Catch your own lunch, and pay respect to the fallen of the Battle of Bywater, in this riverside walk that takes in a number of fine angling spots.
Distance: 3 miles
Dangers: Fast flowing water, finger-biting pike
This walk starts at Bywater, location of the terrible Battle of Bywater just a few years ago. Memories of that day are still raw, but life goes on, and the fish still bite. Bywater’s pools and waterways are renowned amongst Shire anglers, and this route comes with plenty of piscine potential.
I recommend stocking up on gentles at Grubb’s tackle shop (1). Grubb is known as the maggot-father of the Shire, and for good reason! You can smell this hobbit long before you see him. Hold your nose, and you will find the fattest, liveliest maggots this side of Mordor.
Walk east out of town, but give the large willow tree (2) a wide berth. There are rumours that mischievous Tooks once brought a willow sapling back from the Old Forest to ‘add a bit of spice’ to the Shire. Those who have dozed beneath the Bywater Willow may not thank them!
I myself once rested there, and dreamt of a monstrous pike leaping from the river, its teeth as long as Morgul blades. When I awoke, my cheese and pickle sandwich had completely disappeared. I leave it to the reader to explain, as it’s beyond the likes of me!
At (3) you will find a meander in the river which is in the process of forming an oxbow lake. The pike love it here, so settle down with rod and line and break out your tub of Grubb’s gentles.
Seredoc Sackville-Baggins mentions this spot in that other book, claiming to have pulled a 45 pounder out of the pool. I have been here a dozen times since reading that, (purely coincidence), and have never seen a monster of such size. Suspicious! Still, we must give our fellow hobbits the benefit of the doubt, even if they are Sackville-Bagginses.
Continue over the fancy footbridge (4) to the southern shore of The Water and proceed back along the riverside to the boundary of the East and West Farthings. You will find here a fine carved pillar (5). It is a spine-tingling sight, a reminder of the glory of Arnor and the centuries of history that have unfolded on this land where our hairy feet now tread.
It is also a convenient leaning place for a puff on a pipe.
Suitably refreshed, continue back to the village to visit the Garden of Remembrance (6) that was planted for those hobbits who died defending the Shire from Sharkey’s ruffians.
It’s a pretty enough garden of course, but my eyes are drawn to the scrubland beyond, a fledgling wood that should not exist. Tolly Proudfoot farmed this land until 1419, the swathes of barley his pride and joy. Now the barley is gone, and blackthorn and ragwort have crept in, finding easy rootage in his well-tilled earth. Tolly fell in the Battle, and his fields have vanished beneath weeds like a dream lost to waking.
How quickly the years of our toil are forgotten by this world.
Rest in peace, Tolly.