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]

Friday, 2 April 2010

Day 12 - Braunston to Ansty

Good Friday, 2 April
Distance: 20 miles (Tot: 222.5)
Number of canoeists seen in a day full of narrow boats: 1

On our original plan, as we left Braunston this morning we would have headed left at the canal junction, to continue along the Grand Union to Birmingham. Then I realised that route took us around three sides of a square, and so we went straight on instead, to join the Oxford Canal.

What a nightmare of a tow-path the Oxford turned out to have! To say that it was muddy would be a understatement of the conditions. The good bits were where it was just a mud-fest. The worse bits were where the tow path had fallen away into the canal; where it was a veritable quagmire; and (perhaps the worst) where the canal was leaking and flowing down the quagmire of a path. In a day that featured absolutely no ascent until the last mile, it added an element of effort (two steps forward, slide back, that sort of thing).

Whilst underfoot conditions were decidedly wet and slidey, weather conditions started much better than forecast.

The day-long persistent rain, that had us dreading a wet and miserable eight hours, didn't reach us until nearly 1pm (continuing a theme, the rain started whilst we were sitting in a pub). Even more happily the temperature was much more favourable too, with the wind having switched to a southerly.

Whilst the ground further deteriorated as the day went on (except for the bit of path which was supposed to be closed but which was actually freshly surfaced with crushed bricks - what a joyous five minutes as we passed along that bit!), the weather surprised us and by the time we were approaching Ansty (have you noticed that's a thinly veiled anagram of Nasty - although it didn't look a bad place to me) there was the hint of sun trying to get through the clouds.

Alas, the pub in Ansty, on which I had been setting my sights for a sit down and to fill up my water, turned out to be closed until this evening - a bit of a blow. We still took a few moments on their benches, before setting out across fields which we had optimisticly (and incorrectly) hoped would be drier than the tow path.

With nowhere to stay tonight, no water and with farms too close together to allow us easily to secrete ourselves out of sight, we only waded on for another mile before knocking on a farm door to beg a corner of a field for the night.
The immediate response was negative, as the farmer had lambs in every one of his fields, but he obliged with filling up our water bottles anyway. By the time he came back with them full, he had thought of a field we could use, albeit with the warning that "courting couples pull up in that gateway".

We've pitched well away from the gateway, and have managed to find a couple of square metres where water isn't standing (yet - the rain is coming down again as I type). Our companion tonight is the sound of the M69 (which we can see) and the M6, which should lull us off to sleep nicely.

I have plans for an early start in the morning, as after 21.5 miles of walking we're going to jump on a train that will take us home for our rest day on Sunday :-)
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