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]

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Walking in Wolverhampton

Today was not designated as a walking day.

However, my car was having one of its increasingly regular trips to the garage and in the absence of any other form of transport, we put our feet to good use.

With a day away from home at our disposal (because I use a garage in Wolverhampton despite not living close to there) we decided that we may as well use it to run a couple of errands and to go and give my grandmother (who goes by the name of Much) the show-and-tell session of our backpacking gear that we’ve been promising her.

So, with the car dropped off we set out, with our full backpacks on, in search of a canal, which we soon found (exactly where it should have been, which is always reassuring) and followed it into the city centre, passing a dozen or so locks that make this section of canal far less flat than I have ever previously found a canal to be.

Dressed as we were and sporting backpacks we did feel a little out of place walking through the city centre and visiting the bank, but we were soon done with our errands and retracing our steps back to the canal.

Past the entire flight of 21 locks we went, before branching off onto another canal where after about a mile we had to start paying attention to make sure that we didn’t miss the bridge at which we needed to exit.

Off the canal it was a battle with exhaust fumes as we walked alongside the busy A41, before branching off and making for Much’s house.

She was jolly impressed with all of our kit, uttering many a ‘ooh my goodness’ and making comparisons between Wendy (the Stephenson’s Warmlite 2C) and her old Lichfield frame tent! “And you’re going to carry all of this?” she kept saying.

As the afternoon wore on out we set to return to the garage, retracing our outward steps (because it was that or roads the whole way).

That morning we had been amazed at how quiet the canal had been. A few people were on the tow-path, but not a single boat was seen. Had we been on our local canal, there would have been plentiful signs of life. Maybe everyone would be out later in the day, we had thought.

But no; neither on our outbound nor our return did we pass a single inhabited boat, moving nor moored. Perhaps the lack of people and traffic explains why in most places the water looks so clean.

Considering that this was not a walking day, I was surprised when we got home and measured our route to find that we had in fact covered 9.5 miles. Some of it was actually quite pleasant too!

Thirty-six miles in three days: a satisfactory bit of training!

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