Gate at Hurley
The pathway since rejoining the river has been mostly through woodland, but now I am back into open field and there are a lot more people about. This is partly due to the presence of a large caravan and camping park a short distance to my right, but also to the great popularity of this area for picnickers and families out for a walk. I am drawing nearer to the very popular area around Hurley Lock.
Hurley has had a settlement on the river since very early times. There is some documentary evidence of a ford being regularly used here as early as 450 AD. The village certainly existed in the days of the Danes, who called it Herlei. The Domesday Book of 1986 reports a Benedictine Monastery on the banks of the river.
Flint Barn, Hurley
The village is full of olde-worlde charm. The manor house, church and cottages all contributing their part, but the most striking feature is the great tithe barn with its flint walls stretching along the village street. Further along on the opposite side Ye Olde Bell is a real gem of a preserved building, just the way you imagine a very old pub should look like, and claims to have been standing since 1135. The parish church of St.Mary the Virgin was once the Priory Chapel.
Ye Olde Bell, Hurley
The river here divides into a number of channels, forming seven islands in the river. These channels would have been very difficult to navigate, and boats would often be run aground on the shallows. An ideal place for a lock because mother nature has already carried out most of the digging by preparing suitable channels.
A wooden footbridge crosses over to the island on which the lock mechanisms stand, and a notice board displays the layout showing all of the islands. The lock island is frequented by many visitors during the summer months. The trees provide a welcome shade from the sun’s rays, and there are plenty of bench seats and tables and chairs for the visitor to simply sit and watch the world go by. A refreshment hut is doing a steady trade and it is a great temptation not to be drawn towards it. When faced with such temptation there is only one thing that can be done; give in. So I bought an ice cream and sat down to watch life at the lock.
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