with tips for cycling & hiking
Oxford is one of those unique city sites within easy walking distance of the centre and a perfect base to visit the ‘City of Dreaming Spires ‘. In many ways it is the perfect city break as there is so much to do, visiting the many historic sites, the colleges, the Castle, the Botanical Gardens or the Bodleian Library. The latter is more an institution than just a library, one of the oldest in Europe and claiming to have a copy of every book written in the UK. This was tested by my son, who asked for a copy of one of the ‘Mr Men’ books and this caused no problems. Alternatively just amble along the river or if you are feeling very adventurous go punting.
This site does get very busy and booking is advisable all year round. This site does need investment in improved facilities, there is no motorhome service point for example but you need to be aware that the club has a very limited lease on the site, which makes long term planning extremely difficult.
There are two main cycle rides from the site, firstly to Abingdon and secondly a ride along the Oxford Canal.
For both rides, turn right out of the site, up to the Abingdon Road, turn left and at the traffic lights, turn right down Weir Road to pick up the river. Though you can go into the City along the designated cycle path and also pick up the route to Abingdon, by going down Weir Road, it maximises your time on the river and certainly it is the more attractive route into the City.
When you reach the river turn right and continue to Iffley Lock. If you attempt this ride in winter, be aware that the river floods here.
On you right there are two signs to pick up cycle route 5, on no accounts take the first one or you will end up going back to Oxford. You can take the second one, just after the railway bridge.
An alternative is to continue along to Sandford Lock, which is easily cyclable and at the lock pick up the road on your right and continue up this for a short way to pick up cycle route 5, signposted to Abingdon.
This route is a mixture of off road and minor roads with the busiest section on the Kennington Road, which is a bit busier but not seriously so and part of it is on a shared cycle path; though the fact that this terminates shows the absurdity of UK cycle routes.
We did in fact follow the Thames Path all the way from Sandford Lock into Abingdon but as this is designated as a footpath, this is not strictly allowed and though it is extremely attractive, it was not easy and not to be recommended. A much better option is to walk this and catch the bus back from Abingdon.
We returned using cycle route 5.
Abingdon is a very attractive old market town on the Thames and its old County Hall reminds us of its past status, as the county town of Berkshire, though the town is now firmly in Oxfordshire.
When you reach the river, turn left and head towards the City.
When you reach the Head of the River pub, you come off the river and cross St Aldate’s Road and turn right and head into the City, past Christchurch College on your right.
You can cycle it with care but you need to be aware of buses in both directions though the biggest problem I find is tourists taking photographs and then walking in front of you.
Turn left down Queen Street, you have to dismount here, and continue into New Street, passing Oxford Castle on your left. When you reach Nuffield College on your right, you will see a car park to your right in front of the college. You need to veer right around the car park and pick up the canal off of Hythe Bridge Street .
The start of the canal - this commemorates the 200 year history of the canal 1790 to 1990
The car park and the college occupy land that use to comprise the quayside of the canal .There is a legend board in front of the college which gives you the history of the area.
The canal links Oxford to Coventry via Banbury and Rugby and though construction started in 1769 at Coventry, the section to Oxford was not completed until 1790.
Initially it was a major and very profitable traffic route as it connected London to the Midlands but its trade suffered when the Grand Junction Canal was opened,(now part of the Grand Union) which offered a more direct route from London to the Midlands.
The Oxford Canal joins the Grand Junction at Braunston.
This attractive iron bridge is just after the start of the canal at Oxford
The trip takes you to Thrupp via Jericho on the outskirts of Oxford and Kidlington..At Thrupp there is Annie’s Tearoom which does home-made cakes plus lunches, Before you reach Thrupp there are two pubs. The Jolly Boatman on the canal and The Boat Inn on the road just outside of Thrupp.
These type of bridges, as seen at Thrupp were used on this section of the canal as they were cheaper as they were running out of money when they completed this section. For the same reason they used parts of the River Cherwell in the navigation channel.
After Thrupp you can continue for a couple of miles to the Rock of Gibraltar at Enstow.
After about a mile past Enstow you come to Pigeon Lock and here the towpath gets more difficult and at times you are making a choice with avoiding the nettles on your left-hand side and avoiding falling into the canal on your right-side,
North of Enstow, however, the canal is at its most picturesque, as you negotiate the towpath which runs between the River Cherwell on your left and the canal on your right.
Realistically tackling this section is not possible from Oxford.