“A country (water)road. A tree. Evening” (with apologies to Samuel Beckett for appropriating his magnificently minimal stage directions from Waiting for Godot)

On a rain-lashed mid-week evening, after a day’s painting in the Long Cabin of ‘Eileen’, I felt up for a walk. The lousy weather didn’t matter a jot as I headed out in search of beauty.

I hoped the walk might provide clues to my support my understanding of the ‘riddle of the Oxford’, that is the correspondences and disconnects that exist between it’s ‘chocolate box cum picture postcard’ image and the apparent mundanity of it being ‘an industrial-age relic’ which both, at one and the same time, define/contradict the character of the canal.

The path I chose led away from a streaming and noisy main road, across an industrial estate and into woodland. I followed it.

I don’t know a lot about the stream, or the area, in fact in terms of this walk, I think that was a bonus, as it freed me to look, to listen, to imagine, and to enjoy.

There’s something oddly comforting being outdoors, all rugged up on a mizzly May late afternoon. I found myself really enjoying this bruised and rather tatty corner of Banbury. In just a mile or so of walking it felt possible to capture not only something of the elusive character of both the Oxford Canal and the areas industrial archeology, but also sense the underlying present-day tensions caused by the expansion and ‘encroaching dynamism’ of the town of Banbury spreading ever further into and across the waterlogged meadows of the Cherwell valley.

Ironstone railway. Coke can. Birdsong. The rush and whisper of vehicles along drenched roads.

Here’s the picture story of the walk. It probably makes most sense if you ‘read’ from the bottom image to the top… that is following the direction of my walk and going against the flow of the water.

20140603-200150.jpg
The stream goes on, splitting and re-splitting, drawing water from numerous smaller streams across a wide catchment running both sides of the M40 motorway…
DSC08267
The end of my walk, where the stream plaits, bisected by a muddy island masked by trees…
DSC08266
Weaving timber walkways…
20140603-200145.jpg
It felt a relief to leave behind the powerful sense of hopelessness, frustration and anger emanating from the area close to the bridge… and continue across the attractively managed and landscaped reed beds of Hanwell Fields with it’s maze of timber walkways standing just clear of the water…

DSC08260

DSC08259

DSC08258
Perhaps that’s why? Is it a wildly articulate two-word rallying cry for the have-nots watching over-priced executive homes cram the water meadows…
DSC08257
Why should I feel I was trespassing when I ventured under the bridge?

20140603-200137.jpg

DSC08253
The massive pillars of the ‘brutal’ bridge seemed anachronistic for so small a stream… and the semi-rural setting.
DSC08254
The bridge felt to be the critical point of the walk. Crowded with messages, and thought provoking too, after the gentle, secretive meanderings of the stream came sudden graffiti, hostility, futility?

20140603-200131.jpg

DSC08246
Looking across Dukes Meadow towards industrial buildings, the stream defined by the dark line of trees on the skyline.

20140603-200125.jpg

20140603-200115.jpg
It wasn’t possible to follow the route of the stream around the fenced enclosures of an industrial estate…

20140603-200109.jpg

DSC08243
It’s not easy to make out in this image (it’s easier to see if you click on the image to enlarge) but I’m standing on the railway embankment looking down a steep descent to where the Hanwell meets the obstruction of the embankment and flows beneath it.
DSC08241
The stream flowing out of three brick lined pipes below the embankment…
DSC08236
The accommodation bridge.
20140603-200059.jpg
After the accommodation bridge the stream suddenly and dramatically plunges through a steep embankment of the former ironstone line that once brought minerals down to exchange sidings near Hardwick Lock.
DSC08238
Ancient willows showing the line of the stream…
DSC08234
Once off the Southam Road the character of the stream changes instantly and overwhelmingly. Reed beds proliferate on marshy ground to the right, whilst the sound of the stream become more noticeable as the road traffic noise fades. Birdsong and the riffle of fast flowing water.
20140603-200051.jpg
From the Oxford Canal the Hanwell flows under the Southam Road. The video was shot partly there, and also on the accommodation bridge arrowed in the top left-hand corner of the photo…
DSC08273
Hardwick Wharf…

20140428-105111.jpg

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s