Our second day on this latest trip to the canal started at the last station of the commuter line from
London, which rather curiously is the very rural Bedwyn. It seems rather an arbitrary place to terminate the line and is about as far as you can imagine a Londoncommuter station to look like. Anyhow, it does mean that this is the last ‘easy’ stage of the route westwards along the canal for the next station at Pewsey is further away and after that there are no stations at all for a while. All that though is for another day as this time we headed back to where we had finished yesterday at Kintbury.
|Large House at Kintbury|
Our route today would take us through the small town of
Hungerfordback to Bedwyn; a distance of 8 miles. We hoped that we weren’t pushing the girls too much but had remembered that they completed a similar distance out of Reading on day 1. The start of the day was a bit grey as the early morning mist and swirling low cloud hadn’t burnt off quite yet. It did make for cool and clammy conditions to begin with, but none of us were particularly complaining for it had got a little hot the day before.
|Goods and Chattles|
We passed a cycling family eating their breakfast and soon realised that they weren’t the only ones. Kintbury seemed gripped with breakfast fever as many of the canal boats had the various aromas of coffee, bacon, eggs and toast all wafting over the towpath. Fortunately we had already had a substantial breakfast otherwise the smell of all this cooking would have been torture!
Kintbury is obviously a very popular stop for boating traffic for the line up of boats was surprisingly long considering that we had not seen a moving vessel east of here for some miles. Some of the vessels were not here for pleasure though as the banging and sawing sounds revealed. I guess maintenance and DIY is a common theme for Sunday mornings in this corner of
|Orange Tip Butterfly|
At the next bridge though the moorings gave way to clear canal once again and at this point the clouds finally drifted away to reveal the true nature of the day, which was going to be another hot one. We passed a very large and ornate house on the left hand bank and off into open countryside. Bridges seemed to come along at regular intervals on this section and the number of locks seemed to increase too, suggesting that we were heading uphill a little more quickly.
|Wire Lock Bridge|
The path passed through some lovely shading woodland for awhile before coming out into open fields once again. This change in scenery was to happen a number of times during the day, providing a nice balance between the two. Along the towpath the flowers were attracting a number of butterflies, including small tortoiseshells and orange tips which were the most eye catching.
We crossed under the railway and then across the canal itself to resume our trip down the left hand side. Curiously this was to be the only canal crossing of the whole day. Across the other side of the canal was the unmistakable features of an old mill, this one called Dunmill. It looked like the old place had had a significant facelift for the brickwork in places looked very new. I suspect it is now luxury apartments although it was impossible to see them properly from our side of the water.
The town of
Hungerford soon came upon us and we took the opportunity to head into town for a little looks around. Sadly the first thing I think about Hungerford is that awful day in 1987 when a large number of people were shot dead by a deranged gunman in what was the first event of its type on this shores. The fact that it happened in this fairly sleepy but very picturesque town makes it all the more shocking. By now the day was getting properly hot and so we thought that a nice cold lemonade in the nearest pub would help flagging spirits. We took the opportunity to sit out in the street and watch the world go by, which was very pleasant.
|Hungerford Town Hall|
On the way back to the canal we caught sight of a very pleasant looking bakery, which to our surprise was actually open on this Sunday lunchtime. I always have a hard time passing a bakery shop and it wasn’t hard to persuade me to go inside. We grabbed some snacks and made our way back to the canal for our journey westwards. As with Newbury the canal seemed to find a course through the town that did not seem to prolong the urban stretch very much. The last sight before we headed into the open meadows was a view of the large and well appointed church that wasn’t dissimilar in style to the one we had passed in Newbury yesterday.
As we wandered along the towpath through the meadows to the west of Hungerford I got the unlikely sight of a canal boat coming towards me sporting a Brighton and Hove Albion flag, my local team in
Sussex. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a photo & we exchanged pleasantries as he chugged by. A little further on and we passed a sadly derelict house before finally finding the seat we had been looking for to stop and eat our snack.
We passed under the railway once again and our onward walk from here seemed to be very much more open in character. We seemed to have finally left the woodland behind and the canal followed a much straighter course. This had the effect of the mileage seeming to be chalked off more quickly but it also meant that there was less interest overall. Every so often the trains thundered or rattled by, depending on whether it was a stopper or an express. The difference between the two could be identified long before they passed by.
|Derelict Lock Keeper's House|
A couple of miles of pleasant but unremarkable countryside ensued with the main interest points being offered by the canal-side flowers in the shape of some lovely yellow flag irises and the odd orchid that hid surreptitiously in the grass. We also passed by a section of canal that was being repaired, which forced us out into the neighbouring road. Other than this annoyance though we largely had the towpath to ourselves until we got to Bedwyn.
|Southern Marsh Orchid|
Our arrival at Bedwyn was prefaced by another long line of boats, although this time there was a lot less activity. We took our leave of the canal after eight miles and four and a half hours of walking - a pretty good effort from the girls & with no complaints. The only sadness this time was that we didn’t have a third day as we had had last time out. This was an enjoyable walk but short on highlights after Hungerford. A stop at this small town is surely a must though for any walkers/ cyclists/ boaters along this stretch.
|Burnt Mill Footbridge|