Opinion is divided as to how to pronounce this. Townies (locals) tend to pronounce as written the rest of us pronounce it as Charwell, neither is wrong.
As you stand with your back to the Univ Boat House there are college boat houses on the opposite side of the river Thames, or Isis on which we row. The boat house most downstream belongs to Christ Church and to the right (as you look at them) of the boat houses is where the River Cherwell meets the Thames. It used to join 200m upstream via what is now called “The Old Cut” where a wooden foot bridge joins Christchurch Meadow to Boat House Island. However, the Old Cut delivered the Cherwell into the main current of the Thames which meant that when both rivers were in flood the stronger Thames would prevent the lesser Cherwell waters from flowing on down to the sea, pushing them back up the valley to flood East Oxford. The Old cut is now a charming but silt bottomed waterway, well worth exploring by punt one day. Meanwhile the New Cut, which is actually a canal, efficiently carries the Cherwell’s waters into the Thames at an angle which prevents back up and flooding.
The Cherwell rises 32 miles away (as the crow flies, at the village of Hellidon, then flows generally North South to the Thames through Northants and Oxon counties past Banbury (Ride a Cock horse) Islip, and Kidlington where it is joined by the river Ray which drains Otmoor – an area of considerable scientific interest, so much so that the M40 on its way from London to Birmingham had to make a huge semi-circular detour to circumvent it.
There are some interesting villages, pubs and churches in the hamlets around Otmoor, well worth a day’s cycling. From June onwards Vicarage Farm at Stanton St John is open, and when it’s PYO strawberry time in June, there is easy parking and a pleasant tea tent for parents, a loo for Grandma and bouncey castles and trailor rides for younger siblings. Perhaps the most useful thing the Cherwell does is to provide water for the Oxford canal as they run next to each other for many miles. I will write more about the canal some other time as it is important to SPC (The Porters’ Lodge and The Master’s Lodgings were both built by the Oxford Canal Co.) it is a great river for punting and it is just about wide enough to take the training tub up a good way, say, to the Victoria Arms for lunch.