Last weekend, I finished a journey that I have been on for more than ten years (with long stretches of inactivity): walking along the Grand Union Canal from London to Birmingham. The morning was beautiful, with a riot of berries in the hedges (haws, elder, sloes, hips, bryony, etc.); coming into the city in the afternoon it rained intermittently but we passed several herons.
In fact I overshot slightly, and continued along the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to Edgbaston. The first junction on this canal, where it meets the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal, is at Kings Norton. On the way back to London, the train passes through Kings Sutton, on the Oxford Canal.
So, of course, I thought, one could walk from Kings Sutton to Kings Norton, along canal towpaths. It would be a simple enough journey: up the Oxford Canal to its junction with the Grand Union at Napton, along the Grand Union to Kingswood, then the Stratford-upon-Avon to Kings Norton. Both ends are on the railway, so connecting them is no problem.
There are various walks which exist only because of the placenames involved; probably the most famous is the March March March near Cambridge.
But for some time I have had in mind a walk on the same principle but on a grander scale, designed to appeal to the mathematically minded: From Exe to Wye.
So last night I got down the maps and did some preliminary planning. The walk would go, as the name suggests, from the river Exe to the river Wye, and would take in the existing paths along both these rivers, and other long-distance paths between. A rough plan might look like this:
- Starcross to Hawkridge, Exe Valley Way;
- Hawkridge to Lynmouth, Two Moors Way;
- Lynmouth to Minehead, South-West Coast Path;
- Minehead to Dundas Aqueduct, Macmillan Way and extension;
- Dundas Aqueduct to Bath, Kennet and Avon Walkway;
- Bath to Air Balloon roundabout, Cotswold Way;
- Air Balloon to Chepstow, Gloucestershire Way;
- Chepstow to Rhayader, Wye Valley Walk.
An alternative (if you want some urban walking) would be to take the Monarch’s Way from Castle Cary to Bristol, followed by the Severn Way to Gloucester. There is also the possibility of cheating (sorry, “using multiple transport modes”), crossing the Severn by train or bus from Bristol to Chepstow.
Even this brief outline has me itching to walk it. What a nice walk, taking in Exmoor, the Quantocks, the Cotswolds, and the Forest of Dean, among many beautiful places, and parts of two national trails. One of the world’s great walks perhaps?