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

Canal Boat - - This Month - TEXT AND PIC­TURES BY NICK WALL

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

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