North Parade – Explore Summertown and Punting
Explore the exclusive leafy suburbs of Summertown where many inspirational Oxonians have lived and enjoy an Oxford pastime of punting at the Cherwell Boat House before heading into the modern shopping precinct of Summerton, then onto the street known as ‘the most interesting little street in Oxford’; North Parade, with its individual charm, offers independent shops, cafes and pubs to enjoy.
Recommended duration: 2 to 3 hours (depending on stoppage times, and allowing an hour for punting)
Distance: 4 miles
Directions and points of interest summary
- Depart the City Sightseeing Oxford bus at stop 16 – Banbury Road.
- Walk the short distance to North Parade and collect your hire bikes.
Point of interest: North Parade
- Cross over Banbury Road and head up Norham Road.
- Turn right onto Bradmore Road.
- Turn left onto Norham Gardens.
Point of interest: Lady Margaret Hall
- When you reach Lady Margaret Hall, turn left on Fyfield Road.
- Turn right on Norham Road heading towards Benson Place.
- Take almost an immediate left onto the path through the ballads and follow the path past Dragon School.
Point of interest: Dragon School
- Turn right on Bardwell Road.
- Follow the road as it bends. Look for the signs for the Cherwell Boat House, which is where Bardwell and Chadlington Road meet.
- Follow the path down to the Cherwell Boat House.
Point of interest: Cherwell Boat House
- Leave the Boat House behind you and head back up the path you came down.
- Head back up Bardwell Road the way you came from.
- Turn right onto Norham Road.
Point of interest: J.R.R. Tolkien’s House (number 20 & 22) – located on the right-hand side of the road, look out of the be plaque (see details below).
- Go straight across at the crossroads onto Charlbury Road.
- Follow Charlbury Road round to the right and follow the Cycle Path signs as they take you off the roads onto a cycle and pedestrian path past the school playing fields.
- When you reach the Marston Ferry Road, turn left and follow the off-road cycle path.
- Cross under the road via the subway continuing in the same direction.
- Turn right as if heading into the school grounds.
- Follow the cycleway signs on your left and take the paths.
- Follow the path until you come out by Banbury Road.
Point of interest: Summertown
- Cross the Banbury Road and ride down through Summertown until you reach South Parade.
- Turn left onto South Parade.
Point of interest: South Parade
- Cross over Woodstock Road and join the cycle path off the road turning left.
- Turn right onto Bainton Road.
- Continue straight ahead through the ballads by The Anchor Pub onto Hayfield Road.
- Continue straight ahead at the roundabout to join Kingston Road.
- Turn left onto Leckford Road.
- Cross Woodstock Road heading to the right.
- By the pedestrian crossing and traffic lights take the path (Church Walk) on the left.
- The path will bring you out at the bottom of the North Parade.
- North Parade has restrictions on vehicular and cycle access during certain times so you may need to push your bike whilst visiting the Parade.
- Walk up North Parade.
- End of the tour, lock the bikes at North Parade.
Points of interest
Once described as one of the most interesting little streets in Oxford, North Parade is a short shopping street with residential homes, independent shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs. There is also a regular outdoor farmers market held on the street.
North Parade actually runs south of South Parade in Summertown. It is claimed that during the English Civil War when Charles I was besieged by Oliver Cromwell that South Parade was the Roundheads Southern front and North Parade was the Royalist Northern front. This is however unlikely to be true!
It is much more likely that North Parade was the earliest development and has been known as such since the start, the area of Summertown would have originally not been classed as within the city so North Parade would have been the most northerly.
Oxford was a bastion of male learning until 1920 when women finally won the right to take degrees here and several women’s colleges were established. Lady Margaret Hall was the first and did not accept men until 1979. All have since become co-educational (some of the colleges were still male-only up until the 1980s). Benazir Bhutto, former President of Pakistan assassinated in 2007, studied here in the 1970s and got elected president of the Oxford Union, becoming the first Asian woman to head the prestigious debating society.
Notable people who studied at Lady Margaret Hall include Benazir Bhutto, Nigella Lawson, Michael Gove, Ann Widdecombe, Gertrude Bell and Malala Yousafzai.
The Dragon School (probably the best school name ever!) was originally called the plain old Prep School. It is one of the country’s elite boarding schools founded by Oxford dons in 1877. One among these dons, a certain Mr George, was so charismatic and involved with the students that they came to call themselves ‘George’s Dragons’ during a sports day and the name stuck. Famous students include actress Emma Watson, John Betjeman (Poet Laureate ), Lord Hunt, Dom Joly, Ben Lamb, Tom Penny, Simon Tolkein, Baroness Young, Jack Whitehall and gay rights activist Peter Tachell.
The Cherwell Boat House is a working Punt House and restaurant which was established during Victorian times. The restaurant is award-winning serving fine waterside dining.
Punting is an activity enjoyed by visitors and locals in Oxford alike and you can reach and view some parts of the city not easily accessible by bike or foot. You can either head to the back of University Parks or choose to head up to the Victoria Arms pub where you may land and enjoy a drink. Picnics and drinks are allowed on the punts and instructions provided. Remember, if you drop the punt pole, it will float – let go!
Tolkien lived in house number 22 between 1926 and 1930 and then the larger house number 20 from 1930 to 1947. Whilst living in number 20 he wrote the Hobbit and most of the Lord of the Rings.
The house has been given a grade 2 listed building and it is reported that the interior remains largely unaltered since the 1940s.
As settlement developed, Walton Gardens and Summertown became a mixture of modest houses along the east side of Banbury Road, and a few larger houses standing on sizeable grounds. Fellows of the University Colleges had to remain celibate and live in College until the mid-1800s or lose their Fellowships. But, when this was rescinded, they had houses built in this area. Also, there were the homes of successful tradesmen, such as butchers and grocers, whose businesses served the growing needs of the city and university populations. This, in turn, attracted affluent families from outside the city to take up residence here.
Many notable Oxonians have lived in Summertown through the years including; J.R.R Tolkien, Colin Dexter, Lord Berkley, Sir Adam Roberts, Tom Ward, Iris Murdoch, Athol Williams, Namoi Mitchison, Sir Francis Simon, Thom Yorke and many more.
South Parade is a small shopping street in Summertown actually North of Oxford and North of North Parade…
it is claimed that during the English Civil War when Charles I was besieged by Oliver Cromwell that South Parade was the Roundheads Southern front and North Parade was the Royalist Northern front. This is however unlikely to be true!
It is much more likely that North Parade was the earliest development and has been known as such since the start. The area of Summertown would have originally not been classed as within the city so North Parade would have been the most northerly.
North Parade was one of the earliest developments on St. Johns (wealthy Oxford’s college) land, soon after 1855, and was so called from the start… South Parade was known by that name at least as early as 1859. We do not know which got its name first, but when either was named there would have seemed no need to consider the existence of the other. One was in Oxford, the other in a village out in the county. In terms of Oxford, North Parade was north; in terms of Summertown, South Parade was south. When Summertown was made part of Oxford, the names illogically remained.
Hope that clears it up!
There is an array of shops and restaurants to enjoy along the Parade.