In the know: Basingstoke Canal

The London Necropolis

Brookwood Cemetery, which lies close to the Basingstoke Canal, is one of the largest burial grounds in western Europe. Originally known as the London Necropolis, it was designed to take some of the pressure off the capital’s ‘Magnificent Seven‘ cemeteries, and opened for that purpose in 1849. It had its own rail service, the London Necropolis Railway, which left from a station near Waterloo and entered the cemetery via a special branch line. Famous occupants include the painter John Singer Sargent, and (more recently) Dodi Fayed. Those who enjoy such things can take a guided walk around this beautiful and historic location that has recently been given Grade I status by English Heritage – see the Cemetery Society website listed below for details.

The Alfred Burtoo Incident

The Basingstoke Canal has been the location of an alleged UFO sighting. On August 12 1983 Alfred Burtoo, then aged 77, was fishing at the part of the canal that passes through Aldershot when he saw a disc-shaped object land nearby. At first he took it for a military helicopter but then, according to his account, a group of small, humanoid figures disembarked and beckoned him on board. He claimed to have boarded the UFO where he was subjected to a medical examination and released after proving to be too elderly to be any use to them. He climbed out of the saucer and resumed fishing. For more on Alfred’s experience, visit the links below:

Odiham Castle

Odiham Castle, or King John’s Castle, is an appealing flint-walled ruin to be found where the canal passes the village of North Warnborough. One of a very small number of fortresses built by that king, it was built between 1207 and 1214 at a convenient point between Windsor and Winchester. It has enjoyed several notable appearances in history, as the home of the powerful de Montfort family and as the stage for the Despenser Rebellion of around 1296, and as the prison of David Bruce, King of Scots, in the 1350s. But, as the 15th then the 16th centuries progressed, it lost all importance, was relegated to the status of a hunting lodge and eventually began to crumble. Now the only visible remains, the octagonal keep and some defensive earthworks, make for an atmospheric stop on any Basingstoke Canal walk.