared up in November, when it was reported that the tourists simply liked looking at the quiet houses and gardens of a sleepy English village, with a resident telling the BBC that, "Kidlington is apparently being marketed by Chinese tourist agencies as a beautiful English village on the way to Bicester Village shopping centre. Many of the visitors live in cities and love to see things like the hanging baskets and little flowers in people's gardens."

However, it seems that this was not the whole story, because now a new – and pretty convincing – theory has come to the fore.

Tour guide Sun Jianfeng has revealed to the New York Times that customers were being charged £53 for an optional Chinese language tour of neaby Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. However, many tourists had realised that an entry ticket on the day was only £24.90, so they were opting out of the ‘official’ ticket, and sneaking in while the coach was parked – a fair enough move when it was less than half the price.

To put a stop to this skullduggery, those who had declined to go as part of the official tour were being dropped off in Kidlington instead – which was far enough away from the palace to stop them walking there and taking the cheaper option.

One local agreed that this seemed the most likely explanation, saying, “I never believed all that stuff about being conned into thinking Harry Potter was filmed here or it was because Richard Branson used to live here. If I was having nearly £30 added on to the price of a ticket to have a tour guide take me round somewhere in China I'd probably want to save money too.”

However, it seems that, while this was the primary motive behind their arrival in the village, the previous explanation was not all wrong; Jianfeng confirmed that the tourists probably enjoyed their ‘real’ English experience. 

“The environment in the countryside in China isn’t so great. In Kidlington, the environment is great. You see farm fields and ranches here. Also, many newly built houses here have brick or brick-and-wood structures, which you no longer see very often in urban China.”

To be fair to Kidlington, it also has seven pubs, a 12th century church and the River Cherwell so, while it might not exactly be palatial, it’s got more than enough action going on to entertain the foreign masses.

[via New York Times]

(Images: Rex/Wikicommons)

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Dave Fawbert

ShortList.com staff writer Dave’s primary passions are pop, prose, punning and power ballads (and alliteration). A lower division football enthusiast and long-suffering cricket fan, he is one of only 110 people followed on Twitter by Chas Hodges from Chas ‘n’ Dave. Follow Dave on Twitter like Chas: @davefawbert

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