Canal Guide

Oxford Canal North

Events Norfolk Broads Canal History Contact Us

Oxford Canal North

(For information about the rest of the canal click Oxford Canal South)


Elite Cropredy Lock Photo from canal boat holidays operator Napton Narrowboats
Find Napton Narrowboat base on Google Maps

The Oxford Canal from Napton to Coventry

Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs


The Oxford Canal North is the extension of its Southern counterpart from Napton Junction to its ultimate destination in Birmingham, via Hawksbury Junction and the Coventry Canal..

After the junction at Napton the South Oxford Canal takes a "right turn", and joins with what is now known as the Grand Union Canal along a stretch to the Braunston Turn, before it continues on its northern path turning off up north towards Rugby. The bed of the canal here was actually owned by the Oxford Canal Company, and they retaliated against the Grand Junction Canal people (as they were known then) by charging them excessive tolls to move the Grand Junction narrowboats across their section of the canal at this point.


Above: narrowboat joining the Grand Union from the Oxford Canal - photo by J Briggs

Above: bridges at Mill House junction of North Oxford with Grand Union - photo by J Briggs

At the Braunston Turn the Oxford takes a route off to the north, and it is known as the North Oxford Canal from here on. If you look over to your right as you turn up towards Rugby and Coventry you can see Braunston village, which rises up the hill in front of you, and which is a "proper" canal village and has several old pubs like the Millhouse, The Wheatsheaf and The Old Plough. for thirsty boaters.

Above and right: Braunston village and marina - photos by J Briggs

Braunston also has shops for those essential supplies like milk and bread, and a stunning church with a spire on top, clearly visible for miles around. Braunston is full of boat chandlery firms, and shops selling canal and "boaty" things, like The Boat Shop, Braunston Boats, Braunston Chandlers, Midland Chandlers, Union Canal Carriers and - of course - Braunston Marina itself. You will pass under one of two delightful old cast iron bridges in black and white, which carry the towpath across the canals - see picture. You turn left up the North Oxford canal to go towards Rugby and Coventry.

As you enter this section of the Oxford Canal North you will note immediately that its route seems to be simpler to navigate, being basically much straighter than the South Oxford section you have left behind you. This was because the canal owners had the route drastically shortened, by straightening the route between Braunston and Hawksbury to try and improve journey times.

The canal joined the one which comes down from Coventry, and carried huge amounts of limestone, coal, grain salt and steel in boats down to the Braunston Turn and thereafter down to London via the Grand Junction Canal (now the Grand Union). This section of the North Oxford canal remained busy for far longer, and was viable long after commercial traffic ceased on the South Oxford section.


Above: the North Oxford canal at Willoughby bridge by J Briggs

Above: The North Oxford Canal near Hillmorton by J Briggs

You can moor near Bridge 73 for The Old Royal Oak, a nice old canalside pub, which serves meals to boaters. The canal is crossed here by both road and rail bridges, complete with incessant noise from the high speed trains and lorries on their way to the nearby M6/M1 junctions.

Before long you reach the Hillmorton Locks, on the outskirts of the town of Rugby. This is a flight of three locks which drops the canal down towards the former British Waterways Board workshops sited by the bottom lock - there is also a little brick built footbridge here which is interesting.


Above: The Oxford Canal from Clifton upon Dunsmore bridge - photo by J Briggs

Once past Hillmorton, the next canalside settlement is at Clifton Wharf, where you pass Clifton Cruisers. Apart from the usual boating facilities they also have a useful shop for groceries. The village of Clifton rises steeply up above the canal, and there are several pubs here like The Clifton Inn.

Hillmorton itself is a bit of a disappointment - the town of Rugby has virtually swallowed up this part of the countryside, and the houses and industry here have turned their backs on the canal, instead of developing it as a great natural asset. Fast noisy trains and the traffic from the nearby M45 are now constantly with you, and you are overlooked by the huge radio masts on the hill above the canal.

Past Clifton and on the swing around Rugby you next pass the Rugby Wharf arm off to the left where Willow Wren Cruisers and Viking Afloat have their bases, and you then enter the little village of Newbold, where there are two interesting canalside pubs called The Boat and The Barley Mow. By now you have left Rugby behind you and are travelling in nice countryside once again.


Above: The North Oxford Canal near Newbold photo by J Briggs

After Newbold, there is a short tunnel, built at the time the whole route of the North Oxford Canal was being improved. It was actually cut wide enough to have a towpath on both sides - a real luxury in those days...

The canal continues towards Coventry, running north west past villages like Brinklow and Ansty. Anstey grew up alongside the canal and has a little pub which is a favourite for boaters called The Rose and Castle Inn, but sadly this area has been affected by the proximity of the motorways.

Finally the North Oxford reaches the big junction at Hawkesbury, which is the official end of the canal before it joins the Coventry Canal. Here there is a lovely old canal pub called The Greyhound which faces the junction bridge so boaters can moor up and have a pint whilst watching other boaters make a hash of trying to turn their long narrowboats round the difficult bend underneath the bridge. This marks the official "end" of the North Oxford Canal.

I hope that this brief introduction to the North Oxford Canal will awake your interest and that you will visit it yourself and enjoy its quiet beauty.


© 1999 - 2021  Canal Guide