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Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal

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.

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.

Publisher: Cicerone Press Ltd

ISBN: 9781852847869

Publication Date: June 2016 (reprinted 2020)

The book is available from local bookshops, direct from the publisher, or from online sellers, including
Kennet & Avon Canal cover
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.

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.

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.

To learn more about the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust who helped save this magical canal, visit; to learn more about the work of the Canal & River Trust, who look after the waterways of England and Wales, visit
Pulteney Bridge and Weir, BathThe 14th century tithe barn at Bradford on AvonPero's Bridge at the Flaoting Harbour in BristolCleveland House at Bath straddles the canalCrofton Pumping StationDundas WharfHungerford WharfCaen Hill flight of locks at DevizesWire Lock between Kintbury and HungerfordThe canal at Irish Hill near Kintbury
Introduction section - this briefly covers the history, geology, and plants and wildlife, along the Kennet and Avon Canal

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
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

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

Appendices: route summary tables; itinerary planner; accommodation near the route; useful contacts; and further reading
Walking the Kennet & Avon map