I have heard such good things about the walk around Thrupp part of the Oxford Canal that we headed off that way on one (not so fine) morning. The plan was to do the short walk from Thrupp on to Shipton and then have a lovely treat in one of the picturesque pubs.
To get there, you can see the signs for Annie’s tea room from the main road. As you pass through the narrow road to reach the car park, you can not help but admire the row of picturesque terraced cottages on one side and the boats moored along the bank of the Canal. At the end of the road, you will come across the Lift Bridge, which is now mechanized and beautiful to see in action. Cross the bridge over the canal into the Canal Yard. This beautiful space is filled with historic buildings related to the canal’s trade heritage, including a row of three cottages with a common thatched roof, called Salt Row. Park the car in the car park here and start your adventure.
Just a word of warning: you might be tempted to sneak into Annie’s tea room just now, but try to resist it until you have finished your walk and earned your treats !
As we strolled towards the canal from the car park, Ay’s eyes lit up as he read the sign that said, “Kayaks and Canoes for hire.” He was brimming with excitement and insisted on using his pocket money for a kayak hire adventure. To be honest, I have never kayaked or canoed before, and with my husband not with us, I felt a bit overwhelmed at the idea of steering and paddling all by myself. I made all sorts of excuses, hoping to dissuade Ay from the idea.
Fate had other plans!!
We approached the kayak hire area, not sure if I was up for this adventure. However, the friendly guy managing the kayaks immediately put me at ease with his warm smile. I explained my lack of experience and even confessed that I couldn’t swim to save my life, secretly hoping he would advise against it. He did just the opposite. He reassured me that kayaking on the canal was a safe and enjoyable experience, even for beginners like me. He pointed out that the water was shallow, only about 3-5 feet deep, and they would provide us with life jackets to ensure our safety. Even if, we did fall into the water, the canal’s depth means I could easily just stand up and walk to the towpath side of the canal to get back into the kayak. He did acknowledge that the water is not the cleanest, and that we should take care not to swallow it, in that unexpected scenario.
That removed my lingering doubts and before I knew it, I was seated in a kayak, waving goodbye to the friendly guy (I really should have asked for his name!). We opted for a 2-seater kayak, which seemed like a reasonable price of £25 for an hour of fun. He gave us a safety briefing and had us sign a ‘Health and Safety Disclaimer’ before handing us the paddles.
Once we set off on the water, we quickly got the hang of it. It turned out to be a really enjoyable adventure. The passing narrowboats added to the charm, especially when we gave way to the passing narrowboats, and they honked at us or waved their appreciation. Beforehand, we had been informed about the proper etiquette on the canal i.e. to keep to the right, and if we found ourselves in the center of the canal when a narrowboat approached, we should yield to them since it’s harder for them to turn around.
I never felt out of control and though I did most of the paddling, with an occasional steer from Ay, it did not require a lot of effort as the kayak is not very heavy. I would take intermittent breaks as well, and as there are no currents in the water in the canal, the kayak would come to a halt and we would just enjoy the floating sensation, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the tranquil surroundings.
Although we did not make it all the way to Shipton Lock (which was about 30 minutes away), we had a great time spending around 45 minutes on the kayak (much more than I thought we would manage). The serene surroundings and the thrill of navigating the waterways made the experience truly memorable.
Sometimes, unexpected changes to our plans lead to even better adventures, and this was one of those moments. Despite my initial apprehension, we ended up loving every minute of our kayak hire at the canal. It was a delightful experience , and I am grateful for that friendly guy who convinced me to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy this wonderful adventure with my enthusiastic little one. Remind me to embrace spontaneity more often 🙂 Next time we will return for longer and bring a picnic!
If you keep following the canal around, you can’t really go wrong (as I now know from the kayak). You can do the entire circular walk around Thrupp, but you can also do the shorter one until Shipton, all the way onto the remains of the short railway tunnel of a now disused railway before you walk under the current railway’s bridge. There was a railway disaster at Shipton on Christmas Eve 1874 when nine train carriages fell off the railway bridge into the frozen canal below, killing 34 people. DETAILS of the shorter walk and MAP HERE.
No visit to Thrupp would be complete without a spot of afternoon tea or food in one of the canalside cafes or pubs. Annie’s tea room serves amazing cakes and ice cream while The Boat Inn has featured in many episodes of Inspector Morse, based on a series of novels by Colin Dexter, as well as Barging Round Britain with John Sergeant. The Morse Dining Room has many photographic tributes of the episodes featuring the pub. The Jolly Boatman is a short drive away
🗺 Address: Canal Rd, Thrupp, Kidlington OX5 1LD, United Kingdom
🎟 FREE Entry
Kayak hire starting from £18 per hour
Canoe hire starting from £25 per hour. Please see hire prices in the gallery.
They also do hydrobike and SUP hire
🍕Annie’s tea room and The Boat Inn as well as The Jolly Boatman are close by
🚻 Toilets in the tea room (which said customers only). If you do need to use the loo, then maybe buy something from the tearoom.
🧺 There are tables around Annie’s Tearoom for a picnic or along the embankment.
🦽 Buggy accessible
🐕 Not sure what the rule is for the dogs, but there were plenty around