We are so lucky to be just a mile from the beautiful Kennet and Avon Canal, an awe inspiring piece of engineering that was built to link the Bristol Channel to London passing through the stunning unspoilt Wiltshire Countryside. During its heyday between 1810 and 1850 it was an important and busy commercial route, today it provides a wonderful, relaxing environment from which to enjoy the amazing Pewsey Vale scenery as well as providing a haven for wildlife. The highlight of my walks along the canal is spotting the blue flash of the kingfisher darting by – a really special treat!
There’s plenty to do along the canal – from visiting the well known sites such as the Caen Hill Locks at Devizes www.canalrivertrust.org.uk (one of the longest flights of locks in the UK – 29 in total) and The Crofton Beam Engines, just a mile from The Stables and The Hen House, www.croftonbeamengines.org one of the oldest steam pumping stations in the world. The grounds around the beam engine pumping station provide a lovely spot to sit and relax and enjoy watching the pretty boats on the canal – throw in an ice-cream or tea and cake from the Engineman’s Rest Cafe and you have the ingredients of a relaxing afternoon.
There are some fabulous walks from this part of the canal too – up and over the old Roman road (with incredible views from the top down the valley back to the canal) to Wilton Windmill www.wiltonwindmill.co.uk is one on my favourite. From there pick up the footpath through Bedwyn Brail woods or head back to Wilton for lunch or supper at The Swan – another perfect day!
If you fancy getting out on the water there are a plenty of options, from day boat hire in Devizes, afternoon trips from Hungerford (www.rose.katrust.org.uk) or try something pretty unique and take a horse drawn canal boat from Kintbury www.kennet-horse-boat.co.uk , recent guests have reported back on the quality of the tea and cake on this trip!
For something more energetic bring your canoe or kayak and take to the water (don’t forget to get your permit first form the Canal & River Trust) or bring your bike and enjoy cycling along the tow paths which often link in to other quiet cycling lanes and cross country routes, check out www.visitwiltshire.co.uk for information on cycle routes including the Wiltshire Cycleway .
However you choose to experience the Kennet and Avon there really is “something for everyone”, a cliché I know, but I think it is true, from energetic youngsters, to the less mobile and everyone in between, we are so lucky to have this beautifully restored canal on our doorstep to enjoy.