Taunton to Bridgwater – 14 miles (202 total)
My second canal of the campaign today, the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal, is around 15 miles long and goes from… Bridgwater to Taunton, or in my case, the reverse. Canal walking isn’t for everyone, it can be monotonous, it can be featureless, it can even be overcrowded in urban areas with cyclists and dog-walkers. For me, certainly on this walk, after a rollercoaster journey through Cornwall and Devon, a canal walk is something to be savoured. The towpaths are normally in good condition, devoid of mud and puddles, and the walking is dead flat. Apart from the obvious benefit of not getting lost, you can also clock up the miles at a good pace.
Leaving Taunton was a little bit tricky because the canal and the River Tone ran parallel for a while, so I had to be careful to follow the correct stretch of water. The very busy, main railway line, kept me company the whole journey. The walking itself was easy but light rain fell all day getting heavier as I approached Bridgwater, with the result that I was pretty wet when I rang the front doorbell of my lodgings.
I passed two canal anglers today and I have to admit that my curiosity got the better of me. Having a lengthy conversation with the first gentleman, I discovered that he was fishing for tench, a carp-like fish. It is simply fishing for sport, a game of cat and mouse, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor, any fish he catches gets returned to the canal.
Two unique features marked out this particular canal for me. Firstly, a large number of World War 2 pillboxes lined the canal. On checking, I see that these formed part of the Taunton Stop Line, which was one of a number of defensive lines constructed around the country in case of enemy invasion. Secondly, at irregular intervals along the towpath, a number of sculptures, detailing the planets of the solar system, formed an interesting display. Again, on checking, I discovered that this was a sculpture trail model of the solar system called the Somerset Space Walk. It really was quite fascinating. A quick Google will provide background to both features.
As far as my own progress was concerned, three ‘milestones’ were reached during the course of today’s walk. One was my second Kerching, at Fordgate. This intersected with The Macmillan Way West, a 102 mile walk that we did in 2005. Two, is that today I passed the 200 mile mark on this trip, as I walked under the M5 motorway for the second time in 4 hours. Third, is that LEJOG 2018 is now the second longest continuous walk that I have ever done, surpassing The Southern Upland Way, which was 196 miles. The longest is The Pennine Way (268 miles).
Tomorrow I head for the seaside, so I suppose it will rain again. Finally, I would like to pass on my best wishes to my good friend, George, who is scheduled to go through an operation tomorrow – one that has been postponed four times already. George played a crucial role in helping me plan my walking route for this adventure.