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Outside OX1: Oxford’s other neighbourhoods

It is often said that Oxford consists of just three streets: the High Street, Cornmarket, and Broad Street. The first is the city’s beating highway, host to the Exam Schools and cafés like JCT (arguably of equal importance). Down Cornmarket, look out for the guy belting any number of musical hits. This street contains the right amount of random town shops (see Greggs, Pret, McDonald’s) to make it seem like any other city centre, until an Oxford puffer saying “yah my summer in Rome was just like the Aeneid” slaps you in the face. Broad Street – well, that’s the place Emma Watson almost ran me over in her car.

But beyond these iconic streets, what other spaces does Oxford have to offer its students? We often talk about this city as being tiny – at least the zillionth Londoner you’ve befriended does – but when we begin to look beyond the walls of its sandy-stoned colleges, there is so much more to it than the Rad Cam and Christ Church Meadows.

Take Cowley. This sprawling neighbourhood east of the Cherwell is perhaps best understood through the following distinction.

Shallow Cowley – the stomping ground of fiercely proud Hilda’s students – requires knowledge of three main roads. St Clement’s is what most people know as ‘that street taken to watch the fireworks in South Parks every year,’ which produces enough congestion to rival queues into a Taylor Swift concert. If I can tempt you to move beyond an annual visit, it contains Oxford’s best Greek food (The Greek Takeaway). The second is Cowley Road. It contains Oxford’s best café (Peloton’s banana bread is to die for) and leads to the city’s best pubs (redacted to avoid overcrowding). Our Tesco’s may not have a tescalator but the opportunity to bump into fellow Cowley-dwellers fills my heart with joy. Apparently, Jacob Elordi has tutes on Iffley Road – ask Emerald Fennell. There’s the Sport Centre too, if you know anything about deadlifts and protein powder. Cowley is a lifestyle, so expect its OX4 residents to strangely defend it til their last breath.

Deep Cowley. Officially known as Temple Cowley, the most financially savvy of students flock here for Lidl, with many a bargain to be found. On the long journey out here you may even stumble across Oxford’s illusive third Spoons! The Oxfam superstore is around the corner for all you Depop-trawling, Y2K-chasing fashionistas (although I applaud your sustainable choice, intentional or otherwise).

New Hinksey. Venturing on past the city’s forgettable third Tesco, over Folly Bridge and a barrage of Hertford accommodation you arrive in Hinksey. Most come here for the park that hosts Hinksey’s lake. A green and blue oasis, its grassy banks fill with the easy laughter of students during Trinity’s hottest days. While rumours of nefarious substances circulate (amongst students and waters), a Hinksey swim is an iconic Oxford activity that is worth ticking off your bucket-list. Go on. Take the plunge!

Headington. It comes in three varieties: Hill, New, and Quarry (I bet you didn’t know that, why would you?). Really only seen by most university students through the window of the Oxtube or the ambulance to A&E, its an integral part of the city, yet so rarely discussed. I’ve got nothing against Brookes – just the steep hill you have to climb to get there. No. Just no.

Head past the station and you enter Botley. While most arrive at this side of town only to zoom away via train, that would be, well, understandable. A nice suburb, its use has so far been limited to a chaotic trip to Curry’s PC world to replace a laptop that was actually broken (although my tutor thinks this happens to me a lot). There’s a Waitrose too. Someone once told me its mature cheddar is the cheapest in the city.

Summertown. Oxford’s Hampstead? You may aspire to live here, but you’ll never find a job that pays well enough in the city to do so. Still desperate for its leafy, red-brick charm? Then consider yourself signed up for 20 years of consultant hell in the big city, where answering important questions with simply more meaningless questions will furnish you with enough money to move in. For now, it makes for a wonderful stroll. 

Lastly, there’s Jericho – the jewel of the city! Come for a picnic in Port Meadow, sunny break in Wellington Square, or a bite to eat in one of its many fantastic restaurants. And I really do mean a bite. I really can’t afford much more. Stretching Jericho’s geographical limits, it includes the delights of Little Clarendon Street. And if you ever need to submit a Right to Work form – the University Offices. Although God knows any wage you’d get paid wouldn’t be enough to live there. 

And that completes my Oxford round-up. Inevitably caught up in tired recommendations, cynicism and just the right amount of appreciation for this dynamic city, I can only hope this has spurred some interest in going beyond the confines of the High Street. Some friends take convincing just to go to the Rad Cam, but bursting the bubble of OX1 centrism is the best cure for a city that soon becomes so unbelievably dull.

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