Oxford is a great city to visit but it’s good to escape the tourists and head to less well known areas. Whilst in Blackwell’s Bookshop recently I discovered a Treasure Trail covering Jericho and Oxford Canal and knew it would be the perfect opportunity to discover a different part of the city.
If you’ve never done a Treasure Trail before the aim is to find the location of treasure by following directions and solving clues. Each trail contains around 20 clues and involves 2-3 miles of walking. The clues are relatively easy to solve and are suitable for primary school kids; most involve hunting out signs or carrying out simple sums. At the end you should be left with one answer which you can text to a central number. If correct your entry is added into a yearly prize draw to win £1000!
Our trail started in Worcester St car park in central Oxford. This part of town is currently full of roadworks, buses and tourists so it was a relief to get past the first couple of clues and into a slightly quieter area.
We stopped to look at the war memorial and solve a clue. The memorial has no names but is dedicated to soldiers from Oxford who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars. Nearby we found a sign indicating the location of a Big Game Museum which housed hunting trophies back in the early 1900s. I need to be careful not to give away any clue answers here!
The trail then led us through Jericho. Nowadays this area is a desirable place to live, full of character with lots of cafés and independent shops. My kids discovered a cat snoozing in a shop window and were desperate to go in and stroke it, a great sales tactic!
Back in the 1800s Jericho was slum central when open sewers and poor drainage resulted in cholera and typhoid outbreaks. In the 1950s the area was notorious as a red light district, and more recently it was the scene of fictional murders in Morse and Lewis.
The Venetian style campanile of St Barnabas dominates the area and looks a little out of place (albeit in a nice way). There are plans to develop the area around the church and in the nearby Castle Mill boatyard; these have been subject to much controversy over the last few years.
We’d have never found St Sepulchre’s Cemetery without the trail. Situated down a rubbish filled alley next to a convenience store it’s not a place you’d immediately rush to visit but once you pass through the iron gates it’s as if you’ve stepped back in time. The cemetery closed to new burials in 1945 and had become overgrown and unloved until a group of volunteers took charge and helped restore its beauty. Nowadays it’s a wildlife haven and peaceful corner of the city.
The last part of the trail took us along Oxford Canal back into the city centre. The 78 mile canal links Oxford to Coventry and was once an important transport link but nowadays is primarily used by pleasure boaters. The canal path was busy with locals, dog walkers and the occasional tourist and took us right back into central Oxford.
We’d managed to solve almost all of the clues although one had got the better of us. Nethertheless it was a great way to see a different side to a city that I thought I knew well.
- Treasure Trails are available for most locations in the UK, check out the Treasure Trail website for a searchable map of locations.
- Trails are available from the website or they can sometimes be found in local shops and Tourist Information Centres.
- Both the printed and download version cost £6.99 which is a little strange as you’d assume an online version would be cheaper.