Having had to go back home at the end of the second day and catch the train back on the third morning meant a later start than I might have chosen, but still plenty of time to do the walk I had planned.
This was a very different walk from the two previous days. None of the towpath was wide and it was all a bumpy grassy or rough surface, so a bit tougher on the feet. There were very few cyclists, hardly any walkers, and just a few boats moving on the canal. So it was a very quiet, peaceful and solitary day.
For much of the time, the only sound was birdsong and the wind in the trees, and sometime rushing water from the canal locks and overflows. Apart sometimes from traffic noise and a very loud helicopter – more of that in another post.
Most of the walk so far has been through Wiltshire – somewhere I thought I knew well, having worked there for more than 20 years. My last job involved working with most of the schools in Wiltshire, and I got to know many of them very well. But although I had driven many miles around the county and visited many of the schools, walking through it was quite a different experience.
Driving to meetings, although I could (and did) appreciate the beautiful scenery, my focus was on getting to where I needed to be, on time, and then getting back to do the next thing. Of course it felt amazing to drive across the Plain, knowing I was getting paid for it. But there was rarely time to take much in, other than a general delight in the places I was seeing.
Walking the canal, often for the first time I could see how places I knew individually relate to each other; where the canal is in relation to roads I had driven many times (but often had no idea were so close to the canal); and how the canal relates to the larger landscape. I noticed that all the locks between Bath and Crofton were uphill (i.e. in the direction I was walking), and then at Crofton they changed and all became downhill. So I suppose that was the point where we moved from the Avon to the Kennet (or perhaps I’m wrong about that? do correct me if you know different, I’m interested to know more).
Along the way I skirted beautiful villages (Crofton, Burbage,Great Bedwyn, Wootton Rivers) with lovely names, was intrigued by some of the place names (Cuckoo’s Knob??), walked over the top of Bruce Tunnel. Through the hedge I glimpsed a vineyard.
I passed near the site of Wolf Hall.
I ended up in the very pretty village of Kintbury, and was astonished to find that I could catch a train direct to Bath – a tiny halt of a station, with an intercity train stopping on it’s way from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads – how extraordinary is that?