Woolhampton to Newbury


On the day after New Year’s, my parents and I went for a walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal. On a previous occasion we had made it as far as the village of Woolhampton, so that’s where we started this time. We walked as far as Newbury.

Rural section

The first section of canal ran through a rural landscape, by which I mean that it was lined with gravel pits, with the railway running alongside, and an occasional field or wood.

Swing bridge at Woolhampton.
1/320 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Heals Lock.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′35″N 1°11′38″W
CCTV on house by the canal. (Probably a crime hotspot.)
1/320 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′33″N 1°11′59″W

Soon we encountered a familiar problem; a tree had fallen across the path. But it wasn’t blocking it; we could easily duck under.

Bridge by Midgham Lock.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′34″N 1°12′34″W
Tree and lighting from small industrial area opposite.
1/800 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′34″N 1°13′16″W

The next fallen tree wasn’t so easily evaded; a large one this time and with all its branches, completely covering the towpath and extending out into the canal. I’ve never climbed a tree sideways before (in fact it’s many years since I climbed trees at all). We had to climb about a metre up, breaking off branches to get through, then down the other side. It took us some minutes to get through; inside the tree we couldn’t see out, so we had to take some care not to emerge into the canal.

Dad (barely visible among branches) escapes victorious.
1/60 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′35″N 1°13′21″W

After all that we realised that there might have been another way around by the river that runs alongside the canal at this point (though we didn’t go back to check it).

River, and gravel extraction across it.
1/500 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′35″N 1°13′22″W

We met some other walkers later and warned them about the tree. In turn they told us there were a couple of points where we’d have to jump water running across the towpath, but it was reassuring to hear that they had in fact made it from Newbury.

Abandoned house by the canal.
1/60 at f5.6, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′36″N 1°13′26″W

Industry opposite

The next stretch of canal featured an industrial estate opposite.

Lorry parking 1 (by Colthrop Lane bridge).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′37″N 1°13′30″W
Lorry parking 2 (and a willow tree).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′37″N 1°13′31″W
Colthrop Lock and my shadow.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′36″N 1°13′36″W
Pipe across weir entrance.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′36″N 1°13′37″W
Fence (and a large tree).
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′37″N 1°13′43″W
Trees (and asbestos-roofed shed).
1/400 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′37″N 1°13′52″W
Three pigeons taking off from slightly dillapidated shed.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°23′38″N 1°14′17″W
Power cables.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

Second rural section

We sat on a bench by Monkey Marsh Lock (great name) to have lunch. This is an original grass-sided lock - back when, they couldn’t be bothered to build the edges properly. Most of these have been rebuilt but two are preserved.

Monkey Marsh Lock.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Lock side.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

Beyond the lock we had to jump a small unscheduled stream that was running across the towpath (the first of three, none of which were particularly challenging). A little further on we saw a helicopter marked ‘electricity’ flying low beside the power line opposite, presumably trying to locate a break. (My guess would be that another tree had fallen on it somewhere.)

Helicopter approaching.
1/320 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Swing bridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Fields and canal.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

Approaching Newbury

Bike by Widmead Lock (brown paint job, presumably, courtesy of the canal).
1/250 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200

The canal ran beside a nature reserve and into Newbury itself.

FREEKY graffiti under railway bridge.
1/30 at f2.8, 23mm, ISO200
Bulls Lock.
1/30 at f11, 23mm, ISO200
Industrial estate opposite, under threatening clouds.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200
Boating lake.
1/60 at f8, 23mm, ISO200

In Newbury itself, we had some cake in a canalside café. Mum ventured into the tourist information centre for a leaflet and we did their town walk - interesting, although it was already getting dark by that point. Then to the railway station and away.

(Dad also took pics of this walk, if you want another view.)

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.