Oxford is built upon the waterways. Its canal and rivers are an asset bringing many benefits to the city and our communities.

We work closely with key partners such as the Environment Agency, Canal & River Trust and others to ensure our waterways are safe and enjoyable for all.

Oxford Waterways Project

We have launched a new partnership project which seeks to make the most of Oxford’s waterways, setting a new vision for improving the river and canal. 

The Oxford Waterways Project brings together the city council, Oxfordshire County Council, the Environment Agency and the Canal & River Trust, all of whom have responsibility for the waterways and the areas around them.  

Key themes

The vision and an introduction to the project describes how the waterways benefit the city. It sets five themes which will be used to identify improvement opportunities.  These include:

  • City regeneration – improving the way the waterways look and feel
  • Mooring and service provision – reviewing the way the waterways are managed for those on boats
  • Tourism – attracting new visitors to the city and supporting the local economy
  • Active communities – boosting health and wellbeing and engagement with communities 
  • Environment – responding to the climate change emergency by protecting and enhancing the environment

Early impact

Since September 2018 the project has already delivered successes across the city:

  • Over 200 hours of volunteer time given by groups such as GoodGym, the Towpath Taskforce and Oxford City Council’s Countryside Volunteers 
  • Supporting the county council on its £1.8m towpath resurfacing programme, improving  cycle and walking routes 
  • Volunteers sowed wildflowers seed alongside the River Thames 
  • £350k dredging programme on Oxford Canal to improve navigation  
  • Bank improvements to residential moorings on the Oxford Canal
  • Litter-picking, fly-tipping, abandoned boats and pollution tackled   
  • 1,000 school children received water safety advice in Wild Water campaign 
  • Graffiti cleaned from over 100m of walls
  • Over 50 native shrubs planted in the canal corridor to promote biodiversity and prevent graffiti 

Future improvements

Looking forward, the Oxford Waterways Project partners are looking to deliver further improvements, including:

  • Improvements to areas at Hythe Bridge and Folly Bridge, including new bins, benches, plantings and exploring the potential for a new café
  • Canal towpath resurfacing 
  • Developing new walking trails and visitor attractions 
  • Working with the NHS to encourage healthy activity on the waterways
  • Working with schools on a new “citizen science” water testing project
  • Creating “nature corridors” alongside the waterways 
  • Encouraging people from the whole city to enjoy the waterways spaces

Share your ideas

The partnership is now asking the public to share their ideas for improving the waterways, no matter how large or small, by emailing [email protected]

Staying safe

For more advice on stayin safe when using Oxford's waterways refer to the Wild Water Code