Sunday, 9 January 2011

Frosty Fingers

Frost had laid her icy fingers through Butter Wood in Hampshire.  But by mid morning most of the ice had melted away - except for the puddles.  Frozen, melted and re-frozen several times over the past few days, the puddles had become fragile thin layers of water and ice, where swirls and bubbles interlaced with sticks and seeds and dead leaves...

Our walk took us along the Basingstoke Canal, originally built in the 1790's as a major commercial route to link London and Guildford with Southampton . We discovered the Greywell Tunnel into which the Basingstoke Canal disappeared. The tunnel had been  built as a shortcut for canal boats to reduce their journey by 6 miles cross-country.

In 1932, the 1125 meter long tunnel partially collapsed  preventing canal boats from navigating the waterway and the canal fell into disrepair. Canoeists could still get through the tunnel until another collapse in the 1950's  completely blocked it and created one of the best roosting places for bats in Europe. Like a cave, it's temperature hovers around 10 degrees throughout the year and never freezes inside, it's always damp and being gated at both entrances - is undisturbed - ideal conditions for bats.

The canal immediately down stream of the tunnel is gorgeous, filled with clear spring water and a forest of  water plants.  It's an area of outstanding natural beauty and a haven for wildlife.  A stretch of water I really must return to with my underwater camera and photograph a series of split level images....

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