The Oxfordshire Canal in Winter

Community | Lifestyle

Canals in the winter are a beautiful sight; frosted tow paths, glistening cold waters, ice layered leaves. Wrapping up warm and taking a stroll along the canal can make for a Sunday morning well spent.

If you’re thinking of taking to the water by boat in the winter, there are a few things to bear in mind that differ from other times of the year. With more people than ever considering a staycation as their next holiday, hiring a canal boat and travelling the Oxfordshire canal, with a stop off at Lock29, could be the perfect choice!
The first tip is applicable to walkers, runners, cyclists, boaters and anyone else using the canals in winter. Look out for ice. Particularly around locks. It can be underfoot, on ladders. on handles and on other surfaces. Always be aware to keep an eye out and move carefully. Wearing gloves is a good idea – not too thick though if you’re boating, or you might struggle to properly manage the ropes and metal you’re holding.
Winter is generally a quieter time of year on the canals. This is a part of the beauty of winter. It does mean that it’s an ideal time for the Canal and River Trust to do some essential maintenance work and the winter winds can mean more obstructions to clear. This won’t affect your trip though, as you’ll be able to check in advance most of the time! And unless you’re travelling a long way, which many don’t in winter, there shouldn’t be much disruption, if any.
It looks beautiful, and pretty cool when the canal is frozen over. Don’t be tempted to try and walk or skate on it though, idyllic as this may sound – it’s impossible to know its strength. Don’t try and cruise through thick ice either – it’s super tough on the engine and can damage the boat.
If you’re using facilities on route, be sure to stop off even if you’re not sure you need to. Frozen pipes can disrupt the supply. So, when you find a working one, best to stop, than risk having to travel too far to the next. Be careful as taps left dripping can create slippery areas by them.
The canals and rivers will likely be a bit fuller during winter. There’s more rainfall and also thawing snow, even from miles away, can increase water levels.
The canals are a beautiful, sociable place to be. With wildlife, friendly faces and great places to moor up – give it a go!
Wrap up warm, layer up (especially when stood at the tiller!) and make sure there’s always a warm brew available! Travel with enough fuel to keep your stoves in use. Many boats have heaters to use as well!
The canals are a wonderful place to be. Full of wildlife, friendly faces and beautiful places to moor up on route. Embrace the journey, learn along the way, visit great places like Lock29, wave at passers-by and have fun! We hope to see you soon!

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