Wednesday 10 May 2023

Still at Tyle Mill

Although we had a few short showers today, the weather was mostly very pleasant, some blue sky and at times quite warm. But with the river still running very fast indeed, we (ie the boat) were not going anywhere for a while.

In the morning we managed a few routine tasks, such as emptying the elsan and disposing of rubbish. These can be done by walking back down to below the swing bridge but water would involve taking the boat back down the lock so we will make our supply last as long as we can!

Mike also managed a repair to the two side windows that were involved in an incident a couple of days ago. We were not aware at the time, but we think that as we came through Theale Swing Bridge there was something that stuck out enough to cause the damage. At the time we came through, the flow was not only strong but somewhat erratic in direction but it was only a day later that we noticed. 

There is not much we can do about the paint scratch in the short term but the 'scrape' also pulled out some of the rubber seal around two windows.  We had been wondering whether to see if Aldermaston Wharf Boatyard could effect a repair but that is the other side of another fast river stretch. So Mike took a look to see if it was possible to deal with it ourselves and, somewhat to his surprise, he could push the rubber back into place with little evidence of what has happened. We also later found that we can order some replacement from Caldwells.

After lunch, Christine took a walk along the river bank towards Ufton Bridge. She must have annoyed the cattle in the field - see below. Alas, one of the rain showers arrived and after sheltering under a tree from the worst of it, Christine quickly made her way back - now in sunshine.

When she returned it was Mike's turn to take a walk. He had noticed on the OS map an indication of a ruined church along the road to Ufton Bridge. He soon encountered the group of cattle who had by now gathered together to present a united front against walkers! Despite Mike trying to make appropriate noises to get them to move they were having none of it. Instead, the human had to cede and go around.

The river running under the first part of Ufton Bridge was especially fast as the channel narrowed considerably.

Adjacent is the canal swing bridge together with the remains of the now de-gated former Ufton Lock. This was the last lock to be built on the canal as an improvement to the stretch up to Towney Lock. It only had a small rise and so when the canal was restored it proved more practical to modify the latter lock rather than reinstate Ufton.

From here the walk was along the road for a short while. The map Mike was carrying seemed to place the ruin before a road unction but nothing could be seen. After walking a little further Mike eventually found the ruin - there was only an end wall still standing.

The medieval parish church of Ufton Nervet was abandoned in the early 15C when the parish merged with the adjacent one.

The next stage was along a footpath through fields. All was going well until after passing through another gate in a hedge the path seemed to be under water! Back tracking to see if there was another way found nothing so this must be the path. It looks as if a normally very tiny stream but now rather larger had found an alternative route - along the path! It proved not to be very deep so after a short while treading through water the stream veered off, leaving the path reasonably dry.

Then came a short woodland with the ground full of bluebells.

The final part of the footpath borders the Folly Farm estate. It seems the the owner is not keen on having public able to access the edge of his grounds so has recently erected a formidable security fence complete with CCTV surveillance.

Later searches revealed that Folly Farm is now a large country house and extensive formal gardens, owned by one of the Oppenheimer family. The house started as a simple farm cottage but has, over centuries, been much extended. Then, at the start of the 20C, the then owner engaged architect Edwin Lutyens to remodel it completely in a current fashionable style. It was taken over as a maternity hospital in WW2 after which its private ownership gradually presided over a decline in the standard of the property. Oppenheimer has spent almost a couple of decades, and pots of money, restoring house and gardens with the help of a team of considerable experts. None of this can be seen from the footpath which is screened by extensive flowering trees. The grounds are open to the public occasionally.

Once back on a road it was not far to Tyle Mill Bridge and the river path back to the boat.

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