The canal-side

Our canals now lead a double life. Where they cut through the countryside they have been adopted as ‘natural features’...
— Farley & Symmons Roberts (2011, p. 117)

Prior to reading Edgelands by Farley & Symmons Roberts (2011), I would have returned from a canal trip with a few photos of friends and the places we were able to moor alongside. However, the classification of the 'edgelands' has really caught my imagination.

On a recent trip along the Oxford Canal, from Lower Heyford to Thrupp, I had my camera at the ready to capture these 'edgelands'. 

The 78-mile-long Oxford Canal is arguably one of the most scenic canals in Britain. It linked the Coventry Canal and Grand Union Canal to the River Thames, so it was an extremely important trading route. Nowadays the waterway is traveled along by pleasure boaters and those who enjoy being on the canal so much, that they now live on their barges. 

Whilst canal boating offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of 21st Century life, there are signs of encroachment.

Jane's Enchanted Tea Garden is an arcadian, eccentric space consisting of a mixture of tables and chairs, wind chimes and bunting, underneath a variety of canopies and tents. 

Farming has become harmonious with the canal-side. Even the large farm buildings. It's difficult to think that the canal itself is man-made. Farley & Symmons Roberts (2011) share this view by stating that "Where [canals] cut through the countryside, they have been adopted as 'natural features', barely distinguishable from rivers."

The River Cherwell feeds into the Oxford Canal. This can contribute to problems with flooding. Sandbags are a common feature along private moorings, which have been extensions of back gardens.


Farley, P. & Symmons Roberts, M. Edgelands: Journeys into England's true wilderness, Jonathan Cape: London