Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I visited her brother at his pad in Bath, Somerset. Even though I was born in Somerset, I’ve rarely visited Bath in the past, largely because there has never been a reason to, but also because Bath used to exist in its own county – Avon. However, in 1996 the ceremonial county of Avon was disbanded and both Bristol and Bath were incorporated into the ceremonial county of Somerset, lying in the district of Bath and North East Somerset. So anyway, we were actually quite excited to see what all the fuss was about.
Being the nature-loving family that we are, we decided to take a walk through the small village of Bathampton, a civil parish located 2 miles east of Bath. As the well-known Kennet and Avon Canal runs through the village, it seemed almost silly not to take a walk and admire this hidden gem. Not to mention, the views from Bathampton looking over the very south of the Cotswold National Park are astonishing and were more than enough to draw us in.
Starting at the cutest little boat cafe – the “Cafe on the Barge” – we walked due East along the canal, leaving our car parked in the free spaces next to the church. Following the waters edge, we immediately passed the cutest collection of narrow-boats, ranging from short and stubby, long and skinny, brand new and barely floating. We thought to ourselves, it must be a simple life living on a narrow-boat. Limited space, limited utilities and a far more restricted materialistic lifestyle – a way of enjoying life without the endless supply of commodities.
Not far from where we began, our very peaceful walk was quickly ground to a halt, but not because of something common, but because a family of mute swans had bedded down in the middle of our path and included, mum, dad and 6 cygnets. Obviously, with 6 little ones, we were extremely cautious. It didn’t help that 2 of the cygnets had decided to travel the width of the path to eat the very green grass on the other side. This meant that to get past the swans, we had to walk between the parents and 2 of their young – not a great idea!
Photo: Said family of swans after we had safely crossed their path. If you notice the Cockapoo in the top right, I think you’ll find it funny to hear that they actually didn’t make it past the swans. After being one of the crowd waiting to get past, they eventually let their swan nerves get the better of them by turning round and giving up.
In the end, by shooing the 2 cygnets back to their parents, we (and the crowd that by this time had built up too), scuttled past the swans as far over to the opposite side of the path as we could – single file and as quickly as possible. We were now able to continue our journey.
Shortly after making a wide bend along the canal, we arrived at the Bathampton Swing Bridge, a lovely example of the quirky characteristics you can find along Britain’s canals – swing bridges, locks and docks – all traditionally painted in black and white and operated by a simple push/pull system. Next to the bridge was a very dainty, very Bath-like cottage which overlooked both the view of the canal and the breathtaking landscape of the Cotswolds behind. Another picture taken by a member on Flickr shows the bridge looking face on, as if you were standing on the right hand side of my photo. Although their photo is titled Millbrook Swing Bridge, I’m pretty certain it’s actually the Bathampton bridge.
Photo: The Millbrook Swing Bridge by Keith Murray. The gate on the right hand side was situated next to a public footpath, and during our trip we detoured up this path and viewed the canal and Cotswolds from above. The range of view was spectacular. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
You could keep walking for miles following the canal; all the way to Bradford-on-Avon if you wanted to, a whole 10.13 miles. Unfortunately on this occasion, we decided not to walk the whole 10 miles, but I’d love to do it in the future because the route even passes the Dundas Aqueduct, a spectacle for any lover of grand British architecture, or a photographer. Keith Murray kindly took some pics of that too, so you’re able to see it below.
But for anyone that’s not quite sure of the canals, or for someone that simply doesn’t realise their biodiversity and splendour, they’re out there, waiting to be explored, naturally exhibiting and supporting a huge range of fauna and flora. Please support and visit these untouched and wonderful examples of British biodiversity.
Photo: Dundas Aqueduct by Keith Murray (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Photo: Dundas Aqueduct, River Avon below by Keith Murray (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)