Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 14 Oxford to Newbridge

Section 1

Oxford to Swinford Toll bridge

Woke to a beautiful sunny day and left the hotel by 8.30 to wander into Oxford. Getting there before the buses of tourists arrive is always a good idea. The colleges are closed to visitors in the mornings so could only take photos from the porters lodges. Oxford has 38 colleges with approx 22,000 students. The largest number of students attached to any one college is 750 making them very small communities.

It has architecture from the 11th century to the 21st. To me it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a must if you are touring England. As described by Matthew Arnold 'That sweet city with her dreaming spires'
To view the spires you need to view from above. As soon as the church of St Mary the Virgin opened I climbed to the top of the tower to admire those 'dreaming spires'

The circular building is The Radcliffe Camera. The first circular library in Britain and is now used as a reading room  of the Bodleian library.
To return to the walk I had get back to the river. It was still early for tourists and as a consequence I didn't see anyone enjoying a punt on the river. But here they all are waiting to be called into action by the side of Magdelene (pronounced Maudlin) bridge.

This is Magdelene bridge which goes over the River Cherwell which runs into the Thames but this is  not the bridge I'm looking for so I needed to retrace my steps.

This is the one I'm looking for with that strange castellated building on it.

The path now runs alongside a smart housing estate with this crane reaching out to the river. Not sure whether it has been left there as a piece of historical art or if it fulfils another purpose. There was no sign nearby to give me any info.

The river takes me around Oxford rather than through its centre so you do not see any of the colleges from the path. You are still aware of being in a surburban area though by the number of bridges you walk under. This is the main rail bridge for the Oxford line.

To the left is the Grandpont nature reserve created on the site of Oxford gasworks.

Osney lock

Osney Abbey was the richest monastery in medieval Oxford. Part of its wealth was earned from trade and milling on the new channel which it cut west of the town. The river still runs almost unnoticed through the town. Little remains of the Abbey which was on the land between the bridge and the lock. The Abbey's wealth founded Christ Church College.


This is Osney road bridge which I needed to cross as the path continues on the other side of the river. Before getting onto the bridge there was a smaller one crossing yet another tributary stream running into the river.


As I crossed the bridge and looked down at the river there was a heron perched on a fallen tree, alongside a couple of ducks, completely undisturbed by the noise of the traffic going past.
The path leads you in front of this row of beautiful riverside terraced cotttages.

Across from the cottages on the other side of the river were these allotments, where I spotted many familiar vegetables growing.

There is a waterway here leading to the Oxford canal with a bridge taking you to a marina but I was continuing along the Thames path which meant I needed to cross back over the river.
This is  known as the rainbow bridge

This large hoist is next to the river lifting up the boats to undertake repairs.
 I now have a clear view of the vast Port Meadow  which has been used for grazing for over 1000 years. The meadows are frequently flooded and when frozen used for skating.

This is Godstow lock.  This is the last of the electrically operated locks asyou travel upstream. Just beyond the lock are the remains of Godstow Nunnery. It was near here that Rev Charles Dodgson told his stories of Alice's adventures underground to Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of Christ College where Dodgson lectured in Mathematics. In 1865 the stories were  published as Alice's adventures in Wonderland under the pseudonyn of Lewis Carroll.

Godstow nunnery  was established in 1133 and consisted of a large church, courts, cloisters and a chapter house. Now all that remains are part of the walls and the abbess's private chapel. It was here that the daughters of rich noblemen were educated. But scandal was never far away as Henry II met Rosamund Clifford here and took her for his mistress. She bore him two sons. More scandal followed as the place became notorious for offering hospitality to the local monks of Oxford.

This two arched bridge leads over the river to an old inn once used by the residents of the nunnery but nowadays known for its restaurant and views of the weir from the garden. 

Perfect surroundings  to enjoy a drink and a rest.

Resident peacocks on the scrounge.
From the garden you have a perfect view of the weir. Whilst sitting here I saw a kingfisher darting along the riverbank. This was a first for me. Although I have seen kingfishers in other countries I had never seen one in the UK. Its irredescent blue is unmistakeable.

The restaurant looked very inviting but probably more for a special occasion.

A view of 'The Trout' from the bridge.

Passing beneath the Oxford bypass bridge I am taken across open pastures again but for a change it is sheep grazing rather than my favourite cows.

Just walking past this bend in the river for the second time today I saw kingfishers. This time there were two of them. I felt extremely fortunate to have seen these colourful birds.

King's lock. This is the most northerly of the 45 locks on the Thames and is manually operated.

Wytham Great Wood which comes steeply down the hill and eventually reaches the river.


Eynsham lock. You can see the steps on the ground to give traction to the person opening or closing the gates.

Swinford Bridge. The name Swinford was used for the depth of water in normal conditions that was safe for swine to cross. Names like these were used when people couldn't read. Other ones on the Thames are Oxford, Duxford and Shifford (sheep). 
This is Swinford Toll bridge. I walked down to have a look at the toll booth which is in the centre of the road. The booth is narrow enough for the toll collector to be able to collect money from the motorists from both sides of the road at once. I have heard that this toll is hated by local people as it causes many traffic jams. Whilst watching a car approached and dropped an apple core into the hand of the toll collector and then drove off. A one man protest maybe.
When this bridge was built in 1767, it was at the request of George III who had fallen into the river whilst using the ferry. As a thank you the king passed an act of parliament to allow the Earl of Abingdon (who built the bridge) the right to collect a toll which would be tax free for ever. In 2009 this bridge was sold at auction for just over £1,000,000. It is calculated to collect in excess of £100,000  each year. As this is still tax free income, I reckon it was quite a good investment.


  1. Great Blog as ever. The crane near Folley bridge was from the wharf side warehouses that used to be round St Ebbs which you passed through. A lot of the buildings were still there when I started working in Oxford back in 1972, they were all demolished and a new housing was built there. I hated the toll bridge when I worked in Eyensham

  2. The tolls are so low it would hardly seem collecting, especially when a wage has to be paid. It must be a very busy bridge to raise that kind of money.

    1. There are traffic jams at rush hour and they can go from the bridge just outside Oxford at times onn Fiday evening.

  3. You must be so fit with all this walking and climbing.


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