A montage of photographs showing participants in The Big Merton 1264 Challenge

Join us for The Big Merton 1264 Challenge

To bring our entire community together during this difficult period, we've launched The Big Merton 1264 Challenge, a chance to have fun, inspire one another, and raise money for two important causes.

Under the hammer
'Honeybee' by John Carey

This magnificent print of a honeybee is by Emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature John Carey FBA, who has very kindly offered it to us to auction for The Big Merton 1264 Challenge. John says:

"I have been a beekeeper for some 45 years. When we bought our cottage in the Cotswolds we wanted to plant fruit trees, and the then Professor of Zoology, a Fellow of Merton, who was a beekeeper, told me I must keep bees for pollination. So I have ever since. Our sons, when tiny, had little bee suits, and helped.

"I joined a print-making workshop about 15 years ago. The workshop, The Oxford Printmakers Co-operative, was founded by a group of women, one of whom was the wife of a fellow of Merton, Michael Bowler. They run courses in etching and other print techniques. I did the etching course and, later, a screen printing course. When you have got a portfolio together you show it to the committee and if they think you are good enough you become a keyholder, which means you can use the workshop at any time.

"Most of my prints have been etchings, but recently, with the help of one of the technicians, I tried rolling a thinned colour over the etching. The bee is one result."

The print measures c.18 x c.13cm (7" x 5") and is unframed. John has also said he will gladly add a couple of pots of honey to the bee, "but I cannot guarantee she helped collect the honey."

How to bid

We are holding a sealed-bid auction for John's print, and with John's agreement, the bidding will open at £126.40. If you wish to place a bid, please email development@merton.ox.ac.uk with the subject line "Bee Print Auction". Bidding will close at 3:22pm on Thursday 28 May 2020 - the highest bid received will win the print and honey.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!

The small print

  • Bidders should know that placing a bid is a formal offer, and once accepted, it is a contract to purchase the item.
  • By submitting a bid you are agreeing we can contact you in connection with this sealed-bid auction.
  • We will keep careful records of each bid and will contact each bidder to let them know whether or not their bid was successful.
  • The winning bidder will have the right to decide how the proceeds of the auction are dispersed between the two causes that The Big Merton 1264 Challenge is raising funds for.
  • The cost of delivering the print and honey to the winning bidder will be met by the College.
The Big Merton 1264 Challenge

Taking a lead from the year the College was founded, our students have put their heads together and come up with a whole array of different events that you can participate in, ranging from short and simple - 12 minutes’ meditation - to more challenging - running 12.64 miles.

Starting this Saturday, 16 May at 00:00 (UK time), and continuing up until 15:22 on Thursday 28 May - i.e. 12.64 days later - we're calling on all Mertonians past and present, our staff and Fellows to:

  • Take up a 1264-related challenge – either one of those listed below, or an idea of your own
  • Share the results when you're done - a photo, video, or just a note of what you did and how long it's taken you - either
    • By posting on our Facebook event page, or elsewhere on social media using the hashtag #1264Challenge, or
    • By emailing facebook@merton.ox.ac.uk*
  • Make a donation to one of our chosen causes – the Merton Hardship Fund [DONATE NOW] and Oxford Mutual Aid [DONATE NOW]
Merton Hardship Fund

The coronavirus pandemic is a once-in-a-generation challenge. Many in our community are facing significant financial hardship, and we anticipate that the need for support will only increase in the coming weeks, months and possibly years. A gift of any size will provide immediate help to those experiencing distress due to changes in personal and family circumstances.

You will ensure that all our students have the financial and welfare support they need to successfully complete their studies under very challenging conditions. You will also help us to respond to the needs of our fantastic staff, as well as other members of the College and our alumni as they arise in the coming years.

Merton has faced many crises during its 755-year history. With your involvement, we are confident that our whole community will overcome the unprecedented challenge of this pandemic.

[If you are resident in the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, or an EU member state, and wish to give tax-effectively, please donate via our Make a gift page.]

Oxford Mutual Aid

Over a thousand volunteers in Oxford are working seven days a week to get food and medicine to families and individuals in need, as well as NHS staff and other key workers. So far they've helped 11 pregnant women and new mothers, supplied food to over 200 local families, and delivered over 1,500 meals to NHS staff.

Every pound you give will go towards purchasing and distributing aid to those who need it. Oxford Mutual Aid is working alongside many local charities and organizations, including the Oxford Hub, the Trussell Trust, Ark-T, Asylum Welcome, SOFEA food larders, Age UK, Refugee Resource, and local churches and GP services.

How to get involved

Here's our list of suggested ways to join in the Big Merton 1264 Challenge - but if you come up with something different, then give it a go and let us know! Remember to use the hashtag #1264Challenge - and be sure to maintain social distancing at all times.


  • Run 12.64 miles/km, or 1,264 metres - or do this as a relay team, with a 'virtual baton'
  • Do 1,264 (or 126) keepie-uppies
  • Complete 1,264 (or 126) rugby passes
  • Row 12.64 miles/km
  • Cycle 12.64 miles/km
  • Complete a rally of 126 at table tennis (this is a real challenge!)
  • 126 press-ups/sit-ups (this could be over 12 hours!)
  • Run up and down the stairs 126 times (or 12 times), or run up 126 stairs
  • 1,264 steps in a day


  • Bake 12 Cookies
  • Make 1,264g - or even 12.6 kgs! - of pasta
  • Bake a cake commemorating the year 1264


  • Do a 12-minute sketch - or paint something in 1,264 minutes
  • View 126 pieces of art online
  • Take 126 photos of your surroundings
  • Make art commemorating 1264


  • Meditate for 12 minutes
  • Stroke your pet 12 times (or 126 times if you are feeling very lovable!)
  • Play a video game for 12 minutes


  • Make a playlist with 126 songs
  • Play your instrument for 12 minutes
  • Learn 12 new songs/pieces
  • Mix for 12 minutes
  • Write about your favourite 12 composers

We're excited to see what you come up with, be sure to share it using the hashtag #1264Challenge with as many people as you can - and ask them to donate too - and be sure to check in here regularly to see how your fellow participants are getting on.

* Please ensure you have obtained permission to do so from those depicted in any photographs, and please confirm that you are happy for us to publish any submitted material on this website and/or on our social media channels – thank you. [back]

Event calendar

Here's what's planned - why not join in with one at the same time, and post the results on our Facebook event page? And let us know if you want to add your event or activity to this list.


Date Activity
by Thursday 28 Tutor in Spanish Dr Alice Brooke has organised a relay - she and 15 other SCR members have been running, walking and cycling; by Friday 22 they had already reached a total of 505.6 km (4 x 126.4 km!) and were pressing on...Alice Brooke in her running kit
by Thursday 28 Yvette Siegert (MCR) is "slowly creating a poem made up entirely of found text from a translation of Book IV of St Thomas Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles, a section that he most likely completed in 1264. Aiming for an estimated syllabic count around 1,264, but please don't expect any miracles on that front."
by Thursday 28 Alumnus David Clark (1984) is trying to get the Merton College Biomedical and Life Sciences network to increase their membership from 97 to 126; "If we succeed, I’ll donate £126 to the appeal and encourage others to give what they can too."
by Thursday 28 Stipendiary Lecturer Dr James Pickering will run 126.4km over the next 12.64 days - "good fun providing my ankles/knees don't stop functioning as joints"

UPDATE: James has completed "70km in since Saturday - 54.6km to go in the next 7 days! Easy enough so far..."James Pickering giving a thumbs up after completing 70km of his 126.4km challenge
by Thursday 28 Alumnus Keith Burton (1962), "one of those nerdy stamp collectors", has challenged himself to sort out 1,264 of the large number of postage stamps he has "in unsorted piles, boxes and books ... so that I know what they are and where they are."
by Thursday 28 The Revd Monsignor Bruce Harbert (1966) is reading 1264 psalms from The Book of Psalms and praying for the College. 
Daily Emeritus Fellow Christine Taylor is doing a plank for 1.264 minutes
Daily Tim Phillips (1960) had a new knee fitted on 10 March; he is walking 1,264 yards twice daily "to try and get it going".
Friday 22 Christopher Rogers (1962) plans to walk 12.64 miles of the Ridgeway, from Overton Hill via Hackpen Hill, Barbury Castle and Four Mile Clump to Marlborough (actually rather more than 12.64 miles.) He also plans to sing 126.4 scales in the key of D Major. He does not think he will be able to sing them all in one sitting (standing?) but will create an aggregated total. Photos and audio to follow!
Friday 22 Phoebe (JCR) will be going for a 12.6 km-run
Friday 22 MCR President Lucas Didrik-Haugeberg – "A Tour of Kristiansand in 12 Photos"
Friday 22 The College Choir’s 1264 playlist (126 songs) is released on Spotify to celebrate the release of sleeper’s prayer
Saturday 23 Professor Alex Scott will complete the final leg of a 126.4 km indoor cycle ride - "If there are any Mertonians who are on Zwift and would like to join in, I'll be riding at 10:00am UK time."
Saturday 23 Mairi (JCR) will bake 12 cupcakes
Saturday 23 Cycling Challenge: together members of Merton College Boat Club will cycle a grand total of 1,264km from around the globe
Sunday 24 Charles Tolkien-Gillett (MCR) – "a new translation and reading from Beowulf (my favourite 126.4 lines)"
Monday 25 Silvia Trinczek (MCR) "126.4 Flowers from Kaufering"
Tuesday 26 Paul Zimmer-Harwood (MCR) aims to have completed the ‘Mertonman Challenge’: 12.64 km swimming, 126.4 km cycling, 12.64 miles running and 12.64 km rowing in 12.64 hours of total time
Wednesday 27 Antonia Anstatt (MCR) will be completing a 1,200 piece 4-D puzzle in 64 photos
Thursday 28 Bake-Off: members of Merton College Boat Club will produce baked good which add up to 126,400 kJ (~30,000 kcal)


Date Activity
Saturday 16 The Warden, Professor Irene Tracey & her family ran 12.64 kmThe Warden and members of her family after their 12.64 km run
Saturday 16 Ben Nicholas and members of the College Choir ran 12.64 kmA montage of photographs showing participants in College Choir's run for The Big Merton 1264 Challenge
Saturday 16 Thomas Heywood (MCR) ran 12.64 km through University Parks
Saturday 16 The Chaplain, Simon Jones walked 12.64 km
Saturday 16 Junior Dean for Welfare Catherine Paverd ran 12.64 kmA montage of photographs showing Catherine Paverd's run as part of The Big Merton 1264 Challenge
Saturday 16 Professor Steven Gunn walked 12.64 times round the College garden while reading a book about Queen Elizabeth IProfessor Steven Gunn walking 12.64 times round the College garden while reading a book about Queen Elizabeth I
Sunday 17 Merton Professor of English Language & Literature Helen Small completed a Charlbury-Chadlington loop, 12.64 km (plus a little extra!)
Sunday 17 JCR President Lucy Buxton walked for 1hr 26m
Sunday 17 Francesca Lovell-Read (MCR) baked a 1264-themed cakeFrancesca Lovell-Read's 1264 Challenge-themed cake
Monday 18 Kaiyang Song (JCR) did 126 burpees - watch on Facebook (login required)
Tuesday 19 Rodrigo (JCR) completed 1,264 push-upsRodrigo Marlasca Aparicio‎ with a tally of his 1,264 push-ups
Tuesday 19 Lachlan Hughes (MCR) compiled "12.64 Fun Facts about Merton in the Middle Ages from A History of Merton by GH Martin and JRL Highfield"
Wednesday 20 Arundhati Wuppalapati's planned 12.6 mile-run turned into a 126.4 km turbo bike ride! Arundhati says, "I'm feeling a bit tired now, I might have a 12.64 hour nap ..."Arundhati Wuppalapati at the completion of her 126.4 km turbo bike ride
Wednesday 20 Clara Lepard (MCR) completed 126.4 push-ups in 12 hours.

Thursday 21 Fede (JCR) completed 126 rugby passes
Thursday 21 Kate Stanton (MCR) created "A Year at Merton in 12.64 Photos"A montage of photos showing a year at Merton College

To find out what they show follow The Big Merton 1264 Challenge on Facebook or see our Twitter feed