It was a ‘taking it easy’ type of day, so we decided to have a look around Kirtlington where we are staying.

The Oxford canal flows nearby, and being fascinated by the man-made waterways, it became our main focus.

Finding the road we needed at the other end of the village and admiring sandstone and thatched houses on the way, we carried on along a pretty, but dusty country lane for a short while. Kirtlington Quarry is on the right. The old cement works are now a nature reserve where fossils can be found, and peering through the shrubbery we saw a skateboard park as well.  

In the distance, ribbons and bunting flutter from a garden, and as we drew closer, a purple fence supporting a floral arch over a pink gate became evident. Blooming flowerpots on either side and wooden painted horse head plaques finish off the quirky façade. Narrowboat Flower and Jane’s Enchanted Garden Tearoom was closed, but due to reopen, and it was a pleasure to read that it’s fully booked during all of 2021. No wonder. We could see the eating area from outside and it looked even more appealing. Sighing, with no chance of a cuppa and a slice of cake, we ventured on.

Through a gap in the hedge, we discovered Pigeon Lock and were lucky to see a narrowboat passing through it. The Lindy-Lou painted green and white, with vibrant canal art, a decorated milk urn, jug, and a coal scuttle fixed to the vessel’s roof was soon on its way. The helmsman sported a nautical hat and the woman and spaniel, jumped aboard before the vessel eased elegantly through glinting ripples.

Over and under a stone bridge, we set off along the towpath. In some places, two tracks were apparent and my romantic mind imagined horses pulling the boats as they did in bygone days, and I deliberated whether that still happens.

Narrowboats with inspiring names like Free Spirit, line some of the banks as we pressed on. Otters and voles often frequent them but the charismatic creatures stayed hidden. The path is quite narrow and at the edges, bullrushes grow with insects buzzing around them. Beware of horseflies at this time of the year as they can give a nasty sting.

The canal makes a perfect nature trail, especially Enslow Marsh Sedgebed. A rare swampy habitat where sedges and other flowering plants grow. It’s also the breeding ground for birds such as reed bunting and sedge warbler.

Nearing the end of our walk, we came across a wharf where the boats’ hulls are moored to the side, it’s charming to see so many in one place.

A house further on seems like a dream location, its reflection like a kaleidoscope as the building’s walls go underwater. Its windows and doors survey unique scenery, and one patio door even opens out onto a boat. Very innovative and convenient.

For such a small stretch hiked in a few hours, there’s plenty to see, but being mindful that we were meant to be having a more relaxing day we headed back to our holiday abode, where we were greeted by the sound of church bells ringing, but all about that in another blog post.

So, until then.
Sue. X