Going further afield today exploring. Caught the train to Banbury from Warwick, taking the mountain bike with me, and the mission is, explore the Oxford Canal, south of Banbury. Built in the late 18th century this canal linked London, Oxford and Coventry and also gives access to the River Thames at a couple of points. At one stage it was the busiest and most profitable highway in Britain.
Time to explore it, on such a lovely summers day, it would be criminal not to.
Getting off the train at Banbury, the canal is about 50 yards away and easy to access. Headed south through a tacky industrial estate but soon hit the countryside. One of the first things you come across is this, what I would call a drawbridge. Built so that farmers can access their land which has been divided by the canal, the bridge can only be operated from the side opposite the towpath for security reasons obviously. Looking at the internet, there is a big debate amongst the boating fraternity as to whether these are lift, draw or bascule bridges. Reading the debate I am no wiser! They do seem to be a common feature on the Oxford Canal whereas the Grand Union solves the problem of access with proper brick built bridges. Whatever they are, they are a reminder of the past and as such, intriguing.
A bit further south is this lock built about two yards from a bridge! Access is quite restricted. These seem quite prevalent on the southern end of the Stratford canal on Stratford town. Just on the other side of the bridge is a house for sale so if you like messing about in boats......
This is the furthest point that I reached. I chatted with a runner coming from the opposite direction and asked what it was like further south. He told me not to bother as it was quite overgrown and he had to push his way past long grass and bushes to make progress. This far, it had been pretty good as the grass had been trimmed, so time to cash in the chips and head back. This was the second lock that I encountered on this trip. The second picture shows a barge heading north through King's Sutton Lock.
Progress. This is the latest bridge to be built across the canal. The M40, linking London and south Birmingham, is a busy road. What a difference between the early bridges built to cross the canal, to this one, 6 lanes of traffic plus hard shoulder.
Not quite as different as I thought it would be. Apart from a couple of locks the scenery became a little monotonous and the towpath was not as well kept as I have become accustomed to in the Leamington area. Still, a nice flat route, saving the knees and with the 2 miles each way to Warwick Station, clocked up 11.4 miles today. With a big one planned tomorrow, that should be just right.