Northmoor to Oxford (12 miles)
Beyond Oxford, the upstream stages of the Thames Path begin to feel more remote, and from a practicality point of view, public transport can be hard to come by. After a bit of research, I figured out that my best bet would be to take bus 18* (not available on Sunday) from Oxford to get to Northmoor, 2 miles downstream from Newbridge, and start my journey from there.
The bus stopped outside the Red Lion, and I retraced the bus route down Church Road until I found the public footpath sign next to a gate with a private fishing warning. I joined the footpath for a mile or so to reach the river. This part of the river was really quite different from the rest of the walk I had experienced so far. There was no sound of speeding traffic in the background. There were no river-side mansions. The pure silence of the countryside was complemented by the rustling sound of leaves in the wind, only to be interrupted occasionally by the engine sound of passing river vessels. Even that was surprisingly soothing.
Public footpath towards the river
However, the enjoyment did not last too long, as after Bablock Hythe, there followed quite a lengthy in-land diversion via the main road and then several fields until the walk was greeted by the river just before Pinkhill Lock. From there, there was again a slight in-land diversion before I joined the river and saw Swinford Bridge coming into sight in a distance.
Before Pinkhill Lock
Here, I noticed something. There were a clearly well-trodden desire path (which incidentally was a concept introduced to me by a designer colleague at work) that cut the corner to get to the bridge quicker. The interesting thing is it was still curving ever so slightly towards the bend of the river, so it was not exactly the shortest route between myself and the bridge. My theory was that, generally in life, people tend to cut corners, but we would still like to think we are making an effort. Naturally I joined the myriad lazy walked before me and enjoyed my shortcut to the bridge.
Swinford Bridge (original image credit)
The stonework of the bridge had seen better days, but I was sure it was perfectly safe as a road bridge as I walked underneath it. From there, the walk passed briefly through the pleasant Wytham Great Wood before reaching King's Lock, which is the most northerly point of the whole of the river Thames. I went under the busy A34 to enter Oxford.
Godstow Abbey (original image credit)
Godstow Abbey was soon reached, and the path became once again quite lively as it cut through Port Meadow, where the river widened. In the horizon, one could not only see the dreaming spires of Oxford, but also numerous cranes, presumably adding to the city's legacy. I headed straight into the centre to refuel before boarding the coach heading back to London.
Dreaming Spires (original image credit)
* p.s. for those of you planning on taking the no. 18 bus, I saw an update recently saying that the service will no longer run after 20th July 2016 :(