This could be one of the most beautiful spots in Oxford. It lies where the Sheepwash Channel meets the River Thames, just north of the Botley Road. It was once well looked-after and one could sit and gaze on the river, the allotments opposite and the backs of the Abbey Road houses.
Opposite is the now abandoned Tumbling Bay bathing place where 86,000 admissions were recorded in the summer of 1947.
It is now a neglected spot, the benches broken and with weeds and unkempt branches across the view.
Why does Oxford City Council not look after it? It cannot be the expense – a couple of hours would make it again a pleasant place to sit. You would think that a city whose new motto seems to be “Building Pride in our City” would do the small amount of maintenance required.
I can think of three reasons, none of them creditable.
One is that maintenance is not high on the agenda of either the councillors or the work-force – no votes in it and nothing grand to put on the CV.
The second is the fear that if this were once again made an attractive spot, people might swim there and possibly drown. In the pea-brained world of the risk-averse pen-pusher, any assumption of responsibility is avoided in case it gives rise to some further responsibility.
The third, I fear, is that the “wrong sort” of people might use it, people with dogs on strings and strange substances. This is, after all, the council which actually removes public benches in case they attract non-voting people not dressed in High Street uniformity.
The downside of encouraging the council to do anything, is that they will gold-plate it – not just clear the undergrowth but suburbanise this corner, pour concrete over the green bits and put railings and notices there in the manner beloved of the bureaucrat confronted by nature. As you can see from the photograph below there are two bright red notices there already.