gilest.org

To Bath by towpath

Gorgeous sunshine, and a day with little work filling the in-tray. What's a freelance writer with nothing to freelancely write to do?

I had to go to Bath to pick up a replacement battery for my iBook; I could have gone on the train, on the bus, or driven there in the car. But I had the whole day to play with, and the sun was beckoning me.

So I hopped on my bike, and I cycled all the way to Bath on the Kennet and Avon canal towpath.

To reach the towpath from my front door takes five minutes. Then it's another 55 minutes of steady pedalling - not rushing, not dawdling either - to reach the edge of Bath. Another 15 minutes and I'm outside the front door of the iBook battery shop.

There are people living on this canal. It's refreshing to cycle this far, for this length of time, along this elongated community. There are dogs sleeping beside boats, people painting and renovating boats, people returning to boats after a trip to the shops. It's like any street, really.

But what a delightfully quiet street. The only sounds are birdsong and the occasional chug of a passing boat. Life goes on at slow cruise speed here, much slower than in the real world.

The canal hugs contours, so the route bends around hills and along the beautiful Avon valley. I pass village pubs and schools, and gaze at huge mansions with their perfect gardens extending down to the water's edge. Then, just beyond the wealth, there's a boat moored up by a bridge, and its owner sitting on a bench by the towpath, basking in the sun. The man is long-unwashed - I can smell him quite clearly as I approach - and has dense, thick hair and beard. The roof of his boat is covered in plastic pots, each with a tiny seedling growing in it. I pass by him at 15 miles an hour but I make the following assumptions:

I whizz past and head on towards Bath. There's a battery there, with my name on it.

4th May, 2004