Sapperton Canal Tunnel and the source of the River Thames
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This walk deep in rural Cotswold countryside takes you past two very interesting places. The Sapperton canal tunnel was opened on 20 April 1789 after five years of construction. It has no towpath; boats were propelled through the tunnel by legging. Sapperton Tunnel was passable until at least 1966 but is now blocked by roof collapses over several hundred yards, mainly in sections where the ground is fuller's earth. Restoration is proposed by the Cotswold Canals Trust as part of their project to re-open the canal route from Thames to Severn.
Talking of the River Thames we will also visit one of the places which claims to be the source of it (there is a long running argument about where the river actually rises)
Our starting point has a rather splendid grade 1 listed church which will be worth a peek. The unusual light and airy interior being a wonderful example of early Georgian design with vast windows overlooking the churchyard. St Kenelm’s is renowned for its collection of ornate memorials dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The walking route has some varied terrain and scenic valleys, wooded sections and open views and we'll pass both ends of the tunnel. There's a great pub to explore which was built in the 1780s alongside the canal, the pub has "seen and refreshed navvies, leggers, canal folk, agricultural students, racehorse owners, gentry, crooks, polo players, chancers, generations of locals and seen its fair share of Cotswold life".
What to bring
Water: bring at least two litres
Medicines: if you have hay fever, diabetes, minor ailments etc.
Day rucksack: typically 20-30 litres, they are comfortable to wear and allow you to use your arms freely
Boots: waterproof and breathable and designed for hiking, trainers are OK if the ground is dry and there’s little chance of rain
Gaiters: recommended for wet weather or boggy conditions
Socks: proper walking socks will keep your feet dry and help prevent blisters
Layered clothing: lets you quickly adapt to changes in the weather and body temperature. Go for a base layer (vest or t-shirt) and a mid layer (a micro fleece or shirt) and in cooler weather add an outer layer (a windproof jacket or thick fleece)
Trousers: ideally no jeans as they become heavy and cold in the rain, breathable fabrics are more comfortable and dry and on warm days shorts are OK
Waterproof jacket: essential when hiking in all but the calmest of weather, breathable fabrics are more comfortable and dry
Gloves: Windproof, or better still, waterproof gloves are the best choice, bring a spare pair if expecting rain
Hat or cap: stay warm in winter and shaded in summer
Sunglasses: for any sunny day, even in winter
Sun cream: can be useful even on cloudy and winter days
Snacks: bring biscuits, energy bars, gels, bananas, chocolate or dried fruit for example and put them somewhere easy to get hold of
Lunch: bring a packed lunch unless otherwise stated
Food & drink
You will need a packed lunch and plenty of water, especially if we are blessed with warm weather.