The charity making life better by water

Thames ring

The Thames ring offers an eclectic combination of narrow canal, broad canal, tidal and non-tidal river waters.

Boats moored in Paddington Basin
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About the Thames ring

Duration35 days with roughly seven hours cruising a day
Distance in miles245
Number of locks176
Waterways in this ringGrand Union Canal Oxford Canal River Thames (this waterway belongs to the Environmental Agency)

The Thames ring travels fom the lower reaches of one of the world's best-known rivers, to the land of dreaming spires and academia of Oxford, continuing northwards along the Oxford Canal and returning via the Grand Union Canal.

Famous places

Upstream from Brentford the tidal Thames passes the Royal Botanical Gardens and the first in a number of small islands. Teddington Locks are the largest locking system on the river and is the transition from tidal to non-tidal. The weir is a gauging point for water flow and flood warnings are issued from its monitoring station.

Past Hampton Court Palace the Desborough Cut is an artificial channel avoiding a twisting loop of river. The weir at Shepperton Lock is the most southerly point reached by the Thames and the journey now reads like pages from a gazetteer of famous places; Windsor Castle, the playing fields of Eton, Henley and its regattas.

At Isis Lock the Oxford Canal heads northwards and locks become few as the channel wends its way through the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. Because of the contour method of construction used by engineer James Brindley the canal traces a convoluted course as it follows the contours of the land and on the summit pound around Wormleighton a stretch of three miles loops back on itself to within less than 1,000 yards of its starting point.

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Boaters' weddings

Tooley's Boatyard at Banbury, built in 1790, has been restored as a working exhibit and there has been much redevelopment of the surrounding area. At Napton-on-the Hill as the Oxford Canal skirts past Napton Junction, known locally as Wigram's Turn after a boating family that once lived here. Braunston Turn sees the broad-gauge Grand Union Canal continue past the historic village of Braunston and its church, noted for its traditional boaters' weddings.

Blisworth Tunnel is one of the longest navigable tunnels in the country; the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum lies beyond its southern portal. The long pound through Milton Keynes is remarkable for its lack of locks. At Bull's Bridge Junction the Paddington Arm heads for its eventual meeting with the Thames at Limehouse while the main line locks back down to the Thames at Brentford.

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Last Edited: 01 August 2023

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