Cruising on the Oxford Canal was one of a series of “inland cruising booklets” published by British Waterways in the late 1950s. The booklets were designed to serve both as a general guide for canal user etiquette, and a detailed navigational guide to the stretches of canal in question.
In his foreword the General Manager of British Waterways, the impressively-titled Major-General Sir Reginald Kerr extends “a sincere welcome and my assurance that you will find good companions, the clean air of the English countryside, and a tranquil way of life that the inland waterways have preserved unspoiled for 200 years”.
Although the maps featured in the book look like they could be much more than 60 years old, a series of black and white photographs of the South Oxford Canal featuring unspoiled countryside, locks and villages shows scenes which are very little different to those you can enjoy today.
However, in other respects life on the canals has changed beyond recognition since this book was published. For example, in its code of conduct for the guidance of pleasure craft users, the guide emphasises that “the main function of Britain’s waterway system is to carry commercial traffic, and although British waterways will give all possible assistance to ensure easy passage for pleasure craft, it will be appreciated that commercial vessels must be given priority at all times.”
Of course, the use of Britain’s canal system by commercial freight traffic declined massively in the years that followed, and the switch from canal and rail to road transport led to an era of neglect of the canals. However, in the past 20 years Britain’s canals have enjoyed a startling renaissance, led by pleasure cruising and holidaymakers, so the likelihood of you having to make way for commercial traffic during your Oxford Canal cruise is now very slim!