My reliance on public transport collapsed today. It proved impossible to arrive in Kintbury early enough to do the planned section of walk and catch a train home (at least, without paying an arm and a leg to travel early enough to actually complete the walk).
Luckily I had already invited Malcolm to join me for this stretch. We (he) drove there instead. In order to finish up at a station in time to catch the train back to Kintbury, it seemed that we should only walk as far as Aldermaston Wharf.
The first part of the walk was delightful. The weather was good, the birds were singing, and we had the good fortune to spot a kingfisher. Not only that, but a generous boat dweller invited us to stand at the front of her boat for a perfect view of them coming and going, with two fledglings beginning to learn how to be kingfishers. She and her partner had moored there for longer than planned just to enjoy the spectacle. We weren’t blessed with another sighting of the kingfishers, but truly two good glimpses of those vivid startling colours will stay with me for a very long time.
No photograph of the kingfishers – often with birds there is a choice between seeing and enjoying them, and trying to take a photo and missing them. With such a choice, the decision is surely obvious. My focus this time was to walk the walk, and having covered less than three miles in over an hour, I insisted on us speeding up a little, to be sure of getting to Aldermaston Wharf in time for our train. The lure of recording birdsong and taking photos (him) will have to wait till another occasion. It certainly made a change for me to be insisting on a faster pace.
When we got to Newbury, the scenery along the canal changed from being predominantly rural to being more urban and built up. Not so ‘scenic’ or ‘picturesque’ maybe, but I found it very interesting. After all, when you remember that the canal was essentially the motorway of its time and built for industry and commerce, there is a certain continuity to see commerce and industry still there along the banks. Some of that is still evident at other places along the way – the Wadworth’s brewery alongside the canal in Devizes, and the former wharf buildings and developments in Bath, Burbage, Honeystreet, and Aldermaston.
But here the impact today of the canal on urban development was much more obvious. For me, these buildings have their own particular form of beauty, particularly when the reflections in the water are as clear and still as this.
And interspersed among them splashes of gorgeous gardens where people had decided to make their own small space beautiful.
Then back to familiar canal-scape as we headed towards Aldermaston Wharf in time for the train to Kintbury and a well-earned drink and bite at the pub.
Just 12 more miles to do another day to complete the Kennet and Avon Canal section of my walk, and then on to the Thames path.