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Saturday 28 March 2015

Walking the Royal Canal - Episode IV - The Harvest Walk from Enfield to Moyvalley

I took a short walk out along the Royal Canal from Enfield last Sunday. It’s a lovely little stretch, signposted as “The Harvest Walk” and the stretch between Enfield and Furey’s Bar is one of the prettiest canal sections I’ve walked so far. It’s a nice easy stretch too – about 6km I think which makes it a very pleasant walk with a lovely spot to stop for lunch before heading back. The walking surface is mostly grass towpath that’s in a reasonably decent state of repair. A round trip can be completed comfortably in 3 hours, including a break at Furey’s for refreshment, but you can park at either end and make a shorter trip that takes in some lovely stretches of the canal too if you’re in the mood for a shorter walk. 


The initial stretch along the south bank of the canal is very nicely surfaced and almost immediately passes the Enfield Harbour area which has plenty of mooring capacity and a slipway tucked in beside and underneath the new road bridge that carries the Enfield bypass.



The hard packed walking surface gives way to a grass towpath after a kilometre or so and the Blackwater Aqueduct follows after another two. It’s quite a significant bit of canal engineering, the main aqueduct carries the canal about 15m above the river in a very imposing stone structure that quickly changes into an elevated banked canal section that continues on for about 500m giving superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.





This section ends at Kilmore bridge where the walking route crosses over to the north bank. The path changes noticeably here too, it’s a lot less level and it feels more enclosed as there are high trees bordering the canal on both banks. It’s still an easy walk but the surface is quite uneven and laced with roots that could give a careless walker a twisted ankle.


The next two kilometres or so feel more like a woodland walk than a canal walk to be honest but on a sunny day it’s perfect. This section ends at the bridge that takes the R148 over the canal at Moyvalley. The Royal Canal way crosses the road itself here so walkers and cyclists have to get up onto the road and cross over because the towpath comes to an end at road bridge here which is a bit of an annoyance. It’s not dangerous though provided some care is taken and there’s a decent sight distance in both directions. Furey’s bar and restaurant is just across the bridge and is a perfect spot to stop and have a break before heading back.


Spring was struggling to get going last week along this section of the canal. Apart from the fact that the grass is a bit greener there was little evidence of spring along the route until I got into the section approaching Moyvally and even then it was just a few dandelions and some budding shrubs.


I was also surprised that there was so little animal life around. I noticed this one cute ladybird tucked away into the sunny side of a tree near Enfield and apart from that the only fauna I saw that wasn’t domesticated were these two swans.


That said there was some evidence of a decent sized predator at one point. Just before the approach to Moyvally I came across about a dozen broken mollusc shells, I think they were swan mussels, about 5cm along the longest axis. Something had a good snack on these, maybe an otter but I wonder if a stoat could be responsible as I’m pretty sure I saw one along the canal near Kilcock last year and that’s not too far from here,


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