Of the people we’d met at the anti-fracking gathering Sama and Kara were the most keen. Chatting with Kara about the walk she raised a lot of great questions about the reality of how the walk would work. Some I had answers for, some I didn’t and because Kara had dietary restrictions she was nervous about the practicalities.
“Could we do a practice walk?” she asked me.
“…Sure!” I said. “That’s a great idea!”
Scrabbling around trying to get free equipment for the first practice walk highlighted what we didn’t have. It was only a couple of days before, that I managed to borrow a backpack. The day before the practice Kara said she wouldn’t be able to come now. So it was just Mel and I that met at Banbury station. The Town has been famous for cakes since the 1500’s. These days Banbury is dominated by the smell of coffee and muffins because of the Kraft food factory. It has several industrial estates around the edges but the old town centre is a historic market town.
“I just need to decompress from London for a bit.” said Mel, sounding rather harried.
We sat on a park bench near the river Cherwell, across the road from the station and ate our lunch.
“I’ve been trying to put on weight,” I said, “before the walk. But I just can’t seem to eat any more than normal. I cook a bigger portion but don’t eat it.”
“I’m sure when you need to eat more, your appetite will increase.” said Mel reasonably.
A man in a dirty sweatshirt with a bag of cider cans asked if I had a light. I fished out my lighter and he stayed to chat. I don’t smoke, but I carry one just in case. He told us he was unemployed, and that it was nice to have a normal conversation with people. His friend came over and they wished us well on the walk. Normally I would avoid men carrying alcohol so already I felt we were doing things we wouldn’t normally feel brave enough to do.
We popped into Banbury museum which is next to the canal. The canal was built in the 1700’s and brought coal from Warwickshire and a lot of increased trade for the town. The railway followed in the mid 1800’s. From the 1930’s on, the town had a big spike in housing development, which you can see from the feel of it as you walk across – it doesn’t feel joined up to itself.
Walking alongside the treelined canal out of Banbury we passed a long line of houseboats. Not yet used to our large protruding backpacks we narrowly avoided knocking each other and passers by into the canal a couple of times. I was tied into my pack (because one of the straps was broken) and we realised if I fell into the river I wouldn’t be able to get the pack off.
“Note to self,” I thought. “replace strap.”