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The Basingstoke Canal (Greywell to Woking)
Member Name: shikiraclare
The Basingstoke Canal (Greywell to Woking)
Advantages: Star attractions such as WW11 bunkers, forgotten railways and Canadian Geese
Disadvantages: Lots of renovations that make it less attractive in places
I'm no marathon runner, but often jog along the St. Johns canal which is by far less scenic than the Basingstoke one which is approximately 32 miles long, so you need a really great pair of trainers for this walk! Built in the 18th century between 1788 and 1794, you can easily spot the some of the modern renovations that don't look very impressive, especially as you reach North Warnborough that has a collpasing bridge that underwent some cosmetic surgery in the 1970s but nothing since. From this tunnel, everything is confusing because there are a few routes you can take, and each lead you somewhere completely different from where you might expect the to end up.
====Hampshire and Surrey====
Because Hampshire is often confused as being a Surrey dominion, tourists and travellers often beleive that they have trekked one county, but don't realise that Surrey and Hampshire are linked by the canals only, but are entirely different plots of vast land - This has never bothered me as am not Surrey born and Bread, but the locals are very sensitive about this. I just refer to this gap, as south of england, because essentially that is where both counties lie and foreign Canadian Geese sometimes use as a refreshing retreat if they don't make it to their designated waterways.
Strangely, most of the walking I do is in winter, because I get too lethargic in warmer climates due to having Swedish heritage in my genes. It is quite an eerie experience by the Canal when it is abandoned by any other life-form, including walkers with their dogs, but January this year, we had torrential snowfall that started at less than ankle deep to begin, then as I reached Aldershot by afternoon, got pretty avalanched by the wack of wind and ice, I almost perished on the spot, so had to turn all the way back round in 6 metres of heavy drift. I couldn't see a thing, walked into what appeared to be exists, only to bump into deceiving openings, it took me another eight hours to get home that day!
When March arrived, I attempted the trip again when the snow had been reduced to slush-water, but took a friend who has better ordination skills. We took our bikes, though had to go at such a slow speed as if you skid, would likely end up inside the basin full of residue oil, crisp packets and cigarette ends. It wasn't the best conditions to go cycling, but wanted to go the full wack, but would never have made it on foot in one day, so did the next best thing.
When we reached Seerwater, just after Woking town center, I got a flat tyre, so had to lock it up round a tree as wasn't going to toe it ten miles back to my home as you can't put bikes on buses anymore. We then just walked for a bit longer, in a covering mist, so you were lucky to see anything in the distance, we saw something long and white floating towards us and because the fog blurs everything, we begun to feel a bit uneasy. I can't say how releived we were when a Swan emreged when we thought it could have been an apperition, neither of us are superstitous. Despite these hazy hazardous days along the canal, I did go back in May and there is a huge world of difference when you go in early summer because it is full of beauty then.
There is a strange bumpy feel to the pathway on this Canal route, I couldn't work out what it was until I did a bit of research of my own. Apparently there had been a construction of a railway in Victorian times but never got used, but the rail line still left, is a great reminder that the canal was never a commercial success, which would simply have destroyed the bank that isn't made of Tar, but layers of rubble, that would have given passengers an unsafe journey, The would have been, South Western Railway, would have sunk a lot more dramatically than the robust Titanic if it had have been completed and in operation!
=====Many rivers to cross=====
The River Thames is a prestigous waterway because it eventually reaches central London, the river then flows through several other towns and cities, including Oxford and Reading, but it's connection to Basingstoke canal via the Weybridge Navigation makes you think of the smaller pond as something a lot more spectacular than a shallow paddling pool!. In fact, the canal is 12 feet deep in places and five feet in others, so not really so shallow afterall.
=====Canoeing and Barging====
It is unreal to think that canoeists do their training in Canals, yet they do as I once did some years ago and had to do eskimo rolls that put me off cruising for life. However, it is amazing to watch other people in their element, paddling along the pool even if there are barges going past at top speeds - It doesn't ever seem to phase them, but provides entertainment to pedestrians, especially if they are families with inquisitive children. The summer months, you often see a batch of moored Barges all along stretches of the canal, they have come from all over, though not sure of how far. You can hire these vessels out, but I much refer to keep myself grounded.
I love the decorative flower motives, barge enthusiasts seem to have this acrylic painting hobby, that really gives character to their homes. Sometimes you find local fishers with their rods trying to catch I don't know what by the basins, but if you are reading this and enjoy this pastime, then this is a viable option.
The most fascinating attraction of the canal are large concrete bunkers that look like tomb stones, but were raid shelter squats built during the second world war in case of German air raids. The tourist information center has leaflets about this, but only give brief detail. They are now mossed over so you can't enter into one unless you are prepared to take a shovel and gaining permission from the Hampshire County Council and Surrey County Council.
Best time of year is Spring and Summer as you get to see so much activity and life on the canal, though if you are doing the entire trekk by foot, need walking shoes and a map as you can steer off course at certain junctures if you don't the route like the back of your hand. It's free and a really historic sightseeing with old bridges, some made from cast iron, but a lot of renovations have taken place since the 1990s so is now a fully operational waterway.
Summary: Country roads take me home
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