I enjoy canals. Walking the tow paths, watching the boat traffic, observing the life and people of that world fascinates me. I am drawn to the tranquillity that can be discovered even when one is in the middle of an urban sprawl. When it came to deciding where to walk this last weekend choosing a route along one of the many canals in this region appealed especially if it could be combined with another of my favourite past times; a pint or two of cider. And so it was at 9.20 yesterday morning I set off from Fazeley Junction to walk the 11 miles to Fradley Junction.
Fazeley is urban no doubt but walking just a couple of miles brings a more rural scene with woods and bird song and peace. The walk between Hopwas village and Huddlesford Junction is particularly delightful. I love nosing into the gardens in the villages where they meet the canal or the tow path or both and equally I enjoy the more serene times spent by Hopwas Hays Woods on one side and the river Tame the other. Walking gives me time to think and also to appreciate whatever season it happens to be. At this time of the year the canal is full of lots of mothers with their baby chicks, swifts swooping down to the water and just as quickly soaring the skies again, the bull rushes and lilies are just about to flower and the cow parsley, hawthorn and horse chestnut trees are in full flower.
At the beginning the air was thick with the smells of Sunday morning sausage, bacon and eggs emanating from the boats moored all along. Not much moved on the water itself at this time except the ducks and geese, people were busy enjoying a relaxing breakfast. Most called out a cheery 'morning' and one couple even offered a gratefully received mug of coffee. A fifteen minute encounter with strangers that was thoroughly enjoyable. Dog walkers, cyclists, joggers all exchanged a 'morning' but one thing that struck me, possibly because I have not been walking solo for a fair while is that although the male of a couple would greet me, the female did not.
One word of advice when walking along a canal. The boats don't tend to go much faster than walking pace so if you find yourself behind a novice boater let them move on or speed up yourself and loose them. A nose constantly full of diesel fumes due to their ineptitude at using the engine is not recommended!
After three hours there was no more welcome site than The Swan at Fradley, known to regulars and locals as The Mucky Duck. They now sell their own Mucky Duck ale brewed by a local micro brewery. I'm told it's good. The Swan is apparently one of the most photographed pubs in Britain. It's over 200 years old, it's picturesque, it sells great real ale, decent cider and wonderful home cooked food. Added to that is that it sits at the busy junction between the Coventry and Trent and Mersey canals, a fine spot for gongoozling and you can understand why it is so photographed. I sat for an hour and enjoyed a couple of pints of cider watching the novice boaters make a real pigs ear of the turn between the canals and having a chat with a couple of young canoeists.
I was feeling pretty good at that stage but then I needed to backtrack 5 miles to a village where I could get a bus to return home and it wasn't long before I realised I may have bitten off a little more than I could chew. Nothing new there! I will not bore you with my travails but I finished the walk with four blisters on the sole of my left foot, the knee on the same side feeling as though it might explode and decidedly painful hips. Reporting from 24 hours on though I am happy to advise that only the blisters are still giving me grief.
It was an enjoyable and mostly solitary day. Did I manage to think things through properly and to any particular conclusion? No, not absolutely. Guess I need another walk with a lovely pub at the end of it!