The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Cold Canals

Off went the alarm at an earlier than usual hour this morning and the temptation was to stay where I was, but that would have defeated the purpose of waking early, so out of my lovely warm pit I climbed and, with joy, saw that it was hoary outside. Unfortunately it was also rather foggy, which wasn’t so much a problem for my walking plans, but did raise the question as to whether the bus driver would see me!

By the time I’d breakfasted the fog had lifted and it was looking like another spectacular morning to be out. With a great display of disorganisation things got a little frantic but just in the nick of time I ran out of the house to flag down the bus.

No sooner had I boarded than I realised that the map I had with me didn’t cover the start of my walk. Doh! That was something of an issue as I’ve only been to Lichfield twice before (the first time seven years ago and the second time about three weeks later), so I’m not at all familiar with the place. Given that I always find navigating out of towns to be tricky even with a map, there was no way that I was going to be able to follow my original plan, which would have seen me leave the town to its east.

With my actual purpose of visiting Lichfield dispensed with, I followed my revised plan, which saw me walking north up a main road until the point where I walked back onto my map, then I took the first public right of way to the east.

Making it across the railway track unscathed, it was then under the A38 dual carriageway, before following the border of some (very hoary) fields

P1140021until I could join the Coventry Canal.

After a couple of warm (comparatively, at least) days, I was surprised to see that the canal was frozen over again, albeit more lightly than over the last couple of weeks.

P1140022 Hmmm, not actually that obvious from the photo that it’s frozen over, but it was!

With the extent of the ice, it seemed that I wouldn’t be seeing any moving boats, nor much birdlife on the water, however, it wasn’t long later when I came across a couple energetically breaking up the ice around their boat and moving it back and forward in a manner that suggested that they were planning on going somewhere.

What should have been a nice peaceful canal walk was marred along the first section by the proximity of the A38, with all of its lorries:

P1140026Once I’d passed under the road again (now that was a bridge designed for short people!), temporarily getting out of noticeable earshot of it, my mind fleetingly settled on the question of where the ducks go when the water is frozen over. On mornings like this one, the answer soon became apparent: they all flock to the bits of canal that are sheltered and thus not frozen over:

P1140030 I had been intending to cut a corner off between the Coventry Canal and Trent & Mersey, but when I got to the cutting-off point I decided that there was no value in shaving the distance (after all, if I hadn’t been out for some exercise I could have caught the bus back home), so onwards I went to Fradley Junction.

Once there I opted for the path through the nature reserve, which runs adjacent to, but is much nicer than, the canalside service road. I contemplated going an sitting in the thatched and stilted bird hide there for a cup of tea


but it felt like too soon to stop, so onwards I went, noticing on the way the flock of gulls walking on water.

P1140033 Once back on the canal it struck me that suddenly the surface was entirely ice-free, and that equally suddenly I had gone from sunshine to cloud and mist – which later turned to fog.

P1140035 My thoughts turned again to my flask and a cup of tea as I passed a couple of carved benches

P1140037    P1140036

but it was cold and misty – and more importantly I’d forgotten my sit-mat, so I wasn’t inclined to park myself on either of the damp surfaces.

With visibility getting worse it was difficult to gauge where I had got to, and sooner than expected I realised that I had reached the River Trent, where there seemed to be a swan gathering going on in the gloom.

P1140038 The light coloured blobs are swans; the dark blobs are trees!

I had intended to turn off the canal shortly after the river, but because of my change of route out of Lichfield I’d omitted a few miles at the beginning of the walk, so I continued straight on to take a slightly longer route home.

The tow path became very muddy for a while, as it so often is, but my attention was drawn away from that to the dozens of trees that have been taken down over a couple of hundred yards long stretch of marshland that abuts the canal here.

P1140039 Back alongside the A38 (boo hiss), I pondered a bridge/bridge/leaking-lock set up

P1140041 then with an increasingly urgent need for a cup of tea and some lunch I hotfooted it until a mile later I left the canal and made for the pools just outside of the village, where I had a vague recollection that new picnic tables have just been installed.

A brand new information board was browsed as I lunched (a brand new information board which indicates that just up the road from where I live there is a pub; the reality is that it closed down knocking on for ten years ago!) then headed for the path which goes around the pond.

Obviously all of the ducks there are far too used to being fed, so as I approached practically every bird on the pond headed in my direction, the front runners climbing out of the water to mob me. I think I could perhaps have even categorised some of the mob as ‘killer swans’, except that the worst they did was run at me and hiss.


My route only saw me go a quarter of the way around the pond, before heading off to trespass through the local sports club, and past the village pond and into the village. Passing consideration was given to taking a circuitous route over fields from the village centre, but in the end laziness ruled.

The stat for the day was that I walked 12 miles (that surprised me, it felt at least a couple of miles further!). The ascent was more negligible than a negligible thing.


  1. Looks as if you may have done this walk just for me!! If so, thank you. It looks good and I enjoy canal walking, having had countless holidays on canal boats over the years. Howver, I take no responsibilty for you having to get up early.

  2. By coincidental timing, I really had intended to walk from Lichfield this week anyway. I was actually conducting a recce on the location of one of the railway stations in relation to my bus route - and it seemed like a good excuse for a linear walk rather than yet another round of the local fields.

    Now, if I report on a walk from Handsacre to Blithfield sometime soon then that will have been for your benefit!