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Thursday, 26 May 2011

A walk along the canal path from Newbury - 5.76miles

If you park at the new library building in Newbury you are immediately on the side of the Kennett and Avon Canal. The car park is a pay as you leave one, so you only pay for the time you are there, which as a walker is a nice luxury as if you over run so to speak you don't have to pick the pace up to get back to beat a ticket! Alas though we choose a typical British day of showers, and some of them were heavy ones. I did manage to nip into TKMax prior to starting out and picked up a great pair of khaki brown Craighoppers walking trousers, priced at a very reasonable £19.99. Also we passed the market in the town square and picked up a cheese and tomato focciata round bread from the bread stall, and a bag of stuff olives from the olive seller, provisions for lunch.

Then we started our walk turning right from the car park and just about got under bridge 58 as the heavens opened and a heavy shower commenced. Walking down the canal path you are somewhat sheltered from the rain, but luckily the shower only lasted about 5 minutes or so and it dried off to a hay sunshine. One of the things i noticed walking down the canal path, was that there was a whole society of house boaters and narrow boat owners that i hadn't previously considered. As you walk past the boats moored up, you cant help but peak into the windows, or look at the flower pots, vegetable bags and assorted goods that you see on top of the boats, and in all those nooks and crannies.

You also see some of the people assocaited with the waterways. As we got to lock 87 there was a man whose boat had already gone through, but who stayed to help a lone sailor get his boat up the lock. We too helped pull the ropes up to tie around the blocks, a thank you offered and accepted. We stopped to chat to one boat waiting to enter the lock too. This was the second year in a row his family had taken a canal boat holiday and he heartily recommended it. Once the good Samaritan had finished helping he quickly overtook us on his jog down the path to catch up with his craft down at the next lock and the comradeship was duly noted.

We passed a moorhen and her chicks and some yellow flowering iris along the way, with nothing to distract whilst you walk along the canal path you can see so much more. The darting dragonflies and the swallows swooping down across the water are a welcome site.
As we needed to ensure we got back to the car, the route was out in about 3 miles, an about turn and then retracing of our steps to get back to the car park. We turned around just after the 3 mile mark on the map, opened up our ruck sac and took out the bread and olives. We munched on these as we walked back and i would recommend them both! the combination was lovely and having refuelled we picked up the pace a little on the way back, averaging 20 minute miles. The rain followed us too, and we walked through 2 more showers.We also noticed a narrowboat that we had seen earlier coming up river who had broken down, being towed into Newbury for repair, the two craft tied together and the different parties swapping stories.

This time both lock 88 and 87 were empty as we past by, but looking up river as the sun catches the water and the light plays through the trees and reflects back at the sky, an empty canal can still be a beautiful sight.
Soon we were passing the houseboats and we were back to the car park. You notice an abundance of swans at the wharfs, and often you will see those sitting on the benches, feeding the numerous swans and ducks you see gathering around. We decided to stop at the teashop by the canal to refresh us a little, and as the sun was shining we sat outside. I wouldn't be able to recommend their cream tea I'm afraid. The scone was hard, the jam was fruity and very nice, though the scrapping of cream could have been more generous. We both agreed we have tasted far better scones that this. The tea was a disappointment too, not enough leaves for the size pot and a rather weak flavoured one at that. The charm of being served in china cups and a proper pot was overshadowed by the quality of the fare.

At least the sun was shining as we walked on back to the car, ready for home.

Date: 26th May 2011
Total walk: 5.76 miles
Descent: 142 ft
Ascent: 81 ft
Average pace:  28.21 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave

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