I was recently lucky enough to have a little break at the Oxford Thames Hotel at Sandford-on-Thames. You’ve probably guessed by now which river I might be walking next to! With no path on the hotel side of the river, I had to back-track a little to cross the bridge at the lock at the Kings Arms where I saw the cutest tiniest little fluffy duckling with a Mummy and two Daddies looking after it! This really started off my walk in a good mood, and I stayed that way all the way to Oxford, even though it felt a lot longer than the three miles it was supposed to be….
As you walk along, make sure to turn back and look at the pub and delicate willow tree reflected in the water, as that’s a pretty scene in itself before you’ve hardly even started. You’re now on an island, and you walk over a couple of quaint foot-bridges before crossing again and continuing on the west side. You pass the village of Kennington on the left and then go under the old railway bridge.
Cross another footbridge over the mill stream and Hinksey stream and on under the A423 bridge. Further ahead is Iffley Lock, which is a beautiful
little village. I would have explored it more if I’d had a bit more time and I get the feeling that in the summer months little shops open up for the tourists. By the time I’d got this far, I was regretting my decision not to wear a coat, and after I stopped to take some photos of the bridge, I picked up my pace a bit to warm up. I was also starting to wonder how much further Oxford was.
The pretty riverside walk continues for a while yet, by the sides of fields and meadows and a few houseboats start to appear. You go under the B4495 and continue on a proper pavement.
Keep a look out for a gap in the hedge on the left though. There’s a cute nature reserve area with a picnic spot next to a wide slow-flowing part of the river. Judging by the tyre swing and steps into the water, I’m guessing it’s popular for swimming in the hot weekend in July. It was deserted when I was there though, and I would’ve loved to have come back with a picnic and time on my hands.
Over another bridge where I witnessed an odd (and possibly dodgy) encounter with a man showing a lady in a leopard print coat the goods he had in the back of his white van. She wasn’t impressed. I tried to eavesdrop more on their conversation, but really needed to get on. It probably only felt a little dubious because I had been on the lookout for dead bodies floating in the water – after all that’s where Morse often found them. (Ok strictly speaking it was usually the dog walker / punter / tourist on a narrowboat, but we’re not quibbling are we.)
You pass the Oxford boathouses on the right; houseboats line the banks and you finally feel you’re reaching the city centre. I walked up to the main road, crossed the river and looked for somewhere to get back down again as I really wanted to enter Oxford through Christchurch meadow. I followed a sign to hire punts, but was flummoxed by a residential courtyard where it felt like I shouldn’t be. Back to the main road, but then, luckily a jogger came by, who looked like she knew where she was going, so I followed her and it turned out I had been correct – far right of this courtyard / carpark, you get to the place for hiring boats and also a small gate into the park. I turned left, but I think I should have turned right to begin with, as I ended up walking past a giant compost heap and not really on the path, though it was easy to see where to join it.
Up the grand driveway towards Christchurch college and finally I was there! From hotel to this point took me one hour and forty-five minutes. Now I
know I was stopping fairly often to take photos, but I wasn’t faffing around for ages with them and I did get a speed on between-times. Basically I’m saying it took a lot longer than I expected. I really needed the loo and a sit-down at that point, but could see nowhere to do either, so kept going to the Vaults and Gardens Cafe (that I had discovered the previous day) in Radcliffe Square, for a much-needed rest and hot chocolate to prepare myself for the day’s sightseeing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this photography-based post and have liked looking at the pictures even if you never intend on walking this stretch of the Thames Path. If you are, then I hope you found it useful. I’d like to walk it again on a warmer day in summer and see more narrow-boats on the move. I’d also keep going a little further, up to Osney Bridge and walk into Oxford city from that side next time. Come back for more blog posts about my days visiting Oxford.
Do you have a favourite river-side walk?