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Oxford Water Walks

Historical & Literary Walks & Talks, and Books by Oxford Towpath Press

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Alice in Waterland WALKS

Alice in Waterland Group Walks – for public walks for individuals (if any) see UPCOMING EVENTS page

“What fun it’ll be when they ask me how I liked my walk.”

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice … “so long as I get somewhere.” … “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Mark Davies, author of Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford and Alice’s Oxford on Foot, is the only Oxford guide endorsed by the Lewis Carroll Society. These tours are offered for GROUPS (normal maximum 20 people, priced as below). For smaller family groups of up to five adults, reduced rates may be possible. The walks can be tailored to the interests of the participants, by varying the proportion of literary and historical content. Some suggestions follow. Entrance to the college of Christ Church is NOT included, though it will feature in the narrative.


Ch Ch Meadow Walk

Port Meadow (with group)

Alice Carreras Rabbit Walking (small)

Port Meadow photo: Julie Bukus

1. Alice in Waterland Walk: a 75/90-minute circuit of Christ Church Meadow, drawing on the exterior of Alice’s former home of Christ Church and the adjacent meadows and rivers, to explain the real-life relationship between author Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, and also to reveal the inspiration for many of the episodes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.  The route follows the paths walked by Alice and Carroll on many occasions, and includes the place where they hired rowing boats for their many trips on the River Thames, reference to the real people on whom some of the characters are probably based, and reference too to important locations which are farther away – the ‘Treacle Well’, for instance, and ‘The Pool of Tears’. Nearby is the Museum of Oxford (entrance free), which has some Alice memorabilia on show.

This walk provides the most impressive panoramic view of the famous ‘dreaming spires’ from anyway in the city, and also encompasses some other Oxford classics of children’s literature and pertinent aspects of  local history and geography – including the origins of the city, flooding, and University boat races. This is a flat, undemanding route; wheelchair users are welcome. Group rate £60.

 2. River Pilgrimage Walk: a two-and-a-half-hour, 3-mile upstream pilgrimage following the route of the famous rowing trip of 4 July 1862 towards Godstow, where the phenomenon of ‘Alice’ had its birth. Passing the exterior of the college of Christ Church, to start near the site of the original ancient ‘Oxenford’, the river towpath then passes remnants of Oxford’s industrial past, before a largely rural route encompasses a river lock, the site of Osney Abbey (inspiration for one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), and a Victorian bathing spot near the junction with the Oxford Canal. This is followed by the extraordinary expanse of Port Meadow, and the choice of finishing either in the hamlet of Binsey (and The Perch Inn), or in Jericho, where the first Alice books were published in 1865. Group rate £100. Binsey’s diminutive church and ‘treacle well’ – the destination, like Osney and Godstow, of countless pilgrims of the past – is a short distance away; guidance is unnecessary, but can be arranged if desired.

3. Alice in Wanderland: a two-hour, three-mile walk which includes some less-visited parts of the city, taking in the exterior of Christ Church, a transit of some of the most famous of the University’s older buildings, the graves of two Hatters, University Parks (with some cricket), the Museum of Natural History (and its Dodo, if open), past the Oxford University Press, where the first Alice books were printed in 1865, to end at the Ashmolean Museum, with its fine collection of work by the Pre-Raphaelite artists whom Lewis Carroll knew and photographed. Plus Wind in the Willows, Lord of the Rings, William Morris and more. Group rate £100.

4. Walk ‘with a Purpose’ (half day): as for 2, but with the ‘purpose’ (see ‘The Lobster Quadrille’ in Wonderland) of returning via some other locations pertinent to the story of Alice and Lewis Carroll, namely the Oxford University Press in Jericho (with strong Pre-Raphaelite associations, many of whom Carroll photographed); the chapel where Carroll preached his first Oxford sermon; Oxford Castle the Museum of Oxford, where Alice memorabilia is displayed; and the exterior of Christ Church, where Alice Liddell grew up and Lewis Carroll studied and taught for nearly 50 years. The 4-mile round-trip includes the Oxford Canal, Oxford Castle, and the course of the sub-terranean Trill Mill Stream. Approximately four hours (five if visiting the ‘treacle well’). Group rate £120.

Routes can be varied, but the walks usually begin at the Alice in Wonderland Shop at 83 St. Aldates, which offers a huge range of Alice merchndise, and is the likely model for the shop depicted by Lewis Carroll’s illustrator, John Tenniel, in Through the Looking-Glass. See www.aliceinwonderlandshop.co.uk. Or ring: 01865 723793. Other favourite starting points are the Visitor Information Centre, 15/16 Broad Street, OX1 3AS; and Museum of Oxford, St Aldate’s, OX1 1BX, where there is a display of Alice memorabilia.

Or, if walking is not for you, why not take a guided cruise on an elegant, silent, and non-polluting Edwardian-style electric launch. Lengths can vary from a short cruise to Godstow and Port Meadow to a whole day charter taking in every important location between Godstow and Nuneham, constituting the nine miles of river on which the ‘merry crew’ of Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters made all their rowing expeditions. See www.oxfordrivercruises.com.

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