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Our guide to the waterways of the UK in detail.

The Kennet& Avon Canal.

 

This is one of the most splendid lengths of artificial waterway in the UK. It is a broad canal cutting across Southern England from the Thames at Reading to the Bristol Channel at Bristol. It's generous dimensions and fine architecture fit in with the rolling downs and open plains it goes through. The navigation was built in three sections.

 

The River Avon. The West end of the navigation is the fast flowing River Avon in its gorge connecting Bath to the docks at Bristol. The river Avon is first navigable in the centre of the spectacular Georgian city of Bath. There are a few moorings right in the city centre, there are however ample moorings just half a mile out. All boats however, even if unable to moor here should cruise right into the city centre.

The first three miles and the first lock are within the outskirts of Bath. The next eight miles and five locks are set in the country. At Hanham lock the canalised section of the river ends and it becomes tidal for the next four miles as it enters the outskirts of Bristol. At Netham Lock you leave the tidal river and climb into a canal which takes you the last three miles right into the heart of Bristol. The final moorings are in the Floating Harbour right in the centre of the historic sea docks of Bristol.

 

The River Kennet, is also fast flowing due to its steep fall. This is the East end of the navigation connecting the River Thames at Reading to

The first two miles after leaving the Thames and the first two locks are right in the heart of Reading. The major modern shopping complexes have been built around and towering above the river. However you are unable to stop due to the narrow and often fast nature of the river. It takes another four miles and four more locks to pass under the M4 and leave Reading, but for most of this distance the town is held well away from the River by extensive flood plains.

The rest of the river navigation up to its finish at Newbury, all twelve miles are set out in the country. There are fifteen locks, many of them once turf sided, (a couple are still preserved like this), ten swing bridges and one lift bridge along this stretch. Opened in 1723 it was one of the earliest and certainly the most ambitious of the 18th century river Navigations.

The navigation finishes right in the centre of Newbury.

 

The Canal, fifty seven miles long with seventy-nine broad locks and one short tunnel was built to connect the two river Navigations, eventually it bought both navigation companies so the whole Kennet and Avon Navigation came under one ownership.

Starting in the centre of Newbury but within a mile it returns to the country. The first stretch up to the top of Croft locks, sixteen miles long has twenty nine broad locks well spread out to lift it up the slope of the chalk downs. The railway comes alongside sometimes but does not intrude due to the scarcity of trains. The small town of Hugerford provides a pleasant interlude as does a visit to the restored Steam pumping station beside Croft locks.

The summit section is in two parts. The true summit is under three miles in length and has the only tunnel of the canal, Bruce tunnel, 502 yards. This was to prove an expensive mistake creating the major problem of water shortage which was to haunt the canal for much of its life. The canal then goes down the four locks of the Wotton Rivers flight to reach a level pound fourteen miles long. This takes you through the very beautiful Vale of Pewsey with the chalk downs rising spectacularly to the North. This section terminates with mooring right in the heart of the small town of Devizes.

West of Devizes the canal descends Caen hill in a famous flight of twenty nine locks within the first two miles. Sixteen of them are in a straight line and provide an unforgettable experience with the large side pounds off to one side and the line of thirty two sets of balance beams stretching out in front of you. The lowering to the Bradford level continues over the next four miles with two short flights with a total of seven locks.

Another level pound set in the country follows, fourteen miles just broken once by the isolated lock in Bradford itself. For most of this distance the canal clings to the side of the valley of the river Avon crossing it twice on the magnificent neo-classical aqueducts at Avoncliffe and Dundas. You pass the unique water powered pumping station at Claverton. The valley gets deeper and the River Avon slowly sinks below you until the city of Bath appears set out below you.

For its final entry into Bath the canal follows a sweeping descent round the south of the city, going down the Widcombe flight of six locks, one of them the famous deep lock with a drop of nineteen feet, one of the deepest in the UK. Finally reaching the River Avon and going to moor right in the centre of the city.

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately we will not be on this canal in 2012 during our cruises.

However we are cruising on other canals and rivers in 2012, details of these cruises can be found at

routes for 2012.

 

Some pictures of this canal?

Reading to Devizes. / Devizes to Bath / Bath to Bristol.

 

More information from Reed Boats about this canal.

A history of this canal.

Find our information about other canals on the canal index page.

 

If you have any questions then do ring us on 07977 229103
or email us at martinreed@reedboats.co.uk

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