Sunday, 31 May 2015

An alternative view

The pretty hillside town of Stroud
I have a soft spot for the Sixties. I can't remember much about them but I know I was there and after spending the 'summer of love' as a student in London, listening to the likes of Pink Floyd at the UFO Club I have a lingering liking for all things alternative.
Like Stroud, the town we tripped out to (in a manner of speaking) yesterday, courtesy of our Granny Passes. Google 'where do the hippies live today' and Stroud comes up not far behind Glastonbury and Totness. There's a sizeable Green Party representation on the local council and the town even boasts an Organic Hairdresser whatever that means.
Alternative enough even to claim an organic hairdresser
On Saturday it was enjoying itself at all its alternative best with street markets, a farmers' market and and buzzing crowds of 'alternative' types with plenty of bushy beards, cheesecloth shirts and dyed hair on view.
It's a pretty little town, set on a steep hill on the edge of the Cotswolds and over the years its slightly off the beaten track location and fine surroundings have attracted artists, writers and crafts people of all types – there's even a 'Made in Stroud' shop.
Beside the restored canal lock is the Trust's Visitor Centre and a cafe 
I must admit that, for all its great beauty, I'm not a great enthusiast for the Cotswolds – too many Cabinet ministers and tv celebrities for my taste – but Stroud is a different matter.
After enjoying the town and an organic burger and sausage roll at a market stall we wandered down to the Stroudwater Canal where the Cotswolds Canal Trust has a lockside Visitor Centre and there's a nice  little cafe too. Which meant we could enjoy some scrumptious cake and a drink as our 'pudding' before walking a few more miles of the canal towpath.
An impressive example of what's been achieved is this canal diversion
Work nears an end on one of the final locks being restored on this section
We headed for Brimscombe, the inland port where goods were trans-shipped from the wide Severn barges to the slightly narrower Thames ones for the rest of the journey. The canal is largely in water, if a bit reeded up, and only some final work on a couple of locks needs completing.
A glimpse of the future, the canal heads into the glorious Golden Valley
The walk gives an insight into what a glory this canal will be when it is one day open, running in the 'Golden Valley' as it's known which cuts through the lushly wooded Cotswold hills.
Augustus Gloop, the Trust's dredger at work near Brimscombe
At Brimscombe, though, things come to a complete stop and, sadly, there's precious little left of the inland port whose pool could hold a hundred boats. Just a large mill and a smaller building: the port itself is now a carpark and industrial estate, the last buildings having been demolished as recently as 1965.
This car park was once a huge expanse of water holding up to 100 barges
Now there is just a sign on a dreary sixties office block
Still, the Trust has a plan and judging by what they've delivered so far – including an impressive and expensive looking diversion on the edge of Stroud and some nifty squirming round the town itself – I don't doubt they will deliver.

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