Soak up the sights of the Kennet and Avon Canal
Running from Reading through to Bath. The Kennet and Avon canal, at 87 miles long, links London to the Bristol Channel. Home to stunning scenery and the longest continuous flight of locks in the country, the canal is one of the best ways to experience the beautiful English countryside and it’s not just to be experienced from the water, but is also host to a healthy 83 miles of towpath open to both pedestrians and cyclists.
After a century of decline and eventually falling into disrepair in the 1960s, the Kennet and Avon canal was officially reopened by the Queen in 1990, and with the aid of a £25m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the canal has slowly been reformed to its former glory.
Commencing in Reading, take the towpath through to the market town of Newbury, where you will find a wharf enriched with buildings related to the history of the canal and a peaceful path that runs through Victoria Park, follow the towpath through to Kintbury and take your time so as not to frighten horses, Monty and Drummer as you pass them working on the traditional horse-drawn barge, and you’ll soon find yourself just the other side of the canal to the magnificent Crofton Pumping Station. A fascinating attraction equipped with two steam pumps used to lift water 40 feet to the canal. Among the world’s oldest steam beam engines, the sight is truly to be admired as you ride by.
Take your time to marvel at the engineering of the impressive 29 lock flight at Caen Hill and you may even be given the chance to help a boater work the locks, or you could stop by an old lock keepers cottage, turned cafe, for a quiet and scenic refuel before setting off on the rest of your journey.
Take a ride through what was once the busiest wharf on the Kennet and Avon canal situated in Bradford on Avon, a fantastic place to relax and spot some historic sights. Teeming with independent shops and eateries such as the Lock Inn which boasts a fantastic location directly beside the water, it’s an idyllic spot to take a break.
As you continue toward Bath, look out for the stunning limestone aqueducts, Dundas and Avoncliff, both of which carry the Kennet and Avon canal over the River Avon, these areas are rife with wildlife, from deer and badgers to kingfishers and even bats.
Your journey on the towpath will come to an end in the traditional and beautiful city of Bath. A city that perfectly blends contemporary culture including many bars, shops, and restaurants with astonishing architecture, from the ancient Roman Baths to the enchanting Abbey, with a history reaching as far as Anglo-Saxon times, it makes for a perfect end to your journey.
The towpath has a light gravel, mostly flat surface from start to finish, with a descent through Caen Hill when travelling from East to West, therefore, is perfect for families or first-time cyclists. Be aware that the towpath is also a hotspot for pedestrians so be sure to approach your journey with care. Whilst most of the towpath is accessible to all, there are some occasions where you will be required to on to a different route, however, much of the route follows National Cycle Network Route 4 and is thoroughly signposted throughout.