Getting Here Is Half The Fun!
This week we gave The Fishes in Oxford a fabulous makeover. When inviting people to come and see our new look, we were often asked the same question: “So…how do I get to you?”.
Never to shy away from a challenge, we decided to determine the best way to reach what has been referred to as ‘the hidden gem of West Oxford’.
So on a sunny afternoon, four of us set off from Oxford Canal at Jericho and made our ways across the city by car, bike, boat and foot respectively. My task: to show how much fun, and how easy, it is to reach us on foot. Here’s a rundown of my route and the fascinating things I saw:
1. Canal at Jericho to Four Streams
The first landmark is the Italianate bell tower of St Barnabas Church, in which a scene from Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure takes place.
Next to it is the street in which much of the first Inspector Morse episode,The Dead of Jericho, was filmed. I turn off to the right just before Isis Lock. The lock is still in full working order, using more or less the same technology as it did in the days of industrial use.
I cross the bridge, approaching the area known as Four Streams, where four waterways meet, in alignment to the compass points.
2. Sheepwash Channel to Osney Island
Where the water meets the railway line, I duck to pass under the low railway bridge. I emerge, glad not to have been attacked by the resident pigeons, to the beautiful Sheepwash Channel. Port Meadow stretches out to my right, but I turn left towards Osney Island. This attractive stretch of water gets its name from the nearby Rewley Abbey, where wool was once woven into habits.
The sound of traffic breaks the peace as I approach Osney Bridge. On it there’s an interesting plaque bearing two coats of arms: the city arms, showing an ox, and the university arms, showing a book. This rare emblem of ‘Town and Gown’ unity was erected at a time when violent clashes between city and university folk were commonplace. This parish was home to many of the bargemen, who were notorious for engaging in such conflicts.
I cross the bridge and descend again into tranquility at Osney Island.Oxford’s original electric power station still looms on the banks, but it is now occupied by Oxford University’s Engineering Science department.
3. Osney Mead to North Hinksey
I stroll through the Vitorian terraces of Osney, then turn left down industrial Osney Mead. The gates of Hinksey Meadows soon lead me back into greenery. According to The Oxford Preservation Trust, the city itself might have its origins in these fields. It is thought that the Oxen Ford, from which Oxford derives its name, was situated here.
A peaceful footpath, shaded by trees and lined with creeping roots, leads me towards North Hinksey. Finally, through the trees, I glimpse the distinctive green Aspalls mural in The fishes garden.
I’ve made it! I’ve certainly earned myself a nice cold glass of cider and a bite to eat in our smart new eatery. But I can see I’ve already been beaten by fellow traveller Rob, whose bike brought him here in a mere 15 minutes. It has taken me 45, though I feel triumphant, having taken a walk through several centuries of local history. Win!