That was an odd coincidence. There I was browsing in an Oxfam bookshop – killing time to be honest as I was early for an appointment – and what should I find but this.
I’m not an expert but I doubt that these defunct waterways are at the top of many gongoozlers’ wish lists. I came across the Thames & Severn canal a couple of months ago when I stumbled across what remains of it up near Kemble.
Care to hazard a guess where it goes? Yes, from Lechlade on the Thames to Framilode on the Severn, although it is called the Stroudwater from Stroud to the Severn. I have no idea why. But I am sure this book will tell me.
Exploring further looked promising and so – just the day before I came across the book – I strolled a stretch, chosen pretty much at random and heavily weighted by the prospect of a pub at the turn around spot. Chalford to Daneway and back was the route and what do Handford & Viner have to say about my previous day’s choice? Only that it is ‘probably scenically the most interesting and certainly the most accessible of the entire canal length’. I’m not sure whether to congratulate myself on the success of my pin in the map approach, or whether to take the rest of the waterway as read now, having already done the best bit. So were H&V right about the scenic delights of this stretch? Absolutely. It is an astonishingly beautiful walk, drop dead gorgeous in places. For starters, the canal passes through this valley.
If this is not textbook Cotswold loveliness, I don’t know what is. Then there are the remnants of the canal; a few canal related structures
and an early bridge here (dated 1784 and look how T is helpfully adding a scale note to show how steep it is),
the reminders of the locks there (10 of them in just a few miles, dug by a 1780s army of navvies)
and a pub that looks like the one you always hope to find (originally built to house the men with the picks and shovels).
But on top of this is that since the T&S was closed in 1927 Nature has been very effectively reclaiming the space, like here and here. We stopped to eat our lunch on a fallen tree trunk, a little way up into the wooded hillside. The trees were still bare and so the ground was carpeted with wild flowers.
As the final flourish there was the busyness of spring itself – a swan building a nest and new arrivals basking in the sunshine. Apparently the farmer had not realised her sheep were in lamb – just imagine her surprise when these turned up. After such a spirit lifting walk, I decided that it would not hurt to forage for a few handfuls of wild garlic to take home for a champ to go with the Easter lamb. Or maybe a vegetarian alternative?