The Oxford Canal is probably England’s most delightful boating holiday area, meandering through glorious countryside from the outskirts of Coventry down to our own dreaming spires of Oxford.
The Oxford Canal starts by the River Thames in Oxford and runs for 77 miles, mainly through quiet rolling countryside. From world famous Oxford, founded nearly a thousand years ago and with its many University Colleges, the canal heads north through pleasant pastures, through the old canal village of Thrupp and passing close to the magnificent Blenheim palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace. The countryside becomes more isolated with rolling hills around the old village of Lower Heyford, neighbouring Upper Heyford had a large USAF base. Banbury is an interesting medieval market town with many fine old pubs.
With enticing landscapes of soft gentle pastureland, passing by antique Cotswold villages, the Oxford canal’s unique charm has made it the country’s most popular boating holiday by canal. The Oxford Canal really is a beautiful choice for a canal cruising holiday. It was built by James Brindley in the 18th century. Many of the locks and bridges are as they were when they were built. The canal follows the contours of the land, giving it many twists and turns as it seeks a passage through the delightful Oxford countryside.
A canal boating holiday along the Oxford Canal allows you to escape the rigours of modern living. You can operate the locks and bridges or simply visit the pretty towns and villages along the way. When all this gets too much, then stop and take rest and refreshment at the many pubs along the way. Or, just moor up and watch the gentle activity as other boats pass you by. And when you are ready just turn the boat around and do it all again, but it really all will look quite different!
A brief history of the South Oxford Canal
It is one of the most popular and pretty on the canal network, a unique link between the north and south. To the north is Birmingham and to the south we have the River Thames taking you to the heart of our capital. Travelling along the canal you can easily travel back in time imagining all that will have taken place along its banks.
The Oxford Canal was one of the most important canals on the system. The first narrow boat fully laden with coal arrived in New Road Wharf Oxford on 1st January 1790, to much excitement. Sadly this was short lived, within 10 years of its opening a new and more reliable route was built, “The Grand Union Canal” it provided a much more direct and safer route to London.
James Brindley, one of our most famous canal builders and his assistant Samuel Simcock were given the task of creating the canal. He was unable to witness its completion as Mr Brindley died before it was finished. Despite this the canal is obviously one of his, as it hugs the contours, the twists and turns of the landscape .Brindley would prefer to go around a hill not through it. He would only construct locks as a last resort. This is especially evident in the stretch up to Napton from Fenny Compton. So when you travel this stretch take a moment to remember James Brindley and those navvies who worked so hard to produce this glorious little canal, 5ft deep and 16ft wide.
Your journey along the South Oxford Canal
You will begin and end in Oxford or to be precise the Jericho district of Oxford. During your trip, be it a week or a short break you will experience a different side of England, hidden from view and you will escape the rat race leaving the frantic 21st century world behind. Spend quality time with loved ones and friends, in doing so create wonderful memories which you can treasure forever.
So now you are in control of the boat and your adventure has begun. Most people head for the canal side village of Thrupp for their first night on board, a four hour journey. Just enough for your first day enabling you to put your new found skills to the test.
We have split this description of what you could experience into two halves. The first being from Oxford to the market town of Banbury, this journey is approx. 24hrs round trip, which during the summer months is manageable in a short break, although we would advise that it would be more relaxing to do it in a 4 day short break and perhaps undertake a shorter trip for a weekend.