A CANAL towpath dubbed one of the worst in Oxford is back on track for walkers and cyclists after extensive repairs.

The stretch between Walton Well Road and Aristotle Lane in North Oxford was branded rocky and a danger before the £158,000 works.

Now the old surface has been ripped up and replaced with fresh tarmac – funded jointly by Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the Canal and River Trust.

The Trust began the long-awaited works on February 2 and finished just in time to avoid the start of the water vole mating season.

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Workers also put in place new natural-fibre rolls, to help prevent the erosion of the canal banks.

John Best, of the Trust, said: “Canal towpaths provide wonderful green routes, linking busy towns and cities with the countryside.

“Now that this work is finished I hope people will take the opportunity to step out onto the towpath and discover the delights of the Oxford Canal.”

Oxford Mail:

Anthony Billing from Kier, left, and Dave Wilson from the surfacing contractors DW.

On Thursday John Tanner, city council executive board member for transport, and county council cabinet member for transport David Nimmo Smith reopened the path.

Cllr Tanner said: “This is a key stretch of the canal towpath and the upgrade will encourage lots more people to enjoy the tranquility of this part of Oxford.”

There were also hopes, the councillors added, that it could become a more popular route for cyclists now that it was not peppered with potholes.

Andy Chivers, of city cycling group Cyclox, said: “Cyclox is delighted that this important mixeduse route has been resurfaced.

“The canal is a great place for families to cycle and enables lovely quiet off-road routes.”

And he called for the section further north, to Frenchay Road, to also be resurfaced.

Mr Chivers added: “We recognise that the canal towpath has a lot of walkers as well, so we anticipate cyclists will need to keep to modest speeds and would encourage commuters to use the Kingston Road alternative.”

In January the Canal and River Trust revealed the scheme had to be timed to avoid clashing with the water vole mating season.

Senior project manager Nick Lewis said the aquatic rodents, protected by law, were known to live along the canal banks.

Their mating period generally lasts from March into October.

Common along rivers, lakes, marshes and areas of wet moorland, they create burrows on banks, according to wildlife preservation groups. But the vole is Britain’s fastest declining wild mammal and has disappeared from many areas.

Repairing riverbanks can help to preserve their habitats.