Our Route

In July/August 2018 we walked from Liversedge in Yorkshire to Oxford, where possible, on canal towpaths.

The walk started on greenways in the Spen Valley until Ravensthorpe where we joined our first canal, the Calder and Hebble Navigation to Mirfield. In Mirfield we took a greenway to pick up the Huddersfield Broad Canal, after first getting slightly lost in the Colne Valley. We followed the Huddersfield Broad Canal into Huddersfield.

The next day we joined the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to the Standedge tunnel. As there is no footpath in the tunnel we walked over the Pennines, via the Wessenden Valley, to Diggle and the southern end of the tunnel. We followed the Huddersfield Narrow Canal to Ashton where we joined the Peak Forest Canal.

We followed the Peak Forest Canal to Marple where we turned off onto the Macclesfield Canal. We followed the Macclesfield Canal to Kidsgrove where we joined the Trent and Mersey Canal. Almost immediately we had to leave the Canal, as it entered the Harecastle Tunnel, and follow a modified version of the route taken by draught horses in the early days. We rejoined the towpath at the southern end of the tunnel.

We followed the Trent and Mersey Canal to Fradley where we joined the Coventry Canal which we followed to Fazeley Junction, where we joined the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

We should have left the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal where it passes under the M6 and joined the Birmingham and Warwick Junction Canal, as we were going through Warwick. However we missed the junction. Even so I thought we could go into central Birmingham and then head East towards Solihull and our accommodation.

We could have corrected our first mistake at Aston Top Lock and turned East on the Digbeth Branch Canal but missed our turn and headed into Birmingham. We almost reached the centre before we realized this second mistake. However from a canal and engineering aspect, the walk into central Birmingham was really interesting. It was a rewarding, if somewhat tiring mistake.

We walked back to the Aston Top Lock and followed the Digbeth branch for a short way to the Grand Union Canal, which was soon joined by the Birmingham and Warwick Canal, which we should have taken in the first place.

We followed the Grand Union Canal all the way to Napton Junction. At Napton Junction we turned south on our final canal, the Oxford Canal, which we followed to its end in Oxford.

We started on Monday, July 16 and finished on Monday, August 13. We walked 248 miles. We travelled for 29 days, with 5 rest days, thus averaging about 10 miles per day on our walking days.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Kidlington to Oxford.

The forecast was for rain until lunchtime, easing toward midday so we decided to start later than normal today, at 10am. The breakfast at the B&B was pathetic so we walked north about 1km to a Costa coffee for breakfast.
Surprisngly it was open at 8am on a Sunday morning and quite busy.

We took the same alleyway from the hotel back to the canal as we arrived by yesterday. However there was no football match on and access to the ground was much easier.
Shiel dressed for wet weather but we didn't get any appreciable rain until we were arriving in Oxford.
After the Kidlington Locks we passed bicycles dragged up from the canal, probably by 'magnet fishermen' just before we entered an area of "giant rhubarb.'

We passed the first tiltbridge of the day just before the entrance to Dukes Cut, a right turn, under the footbridge in the second photograph below.

Dukes Cut leads to the river Thames and below is a photograph taken along the cut and looking back towards Shiel on the bridge we took towards Oxford.
The traffic noise started to increase as we headed under the A34 toward Oxford.
Entering Oxford the towpath route was one of contrasts. We passed moored boats, some at permanent moorings.  Some boats and moorings were smart and tidy, others just the reverse. There was quite a bit of activity on the towpath, mainly joggers and dog walkers but also the odd cyclist.

Nearer the centre an anti-graffiti project was underway. An artist had been employed to decorate under some of the bridges and the results, as well as being attractive, seemed to be deterring the less gifted amateur artists from applying their decoration.

There was plenty of greenery, even well into central Oxford and even the urban development (hospital?) had a clean, elegant feel about it.

After 10km and two and a half hours of walking we reached the last bridge over the canal in central Oxford. The path over the bridge leads to the end of the canal, the canal under it joins the river Thames by a lock system.

It had just started to drizzle enough that I had to put on my waterproof jacket.

Once over the bridge the towpath maintained its rural feel right up to when the canal came to a dead end.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Lower Heyford to Kidlington. 2

Shortly after leaving the pub at Enslow and going under a very large motorway type bridge but with no traffic audible, the Oxford Canal and River Cherwell merged. This is the first ime we have seen such a thing on our walk.

There were warning signs and lights to warn people in case the river flow was too rapid.
When the river and canal were joined it was sometimes difficult to see where the river/canal was from the towpath.

We saw canoeists again just before the lock where the River Cherwell and the Oxford Canal parted company. There were similar warning signs to when they merged. The towpath also crossed to the eastern bank via an interesting bridge.
We soon arrived at Thrupp, a very attractive boating village with a large marina and lot of moored boats beside the canal. It also has two pubs on the canal. We visited the second of the two. Sadly soup was off the menu.

After we passd the "Welcome to Kidlington" sign the canal was stillpretty rural but signs of "civilisation" started to decorate some of the bridges. We turned off to our B&B at bridge 228 and found a right of way through a football ground  followed by a narrow alleyway all the way to the door.

Lower Heyford to Kidlington. 1

We stayed the night at a vegan B&B in Lower Heyford and a good B&B it was too with a friendly dog "Frankie." We ate at the local pub last night, 'The Bell Inn' and both enjoyed our meals. I think there may only be one pub.

We left the B&B with our host this morning around 9am. She showed us a short cut back to the canal, across the recreation ground. Sadly this meant I didn't get to go down the main street to photograph some of the thatched cottages. I was too busy tring to find the B&B when we arrived yesterday. So the photo below, taken from the recreation ground is the best I can do.
It was a cool clear morning, great for walking. The only clouds in the sky were aircraft condensation trails.

An hour into our walk we passed the boat shown below, from Marsden. It's from where we stayed on the second day of our walk.
There was plenty of shade on the canal today and a team had obviously been working to clear the towpath of 'giant rhubarb.'

We saw a few canoeists today and with the cleared towpath we also met one or two cyclists.

We arrived at 'The Rock of Gibraltar' just as it was opening fo lunch.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Banbury to Lower Heyford.

We set off early today as we supplied our own breakfast. We were walking downhill to the canal by 8:30am and reached the canal in 15 minutes. It was cooler than yesterday, almost perfect walking weather.
A feature of the Oxford Canal are the tilt bridges, we reached the first one of the day after about half an hour on the canal.

By which time we were starting to hear the acoustic pollution fom the M40 which we passed under about 10 minutes later.
A feature of today's walk were the patches of  what we call  giant rhubarb. Some patches lined the towpath.
It took us an hour to reach Grant's Lock by which time it was starting to rain. Shiel donned full wet weather gear but I only put on my jacket, hoping it would pass over. It didn't, it got worse. It had been forecast. Ihad eventually to don full wet weather get as well.

We stopped for lunch at a pub in Aynho, the only one on our route. They didn't really welcome wet walkers.
It continued to rain after lunch and at times the path was quite overgrown, as well as wet but there were signs that people had been through clearing the towpath in some areas.
By 2pm it was starting to clear up. We were walking a section where cows were grazing right down to the canal. The towpath changed to being a path at the edged of a field for a while and the true towpath was impassable.

As we approached Lower Heyford, the weather improved so much we removed all our wet weather gear.we were back to bright sunshine again.

Today was further than I expected, at 22.1km, and the last km was uphill! The forecast says we shold be OK tomorrow, but our last day, into Oxford on Sunday, may be very wet.