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Plan to give tourists a sight of the other Oxford east of Magdalen Bridge
11:10am Monday 28th January 2013 in News
IT IS home to the quirky Cowley Road, the first four-minute mile and its very own carnival.
But it does not attract many of the tourists visiting Oxford, very few of whom venture beyond Magdalen Bridge.
Now Oxford’s quirkiest quarter could host its own guided tours to try to redress the balance.
Dozens of tour operators offer routes around the historic city centre but there is just one annual tour of East Oxford.
And members of Oxford City Council are looking into the possibility of running tours dedicated to the lively, cosmopolitan area.
Craig Simmons, chairman of the East Area Forum, said: “We need to attract more tourists to support the independent traders.
“We were brainstorming and someone said ‘why don’t we offer tours of East Oxford?’”
The idea is to team up with a charity or other organisation to offer walking tours free-of-charge, acting as an introduction to the city east of Magdalen Bridge. Mr Simmons said there was a wealth of material for people to see.
He said: “There are things like SS Mary and John Church, which is very interesting and has lots of interesting historical stuff.
”There are also a lot of historical buildings, like Bartlemas Chapel and the old workhouse, which is now the community centre in Manzil Way.”
It would make East Oxford more accessible and introduce the tourists in particular to this part of Oxford.
“In most cities, a place like East Oxford would be cherished as an alternative part of the city, and we don’t have that sort of promotion.”
Many of the buildings in Cowley Road are decorated with graffiti-style artwork, and it is also the site of an old tramline which used to run up the street, ending at Leopold Street.
It also houses Oxford’s only remaining independent cinema, the Ultimate Picture Palace, in Cowley Road.
Owner Becky Hallsmith, who lives in East Oxford, said: “There is lovely heritage in this part of Oxford.
“We are in a building that was purpose-built as a cinema 100 years ago and there are lots of other buildings with great histories.
“I find the idea of guided tours of East Oxford quite funny, but if it was done in a quirky way it would be lovely to take people for a little travel down the Cowley Road.”
Susi Golding, director of Visit Oxfordshire, estimated only a “small fraction” of visitors to Oxford went east of Magdalen Bridge.
She said: “Current and historical demand is not that great for daily tours for areas outside the city centre.
“I would say it's something that would potentially be more popular with residents,and visitors who have been to Oxford a couple of times.”
The idea will be looked at by council officials before being discussed again at the area forum meeting on March 18.
Some of East Oxford's tourist attractions include:
- Iffley Road running track, where Sir Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile.
- The Victoria Fountain on The Plain roundabout.
- St John the Evangelist Church, Iffley Road, was built by former Oxford tutor Sir Thomas Bodley and dates back to the 1890s.
- South Park offers some of the best views of Oxford’s dreaming spires.
- SS Mary and John Churchyard, Cowley Road, has been the subject of an ongoing project and has ancient memorials and visitor information – including an ‘app’, which visitors can download about the site.
- East Oxford is home to Oxford’s three mosques, Oxford Central Mosque in Manzil Way, the Madina Mosque in Stanley Road, and the Bangladesh Islamic Education Centre and Mosque Cowley Road.