If you're going to work all night you should at least enjoy the dawn

Saturday 30th July 2016

Banbury, Bodicote, Weeping Cross, Twyford Wharf, Oxford Canal, Green Lane
9.5km|6 miles 65m|210ft

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Photographs in this series: (click to display)


route map Too many days, and nights, bent over this machine, one running into the next. Though I've almost caught up with the backlog of recent weeks, I'm now rushing to get my presentations complete for The Green Gathering next week. This morning I've had enough. What's the point of working all night if you can't enjoy the dawn?

In my first 'proper job', for five years I worked permanent nights in an engineering works. From Spring to Autumn (in midwinter I arrived and left in the dark) I'd often take a cup of coffee outside for the dawn. It marked the turning point of the 12-hour shift; time for home soon.

Thirty years later and I'm still working long hours, but now for myself. That's a major hassle as my boss is a real slave-driver – who refuses to sack me when I get bolshy!

It's been bugging me recently that, time after time, the dawn breaks over my left shoulder but I never get the same chance to enjoy it.

I keep meaning to. I see a glimmer of the dark blue first light of dawn, but before I can get around to turning off and booting-up the sun begins to beat through the window.

Today I've had enough. The tendons are beginning to atrophy; my back is becoming more immobile. A very simple cost-benefit analysis says there's not a lot of point staying here as the quality is falling off the more uncomfortable I become.

...so I went for a walk.

Out of the house in the gloom of early twilight, the waning crescent moon hanging in the deep blue of the eastern sky, I speed south out of the town – to where the Roman Salt Way passes Bodicote.

Once marked by a Medieval wayfaring cross on the 'high' route south to Oxford and London, and still called 'Weeping Cross', from here the route of the Roman road is traced-out today by a footpath running down to Twyford Wharf – the Roman crossing point on the Cherwell valley.

At this time of year the sun rises down the long valley to Purston and Farthinghoe, and often you'll get a mist across the valley around Warkworth Hall which adds to the atmosphere. A great place to see the dawn at any time of year, but especially so in late Summer.

One option is to then carry on, following the Roman route, across the valley in a wide loop around Astrop and possibly Newbottle to Kings Sutton, returning to town by the early morning trains. Today though that's not possible; it's the first of a ten-day closure of the railway for an upgrade to the track and signalling.

From Twyford Wharf I take the most practical option; straight back up the canal into the town. Quite apart from the distinct watery habitat this creates, buzzing with life in the first hour after dawn, where the canal rises almost three metres at Grant's Lock it gives good views across the valley – which at this time of day usually means you'll spot deer, buzzards and foxes.

The canal takes me along a green corridor almost to the centre town. Then a short walk up the hill to home. Reviewing the contents of the camera I see I've a problem; of the 200-odd shots there's at least thirty-five presentable photos! I put them to one side and carry on with my work on energy statistics once more while I subconsciously deliberate on which I'll use in the journal.