AN annual event created to reveal the secrets of Oxfordshire’s hidden historical gems has been launched on the Oxford Canal.

Oxford Open Doors is best known for giving thousands of people the chance to visit some of the city’s oldest buildings, towers and tunnels and offering behind-the-scenes glimpses in libraries, museums and colleges.

But from next month, the Oxford Open Doors Weekend — which takes place on September 12 and 13 — will be offering free boat trips in and out of the city.

The narrowboat Cherwell Explorer set off from the Canal Boat Centre at Thrupp to mark the new turn in the development of Oxford Open Doors, which is organised by Oxford Preservation Trust.

The event was held for the first time three years ago.

It was intended to be a one-off idea, but with thousands of people grabbing the opportunity to become tourists in their own city, the decision was taken to make it an annual event.

Boat trips will run from Hythe Bridge up river, with British Waterways staff on hand.

James Clifton, Regeneration Manager for British Waterways, said: “We are delighted we will be able to give visitors a taste of canal life over the weekend, with the use of the narrowboats Cherwell Explorer and Cherwell Voyager.

“We will also be able to give access to those with mobility difficulties.”

Debbie Dance, director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “Thanks to the strong partnership we have developed with Oxford University, Oxford Open Doors 2009 will feature more than 100 venues and activities.”

All activities are free of charge.

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