Just to advise any followers of this thread that following veterinary advice long walks are suspended.
I will try to find similar short walks, but they will be described from Sparky’s viewpoint and will be tagged as “Sparky Says”
Sparky has already started giving his views on our life over the last few days. If I could understand how to use the new WordPress editor I would link the posts, but so far the method has eluded me.
I will ask Sparky for help. Sparky’s a clever dog. Meanwhile you will have to search my recent posts.
Today the dice directed us to Midgham, around four miles from home. It rained last night so I decided against the path through Midgham Marsh! Instead we walked the canal towpath from Midgham Lock (X on the map) to Woolhampton Lock (Y on the map).
As can be seen from the map, this is on the route of the old Roman London-Bath road and the later Great West Road, also known as “London Road” or “Bath Road”, depending in which end of town you happen to be. It’s also the route of the Kennet & Avon Canal (1810) and the Great Western Railway (1852). This area has seen some traffic in its day. About five miles north is the M4 motorway from London to the west and Wales.
We started the walk at the road bridge just east of Midgham lock. The road bridge over the canal here is new because the nearby rail bridge had to be extended in height to accommodate electric power lines, which came into operation this year. It has been a major task to replace almost every road bridge between London and Bristol.
The towpath here is on the south side of the canal. Horse-drawn pleasure barges still operate on the canal, but I believe not on this stretch. As we walked along the canal I was vividly reminded of the origin of the modern “steeplechase” in horse racing, which is a course involving jumping constructions resembling hedges, sometimes with ditches and water obstacles. The origin is from cross-country races between two village steeples. To my right, just visible between the trees, was the steeple of Brimpton Church (circled on the map)**
and to my left, clearly visible, Midgham Church, outlined with a square on the map.
Both churches are on the highest point in their local area. Continuing along the towpath we had to cross the canal by a manually operated swing-bridge, Cranwell Bridge.
The red sign to the left of the picture is a warning about crossing the railway, showing how close the transport links are. We continued on the north side past Heales Lock (I did not see the indicated aqueduct – allegedly the first thing the Romans did for us!) and then crossed back to the south side at Oxlease Bridge.
When we reached Woolhampton Lock there was a couple in the process of lowering their narrow boat, and in conversation they said they were not looking forward to having to halt traffic at the bridge about 100 yards further downstream. I have occasionally been caught here as a motorist, but it is not very frustrating, unless you then get held up at the railway crossing for up to four consecutive trains!
Our destination was in sight. A very friendly pub/restaurant. It appears that we missed a performance yesterday evening in the pub garden by a small theatre group that travels the canals in a narrow boat over the summer, performing at canal-side pubs for voluntary donations. They are returning to the Rowbarge on 23rd July so, weather permitting, we may catch the return performance.
Before entering the bar for refreshment I spotted this sign with the history of the canal.
After a refreshing locally-brewed rhubarb drink for me and a pint of water for Sparky we returned the way we had come. The whole walk took about an hour and three-quarters. Once again it was an exploration for us both.
** incidentally, until two years ago the land in the foreground of this picture was a gravel pit, now sympathetically restored to grassland and cut for silage this year.
Today’s walk was just one grid square from home. There are two public footpaths indicated on the map. I know the one leading east is now in a new housing estate. I decided to investigate the one between the two ‘x’s on the map.
We walked to the west end of the path through rows of standard ex-MoD housing, but the path itself proved to be quite pleasant for an urban footpath.
We we walked the length of the path between back gardens, but heavily shrubbed, then returned home, diverting via the green area labeled “Heath End” on the map., so that Sparky could play ball for a while.
Leaving this area we had to walk along a road with a narrow footpath each side. With Sparky walking to heel beside me on a short lead, I was close to the road. A car approached from ahead on the clear road, so close to the kerb that the wing mirror clipped my elbow in passing. Luckily no damage was suffered, but it was a shock.
We are very lucky that in our local area there are many potential country walks. Almost every map square has at least one previously unexplored footpath or bridlepath with public access.
Today the dice took us to Pamber Heath, 2 squares to the north-east.
In the outlined square the entire south-west half (Aldermaston Park) is Ministry of Defence property, part of the Atomic Warfare Establishment, and we would not have been welcomed. No horse-riding, no walking, no photography to the south-west side of the road. So that’s half the square ruled out before we start.
And so I decided on the bridleway from Court Farm to the east. Once again, it would be easier to park at the destination, so we started at the car park about 1 Km to the east. We have frequently walked from this area before, but never using today’s route.
The heath is well managed by local volunteers, as indicated by this sign just outside the car park.
We would take the route indicated by the blue dotted line west from the “YOU ARE HERE” point.
I was a little bemused by the next sign.
I used to live on Bucklebury Common. It is several miles to the north of this point. However, I respect the request, if not the navigation abilities, of the BBOWT.
The next part of our walk reminded me of my younger years, back in the late 1960s, when my dad would drive to a local woodland in Dorset and, while the parents collected firewood and various berries, my sister and I would play “Hide and seek” by tunnelling under the ferns.
Nowadays, somehow this makes me think more of the “Jurassic Park” films. We continued the walk and encountered a chap enjoying much the same exploratory experience with a camera, but alas without a dog.
Continuing along the path between wild meadows with the merest glimpse of the AWE spotlight towers we came to Court Farm. When I win millions on the lottery, the owners of this place will receive an offer that they can neither refuse nor understand. This is the Memsahib’s dream home.
And so back to the car park by a slightly diverse route to look at the state of the pond.
I have often seen this pond, even in summer, overflowing the boards at the bottom of the photograph. I suspect that much of the local wildlife is suffering from the long dry period this summer.
Sparky had not one, but tho, molars extracted under anaesthetic on Wednesday. At the same time his legs were x-rayed to investigate a slight lameness. There is some unusual bone growth around one of his stifle joints, which needs further specialist opinion.
The upshot is that for the next few days we have to stick to grntle walks on the lead, so our adventures in the countryside are on hold until next week. Meanwhile he is taking plenty of rest.
Today the dice rolled would take us to the centre of Tadley. Since we would be walking the streets rather than countryside I adopted my second form of randomisation. Using a pack of cards red means turn left, black means turn right, a number card is the first turning and a picture card the second turning. The walk ends when the first Joker is drawn.
However I had to go into Newbury to pay a cheque into the bank (Hooray for PPI!), so decided to start the walk there instead. We headed north along Northbrook Street and right through the Parkway Shopping area towards Victoria Park.
The cards took us into the park and around the numerous footpaths, so Sparky was able to run free for a bit.
Amongst the new activities for kids in the park is this water splash.
Not only are there random waterspouts but the three buckets upend when full, to everyone’s surprise. I had to wait until the small children had left before taking the photo’, so as not to get myself into trouble by making it public.
A little further on we found Victoria herself, guarded by lions and looking amusing, if not actually amused. I believe the Sorting Hat put her in Hanover House.
And so back to the car and home for tea.
There will be no walk tomorrow as the lad has to have one of his back teeth extracted under anaesthetic. Poor doggie.
Today’s dice dropped us in the same map square as yesterday. But I decided to start from a different point, opposite the Aldermaston Court Church.
We set off north, through a field populated with thistles. Even where the footpath was indicated, it seemed to direct us into a mess of bushes, brambles and nettles.
We skirted them. After coping with another stile and a left-right dogleg we found the exit that we used yesterday. Moving on through a field of cows who gathered across the footpath but were driven off by our approach, we entered a field of this crop, whatever it is…
We then found a “normal” footpath to the bridge where the A340 crosses the River Kennet.