On the Thames and Severn Canal from Sapperton to Chalford

We are quickly learning the joys of being away in the caravan in the depth of winter. It has been another very cold night, but we have been warm and cozy in the Coachman and as we are on a main Caravan Club site we have the use of a warm and welcoming shower block. We are usually happy to use the shower in the caravan, but of course that means lugging water about and on cold days that’s no fun.

Lynnie informs me she requires another day Christmas shopping. Back in the days when I did Christmas shopping I was under the impression that it was a time challenge with the aim of getting it all done within an hour. This approach allowed the minimum time for deliberation, basically you walk into a shop and find the most suitable item and then move onto your next present. My preferred shop was SCATS the local agricultural merchants, which led to some interesting gifts!

Today I walk from Sapperton to pick up the Thames and Severn Canal as it emerges from the northern end of the Sapperton Tunnel. Starting from St Kenelm’s Church I head west through the village and after a hundred yards or so take a footpath on the right.

This tarmac path leads steeply downhill and having been shaded from the sun for a few days looks a bit slippy. I take a couple of cautious steps and the next step I am going for a purler. It is odd that in the moment of falling I have enough time to consciously think I should try and land on my back, which is protected by the rucksack. Unfortunately knowing what you want to do and achieving it are two entirely different things.

I end up on my side, I know I have not hit my turnip and remarkably my new bonnet is still in place. However, I lie there for a while to ensure that everything is still in working order.

It is one of those things about getting older, I don’t know at what point I stopped bouncing up when I hit the ground. In my cricket playing days I would dive for a ball and spring back up, but at some stage I lost the knack and now if I find myself on the deck it takes a while to get back on my feet. Crosby thinks it is a new game and takes the opportunity to give me a lick.

Once vertical I proceed stiffly with extreme caution and at the bottom of the slope turn left. I feel a bit shaken but decide the best thing is to walk it off. The footpath signs then direct me to the right and I descend across a hill. I stop to admire the view whilst double checking that everything really is in working order.

I soon reach the northern entrance to the Sapperton Tunnel; the façade on this entrance is the poor relation to the one on the southern side some 3,817 yards away through the hill.

The canal path is clear and easygoing, just what I need as I limp along after my fall. Walking along I reflect on my tumble and realise the ability to bounce up again may not be related to age. When I was a nipper watching the Saints there were some seriously hard footballers about and I saw the likes of John McGrath, Jimmy Steele, Norman Hunter and “Chopper” Harris go about their business. The recipient of a “robust challenge” from one of these guys would usually soon be back on his feet chasing after the ball. Watching premier league football these days the merest waft of a hand on an opponent can lead to a player rolling around on the ground and then, like me after my fall, he is unable to get up before spending a minute or two horizontal. Having reached the conclusion this is not just age catching up with me I stride on feeling happier.

I am soon at Daneway Basin close to the Daneway Inn. This was once a major basin with a wharf, warehouse and coal yard.

At Daneway Bridge I briefly join the road to cross the bridge and then turn left to continue along the canal path. This is a wooded section with Sapperton Wood to the left and Siccaridge Wood to the right. I soon reach a series of disused locks, which give a sense of the engineering feet in building the canal and the challenges in restoring it.

My route is to now follow the canal path west for another three miles to Chalford. Along the way are more disused locks, but there are very few people about which is surprising given it is a Saturday.

Further signs of the industrial past can be seen as I pass on old mill building above me on the left.

Then as I reach the outskirts of Chalford there is a cracking old bridge across the route of the canal.

On reaching the A419 I turn into Chalford to take a look around, there are plenty of people here visiting the shops and cafes in the restored mills. The arrival of the canal in 1789 saw a rapid expansion of the village, previously many weavers lived in cottages on the sides of the steep hills, the canal helped the industry grow rapidly and the village soon became a major centre for the manufacture of broadcloth. Apparently there are still eight disused mills in the village.

My route out of Chalford is initially on the pavement of the A419, which I follow south eastwards heading steeply out of the village. Just after crossing the railway bridge I take a footpath on the right that climbs through Cowcombe Wood. This is steep going; at a junction of paths I turn right and then soon left still climbing through the upper section of the wood. I am grateful to reach level ground at the top of the hill.

The footpath follows the edge of a field and at the next field I turn left following the path to reach a small stone circle. Later research fails to identify the origins of these stones and I am unsure if they have been here for centuries or were placed more recently. Not withstanding their origins it is obvious that the site has frequent visitors.

I reach a tarmac lane and cross this to take the lane opposite to the A419; I cross and join a track heading towards Frampton Mansell. There are good views back across Chalford and on the exposed hill I am grateful for my gloves, as there is a biting wind.

At a minor road I turn left and then very soon right to walk along the edge of a paddock and then over a couple of stiles to reach another minor road. I cross and continue over open fields to reach woodland. The path is defined but slightly overgrown with brambles; luckily with a bit of patience it is passable.

I then reach a minor road. My original intention was to pick up the footpath descending through Frampton Wood and then Sapperton Wood, but my leg is sore from my earlier tumble so I decide the sensible option would be to walk along this quiet country lane into Sapperton.

In the village a lady walking her dogs in the opposite direction stops to engage me in a chat, we discuss the beauty of the countryside and talk about our dogs. It is these brief encounters with total strangers that make a walk like this even more enjoyable.

I have walked, or more accurately limped, just over seven miles. I am sure my leg is going to be tender for a few days, but don’t think I have done any serious damage. It is probably a good thing we are heading home tomorrow, I am not sure I would be able to walk too far.

3rd December 2016

[To follow our walk you will need Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 168 – Stroud, Tetbury & Malmesbury]

© Two Dogs and an Awning (2016)

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