Oxford’s canal system is one of the more interesting parts of the county to explore. They certainly look as though they harken from a departed era of red brick and steam powered industry. Nonetheless, they have a good modern role as walking paths, cycling routes, and waterways for the longboats that seem to form a curious sub-culture of British life. There are a great many of these artificial waterways, criss-crossing the countryside and sometimes meeting with the Isis, but I have only traveled the length of a few. I mean to learn more about the canals and the longboat culture before I leave here; can anyone recommend a book?
There is an ongoing controversy about one stretch of the Oxford Canal that is owned by a company called British Waterways. I really don’t know enough about it to comment, but I have seem some pretty bold statements spray-painted on the plywood with which the former boatyard has been fenced around.
As I mentioned before, the primary danger relating to the canals, if you are a cyclist, is the probability of kamikaze insects blinding you for long enough to send you careening over the edge. This has nearly happened to me quite a number of times. As when boating, this is a case where the wise wear sunglasses.
PS. Despite being in Oxford all summer, I have yet to go punting. I hope once people from the program start returning en masse both the weather and the enthusiasm will be in place for a late summer bout.