Friday, 4 November 2011

Coventry and Oxford Canals

Thursday 8 September: Abbots Bromley to Drayton Manor (27 miles). Friends who live in Brinklow, a pretty village near Rugby, have invited me for a beer so rather than continue along the Staffordshire Way, as planned, I fork east onto the Trent & Mersey Canal towpath to pick up the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal at Fradley Junction, just north of Litchfield. It's flat easy walking and there's a campsite at Fradley, so hopefully I can stay a couple of nights there and pop into Lichfield to buy, now badly needed, socks.
Bad news, the campsite is caravans only and the next one is a long walk further on at Drayton Manor, sounds nice but I'm sure I've heard that name before? It turns out to be a huge theme park campsite but it's dark and I'm exhausted, it will do for the night.
Friday 9: Drayton Manor to Brinklow (31 miles). Sunny. I'm the only camper but I know it will be busy at the weekend so, joining the Coventry Canal at Fazeley Junction I head towards Brinklow, hopefully to briefly catch my friends before they disappear for the weekend. The Coventry Canal links with the Oxford Canal at Hawkesbury Junction and, as I'm off my original route, this is where my map coverage ends. From my memory Brinklow is not far from Hawkesbury and I'm walking at a cracking pace, I should get there soon. 'Soon' turns out to be quite a relative term and it's dark when I reach Brinklow, knackered. Worse still, my friends are not at home in Bonnie Brae and it looks like a construction site, so I rush to the nearest pub, The Raven, for a meal. Asking if they are still doing food the barmaid looks shocked and customers look at me in alarm. But, yes they do food but will only take money for it, not plastic. I'm running low on cash but have enough. The foods awful, and I find out later that no one in the village eats there.
Back at Bonnie Brae my friends have kindly left the rear garden lights on so I pitch my tent and head for the next nearest pub.
Barman: "We only take plastic on orders over twelve pounds."
Me: "Four pints of Timothy Taylor please." Problem solved.
Saturday 10: Awake, I try the back door of the house only to find it's been open all the time, then I spot one of the building workers in the front drive. I go round to the front garden to introduce myself, but when I get there he's locked in his van.
Me (tapping on the window): "Hello, I'm a friend of Tony and Chris."
Builder: "Oh, I thought you were a squatter. I was just waiting for my mates to arrive in case you were a big bloke." (Have you seen the size of my tent?!)
Wednesday 14: Brinklow to Rugby (6 miles). Sunny and warm. Finally, Tony and Chris arrive back and by now I have bought maps and fluffy socks. So, after we have a beery night out on the town, Tony and I walk back along the canal and into Rugby to collect the car, my shortest walk-day so far. It's an interesting stroll with Tony giving me fascinating insights into the Roman and canal history of the local area.
The first recorded schoolboy game of rugby, however, was played in Aberdeen in 1633. Rumour has it that an even earlier game was also played in Scotland where kilted highlanders enjoyed kicking an Englishman's head around after a battle was won, a game some of us still enjoy today.
Thursday 15: Rugby (Clifton Wharf) to Napton (18 miles). Sunny. It's goodbye to warm-hearted friends and hello to the pretty Oxford Canal. Walking along at a steady rhythm my mind begins to wander and I begin to wonder what I should do after I get to Land's End? Travel again, maybe buy a narrow boat, look for a wife? Perhaps I could combine two of them, kill two birds with one stone so to speak. So I think up an advert to put in one of the canal magazines . . .

Attractive Female Boat Owner Wanted for Marriage
If interested please send recent picture of boat.

Does that work, I ask myself, or does it also need . . .

Also, please send recent picture of engine.

This is the sort of daft thing you think about when you are walking along alone. Arriving at a campsite near Napton I retire to the Folly Inn for a meal.
Friday 16: Napton to Banbury (16 miles). Sunny with cloudy spells. More of the Oxford Canal today and I happily arrive in Banbury.
Saturday 17: Banbury to Bicester (19 miles). Sunny and cloudy with an afternoon hailstorm. One of James Brindley's contour canals I wind my way south via the Great Western Inn at Aynho Wharf through a hailstone shower to Kirtlington and a bus ride to see more friends in nearby Bicester.
Photos along the Coventry and Oxford Canals. I've now walked 876 miles.

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