The day in began in thick icy fog, but the Met Office promised sunshine later so after a lovely early morning session at a local day spa, I headed out. My plan was for a figure of eight walk, beginning and ending in Bradford-on-Avon (BOA). I had purchased a walking book, and found a lovely route which would take in the River Avon, the Kennet and Avon Canal and some of the countryside above them both. The walk was to begin beside the river, but first I had to capture some of the frost.
I stayed beside the river, walking through thick mud as well as fog. At one point I think I had 3 inch mud heels! It wasn’t long before I was beside my first piece of incredible canal architecture – Avoncliff Aqueduct, now more than 220 years old. It was built by John Rennie, the Scottish civil engineer. It crosses both the river and railway.
Within minutes of leaving Avoncliff Aqueduct, the sun broke through and I decided I wouldn’t do a figure of eight walk afterall, instead I would enjoy a simple circular walk. The sunshine on the canal was too good to leave, plus I knew the tow path would be much easier to walk on than the muddy fields.
I enjoyed a narrowboat holiday on this canal in 1993, only three years after it reopened after extensive renovation work by volunteers. Back then there were only a few boats on the canal, but these days it is a really popular canal for leisure breaks and also permanent mooring. I was pleased though there were some stretches where I was completely alone apart from kingfishers, cormorants, swans and multiple robins.
It was beautiful, although there were odd moments when I wish canals had more bends in them. The big bends at Dundas Aqueduct would more than make up for the lack of others. A striking piece of civil engineering, this was the first canal structure to be designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. John Rennie designed and built this one too, and it is named after the first chairman of the Kennet and Avon Canal Company. I recall being so proud of myself for executing a perfect 90 degree turn on the narrow boat here in 1993. Not always easy to achieve in a narrow boat and 30 years later much easier on foot.
There are two canals at this point. The other one is the Somerset Coal Canal – a truly narrow canal. In the early 19th century coal from the collieries in north east Somerset came through there en route to London. By the end of the century it has closed, and currently very little of it is now navigable. However if your boat is narrow enough (7ft compared to 13ft on Kennet & Avon) you can enjoy a short stretch from this point.
Dundas Aqueduct is also the point at which I was meant to head away from the canal, into the surrounding hills and make my way back to Bradford on Avon. However I got sidetracked by the towpath. It switches from one side to another here, as it is an over rather than under switch it meant I got to look down upon the canal.
And of course once I switched sides, and spotted it was only now a few miles to Bath I had to keep going.
The Kennet and Avon Canal is 87 miles in length, but not all of it is canal. The sections from Bath to Bristol and from Newbury to Reading are navigable river. There are 105 locks, including an amazing flight (Caen Hill locks) at Devizes but no locks along the stretch I was walking on this day. There were a couple of swing bridges though, and of course lots of sections where a road went over us.
The final section from Bathampton into Bath I have to admit my feet were feeling weary, and I was beginning to lose interest in my surroundings. Not helped by the fact the towpath was suddenly very busy. Bathampton is a quaint village with lots of pubs, and only 2 miles from Bath. My destination was around the corner, and I couldn’t wait. The canal was looking rather lovely in Bath in the late afternoon light.
The photographs above are the point at which I left the canal, as there was a train to catch back to my starting point. Before I could get to the railway station however there were crowds to avoid and a few Bath landmarks to negotiate.
It was a fabulous walk, and knowing that Bath would be on my doorstep has helped make BOA an almost certainty for being my new home. Lots though still to happen before a move including a major anniversary to survive in five weeks. But if the move to BOA does happen, maybe one day, I might walk to Bristol, or back the other way by boat (or foot) through the Vale of Pewsey, up Caen Hill Locks and on to Reading, the place of my birth. Now that would be an epic Monday Walk.
PS The title is six which is why I’m hoping I can sneak this in as a Six Word Saturday!
It’s taken me a while to comment on this post, but I loved the change from the early, foggy photos to the later ones. I shared them with my family at the breakfast table and we talked about Joshua Jones, a tv program my sons watched about a narrow boat captain. It brought fiction to reality.
All the best with your move. One of my nieces lived in Bath for a time and said she did some of her best writing, as there was always a beautiful place to find, with a beautiful view, and just let her mind go.
My thoughts are with you, across the oceans.
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oh thank you so much for your wonderful comments and support. Has made me smile this morning
I enjoyed this stroll. You made me smile about executing a perfect 90 degree turn, and wonder what happens if you get wedged… if I had been trying to do it, I’m sure that’s how it would have ended up.
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Hee hee you just have to hope that you have a good pole!