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Sunday, 14 October 2012

Coombe Hill (Le Canal en Octobre)

The hamlet of Coombe Hill between Tewkesbury and Gloucestershire must once have had a somewhat over-zealous marketing person. The "hill" is about 30m above sea level and only 21m above the canal leading to the River Severn. Still, it attracted the attentions of the geologists and they determined that it was made of Rhaetic Limestone. I'd long been aware of the canal - seen it on maps and noticed it where it met the road but there was a huge middle part I'd never explored so I thought I'd give it a go.

The builders started in 1796 and it was open for business for 80 years conveying coal to Cheltenham until the lock connecting it to the River Severn was damaged and it wasn't worth repairing. In the 1950s it got a "Site of Special Scientific Interest" badge and was bought by the local wildlife trust in 1999. This was because the canal was still wet and the area around it flooded most years which is good for birds and other wildlife. Actually, it didn't flood as well as it used to because the land had been "improved" for agriculture so part of the plan has been to ruin the drainage. I wonder if in 100 years time, they'll reinstate the drainage to recreate a "traditional improved agricultural landscape" or perhaps there will be a desperate need to grow food?

Anyway, the result is it's wet. This picture show the start of an official circular walk around the Northern Meadows. There was an alternative walk to a hide along a boardwalk but...

So, some learning points:

  • Good walking boots are needed for the towpath
  • Almost any excursions will need wellington boots unless there's been a prolonged drought
  • When I've tried again with wellies, I might report that waders are needed, or even SCUBA gear!
Still, some of the wildlife can be seen from or in the canal itself

Can't actually see the wildlife here but there are nice clouds

Did I mention it was wet? You need waders or binoculars to read this information board
Found this sign near where the canal enters the Severn. Elvers are a juvenile form of the common eel and considered a delicacy by some

So why the subtitle on this post?. I was halfway along when I recalled the name of a popular French traditional dance tune "Le Canal en Octobre" and there I was on a canal in October. The title of the tune was misheard as "le Cannard..." by somebody and in some circles, it's called "The Duck"

Some interesting links:

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