Wednesday, 1 April 2009


I had to go to Oxford yesterday for work purposes and, as usual when I'm somewhere that has a waterway, I was able to find some time to visit the canal and have a look around.

The Oxford Canal, despite being a trunk route in the national system comes to a rather ignominious dead end in the middle of Oxford at Hythe Bridge. The terminus doesn't even boast a winding hole and unsuspecting visitors must have to reverse several hundred metres before they can wind and return whence they came. Of course, through boats can go through Isis lock and join the Thames via the Sheepwash Channel and canal between here and the terminus is now designated as the "Hythe Bridge Arm" - but its really the "main line".

Just under Hythe Bridge is this car park

which now occupies the site of the former terminal basin. Apparently there is a plan to close the car park and restore the basin, which would be of great benefit both to Oxford city centre (which has far too many cars in it already) and to visiting boaters, particularly at the moment as the large stretch of visitor moorings at Jericho is currently closed. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that this scheme, as with so many others on the waterways at the moment, is just a "good idea" and is unlikely to make any progress in the foreseeable future.

After visiting the "basin" I walked back along the "Hythe Bridge Arm" to Isis Lock, where I watched a very patient member of staff from College Cruisers instruct a crew of complete beginners in the finer points of navigation and lock operation. It made my realise just what a steep learning curve it must be for first-time hirers who deserve and need a little more patience than some boat owners seem prepared to give them (including yours truly on occasion!).

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