Journeying along the Basingstoke Canal from Woking to St. Johns: Autumn 2018
This wasn’t my first experience of walking along the canal. I sometimes walk over it to get to The Lightbox and the town centre if I decide to park in the nearby Brewery car park rather than in the Town Centre. In walks along the separate Wey canal I’ve walked to where it joins with the Basingstoke Canal in Byfleet.
This is just a brief flavour of the walk before I move on to another post on the editing process for the photographs:
I knew that the canal had fallen into disrepair and disuse over time; that it had been re-invigorated and re-born as a leisure area with the help of financial sponsorship and volunteer labour, having continuing improvements, including the creating of a ‘proper’ cycle path. A new footbridge was built over the canal in Woking when the World Wildlife Fund in the UK built new offices on the Brewery Road car park. There were some protests about that – loss of parking spaces; it would tower over the canal; mask/spoil the view of it and digging might cause flooding. However, the building has melded in well, with its green ethos and following land contours. The new footbridge has statues at each end of the two famous, Woking born and bred cricketers, the identical twins Eric (1918-2006) and Alec (1918-2010) Bedser – both of whom lived in Woking all their lives, never married and always lived with each other.
I had two separate sessions of walks along the canal stretch on the 14thand 26 November 2018. On the first day I went in the afternoon. It was a sunny, bright Autumn day and I quickly decided that the sun was on the wrong side of the Canal – especially being lower this time of year – shining in my eyes and also causing too much contrast, although the positive was that the ripples and reflections in the water were lovely to see. On the second day I went in the morning. The sun was in a slightly different place but, of course, I realised that as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west it will always be in the wrong place on that side of the canal! There are paths on the other, town side, which are reached by occasional footbridges, but these are not continuous along the route. didn’t walk all the way to St. Johns so didn’t reach the locks on this session and there were no boats travelling on the water, it being out of season, although a (very) few were moored. I didn’t give myself any strict rules as to what and when to take a photograph (channelling Stephen Shore maybe, who I wrote about here. I realised that, apart from the ripples and reflections I was also attracted to ducks and the paths leading off the canal onto the road on my righ, t and a couple of times I did walk over a footbridge to the opposite side to see how the view differed. There was only very occasional litter – the odd empty drink can – and occasional graffiti which was interesting rather than annoying.
I came across people running or walking along, with or without dogs and babies in prams and soon learned to get a sense of when a cyclist was looming speedily and silently behind me. The path isn’t that wide and the water in the canal looked quite deep.
I was aware of the noise of the traffic speeding by on the main road into town on my left but it was screened enough by trees/shrubs for me to enjoy the quietness of the canal at that time of year, protected as it is from the roads either side. I felt slightly suspended in time and decided in it’s a very pleasant way to get somewhere else, especially on a relatively warm, bright and dry day. I wouldn’t be too keen to walk there at night though, especially going through the tunnels under the road bridges. The other aspect was my view of Woking as a town from a distance – the large buildings at the start; a couple of large, empty building plots and then the houses by the side of the canal. On the first session, if I looked back, I was very aware of the towering apartment blocks being built in the Town Centre, with their even higher cranes. The Council are very proud to boast that they have made the decision to do this rather than take up green belt to build housing – positive in one respect but, then tower blocks have their own problems and possible dangers, in addition to which some of them are going to be built over new shops at a time when present ones are being left empty as businesses fail.
On the second session when I walked further there was an obvious change as density of houses lessened on the opposite side. I was surprised at the number of locks (five on that stretch) which seemed very close together and made me realise how much the land rises and falls in this area when there I was walking along and feeling ‘on the flat’ with easy walking.
Next for the editing process and further thoughts after re-reading and research.