20141231_A Frosty Winter Photo Walk in Braunston – Post 1of 2
When : 31st December 2014
Who : Just me
Where : Braunston, Northamptonshire, between Rugby and Daventry
Start Point and End Point : Lay-by on the A45 London Road SP533,663
Distance : Approx 4 miles (6.5 km)
Significant Heights : None to speak of – Very gentle
Maps : 1:25,000 OS Explorer Map No. 222 Rugby & Daventry
Summary : An opportunity for a few hours to take some wintertime photo’s down on the canals in Braunston (Grand Union and Oxford Canals) …. but it’d be a perfectly nice walk to do without a camera, There are a couple of pubs by the canal side and a couple in the village as well if that’s your want from a walk (or crawl).
I’m splitting the walk into two blog-posts just to make the writing (and reading perhaps) a little more manageable. This post is post-1 of 2. (Use this link for post-2).
If you click on a photo’ it should launch on my photostream on Flickr where you’ll find a few more images to those shown here.
It was a very cold and frosty morning, ice on the roads and a typically wintry blue sky with light high clouds and the promise that it was going to stay fine for the day. So, it was an easy decision to spend a few hours out and about on a mini-walk with my camera. The more difficult bit was deciding just where to head off to.
• Did I want to drive ?
• If not, it meant walking on very familiar ground, yes or no ?
• Did I want a pub ?
• What type of scenery did I fancy : Farmland, Woods, Town/village, canals, country parks, or even a city ?
In the end, I decided to drive, chose canals as a good base subject, assuming the waters might be frozen-over in places, the potential for good reflections and maybe some mists swirling around above the water; Once that was decided, that led to the next decision – Where to go ?
• Hillmorton Locks ?
• Newbold-on-Avon (and the long tunnel) ?
• Crick ?
• Cathiron ?
• Braunston ?
• And one or two other places here-abouts ?
Well, in the end, Braunston won despite me having been there many times over the years … Why ? … Because it’s not very far away, has a pretty canal junction, various styles of bridges, a large marina, boat works, historic buildings, several locks, one end of a very long canal tunnel and several pubs. Of course there’s also the village itself, including a long main street with an eclectic mix of buildings, including an old windmill next to a typically English church on a hill. If I needed anything else, another good reason, is that my photography tutor (David Harding / Percival Guildhouse) likes the area, and I thought it’d be interesting to compare our images at some point in the future.
Anyway, I packed up my camera, couple of lens (complete with polarizing filters), grabbed walking boots and headed off, the drive firstly taking me through the famous village of Dunchurch and then on the A45 heading towards Daventry; Braunston village being just off the main road a few miles before the Northamptonshire town.
On the way, not quite a mile past the small village of Willoughby is a reasonably sized lay-by (on the left hand side) just before reaching Braunston – This is immediately before the road passes over the canal and is often used by people parking their cars in a line here, I assume mostly by fishermen; I decided this lay-by would suit my purposes just fine, and actually today it was completely free of other cars.
If this hadn’t been available, there’s road side parking in the village itself (take a sharp left turn just past The Boat House pub/restaurant) or there is a large car-park at The Boat House itself, which I know people use whilst going off for a walk, but I don’t like doing this unless I intend to use the pub as a patron, it just doesn’t seem right otherwise.
Enough of the pre-amble, I’ve been rambling on somewhat, so on to my walk itself. After donning my boots, I set off on the rough grassy verge by the side of the road, although you may find this surprising, away from Braunston and the canal. This wasn’t by accident or bad map reading, no, on the drive down the A45, there was a superb view of Braunston’s church spire silhouetted against the pale blue sky and in front, the land was striped with shadows formed by some ancient ridge and furrow field structures. In order to try and capture this image, I had to head back up the road to find a place where I could see over/through the large hedgerow alongside the road. Despite walking several hundred yards and being well over 6-foot tall, I still needed my long zoom to get anything like an acceptable shot.
Turning around through 180-degrees and once back past the car I reached where the road crosses a canal; near here the church was more hidden from view but the ridge and furrow field was far more evident and the views up the canal were very pleasant with a couple of boats moored in the icy waters.
From here I crossed the main road, to where a path drops down to the tow path, where initially I turned left, under the quite ugly steel and concrete road bridge and continued up the tow path for several hundred yards. I had to adjust my camera settings to suit the different quality of light by the cut, as I was in quite deep shadow now. Anyway after taking a few shots here, I about-turned, walked back under the utilitarian road bridge and continued on the tow path (water on my left/hedgerow on my right).
It had been a very cold night (and it was still a very cold morning), so much so that the canal was completely frozen over, the narrow boats moored along the banks being iced in and the local ducks appearing very bemused. One pair were walking, (well slipping) about in the center of the canal, I suppose looking for some clear water to swim in.
A little further on, as the canal takes a sweeping left bend, there are a couple of attractive arched black and white iron-work bridges; the perfect twins forming a double span over a Tee-junction of canals. I could have just crossed straight over the pair, but instead chose to take the right hand canal branch, going under the arch of the first bridge, before heading off in a south westerly direction on the well surfaced tow path. I particularly liked the way the low sun picked up and highlighted attractive patterns in the ice and whilst I was composing a couple of photo’s here, a couple walking over the bridges stopped to pass the time of day with me and then moved off towards where I’d come from a few moments earlier.
After a very short stretch along the towpath, I used a brick built bridge to cross to the other bank and then back (north-eastwards) towards the iron bridges and the canal tee-junction once again, passing a brick-built cottage en-route. An emergency buoyancy aid caught my eye hung on a wall here, but I don’t know how much I’d trust it, as it looked well past its best. A cat was sat in a widow frame here also, obviously enjoying the warmth of indoors watching the world go by, rather than braving the chill outside.
As I reached where the canal splits left and right, a strange loud cracking scraping noise suddenly struck up. It was very odd and I just couldn’t place what it could be. It didn’t even seem to be coming from a particular direction, the sound seeming to fill the cold air all around.
It soon became apparent though, as the couple who’d I spoken with earlier had unmoored their small narrow boat and as they moved off they were breaking the sheet ice on the water’s surface. In fact, as the boat tried to negotiate the bend the ice resisted the crafts desired path forcing it over into the bank with quite a bump.
The blow turned the bows as the boat glanced off the bankside and allowed the chap on the teller to move off in the right direction.
I guess his journey to where-ever he was heading wasn’t going to be an easy one, especially when passing other boats on the cut.
I then turned my attention to trying to create some arty shots of the double span of bridges. At the very least, I tried to find some different angles/view points compared to previous visits as I’ve taken pic’s here on numerous occasions in the past. I’m sure they must be one of the most photographed features around Braunston – I defy anyone with a camera to just walk by without taking at least one photo’ despite how many times they may have been here before … These bridges really are very photogenic.
Moving on, I took the tow path away from the bridges (water on my left again). On the opposite bank here is a small area of light industrial units closely followed by The Boat House pub mentioned earlier. The pub is a tad modern and twee to be truly photogenic, but I did like the distorted reflection of a far more pristine looking buoyancy ring in the ice-covered water.
Soon after, I passed under the A45 road again as it crosses overhead via another utilitarian and not very attractive modern bridge.
The dominant view here is across the canal to the opposite bank with fields and hedges rising up to the church spire and some impressive looking houses which kind of draw the eye away from the canal and moored boats.
However, I did like the smoke emanating from a few of the boats’ stubby little chimneys, obviously some kind of coal/wood burner inside keeping the residents warm and cosy.
The tow path then led me past the old toll house, where the major point of interest soon changes back to the canal on the near bank, as another arching iron bridge is reached, spanning a side-arm of the canal heading into a large marina with a plethora of craft moored in a multitude of lines. As I’ve written before, the craft here always make a very colourful sight, all bar none painted in bright primary colours – Canal folk just don’t seem to do pastels in their boat liveries. As always, I don’t think there was a shabby looking boat in sight!
Normally, I would walk straight on here, over the bridge to continue on the tow path. But, today, I chose to head up into the marina itself to try and gain a different perspective on the area including the boat-works just a short walk along the water’s edge.
I think here would be a good point to switch to the second blog-post as this seems a kind of natural break in the time-line of the day. To continue reading please use this link : GO TO BLOG POST-2 OF 2.