Basingstoke Canal – Ash lock to Norris Hill

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The full 37 and half miles from the Wey to Basingstoke

The canal above Ash lock is known as the Hampshire length, and it has been navigable in its entirety since 1984 all the way to the Whitewater (King Johns Castle) winding hole, and it is a pleasure to cruise or walk along. Because of the restrictions on the locks on the Surrey length, the Hampshire section sees the greater amount of boat traffic on the canal. The Hampshire pound used to total 22 and a quarter miles when the section to Basingstoke was open. Now it is just over 15 miles in length.

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The canal parallels Camp Farm Road above Ash Lock

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This new footbridge appeared in 2009. Its sited a short distance above Ash Lock

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Queens Avenue Bridge (or alternatively Queens Parade or Iron bridge.) Built in 1881, replacing an earlier wooden bridge at this spot. Refurbished by the MOD in 1997, it is owned by them. Its quite an elegant bridge, following on from those in Woking. Queens Avenue bridge is on the outskirts of Aldershot. The canal does not quite the town, always remaining at a distance, but between Ash and this point some of Aldershot’s houses and industry can be seen. Its not so inspiring a stretch compared to other parts of the canal although great for walking.

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Farnham Road bridge comes in two’s. There’s the modern bridge (seen through the arch) and the original bridge, strengthened with timber. Its also known as Wharf bridge. There is an army museum nearby. Beyond Farnham Road bridge the canal enters Rushmoor and Watts Common, and it is a very rural stretch to Fleet. However, close by are army camps and of course Farnborough Airport. But most of the time there is peace and tranquility despite the proximity of the aforementioned. The military pops up now and again, evident by its bridges and other paraphernalia

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Claycart Bridge (or Bailey bridge) built about 1916. It replaced an earlier lifting bridge that also belonged to the military

More attractive stretches and military boundary stones. These are found all the way to Norris Hill. Most of the military related infrastructure on the Basingstoke is old (either WW1 or WW2) and are therefore relics.

Eelmoor Bridge was built in about 1916, on the site of an earlier Eelmoor bridge, whose remains still exist. Farnborough airport is very close and Eelmoor bridge was built to access the airfiled that existed during WW1. It is still used as an access road to the airport and people often get to know the bridge and canal during one of the annual Farnborouh air shows.

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Eelmoor Bailey Bridge

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By Eelmoor Flash

Above: Looking back towards Eelmoor bridge. The bridge is similar to the one at Claycart – in fact they were both erected at the same time and both are owned by the army. The canal is very exposed on this stretch, the simple reason being that there are no trees because these obstruct the approach to the airport. The army shorn this stretch just a couple of years ago and it is taking some time for the foilage to recover. This stretch of canal became associated with the airborne exploits of Colonel Cody, who tested some of his aeroplanes from nearby Farnborough Common (now Farnborough Airport/Royal Aerospace establishment.) Eelmoor Flash is one of the more exceptional sites on the canal for its wildlife and fauna content. In the autumn the colours are fantastic as the foilage turns various shades of colour from brown to red to copper, especially in the wooded stretches such as around Norris Hill, Fleet, and Dogmersfield.

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Summer scene in woodland en route to Norris Hill

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Norris Hill Bridges. Two modern bridges cross the canal here. The nearest one is the older modern one and the further the newer one, built when the roads were expanded and separate carriageways built. It is said that one can see the remains of the old Norris Hill bridge, but all I could find was this bit of brickwork underneath the older modern bridge. The original bridge stood here underneath the first new road bridge, because the council were not allowed to demolish the structure. However in August 1979, the original bridge suddenly collapsed of its own accord and the said deed had been done.

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Remains of the original Norris Hill bridge seen in 2002

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This sluice gear west of Norris Hill bridges has always seemed a bit strange. Hopefully it works!

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Another boundary stone – on this stretch they differ by being oblong, compared to the smaller rounded ones towards Aldershot.

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Attractive reflections in this scene just east of Pondtail Bridges

Next: Through Fleet

WOODHAM JUNCTION TO GREYWELL

Intro / Byfleet – Woodham Locks / Woodham – St. Johns / St. Johns – Hermitage / Brookwood – Pirbright / Deepcut Flight / Deepcut – Frimley / Basingstoke Canal Centre / Great Bottom – Ash / Ash lock – Norris Hill / Fleet – Crookham / Chequers – Barley Mow / Barley Mow – Odiham / Odiham – Greywell

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