Totally idyllic “Wind in the Willows” style day yesterday (actually I’ve never read the book and have no idea what kind of river experience features in it). But instead of the mysterious green river overhung with trees from the previous night, we went through four locks and were into a sunlit area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, hawthorn hedges and rushes on either side, damselflies, and house martins skittering low over the water catching insects, and the odd thatched cottage and CHALK HILLS rolling in the distance, my favourite landscape. At first there aren’t many people around and the canal is wide so it’s safe for me to have a go at driving but soon there are barges moored along everywhere, as this stretch is so lovely and there are no locks, and therefore I assume everybody wants to be there. This means we have to travel very slowly without knocking into things.
The canal guidebook says there is a White Horse to look out for so I’m standing up in the bow looking at every promising escarpment to see if I can spot it.
Much excitement when Andrew first points it out just visible over a hawthorn hedge and wondering if we will see it better round the next corner but eventually we arrive at Alton Barnes where it looms over the village. It’s a nice one. Made in 1812.
I grew up near Whipsnade Zoo which has a white lion on the hillside and I’ve always liked chalk figures. Apparently they have to be restored from time to time by getting all the weeds off, tidying the edges and filling in with new chalk (I thought you just cut the turf off to expose the underlying chalk and that was that, but the chalk tends to wash away as well as get overgrown). Traditionally this is done every seven years. The oldest white horse in England, the Uffington Horse, is approx 3000 years old, and they have managed to keep it going for all that time. Meanwhile several have been made and faded away completely, and a horse that was created in Devizes (where we moored up last night) for the Millennium is already looking tatty, according to Tripadvisor reviews. At Uffington there used to be a big fair with fun and games like cheese-rolling, to scour the horse, and nowadays the National Trust organises events to do it several times a year. But before the cheese-rolling, how did they get everybody to turn up and help preserve it?
I think there should be more chalk figures, personally I would like alpacas, spirals, upside-down 4s. We would also like aliens.
Why is the boat going into the bank? It’s NOT SUPPOSED to be going that way when I move the tiller THIS way.