New Book – Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal – the full canal walk and 20 day walks

My latest walking guide – Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal – has been published by Cicerone.

Two guides in one – walk the 94 mile Kennet and Avon Canal in 7 day-long stages from Reading to Bristol or choose to follow the 20 circular walks (4¼ to 9 miles), taking in the best sections of the canal.

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Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal takes you on a fascinating journey across southern England, following a major transport route that was built over 200 years ago during the heyday of British canals. The route passes through a diverse and varied landscape, including the chalk hills of the North Wessex Downs in the east and the southern edge of the Cotswolds in the west. Along the way there are numerous interesting sites including Crofton Pumping Station, the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, the ornate aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas, the City of Bath UNESCO World Heritage Site and Bristol’s vibrant Floating Harbour.

At the height of ‘canal mania’ in the early 1800s, the Kennet and Avon Canal, which stretches across southern England from Reading to Bristol, formed a super-highway for the transportation of goods ranging from coal and timber to grain and stone, contributing to the late Georgian and early Victorian growth of the south. However, the widespread use of the canal lasted only a few decades before the arrival of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s much faster Great Western Railway.

The loss of business caused by the railways brought about a gradual decline of the canal system and by the 1950s the Kennet and Avon was in a very poor state. However, plans to abandon the canal were brushed aside by public support and an army of volunteers set about the gradual restoration of the canal, culminating in its reopening by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990.

Caen Hill Locks, Devizes
Caen Hill Locks, Devizes

Now this wonderful canal, which celebrated its bicentenary in 2010, forms a multi-faceted jewel for boaters, walkers and wildlife, as it weaves its way through a patchwork of countryside from 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.

Walking along the canal also takes you on a journey of discovery past impressive historical features including the world-famous Crofton Pumping Station and Beam Engines, the stunning Caen Hill flight of locks at Devizes, the ornate aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas, and the Georgian splendour of Bath.

Georgian splendour of Bath
Georgian splendour of Bath

But, most importantly in today’s busy world, the canal offers an abundance of peace and tranquillity, a slower pace of life, where you are surrounded by a wide range of wildlife. As you walk, you are accompanied by the sounds of birdsong, the wind rustling through the trees, or a narrowboat chugging by, gently rippling the tranquil waters.

Whether you opt for walking the full length of the canal from Reading to Bristol’s vibrant Floating Harbour (152.1km/94½ miles) in total) or go for the 20 circular walks (ranging from 4¼ to 9 miles) that take in the best sections of the canal while visiting interesting places nearby, this guidebook takes you on a fascinating journey across southern England, following one of England’s best-loved canals.

The canal near Crofton
The canal near Crofton

Publisher: Cicerone Press Ltd

ISBN (13): 978 1 852847 869

Publication Date: June 2016

The book is available from the publisher, local bookshops and online.

See the books page for more information.