David: Dire conditions on the Oxford

Published: Thursday, 30 August 2018

I MUST have missed the CaRT announcement that the South Oxford Canal has been designated a remainder waterway.

Rotton beam OxfordI have not cruised this way since 2015 and I am horrified at the state of what is the second most popular canal in the country. Between Oxford and Banbury there were four paddles out of use, more than I have seen in total anywhere else this year.

Two feet below weir level

The bottom gates of five locks could not be fully opened, presumably because of silt or obstructions. Many of the balance beams had rotten sections and very few had seen a paint brush for years. The pound between King's Sutton and Grant's Locks was nearly two feet below weir level and boats moored at Twyford Wharf were almost high and dry. Apparently it has been like this for over six weeks; symptoms perhaps of a major leak, so perhaps we should be ready for a lengthy stoppage.

ThickFoliageOxfordThe towpath edge vegetation was in most places six feet high and two feet wide—walking from Northbrook to Dashwood I could not catch a single glimpse of the canal. There were, of course, no fishermen and only a handful of walkers all the way from Oxford to Banbury. In many places the offside vegetation was so thick that there was frequently barely a seven foot gap available to pass through, while bridge approaches were routinely obscured.

Money spent on signs

When we got to Banbury it was obvious where all the money had been spent. The lock was freshly painted and every single notice and notice board had been completely replaced with new blue signage and that mendacious slogan "Making life better by (but not on) water." So much for the claim that signage would only be replaced when necessary; I cannot believe that all the signs in Banbury needed replacing together.

NoticeOxfordOne mystery was the notice I found lying loose on the towpath (pictured) saying that Fountains Forestry would be dealing with the fringe vegetation between Hawkesbury and Oxford in the month up to August 24th. I can only assume it was so bad further north that they could not get beyond Banbury.

Conditions a little better

Conditions north of Banbury were a little better. At least the moorings and the bridge approaches had been mown, though there was still plenty of 'fringe'. There were no more dead paddles or stuck gates and I was very pleased to see that the time restrictions on the summit locks were well advertised by notices stapled to the balance beams. The Fenny 'tunnel' section is very badly overgrown on the offside, making it very difficult for two boats to pass, which I am sure is allowed, since there are no notices to the contrary.

FoliageOxford2The state of the Oxford, especially south of Banbury, is a disgrace to the area's management and they should be ashamed of themselves. Is it too much to ask that they might try and explain to us all how they got into this situation and what they are going to do to remedy it?

"Never doing this again"

The Oxford Canal should be a showpiece for CaRT, especially as it is probably used by more hire boaters than any other, including the Llangollen, which, incidentally, is well-maintained—perhaps the Oxford's management should go and look at it. At present most Oxford hire boaters would agree with the one we met, who said "I'm never doing this again."

David Hymers