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Wantage Summer Festival 2014 walks

Wantage250-2014bAll Walks free but a donation of £2.00/person for the Canal Trust gratefully accepted

Further information can be obtained from Brian Stovold on 0794652428

Click on image to see full list of events


A “there and back again” walk starting and ending at East Challow Village Hall Car Park following the canal through to Stockham and back looking at the flora and possibly fauna. Distance is around 1 ½ miles in all. Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots. At the time of writing there are no stiles on this route. Children welcome but must be accompanied by parent/guardian.


A circular walk starting and ending at The Sack House, Mill Street (map ref 396881). This walk takes in the route of the Wantage branch of the canal and the main line of the canal between Grove and East Challow, and returns via Naldertown and Betjeman. Distance is around 3 miles – allow 2 hours for guide to wax lyrical! Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes may include stiles and roads for part of the way.


This walk starts and ends at Childrey Village Hall (map ref 362875). Distance is about 3.5 miles Allow 2 hours as your guide is extremely likely to ramble on endlessly about the canal history and current restoration progress! Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes may include stiles and Roads for part of the way.


A circular walk starting and finishing at The Sack House, Mill Street (map ref 396881), exploring the route of the Wantage Tramway, Wilts & Berks and Besselsleigh Turnpike (not all of it). Furthest point will be Wantage Road Station. This is a new walk requested by one of my regulars! We’ll see how it goes!

Distance: about 5 miles (no wonder they built the Tramway). Allow all evening, with the escape route of buses back from Grove. Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes will include stiles and roads for part of the way

SUNDAY 22nd JUNE   2.30pm  CIRCULAR GUIDED CANAL WALK – Childrey/West Challow/Sparsholt

This walk starts and finishes at Childrey Village Hall (map ref 362875). Distance is about 5 miles, allow at least  2 1/2 hours as your guide is extremely likely to talk too much about the canal! Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes may include stiles and roads for part of the way. 


New for 2014. A tour of Wantage taking in an exploration of the lost pubs of the town. Please come and bring your own reminiscences to share. We will finish at a CAMRA award winning (and open) establishment in town. START AT THE SACK HOUSE, Numbers will be restricted to 15. Will be repeated on Thursday


Join us in this ever popular exploration of the Grove Lock flight, east of Grove, START AT THE LAYBY BETWEEN OXFORD LANE and GROVE BRIDGE starting and finishing at the layby (part of old road) between Oxford Lane and Grove Bridge (map ref 407902).  The walk follows the much-improved footpath and goes out as far as the remains of the Neville’s Farm Lift Bridge. Distance will be around 2.5 miles - allow all evening as your guide is known for talking too much! Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes may include stiles and roads for part of the way. 


New for 2014.  A tour of Wantage taking in an exploration of the lost pubs of the town. Please come and bring your own reminiscences to share. (At this stage in the season I will have almost lost my voice.) We will finish at a CAMRA award winning (and open) establishment in town. START AT THE SACK HOUSE, Wantage Wharf, MILL ST, WANTAGE. Numbers will be restricted to 15. A repeat of the walk on Tuesday 24th

MONDAY 30th JUNE 7.30pm – Wantage Wharf, the Sackhouse and the Wilts Berks Canal

Under the auspices of the Vale and Downland Museum ( Doors and coffee shop open at 7pm). Tickets: £4 . Advance booking recommended.

Brian Stovold, Chair of the local branch of the Canal Trust, discusses Wantage Wharf and the Sackhouse, amusing experiences leading the Festival walks and gives an update on plans for the restoration of the canal. The talk will include slides, maps and a couple of odd exhibits!

Jan Flanagan  is going to talk about her researches. It could be a splendidly mad evening if Brian is up to his usual daft standards


Come and talk to the local volunteers from the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and look at the displays in the newly-opened museum. During the evening, very short guided walks will take place around the wharf area including A bucket for donations will be on hand. 


A circular walk starting and finishing at Grove Recreation Ground. This walk takes in the remaining part of the Grove Lock flight not covered on the 25th and a diversion up to Crab Hill. Distance is around 3 miles – allow 2 hours for guide to wax lyrical! Please wear suitable clothing/shoes/walking boots and take care as routes may include stiles and roads for part of the way.

Opening of Sackhouse, Wantage Wharf April 26
Sack 1
On Saturday 26th The Sack House Museum was officially opened by Mayor Fiona Roper in Wantage Wharf with members of Wantage Silver Band on hand to play a couple of suitable tunes and a fanfare. The weather unfortunately took a turn for the worse at precisely the time when the Trust tea towel was removed from the nice new blue plaque on the door.
However this did not dent the crowd's spirits as they queued to get a look inside. Brian thanked all those who had worked to prevent the building being demolished, and who had donated funds for the internal works. 

The Museum is designed to provide information on the history and working of the Canal in Wantage and to put the building in context within the industrial archaeology of the town eg the proximity to the Town Mill, and how the coming of the Canal changed the lives of the townsfolk. The TV will be showing slides shows and videos of various aspects of the canal restoration to date.
Mike Matthews_with_Brian_and_Chris Mayor Fiona_Roper   Members of_the_Wantage_Silver_Band
The Wharf, Mill Street, WANTAGE Oxon OX12 9GF

Undercroft under Sainsbury's Car Park, off Mill Street, Wantage OX12 9AJ
First two hours free. See notice board for conditions.
Regular bus services from and to Wantage Market Place.

1st and 3rd Saturdays and Wednesdays 10am - 2pm

Acquired from Barratts Homes in 2012 the East Vale branch team have worked to renovate the inside of this building to serve as a small museum on the subject of the canal wharf and the surrounding industrial archaeology. However it will also act as a local information centre regarding the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust and the ongoing restoration projects.

Funding has been received from the Oxfordshire County Council, Waitrose Green tokens scheme, Wantage & Grove Lions as well as other local fundraising.

Report from May 2012

It’s ours!!!
The Trust has, in the last week or so, completed the purchase of the historically important Sack House at Wantage Wharf. This is one of only two original canal buildings remaining in Wantage ( the other being the wharfmaster’s house) and therefore of great significance. It dates back to the building of the wharf in the early 1800s and served as a depot for hiring sacks of a standard size to farmers, corn merchants etc who wished to send their goods out of the local area. The West of England Sack Hiring Company was set up in the early 19thC and had the Great Western Rly contract for Cornwall to Bucks.
158-1000The company was liquidated in the 1920s. The building is small but has two rooms, one of which was an office and the other the storage for sacks and the weighing equipment. The previous owners Barratt Homes undertook the external renovation of the building two years ago at about which time we first made contact. Terms were agreed under which ownership passed to us with restrictions on future transfer and a covenant this it is to be used as museum.
The Branch intend now to renovate the inside of the building to a suitable standard, arrange for electricity supply to be installed and then fit out as a museum/exhibition area specifically concerning the Canal Wharf, Wantage Tramway and other associated industrial heritage. We are now setting up a management committee to move things forward. More details will be published when available. The likely first opening ( albeit before renovation occurs) will be during the Wantage Summer Festival in June.
Finally I would like to thank all those who have helped enable the Trust to this stage and for now I’ll mention just  Barratt Homes and  also John Mant Solicitors. I know there are various people around Wantage who have sought this solution over many years and my thanks goes to them too
After a super door opening ceremony in June at which Trust Chairman John Laverick and Fiona Roper, Deputy Mayor of Wantage , cut the ribbon, to the sound of the Wantage Silver Band, things have settled down with work starting on the inside of the building.
Brian Stovold
East Vale Winter Walk Dec 28 Childrey Village Green

EAST VALE Walk off the Christmas Turkey Walk 2013

Christmas 2013_Canal_Walk_1000
I had severe fears about the state of the weather for this walk on the Saturday
after Christmas.  As we experience one trough of low pressure and attendant
rains after another I had a horrible feeling this was going to get cancelled.
On Boxing Day I thought I should check the walk out...and as luck would have
it the sun shined all afternoon ( well until dusk anyway!). Having found out that
the paths were not over squishy ( technical term) I rested easy.
On Friday in my guise of Grove Scout Group Chairman and spouse of the
Grove Silver Beavers leader I joined them for a walk from White Horse Hill
to Waylands Smith. We arrived at the carpark to a howling gale and one
of the , now all to familiar squalls, but shortly after the sun came out and
we had a superb walk out and back.
If you haven't done it then you are missing a treat...and what has this to do with the Wilts & Berks? Stand
either by the picnic table at the car park or for the more adventurous...walk up to the top of the hill and gaze
with wonder at awe at the beauty of the Vale of White Horse. Watch the trains coming up and down the valley
....follow the hedgeline that is the route of the canal around Uffington, and watch the next storm cloud
approaching from the Swindon direction.

Xmas Walk_ac2 

xmas walk_bc

Xmas walk_cc

Start at Childrey

On the top bridleway heading
for East Challow
Standing on the canal bridge
at Cornhill Lane
 Xmas Walk_1c  Xmas Walk_2-1000  unnamed
 On the towpath at West Challow
next to Cornhill Ditch outflow
 Childrey Bridleway bridge at
Childrey/West Challow 
 Childrey Wharf

Saturday came and with it more sunshine. I arrived at Childrey village green to find several people already there
and waiting, so I quickly donned the walking boots and waited for others to join us. Eventually we had 21 hardy
souls and set off through the village. Childrey in the sunshine is gorgeous, full of architectural gems: the thatched
properties, the alms houses, the stable block at the corner of Stow Hill ( modelled in the vale scene at
Pendon Museum). Down Stow Hill past the cress beds and then up the metalled bridleway east towards
East Challow. The path rises and gives a superb view across the eastern vale.

We stopped where the path crosses the West Challow Road. A lovely view back towards the village with the
church prominent on the edge of the hill. In the background the wind turbines at Watchfield slowly turning.
The ridge which the A420 follows clear in the north and further in the background the edge of the Cotwolds.
In the east the cooli
ng towers of Didcot Power Station, to be demolished some time this year. At the bottom of the hill the clear
line of the canal running where the clay meets the greensand.

 In between there and East Challow lies the site of Cornhill Roman Villa...of which nothing reportedly remains.
One of the walkers was Trevor Hancock, a local historian, whose late mother produced various books on local
history. Trevor was able to give us a quick bit of history and our branch secretary Chris reported that his mother
had been involved in a dig with what was then the Wantage Field C;ub in the 1960s.

 Onwards and around East Challow to the canal at Cornhill Lane, where we examined the flat bridge and the
remains of the original stone work for the lift bridge at this site. In one of Doug's books is a superb picture of
people ice skating here with the bridge in the background.

 From there we continued now westwards towards West Challow, stopping at the Cornhill Ditch (where the
water was flowing nicely in and out of the canal) and West Challow bridges to discuss restoration plans.
We are currently in discussions on obtaining a lease over most of the canal through here. At West Challow
we left the public footpath and joined the permissive path along the towpath to Childrey Bridge.

 The temporary bridge is settled in and awaits our new project manager and myself to move forward on the
plans to replace the infill and culvert with a new bridge. From there the public footpath runs across the fields
to Childrey Wharf. Here we detoured slightly along the usually private part of the canal on which we have a
lease to look at the weir, over which the water was flowing very efficiently. The length of canal to Childrey
New Road is looking to my mind very nice at the moment, fully watered. The resident red kite was absent at
the time, but I had seen it on the test walk. Moorhens were dabbling to and fro and it was good to see the
hedgerow we planted coming on nicely.

 From Childrey New Road  it was up the wide verge towards Childrey again and then across the fields to
Childrey church and thence to the start.

 A very enjoyable walk all round and nice to see some of my stalwart walkers again. I now have a email list of
the regulars so that I can advise them when walks are coming up..


Brian’s Canal Blog - Summer (?) 2012 Walks

THURSDAY 14th June

IMG 1844-1000First walk of the season. Already had a phone call asking whether it will be on. Replied that if pouring down then will cancel.....Walk due to start at 7.30....and at 6.30 started to chuck it down. Chris Naish and I separately drove out on the off chance that a stalwart walker would decide to turn up. Rather glad that no-one did as very wet. Went home to continue preparing for Sunday. Will rebook walk...and indeed have done so for Friday 13th July...

SATURDAY 16th June

On duty at the shop at Pendon Museum all afternoon....rather worried as have invited John Laverick, Trust Chairman and also, Fiona Roper, the deputy town mayor of Wantage, and various other people including a group from the Wantage Silver Band, a grand door opening ceremony at the Sack House in Wantage....and still not made it into the building. Barratts have lost the key and the locksmith who came out on Tuesday and promised to return...hasn’t!

Go home..load up the car with housebreaking equipment...return to Sack house. Pathetically try to smash small pane of glass on only window without bars...only to find they put in toughened glass when they did the exterior renovation..strange looks from residents in nearby flats.  Gain entry by removing putty....and removing lock from inside. My accomplice takes various pictures to prove it happened....should have worn my classic striped jumper....Lock up premises using top and bottom screw in locks...return home. ( Building now secure again)

Grove Scouts Bat Box Environmental Project
Bat1-1000This last week 14-20 May has been the Scouts  Community Week across the nation . In Grove with the increase in popularity of scouting in the last few years we now have three troops. One of their recent projects has been to construct bat boxes and today saw representatives of two of the troops, Seagulls led by Wayne Bream and Blackbirds led by Phil Gill, come to several locations on the canal around Wantage to put them in position high on trees They have been placed along the Childrey New Road section and east of Grove near Small march Lock. Photos show, from left to right Phil Gill and his son Hamish, Ethan Bream, yours truly and finally Wayne Bream. My daughter, Heather, was taking the photo and can be seen up the ladder in the second photo.Bat2-1000
At Childrey we also had the Coulson family. My thanks to all of them for spending their Sunday afternoon on such a worthwhile project. The third scout troop will be positioning their supply of bat boxes at the Elm Farm section of canal at Grove, which is close to the Scout Hut.
The Childrey New Road section of canal and towpath was a joy this afternoon, A lone chiff-chaff was singing very loudly in the nearby trees and with a plethora of wildflowers growing on the bankside ( on which the Wantage and Grove Lions did a tree planting session last year) I was able to educate my daughter on a bit of plant recognition ( Comfrey and Campion, for a start). As a final note I used the opportunity of being there to plant a horse chestnut tree grown from a conker taken from Denchworth a couple of years ago. I  look forward to seeing the tree grow over the years to come, and I hope to see the various bat boxes being used, of course. Now to get a bat sound detector!
Brian Stovold
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