Proposal for Eynsham Wharf Stream Revival

This is a Proposal/Idea to "get the wheels turning" for a revival of the Wharf Stream at Eynsham in Oxfordshire as a type of "Working Theme Park" for the benefit of tourists and Eynsham alike.


Various Eynsham people & groups have in the last decade taken steps to "signpost" Walks based on the Wharf Stream and some clearing of the Stream has been carried out, to the extent that a dinghy can now retrace the half mile trip from the Thames to the Wharf location (beside the Talbot Inn) but presently only at the Downstream Level of Eynsham Lock.

Here is the map of the Walk.

At Waymarker "C" there is an excellent Information Panel by Lorna, a photo of which is shown below.

And at Eynsham Lock is another Information Panel, an edited photo of which is show below

So to complete the picture already emerging from the above, the local people & groups have also devised a Walk around the area of the former Abbey, as shown below. The "stream" mentioned can be seen as Chil Brook at Marker 4, running though the Abbey grounds and 700 metres to the South East it joins Limb Brook to become the Wharf Stream.


The main aim is to resore the Wharf Stream System to some of its "former glory" but as a WORKING System for the convenience of tourists and economic gain to Eynsham as a whole.

The term "Working" refers to the plan to not only create a "Theme Park" but also bring Boaters directly into Eynsham by providing mooring facilities at the Wharf. So we are simply replacing the use of the Wharf Stream as carriage of goods with carraige of tourists, which indeed has been the general transformation mode of all the Rivers & Canals over the centuries.

There are already many canoe enthusiasts that report in Blogs etc on such a trip and here is a photo to prove it. The next step is to make it possible in a "normal" Thames craft.


The Map below shows the general layout of the area.

Two brooks converge at Point A into one stream and then diverge at Point B to two again, to discharge into the Thames at Points C & D (the Eynsham Delta?).

At present there is Eynsham Weir at Point E which raises the Upstream Level "about 3 feet", but Clay Weir at Point F is open.

So even prior to a Professional Survey of the Proposal we have some "natural instumentation" to give us a very good idea of the hydraulics, starting with the fact (at least since 2006) navigation of small craft is possible from Point D to Point A, meaning that apart from a nominal half inch drop for flow Point A is at the Downstream Level of Eynsham Lock/Weir.

Both Weirs were constructed at about the same time, circa 1792, but in 2016 it would seem that "on the surface" (no pun intended) the Laws of Physics are not working.

That is to say Point C has 3 feet of Head over Point D (and Points B & F), meaning there should be a substantial BY-PASS flow around Eynsham Lock (once Clay Weir ceased to operate). The simple explanation for the lack of any BY-PASS is that a man-made or natural "blockage" has appeared between Point C and Point B (the Blue leg).


So the story so far (and please correct me if you have better information/thoughts) is that after first "deepening" the stream (and probably several "re-deepenings") the Industry was happy to use the Wharf Stream for some 400 years, unencumbered by any weirs all the way to Oxford and beyond. So I do not think the building of the Clay Weir was "to improve navigation" IN the Wharf Stream, but rather in the Thames and that the Clay Weir was imposed ON the Industry to make the Eynsham Weir work properly for those going Upstream (and sorry about short legged pigs).

It seems to me that the need for Clay Weir was an oversight based firstly on a recorded comment that the completed Eynsham Weir "does not pen any water" and secondly that Clay Weir was built a year or so after Eynsham Weir, ie as a "fix"?

But we can be certain that Clay Weir could not possibly act as a Lock, so the barges must have gone down the Blue leg to Point C and used the Flash Lock across the Thames. That of course involved heavy winching of the Barges over the Eynsham Weir, but ironically the last use of the Wharf Stream was just 2 years before the job was made easy by the building in 1927 of a POUND Lock at Eynsham.

But their plight does not matter to us now in 2016 as we HAVE the Eynsham Pound Lock so don't need to ask boaters to play around with "Paddles & Rymers" and have the wife pull the boat over the weir.

But way too many words for now so please jump into our narrowboat as we head up from the Oxford Canal, through Eynsham Lock and up to the Eynsham Wharf

I am sure you are asking why we we don't simply boat up the Wharf Stream via Point D? As explained above by using the new Clay Weir as just a Weir and not a Flash Lock (which would not work in any case) and dredging out the Blue Leg from Points C to B we get an extra 3 feet in water height at the Wharf area AND of course for the whole leg from Points B to A, potentially saving a large amount of dredging.

So let's examine the elements of the Proposal in more detail starting at Point A.


In my view there are two things that detract from this otherwise perfect spot to have a Beer and contemplate life (see panorama below). Firstly there is the uneasy feeling of the "works" which dominates this otherwise rural setting, and secondly a bridge without a full head of water under it is a sorry sight indeed.

So while the Stream could be dredged for navigation it would not cover up the concrete pad under the bridge, but restoration of Clay Weir would solve the bridge problem and save a lot on dredging works.

Here is a photo of the area in flood (2012) from the Eynsham Website and my investigations suggest that the water level shown would be only a fraction higher than the elevation from "Son of Clay". So I figure our new wharf would be at the level of the boat and have its Western extremity in about that same position.

But before unleashing my devilish plan please take a look at the earliest Google Earth map from 1945 (or so) to see just how much our sacred Wharf area has been "squashed". The outline of the Works boundary virtually consumes all of the original buildings, plus a substantial amount of back-filling of the Works land has caused the steep incline to the Stream (and the laws of gravity, and the photo, virtually confirm that some of the back-fill has ended up up IN the Stream).

Then this photo from about 1900? shows that the new bridge beside the Talbot (let's call it the Talbot Bridge as it seems to go simply as "the bridge") built in about 1930 was built on THIS side of the older and nicer bridge (which surely would have been listed if over the Thames), thus further squashing our beloved area. I think we can say that until recent times the Wharf Stream System has been "un-loved", meaning anything we do now (and the Talbot has set the bench mark with what I refer to as their Upper Deck) can only be an improvement.

It would also seem that Clay Weir was still operating properly in 1900 given the water level in the photo.

And observe the width of the "turning circle" dredged out centuries ago before any bridge when the pigs used to trot over the Chil & Limb Brook on their way to the real test crossing the Thames at Swinford.

But keep your eyes on the building on the right of the photo as it is correct location and type for our revived "Warehouse/Wharf Building".

In the 2009 Google Earth below I have tried (quite poorly) to "copy/paste" the existing Talbot Upper Deck to a similar position as the photo, ie about 50 feet to the right and about 10 feet lower down. The 2009 Google does not show the later partial roof on the Upper Deck (which you can see in the pano above) but the idea is to have the same roof structure full length of the Lower Deck.

So all that comes together below, joined by a Mooring Deck (Day/24 hour/free/fee mooring as you wish) on both sides of the Lower Deck, with stairs as needed to the higher level/Walking Path. And there should be an old Working Barge exhibit (seems Oxford Cruisers has several or could get one) and if the local artists can sculpture 2 Railwaymen on the Wharf Stream Way I am sure they could come up with some Bargemen.

To return to the vibes on the Upper Deck, it would now have a higher water level than the "puddles" seen in the pano above (Sept 2015) and the Barge to make the whole experience more satisfying, but as long as a customer was willing to walk down a short flight of steps to the Lower Deck (Beer Garden), she/he would have a "closer encounter" vibe wise plus no view at all to the Works (sitting above).

In fact the rear of the Lower Deck could/should be a solid wall, ie a place for the local artists to go wild with creativity I can't even start to imagine.


With thanks again to an Eynsham Website photo, we move on to Clay Weir and it seems the foundations are still there, hopefully signalling a fairly simple (but interesting) task of building a revived Clay Weir (with bridge) along the lines of Lorna's artist impression above.


There would need to be consultation with the landowner to determine if he needed the bridge to carry tractors etc or just for pedestrians, and there seems to no record of what sort of bridges (if any) existed there over the centuries.

But the lack of information gives us the green light to "sex it up" a bit as something like a swing bridge, so I leave that to Eynsham folks (and budget). For sure a railway swing bridge is about to be restored just downstream at Sheepwash Cut.

My final suggestion is that a gate (lock gate type) be fitted at that point to be used during construction and for any future maintenance to Clay Weir.


It is noted that this project below borders on the Wharf Stream for most of its length, and introduces us to some "players" that should have an interest in this Proposal.


There will always be howls of protest about otters and frogs being displaced but this plan leaves the section from Clay Weir to the Thames free for all critters to "divide & multiply". In fact surely a revised Wharf Stream Way should actually follow the stream from Thames to Talbot.

Also there is talk of using old railway sleepers from the dismantled railway for yet more "signposts to explain what we don't have" so if that is so then why not use them as sides for the newly dredged sections of stream, clearing the countryside at the same time?


For discussion please email (disguised format) blhogan at - or better still, just do it!