— Thames Valley News (@HeartThamesNews) July 6, 2016
Kidlington is a large village in Oxfordshire, England, with a population of a little less than 14,000, according to the last census. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone. Kidlington is a fairly average English village and not an exceptionally remarkable place. Its Wikipedia page boasts of a local brass band and a number of local pubs and cafes. It once had a zoo, but it closed in 1937.
Despite a lack of obvious tourist attractions, Kidlington locals have recently been surprised to see busloads of foreign tourists arriving on their streets and taking photographs. And while residents aren't exactly upset, they certainly are confused.
"Who's idea was it to turn Benmead road into a tourist attraction??" the local Facebook group Spotted: Kidlington wrote on June 30. "Coachloads of Japanese tourists with their usual multiple cameras seem to weekly be turning up in Benmead road and proceed to pose for photos in peoples front gardens and against peoples cars parked in their drives?????"
The tourist influx didn't stop. Residents say scores of tourists have been turning up each week on Thursday.
Speaking to the local Oxford Mail newspaper, John Wheeler said he had spoken to the tourists and discovered most were, in fact, from China. "I asked if anybody spoke English, and one man who said his English name was Walter said they don’t have flowers in Beijing, just apartment blocks so don’t have houses like ours either. It was all new to them," Wheeler said.
"I personally haven’t taken any offense. It is hilarious," he added.
That seems to be a common reaction. While local Parish Council Chairman Maurice Billington told the Oxford Mail he had reported the matter to police, generally there seems to be little anger directed toward the visitors. Instead, the response has mostly been bewilderment. Why Kidlington? The village is pretty but not as picturesque as others nearby, and the tourists don't even appear to be interested in taking photographs of the oldest or most attractive houses.
Most efforts to talk to the tourists have been hamstrung by language barriers, so residents have been left to make their own theories. On the Spotted: Kidlington page, a number of ideas have sprung up: "Could it be possible that Kidlington mean something completely different in their language?" wrote one user, before pointing to a town in Austria with an unfortunate name that has become popular with tourists. Others noted that the village was near the Bicester Village shopping outlet and on the way to Oxford University.
Another theory noted that the town has been used as a location in a number of British works of fiction, including one of the popular Inspector Morse detective novels and the Harry Potter films. Or could there be some kind of celebrity tie to the area? Some residents said billionaire Richard Branson had some links to the area.
"It's supposed to be the biggest village in Europe, so that might be the reason," Billington told the Oxford Mail. “They always come on Thursdays because that’s when the bins go out," resident Michael Parsons told the Telegraph. "I have seen them taking photos of the dustbins."
Whatever the reason for the tourists' visits to Kidlington, locals are now having to deal with another set of visitors: journalists. This Thursday, a scrum of reporters from various media outlets turned up in the city, hoping to catch sight of the tourists. The journalists were left disappointed when no tourists arrived.
— Kieran Davey (@OxMailKieranD) July 7, 2016
Waiting on a random street in Kidlington for a non-existent bunch of Chinese tourists pic.twitter.com/D0GwAXMebe
— Steve Cottrell (@seeingeyetv) July 7, 2016
The influx of journalists seems to have lent the whole thing an element of the surreal. Some locals are now wondering if the tourist visits were a prank, pulled off by local students.
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