Enjoy pristine winter views along one of England’s prettiest waterways.

Lower Heyford

Illustration by Grassroots Groundswell

Words by Peter Watts

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You don’t have to travel far to appreciate the beauty of the south east this winter. The Oxford Canal is widely considered to be one of the prettiest waterways in the UK and the views from this canal are a stunning reward for a walk on a cold winter day. Of the many stunning scenic views to appreciate along this canal, some of the finest are to be found in the Cherwell Valley between Copredy and Thrupp, in particular the five-mile stretch south of Lower Heyford, which has been described as “the most beautiful and remote on the English waterway system”.

The Oxford Canal connects Oxford with Coventry. It was one of the earliest canals to be constructed and was built as a contour canal, which meant it followed a curving route along natural valleys rather than powering straight through and over hills with tunnels and locks. It’s gentle, river-like feel lends itself to a peaceful day out, which is complemented by the amazing scenery. The few villages that are encountered all look like picture-postcard representations of Englishness, such as the rose-covered terraces of Thrupp.

Lower Heyford is a good base for a walk that will take you around the village, starting and finishing at the canal. A memorable highlight is the view of the three distinctive ironstone arches of the Eyecatcher, a folly designed by William Kent for the stately home of Rousham House with the express intention of impressing those gazing towards the horizon beyond the Cherwell. Kent was one of the first great English landscape gardeners and he spotted Rousham with several other natural features and statues. Another point of interest in the area are the “poem sculptures” – a series of four sculptures carved from old lock timber inscribed with the poem “Lock”, a collaboration between sculptor Michael Fairfax and poet Jamie McKendrick. It’s also worth exploring the neighbouring village of Steeple Aston, just off the canal, an old and very pretty hamlet this is typical of the charming sights to be found in this corner of the country.

Plan your day out along the Oxford canal.

Posted on 17/01/2020