Perhaps it was the bright sunshine – or simply the prospect of a memorable August expedition – that insured Moleside members and our partners checked in promptly for our 08.45 departure for the Basingstoke Canal.
Chris Dick, leading us for the first time on a club visit, had warned us that water levels would dictate our route but then he managed to deliver perfect conditions as he scheduled his programme. A month of unseasonal heavy rain to replenish the canal – followed, on the day itself, by blue skies under which we would experience it at its best.
Waiting for us at Odiham Wharf was John Pinkerton 11 named after the engineer who oversaw the work of the navvies who created the canal in the 1790s.
In canal terms our transport along their narrow waterway is a ‘broad beam’.
And with a liitle polite squeezing past our fellow travellers we quickly took the opportunity to mingle on board and appreciate the freedom to investigate from end to end.
Today’s water levels were allowing us – subject to a few instances of gently scraping our keel on the muddy canal bottom – to take us westward.
King John visited these parts on the eve of his most significant engagement in 1215. He didn’t have the convenience of arriving at the local castle by canal but as the crew of volunteers from the Basingstoke Canal Society skilfully turned John Pinkerton around we were able to investigate the chalk stream that we can imagine would have been here then – and to explore what is left of the castle that gave the king shelter before his date the next day at Runnymede.
The canal never made money for any of its original investors but today this bit of what’s left of it is a wonderful haven for relaxing water related activities and the local wild life. We were so lucky to be sharing it in wonderful weather
And our post canal cruise lunch let many of us into another of Odiham’s surprises.
The Mill House was using water power to grind corn up to the end of the 19th Century. Today it is a pub and restaurant that was delighted to welcome us and host a most enjoyable – and very pleasantly lengthy – lunch together.
Thank you to Margaret, Peter and Alec for their considerable help with the photographs and to Chris and Sharon for taking us to part of our neighbouring countryside that you know well, and for showing us so much of what it has to offer us and our families.
Moleside’s next Members Visit is to Chichester Festival Theatre on Tuesday, August 29.
For other reports on recent Moleside Visits click TAGS below.