My Stretch: Oxford Canal

Meet the boaters, walkers and riverbank gardeners spending time on the Oxford Canal this summer


The meandering Oxford Canal, originally built as a contour canal by engineer James Brindley, slowly wends its way through the Oxfordshire countryside past pretty canal-side hamlets, simple black-and-white lift bridges and cosy towpath pubs. The southern part of the canal remains largely unaltered, its winding course untouched by mid-19th century straightening programmes. As the scorching summer sun warms the boat tops and tempts walkers and cyclists down to the towpath, writer, wanderer and boater Danie Couchman ambles along this 200-year-old waterway and asks, what makes this stretch of canal so special?


Paul Bye

“I’ve been paddleboarding for eight hours today – it beats going to the gym. It’s just nice here in Oxford, even when the weather’s not good, I paddle along the canals and rivers for fitness, it’s handy because I can deflate the board and pack it into a rucksack.”


IMG_4582Hope Allan 

“It’s interesting to see what it’s like for the ducklings and swans who are living in the water. Swans are herbivores. When I was little I went on my auntie’s boat. I saw a bird with bright rainbow skin here, called a kingfisher.”



Lizzy McBain and Nick Tingay

“The weather is so nice today, we thought we’d go for a morning walk. We’re in a band called Water Pageant. Many of our songs have maritime themes or focus on boats and rivers. We’d love to do a tour of gigs along the canal.”



Sam Jefferson

“I bought my boat in Northamptonshire a few months ago and have slowly bought it down. I used to work on the Thames on the passenger boats. It’s beautiful here in Oxford. There’s an excellent riverside pub by Port Meadow called The Perch. I’m just repairing a puncture before heading to work.”


IMG_4660Margaret Scully

“Gardening is my hobby. All summer I just love being in the garden by the canal. I can simply lower a bucket into the canal to water the plants. Here, we get ducks and swans, but also badgers. In fact, there’s a badger hole right here. It’s gorgeous living by the canal. The neighbours and the community are just lovely.”


IMG_4683 (1)Steve and Lynn Brompton

“We live in Sydney and we’re here on this boat in Oxford as part of a house swapping holiday. We’re travelling up to Birmingham after this. We’re part of the Australian Canal Society, and we’ve always been fascinated by the industrial heritage of England’s canals. Travelling by narrowboat lets you see parts that tourists wouldn’t usually find. We’ve been travelling for 12 weeks now. You get to see the country very slowly so you see it well.”


Dennis Ward

“We’ve just moved our boat down from Staffordshire. I’ve got all my wet weather gear ready and packed, but we’ve been so lucky with the weather so far. We’re hopefully heading up north for a bit, picking up friend along the way.”



Michael Pitman

“This area is simply beautiful. I have a mooring for my narrowboat here in Oxford. There is an amazing community, with loads of interesting people.”



AJ Lockington, Coco De La Terre, Ben Rodrick and Rosie Wendle

“It’s stunning here with all the willow trees, canal-side gardens and boats. It reminds us of Wind in the Willows. Here you can travel at a slow beer-in-hand pace. There’s no rushing and there’s always a pub to stop for lunch. We love this kind of holiday because you’re on the move and spend most of your day outside. It’s a good excuse to play as many different board games as possible – and, of course, practise your towpath boules.”

Jake Phillips