A walk along the Isis (or is it the Thames…)

I’ve thought for a while it would be nice to include a post that showed the tow path walk along the Thames (Isis) that we take when we walk into Oxford. Most of these photos were taken not long after we arrived, in May; the walk is similar now, but there are less flowers.

The lock keeper’s pretty house, which dates from the 1920s, dominates the lock. It has a gorgeous garden, kept in order by volunteers. Now the lock is run by different shift workers, paid and volunteers, and sadly the house is their headquarters, not a home.

Iffley Towpath_Lock house

I love how the dog is the only one with a life-jacket, and I love the name of the narrowboat:

Isis lock dog

The geese at the lock are still a major feature, and you don’t get between them and the goslings:

Iffley Towpath_Geese

Iffley geese

A little way past the lock is a really lovely bridge across the slipway.


Then we (usually) walk past the Isis Tavern, dating from the 1840s and open on weekends. You can’t drive to it and access is only on foot, bike or boat! It is a fantastic place, with good food and beer (and cake!)

Isis_Towpath_Isis Tavern2

Isis_Towpath_Isis Tavern

Next to the Tavern is an large meadow. I love this photo, which could date from any time: the child and its mother walking through the long grass in the meadow, towards the river.

Isis Towpath_meadow

Is it the river Isis or the river Thames?

As Wikipedia says: The Isis is the name given to the part of the River Thames above Iffley Lock which flows through the university city of Oxford, England, past Christ Church Meadow and the focal point of rowing for Oxford University.

Historically, and especially in Victorian times, gazetteers and cartographers insisted that the river Thames was correctly named the River Isis from its source until Dorchester-on-Thames, where the river meets the River Thame and becomes the “Thame-isis” (from which the Latin, or pre-Roman Celtic, name Tamesis is derived), subsequently abbreviated to Thames; current Ordnance Survey maps still label the Thames as “River Thames or Isis” until Dorchester. Since the early 20th century this distinction has been lost in common usage even in Oxford, and some historians suggest the name Isis is nothing more than part of Tamesis, the Latin name for the Thames.

Whatever the name, it’s lovely to look at or to sunbathe beside:

Isis Towpath_ducks

It’s a magnet for narrow boats, which moor along the river.

Isis Towpath_boats

And for the rowers and scullers – and bicycles:

Isis Towpath_rowing coach

Isis Towpath_girl rowers

Further along the path is Dorrington Bridge. Its rather obscure graffiti has been there since my Oxford days in 2000, it reads: ‘Hanu is God’.

Isis Towpath_Bridge

We love the large meadow past the bridge, in which horses graze alongside geese. Toby swears that they’re gypsy horses.

Isis Towpath_ponies

In spring the towpath was lined with lilac blossom.

Isis Towpath_lilac

A little further along the path takes us past a very large boatshed, which is shared by several colleges:

Isis Towpath_boathouse

Once, it was open and we had a look around:

Isis Towpath_in the boathouse

A little further the path the older College boatsheds are visible on the other side of the river. They stand where the Cherwell and the Isis meet:

Isis Towpath_boatsheds and Cherwell2

The Cherwell (pronounced Charwell) is the main punting river in Oxford.

Isis Towpath_punts on Cherwell

The river can get rather crowded there:

Isis boats

But the route takes us past a peaceful brook off to the side:

Isis Towpath_tranquil brook

Now we’re getting closer to Oxford and it’s a bit more crowded and a bit less salubrious.

Isis Towpath_nearing Oxford

A prize if you can find the little white dog in this photo.

Isis Towpath_white dog

Close to the end of the path is Oxford’s answer to a Venetian mansion.

Isis Towpath_little Venice

And then, it’s the Head of the River pub:

Isis Towpath_Head of the River

Beyond the pub is one of the sights of Oxford, the rather creepy Statue House on the river:

Isis Towpath_Statue house

And now we’re in Oxford. It’s just a short walk up St Aldates past Christ Church to Carfax, the centre of town.

Next time – Beautiful Stowe gardens, Magdalen College and more…