Two towpath walks along the Oxford Canal.
Oxford to Lower Heyford - one way towpath walk in England - flat and about 23km. The relevant maps although you don't need them are OS Explorer 180 and 191. The idea of this walk is simply to walk a stretch of the Oxford Canal - since the entire route is on the towpath there is obviously no need for any particular instructions - just a bit of how to achieve it from
a transport point of view.
Because of the high cost and sometimes difficulty in parking in Oxford the best way is to do the walk the other way round i.e. from Lower Heyford. The train times mentioned were relevant at the time of last walking the towpath so therefore should be checked whether up to date. There is some parking which may be free alongside the railway station at Lower Heyford. The only real drawback is the absence of trains to get you back to the intended
start of the canal at Oxford. During the week one train goes to the city at 09:54 hrs and on Sunday** one train goes there at 10:54 hrs however this Sunday service may only run from May to September.
Once at Oxford walk the short distance to the main road outside the station, turn left and keep ahead to reach the start of the Oxford Canal. You quickly reach Isis Lock and Bridge (243) - now just simply carry on along the towpath with the only thing to worry about is not being mown down
by the frequent cyclists. There are lots of long-stay canal boats moored along the first part of the canal - these used by the University students in many cases - hence the frequent cycle traffic. Generally speaking the condition of the canal towpath is pretty good for walking and cycling.
Note: The River Thames is not too far away from the Oxford Canal and for a short walking loop back into Oxford again you could leave the canal via Bridge 235. Then walk through Wolvercote and across fields to Godstow Lock on The Thames
and take the Thames Path back into the city. Further along the Oxford Canal arrives at Dukes Cut and Dukes Lock (originally Lock 44a was known as Shuttleworth Lock). The couple of canal locks provide a link for boats over to The Thames via Dukes Cut - it is possible to walk along the Cut but there is no crossing at the end of the Cut for walkers or cyclists.
Once passed the clutter of the long-stay boats the Oxford Canal becomes what it mostly is - beautiful to walk along and enjoyable for the open countryside, bridges, locks and wildlife.One of our favourite places to stop - usually for lunch - is at Shipton on Cherwell which is a little over half way along the route - there are also some pubs
available along the way if you fancy a beer or something to eat etc.., another favourite stopping off place is at Pigeons Lock.
Banbury to Lower Heyford Oxford Canal towpath walk of approximately 21kms. As with the above walk there is no real need for walk instructions let alone a map for this
trip - the idea being to get a train up to Banbury and simply walk back just following the canal's towpath. Almost as soon as you leave Banbury the canal is just full of wild flowers, lovely lift bridges
and other small bridges - thereofre the towpath is really beautiful to walk along especially in The Spring and early Summer.
When we last went the train fare was not too bad from Lower Heyford to Banbury, and the (only Sunday morning) train left Lower Heyford at 10.06hrs and got to Banbury 15 minutes later. Note
: If you intend catching a train to do this walk on a
Sunday from what we can see there are only trains running on Sundays
from around May through to September so it's worth checking this out prior to leaving home.
The Oxford Canal is reached by leaving Banbury railway station on it's right hand side exit (i.e. through the taxi rank) - just follow the road and shortly cross over the River Cherwell and then almost immediately you reach the canal at Albion Bridge (no.166), Go down onto the towpath and turn left heading towards Lower Heyford.
There are some really interesting old buildings alongside the canal as you walk out of Banbury - but it is not long before you are into open countryside. One of the features along this part of the canal are the number of lift bridges, most of which are intact. There does seem to be far more of them than on other stretches of the Oxford Canal which we have walked. As far as the lunch stop is concerned a good place is beside Nell Bridge Lock where there is a lovely little bridge as well as the lock - however the pathetic local authorities have shoved their stupid ugly concrete road bridge on top of it. This is in our opinion a criminal act of vandalism - it really would not have been so difficult or that expensive to have at least shoved their ridiculous concrete bridge a little to the left or right and left a little peice of England alone.
Anyway back to the lunch stop -
as an alternative to Nell Lock if you wander along just a little further on the towpath you soon arrive at Weir Bridge 188 and Aynho Weir Lock. This is really a fascinating place where the River Cherwell cuts right across the Oxford Canal and then continues under the canal's towpath via a series of nice bricked arches.
There are some seats at this really nice lock as well and this really is an excellent place to pick for a stopover for a while.
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