Fundraising for Neuroendocrine Cancer UK isn’t all about the exercise bikes, although our morning cycling sessions do make up the bulk of the mileage. As The Proclaimers sing about walking 500 miles and 500 more we pull on our hiking boots whenever the opportunity arises. A couple of weeks ago we booked a short break in Surrey and discovered our accommodation in Brookwood was ideally located for a walk on the Basingstoke Canal.
Can I just say from the off that walking along a canal is an excellent choice for the following reasons:
- You can’t go far wrong following a river. Choose a bank to walk along and keep the water to one side. Simple. I find this method helps to avoid the usual marital disputes about which way to go.
- Canals have locks on them so you can use them as markers on the trail: count them out one way and back the other.
- Walking along a canal in residential areas is wonderful if you’re nosy: plenty of back gardens to critique on the way.
- For those of us who need to know where toilets or the nearest coffee are located, keep an eye on suitable bridges which lead up to civilisation i.e. cafes.
Strolling along the Saturn Trail
For our morning walk along the Basingstoke Canal we headed east following the Saturn Trail. This trail is 15km in total and suitable for cyclists and walkers. It was a hot day and we were grateful for the general leafiness of the route – plenty of dappled shade. The towpath was flat and well-maintained. Plenty of back gardens to peer into surreptitiously.
After about an hour we arrived at the village of St John’s and found a bustling cafe, BEM Coffee, for croissants and cappuccinos. Fed and watered, we decided not to continue east on the trail but retraced our steps to head back to our accommodation for lunch.
Lunch came quicker than planned. We had to cross the canal at one point to change towpaths, and as we emerged from the steps, we spotted a Greggs at a petrol station. So meal No.2 consisted of sausage rolls on the move. A quick loo break back at the cottage before heading out again, this time in a westerly direction along the canal.
The wild west of Surrey
The Basingstoke Canal is just as pretty heading west from Brookwood but there’s a different atmosphere because of the close proximity of Bisley Shooting Ground and the Army Training Centre at Pirbright. The constant ‘pop pop pop’ in the background adds a sense of danger to the walk. I wasn’t diving into the bushes to escape but I did wonder if some carefully applied camouflage make-up might have added some authenticity to the adventure.
A word on the wildlife at this point. The canal has more species of aquatic plants than any other waterway in Britain. It’s also a hot spot for dragonflies with 25 species present – two thirds of the British total. These really were gorgeous – shimmering blue and green above the water. We also saw deer, herons and plenty of ducks.
One species we didn’t catch sight of was the international darts player. We knew the venue for the WDF World Championship – Lakeside Country Club – was just beyond the trees in Frimley Green. Obviously they don’t appear until December.
A feast in Frimley Green
Ploughing on, we did that thing where you keep walking and can’t decide the optimum time to turn back. I was hot and hungry again. Canal cuisine came up trumps once again. Like an oasis in the desert, the vision of a Harvesters pub, the King’s Head, appeared as we turned a corner. We tucked into scampi and chips and a huge old-fashioned ice-cream sundae with some offerings from the salad bar to offset all the carbs.
Making use of the toilet facilities, I was then attacked by a loo roll holder. I don’t know if I’m unusual in this, but when I’m in a cubicle I look under the big loo roll contraption to make sure it has some paper in it before I sit down. This holder wasn’t attached properly so it fell off and hit me on the nose. Dougie, compassionate doctor that he is, laughed and was flummoxed at how a toilet roll holder would be anywhere near my nose to injure it. He did, however, fill up a plastic bag with ice and we shuffled off to begin the long walk home, avoiding out-of-season darts and rifle pot shots as we went.
Neuroendocrine Virtual Pathway Challenge.
Our stroll along the Basingstoke Canal added 12.5 miles (20km) each to our total. Our aim is to walk 1000 miles before 10 November and raise £1000.
We are very close to our target mileage – 945 miles completed.
And we have smashed our fundraising target thanks to all our generous donors – £1587
If you would like to sponsor us to continue the challenge and raise more money here’s the link: Dougie Burgess