Saturday, 27 March 2010

An Aqueduct too Far...

I was suffering badly from idle-itus, an untreatable condition that was causing my kayak paddles to go slower than normal. Luckily there was no rush, and soon enough I was at Fazeley Junction. Decisions, decisions, do I go north to Whittington, or south towards Coventry? The 10 miles to Whittington and back suddenly seemed a long way, so I instead opted to go the short distance to where the canal passes over the River Tame on a high aqueduct.

A Second World War 'pillbox' stands guard over the water here. These war relics fascinate me. This one is particularly interesting. It's a FW3 Type 26. There were less than 200 of this type built. The more common hexagonal Type 22's are dotted in their thousands across the country. This Type 26 is unusual in that it only has embrasures/ loopholes on one side rather than all four. The angle of the loophole slots would have allowed full gun coverage of both the canal and the river below all the way towards Tamworth. There are horizontal slots along the sides, with remnants of wood still in them. Many of these structures where either 'merged', or disguised, and I wonder if these wooden batons were left from some sort of cladding in an attempt to make it look more civilian in nature. For many miles this stretch of the River Tame was used as a natural 'stop line' during the war. There are pillboxes dotted all along its length as well as brick lined cutouts in the bank where patrol boats lurked ever ready under tree cover. The waterway here is only a narrowboats width, which is... narrow. The railings on the towpath side are always a worry to pedestrians with dogs or small children as there is a sheer drop down to the river.

The river looked inviting, but the thought of carrying a 20 kilo kayak laden with another 10 kilo of luggage left me feeling exhausted. It would have to wait for another day, maybe in summer when those trees are in leaf and I can tie a hammock up over the water from an overhanging branch.

Over the other side of the aqueduct was an intriguing doorway that begged to be investigated. Leaving my kayak under the protection of the pillbox, I scrambled through the undergrowth until I reached the sandstone steps.

It was a little disappointing. It was just a small storage room, fire blackened and litter strewn by local scallywags.

Back at my kayak I drank my obligatory flask of Camp coffee while contemplating the paddle home.

The Drayton footbridge was a welcome sight, although the din of the traffic wasn't. My rumbling tummy helped drown out the noise as a bacon sandwich beckoned me homeward...


Madwag said...

I need a kayak for sure... someday.... I guess I need to add it to my list of things I must have before I die. This was awesome...thanks for sharing.

Lavender said...

Mate! I loved the videos! Paddling along with you was a great break in my day - are you using an average video cam, or something more hi-tech?
Been thinking of you alot these last few weeks while watching Grff-Rhys Jones' 'Rivers' series...England has got to be the most beautiful place on earth...golly I miss the Northern hemisphere.
Also enjoyed the history and photos, nice work!

barkfoot said...

These videos were filmed using the 'movie' selection on my stills camera, which was wedged between my knees because I forgot my tripod. It's a bit low res but I didn't want to risk my more expensive video camera while paddling a wobbly kayak!