What to do on a sunny Sunday afternoon? What about an canal walk? One of our favourite walks is a canal-side walk on a sunny day.
Canals are fairly accessible at most road bridges onto the towpath below. For this walk, we drove out to Whilton Locks, in Northamptonshire as we needed to visit the Chandlers shop based at the marina there. We parked in one of the few off road parking spaces alongside the road.
Access to the Chandler’s is via the marina access or by walking down the tow path and crossing over the canal via a lock gate. It’s one of those really useful little shop that also sells ice creams.
We crossed back across the cut and headed up the canal. This part of the Grand Union Canal is known as either ‘Whilton Locks’ or the ‘Buckby Flight’ of locks. Built in around 1796 and consists of 7 locks rising 63 feet in 1.5 miles. It’s a lovely walk despite being in the area known as ‘Watford Gap’ and in close proximity to the railway, A5 road and the M1 motorway. Mostly easy and flat, apart from the steep short climb at the start of each lock, this linear walk is just 1½ miles each way taking between 1½ – 3 hours in total, depending on how long you linger at the pub!
It’s a pretty stroll along the towpath through the countryside. There are a few canal-side houses and the canal goes through the tiny Northamptonshire village of Watford. Alongside the canal are some pretty village gardens and there are always some mallard ducks. One of the towpath houses past Watford village sells canalware and ice creams. Walk on another couple of hundred yards and the tow path brings you to the A5. Carry on under the bridge and up the steps, then use the gate on your right to access the road and the New Inn pub.
It’s a linear walk, so we stopped off at the pub because as it was as far as we wanted to go. We bought our pints and sat in the pub garden watching the boats go past, rising up in the lock.
On the way back, we stopped off for an ice cream at the little canalware shop. There were plenty of boats to see on the canal; cruising season has started. Boaters are often happy for you to help them with the heavy lock work and you can follow them up or down the flight of locks. Mostly you will see hired boats but you’ll also see several self owned boats too, don’t forget to look at the interesting names. The owner bosts are obvious by what is on the roof: coal, logs, ropes, solar panels and stovepipes.
There is always plenty to see on a canal walk, lots of industrial archaeology and little bits of history. Check out the edge of the bridge arches which will often have rope cuts in the brickwork. A reminder of the days when the horse drawn barges carried goods on the canals.
If you wanted to make this a day out, you could arrive the garden centre for lunch, have a leisurely walk to the pub and back for afternoon tea at the garden centre. Or perhaps reverse the walk and start at the pub for lunch and walk to the garden centre for a cream tea? Don’t forget to make sure you’ve back at the garden centre before the gates are locked!
Do you have a favourite canal walk? Do let me know yours.
All the photographs in this post were taken on a mobile phone.
©May 2017 Travels with Flip Flops and Walking Boots.