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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Barley mow bridge to Crookham Wharf - basingstoke canal walk 4.92 miles

We decided to try a little bit of canal walking with the little one. JP is 5 years old, has his own pair of walking boots, which we have used quiet a bit in the last 6 months and he walks at least once a fortnight, anywhere from 1.5 miles to 4 miles long. Normally the destination and incentive is a park for him to play in, but we want to try and include him in our walking a little, or at least that's the intention anyway lol.

He carried his own rucksack containing a regatta soft shell jacket, a water bottle, a sunhat and his snack for the walk a box of raspberries, grapes and gooseberries. I have a new larger pack i need to practice carrying, and thought that today would be a good day to try it out, as i knew the pace would be slowly with JP alongside.  I filled my rucksack with about 15kilos, added in two waterproof jackets as this weekend has been showers, showers and more showers! I too carried a snack pack of grapes, gooseberries and cherries alongside a box of Bombay mix too! It was to be a short walk, so water and snacks were deemed suitable.

We drove down to the car park opposite the barley mow pub at Winchfield Hurst and parked up. It was about 2pm and warmish so i was back in my shorts, t shirt, thermal socks and walking shoes, as was Gary. JP had those wonderfull kid trousers that roll up and attach to a button and can be rolled down at a quick flick of a finger or too. As we parked and locked up, put on rucksacks we took a "we're ready to go photo" too - just for prosperity!

After the last stretch of the canal being full of dragonfly's, birds and other wildlife it immediately strikes you that this isn't going to be the same. There's no dragonflies and its definitely quieter than the previous walk down the canal. The path is overhung and there are many places where you need to pull in your arms and hop over nettles and brambles - though the canopies of the trees provide a lovely shade and help add to the quiet atmosphere. We passed two narrow boats here, one a disabled access boat with a wheelchair user and his family enjoying the waterway, and the other a group of girls dressed up as if on a party/hen night. Then the first bridge - Blacksmith bridge came up - at about the 1mile mark on the map.
You quickly come to the next bridge, Double bridge, which was the only bridge we have seen so far that doesn't have a name plate on either side of the bridge, seems a shame that it hasn't got one.
What you cant fail to notice along this stretch is the amount of former World War II defences that litter both sides of the canal. You can see crumbled down and barely visible air raid shelters, as well as very good condition air raid shelters, pillboxes, and what we later found out from an information plaques, concrete tank traps too.
And as we came up and around the edge of the bridge we saw a white gull/tern coming back off the river with his tea in his mouth, a small fish. It was a great sight too see, but the best sightings of the day were still to come.

A flash of blue flying so low to the water caught our eyes, and my hubby turned to me and said kingfisher, as i turned to look again it flew back past this time flashing it orange underbelly and swooping back into the far side of trees - i could see the smile he was wearing, despite looking at his back, as the kingfisher is his favourite bird and its a dream to catch it on camera. That wasn't too be, but that he had seen it twice was a joy.

We were very fortunate to see another heron, it could possibly be the same one as  before as it was just the other side of the Dogmersfield park estate, which was where we saw the heron on our previous walk. Alas though, this time we were not lucky enough to get anything other than a few blurred  pictures, but the sight of the heron unfolding his wings, with a loud bang, and then flying just above the water down the canal, disappearing around the bend was a great sight, and was JP's first sighting of a heron in flight which he enjoyed too. As we walked on further down the canal, with coxmoor wood backing onto the canal it started to rain and so just before the 3 mile mark on the map we stopped to put on JP's coat and have our snacks.As the little one couldn't walk and eat, it not being something he's mastered yet, we stood and ate under the trees, though he can talk and eat and we were discussing what the air raid shelters were used for. What none of us noticed until we started to walk off, was that the heron must have landed and be stood on the far side of the bank, as once again he flew straight past us and off down the river - again a fab sight to see and we were now just a hundred of meters away from from Crookham Wharf and our last bridge for the day, Chequers bridge.
The car park here, has a lovely etched looking map of the whole canal, so we were able to trace on the plaque where we had just walked. We decided to walk back to WinchfieldWinchfield, and so we left the canal and walked about 500yards on a quiet road to the footpath sign, which helpfully said Dogmersfield on it, confirming we had the right route. Here JP stooped to unroll his trousers down to his boots, because as soon as you stepped over the stile we were walking in a grassland meadow. The great thing about this was as we walked butterflies would fly up off the path and grasses next to the paths, and we saw at least 50 butterflies floating past as we walked. the grasses were still damp from the rains but the path was well used and it was easy to follow, at the end of the first field there was another stile and then across a field used for grazing to another stile.
Dogmersfield. The entrance to this part of the footpath was overgrown, muddy and steep, filtered with tree roots and very narrow, one by one we walked up until we were now walking around the edge of a field. Nearing the 4 mile mark the going was slower, the little one was tiring but we were nearly there and the pace picked up, in fact it was the 2nd fastest mile. Once across this field that path ran alongside  some horses fields and we could once again see the Barleymow pub, right next to the car park. The footpath joined onto the Hart conservation trail just at the end, and as we walked onto the road for a few hundred yards at winchfield we all agreed it was a good day of walking.

Date: 19th June 2011
Total walk: 4.92 miles / 7.84km
Descent: 170 ft
Ascent: 165 ft
Average pace:  29.55 mins a mile
Accompanied: Gary Bygrave and JP

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