The Head of the River, Oxford
View taken from Folly Bridge
The Head of the River has 12 delightful en-suite bedrooms and is in one of the best locations
in the city of Oxford, overlooking the River Thames.
Brian and Carol's team produce freshly cooked food that includes crispy battered Cape hake and chips in a Discovery beer batter and a steak and London Pride short crust pie with seasonal vegetables. To fortify yourself for a day walking around the city of 'dreaming spires', we offer classic full English breakfasts with Oxford sausages.
Going upstream after Christ Church Meadow, keeping as close to the right bank (your right) as possible takes you round into the old weir pool below Folly Bridge with the "Head of the River" just there.
The Trill Stream -
On the RIGHT bank, downstream of the "Head of the River" was the inflow from the Trill Stream, coming from Castle Mill and the old Navigation stream, now silted up / culverted. When the weir and lock at Folly Bridge were in place Fred Thacker says -
the city gamins would navigate the two streams running south from the Trill Mill stream, thus dodging the lock [at Folly Bridge, with its six penny Toll for pleasure craft] in order to get a cheap view of the races.
It is said that at sometime most
of the flow of the river in summer came down the Trill Stream!
1908: T E Lawrence canoed down the Trill Mill Stream (then an underground sewer) emerging at Folly Bridge, in order to "epater les bourgeois" by firing blank pistol-shots under the gratings in the streets.
[ Now wouldn't that have made a nice scene in a film? ]
1920: Salter's Boathouse on the Trill Stream, Henry Taunt -
Salter's Boathouse on the Trill Stream, Henry Taunt, 1920
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT12624
1953: from Oxford by James Morris -
There are bits and pieces of the Thames all over Oxford, runnels and reaches and backwaters - 'more in number than your eyelashes', Keats said - and beneath the very centre of the city runs the Trill Mill stream, a gloomy underground waterway in which was discovered, one day in the 1920s, a rotted Victorian punt with two Victorian skeletons in it.
At the Head of the River, on the RIGHT bank there is an old wharf complete with crane. (customers' moorings).
Beware of upstream current (i.e. towards Folly Bridge) on the Head of the River wharf.
You become aware that this was a weir pool not long ago!
Here it is (when it was still Salters boat yard) that, it is said, in the good old days when racing eights were made of wood, the leading university crew were proclaimed "head of the river" and ceremonially burnt their boat as a prelude to a memorable (if not remembered) evening.
That custom was not quite as daft as it seems because what they were doing was ensuring that they got a new boat for next year (and there was, and still is, considerable development in the technology of racing boats - so a new boat is usually an advantage) and that all those college boatmen were kept in full employment.
Mollie Harris has a story of how one eight celebrated their win
The Head of the River Wharf
The Head of the River pub does good pub grub, though mooring with a small boat can be a little tricky since the wharf is nearly four feet high. Twenty years ago I used to leap up and land on my feet, now I lunge forward and scramble up on my belly. Hey ho!
1793: June 15, In a "Letter from Oxford," attributed to John Skinner of Trinity College -
A SAIL TO SANDFORD
AT Folly Bridge we hoist the sail
And briskly scud before the gale
To Iffley where our course awhile
Detain its locks and Saxon pile
Affording pause to recommend
The Hobby-horse unto my friend,
Our light-built galley : ours, I say,
Since Warren bears an equal sway
In her command ; as first, in cost
The half he shared ; himself a host,
Whether he plies the limber oar
Or tows the vessel from the shore,
Or strains the main sheet tight astern
Close to the wind. Of him I learn
Patient to wait the time exact
When jib and foresail should be backed
To bring her round ; or mark the strain
The boat on gunwale can sustain,
Without aught danger of upsetting
Or giving both her mates a wetting.
We visit Sandford next, and there
Beckley provides accustomed fare
Of eels, and perch, and brown beefsteak
Dainties we taste oft twice a week,
Whilst, Hebe-like, his daughter waits,
Froths our full bumpers, changes plates.
The pretty handmaid's anxious toils
Meanwhile our mutual praise beguiles,
Whilst she, delighted, blushing sees
The bill o'erpaid, and pockets fees
Supplied for ribbon or for lace
To deck her bonnet or her face.
A game at quoits will our stay
Awhile at Sandford Inn delay,
Or rustic nine-pins ; then, once more,
We hoist our sail, and tug the oar
To Newnham bound. Can books bestow
One half the joy we truants know?