The Kennet and Avon Canal
The full canal walk and 20 day walks
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Guidebook to walking along the Kennet & Avon Canal. The 94 mile route from Reading to Bristol is split into 7 stages of fairly easy walking and includes the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath and Bristol's Floating Harbour. 20 circular walks are also included, ranging from 4¼ to 9 miles, taking in the best sections of the canal.
- The canal and walks can be undertaken at any time: summers tend to be fairly dry and mild, spring and autumn offer some of the best walking conditions. In winter some paths can be quite muddy and some routes may be impassable if rivers become flooded - however, walking alongside the canal on a clear, frosty winter's day can be a magical experience.
- Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Great Bedwyn, Pewsey, Devizes, Bradford-on-Avon, Bath, Keynsham and Bristol
- Fairly easy walking on mostly good paths and tracks through fairly low-level terrain (below 286m above sea level). The stages on the canal walk range in length from 15.5 to 29.7 km (9¾ to 18½ miles); however, these can be easily split into shorter stages if required. The circular walks range from 6.8 to 14.5 km (4¼ to 9 miles) and include several, sometimes steep, ascents and descents, however, they should be suitable for most walkers.
- Must See
- Numerous fascinating features along the canal, such as Crofton Pumping Station, the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas; picturesque towns and villages, with pubs, ancient churches; Georgian splendour at Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, vibrant Bristol and its Floating Harbour; the canal travels through an interesting, gentle landscape, ranging from the rolling chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs AONB in the east to the limestone country in the west, touching on the southern edge of the Cotswolds AONB.
This guidebook to walking along the Kennet & Avon Canal covers the 94 mile (152km) route from Reading to Bristol. The canal walk is split into 7 stages of fairly easy, level walking, of between 9¾ and 18½ miles, with advice on splitting on shortening the stages if needed. The book also includes 20 easy circular walks, ranging from 4¼ to 9 miles, taking in the best sections of the canal and visiting sites nearby, making this two guidebooks in one.
Alongside OS map extracts and detailed route descriptions, there are plenty of details on the history, heritage and wildlife encountered along the way. An itinerary planner is included for walkers who want to create longer or shorter stages, and there is useful practical information including details on accessing the walks by public transport and a list of accommodation available along the route. The result is a highly useful and fascinating companion to exploring the canal and its surroundings.
In the early 1800s the Kennet and Avon Canal provided an important direct trade route between London and Bristol. Today the waterway weaves its way through the rolling chalk contours of the North Wessex Downs to the southern edge of the Cotswolds, passing vibrant towns and cities as well as picture-postcard villages with thatched cottages, ancient churches and cosy pubs. Fascinating features - such as Crofton Pumping Station and Beam Engines, the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, the aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Georgian Bath and Bristol's vibrant Floating Harbour - are explored as the canal makes its journey across southern England.
Brief history of the canal
Plants and wildlife
Where to stay
Getting to and around the canal
Food and drink
Walking the canal
Cycling the canal
Waymarking, access and rights of way
Protecting the countryside
Using this guide
Walking the canal from Reading to Bristol
Stage 1 Reading to Woolhampton
Stage 2 Woolhampton to Hungerford
Stage 3 Hungerford to Pewsey Wharf
Stage 4 Pewsey Wharf to Devizes
Stage 5 Devizes to Bradford-on-Avon
Stage 6 Bradford-on-Avon to Bath
Stage 7 Bath to Bristol
Between Reading and Hungerford
Walk 1 Reading – canal and river
Walk 2 Aldermaston – wharf and village
Walk 3 Greenham Common
Walk 4 Newbury and Donnington
Walk 5 Kintbury and Hamstead Marshall
Walk 6 Hungerford and Kintbury
Walk 7 Hungerford, Freeman’s Marsh and Standen Manor
Between Great Bedwyn and Devizes
Walk 8 Great Bedwyn, Crofton and Wilton
Walk 9 Wootton Rivers and Burbage
Walk 10 Pewsey Wharf, Martinsell Hill and Oare Hill
Walk 11 Wilcot and Woodborough
Walk 12 Honeystreet and the Alton Barnes White Horse
Walk 13 All Cannings, the Wansdyke and Bishops Cannings
Walk 14 Devizes, Caen Hill and Rowde
Between Seend and Bristol
Walk 15 Seend and Seend Cleeve
Walk 16 Bradford-on-Avon, Avoncliff and Lower Westwood
Walk 17 Avoncliff, Freshford, Monkton Combe and Dundas
Walk 18 Dundas Aqueduct, Monkton Farleigh and Bathford
Walk 19 Bathampton, Sham Castle and Bath
Walk 20 Saltford, Swineford, North Stoke and the Cotswold Way
Appendix A Route summary tables
Appendix B Itinerary planner
Appendix C Accommodation near the route
Appendix D Useful contacts
Appendix E Further reading
The Ordnance Survey (OS) offer two series of maps: the 1:50,000 (2cm to 1km) Landranger series and the more detailed 1:25,000 (4cm to 1km) Explorer series. The OS maps covering the canal and surrounding walks are:
- Landranger: 172, 173, 174 and 175
- Explorer: 155, 156, 157, 158 and 159
Other maps include Heron Maps: Kennet & Avon Canal and River Avon at 1:50,000 with detailed town plans at 1:12,500 (also shows National Cycle Route 4). This is only of use for walking the length of the canal, not for the 20 circular walks.
This guide features extracts from the OS 1:50,000 Landranger series of maps, with overlays showing the route along with any detours or shortcuts. It is advisable to always carry the relevant Explorer map with you when walking as these show much greater detail as to the routing of rights of way.
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The owner of this B&B has now retired and so accommodation is no longer available here;
Bridge House, Canal Bridge, Semington, Trowbridge, Wiltshire.
Steve Davison has become a well-known and popular author of guides for the specialist walking and exploration publisher, Cicerone. In his own latest exploration – Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal – he offers two ways of enjoying both the route of the canal and the places of interest within a short distance of its banks.
The first section of the book covers the whole length, which he has divided into seven sections, starting from Reading, where the River Kennet joins the River Thames. In its second section the book has a series of 20 circular walks starting from points along the canal and taking in places of interest in the immediate surroundings. Each is in the region of six miles, and they take in stops such as to see the famous Crofton pumping station and beam engines near Great Bedwyn, and sights such as that of the chalk figure of a white horse on a hillside at Alton Barnes, the Caen Hill series of locks, and at Dundas the aqueduct and the junction with the restored remaining 500m of the Somerset Coal Canal.
This is a book full of information, from the introduction that includes the geology of the surrounding area along the route, the ecology – plants and wildlife to look out for – then throughout its pages maps, travel information and restaurant and other facilities, including accommodation. There is also a third suggestion for making the most of the pleasures of following the canal, a cycling route, divided into three stages.
Towpath Talk magazine
Steve Davison is a writer and photographer who has lived in Berkshire for over 25 years. He has written a number of books as well as articles for magazines and national and local newspapers, specialising in hill-walking and UK and European travel, and counts nature, geology and the countryside among his particular interests. A keen hill-walker for many years, and a Mountain Leader, Steve has also worked as a part-time outdoor education instructor. He is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild.View Articles and Books by Steve Davison
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