GREAT CANAL WALKS: OXFORD
This month’s walk is a simple circuit that takes in a canal, a river, wide open spaces and city places
We take you on an amble along a circuit that takes in wide open spaces and city spaces
We’re referring in the headline to Oxford, of course, and specifically Port Meadow, by walking up the Thames and down the Oxford Canal – or up the Oxford and down the Thames, it’s your choice.
For this walk of around six miles, both waterways start within a few hundred yards of each other on the A420 which runs into the city from the west and is easy to reach via the ring road. Handily, there’s Seacourt Park & Ride (OX2 0HP) on the A420 which is cheap to use and just half a mile from either start point.
We decided to go up the river first because you reach the Thames Path first straight off the A420. It’s good underfoot and there are moored boats to look at straight away. It’s not long before you reach a footbridge over Sheepwash Channel (which links the Thames with the Oxford at Isis Lock), but it’s pretty obvious which way to go.
Just past Castle Mill Stream the path switches from the right bank via a footbridge (a good spot for a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on) to the left by Bossom’s Boatyard, which is well worth stopping at for a look.
As you move on, one of the reasons for this walk unfolds with the glorious sight of Port Meadow stretching away north and south on the far side of the river – whatever time of year you go, it’s an eye- catching, pastoral sight.
From this point it’s not far to Godstow Lock which ends the river side of the walk and a right turn on the road takes you to the village, which provides a perfect spot for a bite and a drink with a choice of places from the famous Trout inn to simpler fare.
Follow the Godstow Road through the village and it passes first over the railway mainline and then the Oxford Canal. Just before going over the canal bridge there’s an innocuous footpath on
the left which drops you down to the towpath at Wolvercote Lock.
The transition from the village and road to the towpath couldn’t be more distinct, almost as if you’ve entered another country. It’s quiet and feels utterly rural, a feeling perhaps helped by the narrowness of the canal compared with the broad reaches of the Thames and, of course, you’re walking down the other side of Port Meadow, too.
As you head towards Oxford the houses gradually encroach more on the canal, but curiously that adds to the attraction, perhaps because one of the world’s most famous cities is looming, though we prefer to think it’s because of the attractive waterside gardens.
Before long you’ll be at Isis lock at the other end of Sheepwash Channel and almost back at the main road, just a hundred yards or so from where you started out.
This is a glorious walk at whatever time of year you do it – and one you’ll find hard to forget.
Heading up the Thames
Pastoral bliss, Port Meadow
Returning back down the Oxford