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The Walking Witch
On The Road Again: Wootton Rivers.
Last night at dinner we sat next to Mr Creosote. Looked like a saintly Friar Tuck, and boy, did he tuck! He imbibed also. Four pints of strong lager at my count, a half-bottle of red wine, a full one of fizz, and two double Baileys to finish off. There might have been a fifth and even a sixth lager in there as well….What I took for a main was his starter, it was bloody enormous. He went on (after a break) to munch a cheeseburger & a ton of chips (no veg, the man’s a dedicated carnivore) then polished off a cheeseboard which would have defeated the best efforts of the both of us to devour. Thank the lord he passed on the wafer thin mint. We were far more reserved with a smoked salmon starter, one sirloin steak with pepper sauce and one mackerel and gooseberry chutney. The pepper sauce was the deal-breaker. Himself did not need extra pepper. Result. My plate was groaning. I expected one mackerel fillet, at most, two. I had three and they hung over the plate: I was hard-pushed to cope. Mackerel’s a rich fish and best enjoyed in far smaller quantities. Needless to say, we passed on pudding, which was a shame. Some of the stuff coming out of the kitchens looked sublime.
There was some discussion over tomorrow’s itinerary over dinner. Should we go to Durrington Walls or stay with the original plan, canal-and-turn-right? The weather report suggested blue skies and the possibility of rain on Saturday morning: so canal-and-turn-right it was. We turned in…..
The day dawned fair, fair enough for me to break out the shorts which had languished inside the suitcase all week. At first, the choice of ‘right along the canal towpath’ was a bit disappointing: no locks, no interest, just path to the horizon. We stepped out smartly. I clocked a duck, beautiful bird with a dark-blue iridescent head and a bitter-chocolate body herding his duller spouse. Birds twitted and rooks cawed. They might have been crows: seeing them fly, probably both. A crow in a crowd’s a rook, and a rook on it’s own’s a crow. Black birds anyway. Not blackbirds by any stretch of the imagination. Boats chugged past, they must start early on Thursday. Non-one boated before eleven yesterday. We kept pace with one bright red concoction until we decided on a breather, then he outpaced us. Everyone waved and wished us a good day, which we returned. It’s all smiles on the river. Creedence Clearwater Revival had it right – Proud Mary if you’re interested, which you’re probably not.
On the far side of the canal a hill rose out of the sea of maize like a broaching whale provided whales are green and barnacled with trees. A red kite stooged overhead: I see enough of those back in my neck of the woods to be able to clock one straight off. Higher, buzzards ruled the skies if you discount aircraft, of course. Boats pottered by: I noticed Escargot, Tumbleweed & Scavenger to name but three. The red kite wheeled in the sky & I thought I heard a peewit doing the ‘peeeee-whit’ thingie they do until I saw the man on a quadbike herding some cows. Silly me.
After about an hour and a half, the bank became more interesting at Pewsey Wharf: a pub-and-bistro which served an excellent coffee and provided a salutary wee-stop. Those of us who sit prefer to do it indoors, lads. You do not appreciate the perils of thistles and sudden hedgehogs if you don’t have to squat for relief. Indoors the worst we have to contend with is investigative spiders, which do less physical damage, although the mental scars can take longer to fade. Suitably refreshed, we continued along the towpath: they were rebuilding a section of the towpath, dredging mud from the river, covering it with topsoil and dumping rocks on the pathway. We skirted the work, crossed over to the other side and marched on, intending to turn back in about a half-hour. That meant we could be back at Pewsey for lunch, and regain our roost by mid-afternoon for tea. Older folks have strange priorities. Eventually we stopped by a bridge and argued as to where we were, exactly: we hadn’t been following the map. Canal walking doesn’t leave much to choice or chance. Himself argued that, since he hadn’t noticed a suspension bridge (the map mentioned one,) we must be at Bristow Bridge. I said, can it, that’s where we crossed the canal: if we were where you think we are, there ought to be a road hard by the towpath & there ain’t, we’ve passed Wilcott at least. It’s wall-to-wall fields, go look if you don’t believe me. I won that argy, and I win very few. He’s in an idyllic mood. It cheered him up, that we had walked further than he thought. Anyhoo, we had a sit and turned back. The peace of the day was broken by an aerial bellow which proved that the Sons Of Fun enjoy flying as much as the next person: a huge six-engine bugger doing a slow low flypast, followed by an almost-as-loud four-engine airplane, a sight to see, surely.
According to the map, there was a pub at Pewsey Wharf called the French Horn, which we intended to patronize: we came to the bridge, left the towpath, crossed to t’other side & couldn’t find a ghost of any pub. A very nice man up a ladder said, it’s there, it’s a private house now: so we went back to the bistro where we’d had coffee. Hurrah! The pub was open! It had been shut earlier and Himself hadn’t fancied any of the ‘specials’ on the board in the bistro. I went to get drinks and encountered a stairway. Horrors! I’m bad at stairs at the bests of times, and stairs with a pint in either hand was nightmare city. I made it back with very little spillage. Apparently food could be had at ground level, back at the bistro: and the lunch menu included sarnies, which suited us both. Cheese and onion relish for Himself, beef & horseradish for me. I came with a mountain of French fries & a dressed side-salad. I left half of it…….
Then it was tromp, tromp, tromp, back to Wootton Rivers through a windier afternoon. The skies were starting to cloud over and it was becoming humid. Just before we came to the Wootton bridge, we clocked a narrowboat up for sale. That’d make an interesting woodwork project, Himself mused aloud, restoring a narrowboat……. Watch this space for The Riverwitch.
Now I’ve had a reviving cuppa and a more reviving shower. It’s clouded up, looming grey stuff which promises rain. So did the Met Office: overnight rain showering into tomorrow morning. I may need to break out the coat & put away the shorts…….
Since the Green Man was such a star, I’ve held over the pictures from yesterday’s river walk. You get a double shot today, lucky you!
Canal walks, Kennet & Avon Canal
Gettting to know me, know you.
I'm not the most exciting walker in this world. Good grief, I'm over sixty with bunions. That does not mean I don't enjoy a goodly amble. My favourite walking place is Dartmoor. I'm sure you have favourites too. Let's compare notes......