The Kennet and Avon Canal - the section from Reading to Hungerford via Newbury.
Wandering across some of England's most beautiful countryside the Kennet and Avon canal links England's Canals via the River Thames at Reading with the Bristol Channel.
About the Kennet and Avon Canal in England.
As the canal's name suggest it's partially a river navigation since it uses the River Kennet between Reading and Newbury and the River Avon between Bath and Bristol. The purely "canal" part of the waterway is
57 miles in length out of a total distance of 100.25 miles. The River Kennet was turned into a river navigation for goods traffic in 1723 creating a route to the River Thames and had wharves at Newbury, Aldermaston and Reading. The river was used for transporting various goods to London and into the Midlands including timber, malt, flour and cheese and the returning barges
carried bulk goods such as coal and iron. The barges used on the navigation were considerably larger than standard canal narrow boats and a feature of the whole Kennet and Avon Canal are the large locks. Similarly the River Avon had been turned into a river navigation from Bristol as far as Bath and the two rivers were connected in 1810 when Engineer John Rennie created a 57 mile long artificial cut i.e. the 100.25 mile long Kennet and Avon Canal came
into being.The canal never did carry as much commercial traffic as was envisaged and was subsequently hurt financially by loss of traffic because of the opening of the Great Western Railway which follows the route of the canal for some distance. Eventually the GWR purchased the Kennet and Avon Canal but did not maintain it properly and navigation became quite difficult in some places - regular boat movements eventually ended during the
1930s. The canal remained open however and still provided a navigable through route until 1951 when it was finally closed. There has always been great interest in English Canals and fortunately in 1962 The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust
was formed with a view to getting the canal fully restored and navigable and with the help of volunteers and of British Waterways the canal was once again navigable in 1990.
Our topics about the Kennet and Avon Canal are split over three pages with this page covering the navigation from The Thames at Reading through to the edge of Little Bedwyn. Next our Kennet and Avon (Central)
is about the canal from Little Bedwyn to the outskirts of Bradford-on-Avon and our Kennet and Avon - West
covers the canal from Bradford-on-Avon via Bath to it's end at Bristol.
Bridge over The River Thames at Reading
River Thames and River Kennet Navigation junction
Excellent brickwork - old GWR bridge at Reading
Lock gates at
Blakes Lock 107
canal side buildings and nice weir at Reading
The beginning of the
Reading outskirts -
London Street Bridge
The section of The Kennet and Avon Canal between Reading, Aldermaston and Newbury.
The towpath along this part of the canal is in very good condition both for cyclists and for walkers and the countryside walked through is really beautiful. Although this 23 mile
stretch of the canal is not too much of a trip for cyclists it is a considerable trek to walk in one go. Fortunately the canal is accompanied by a railway line
but sadly the once free parking at Aldermaston Station has been changed. On weekends one side of the station is a usually empty pay and display and the other empty side allows parking by permit only - all run by a greedy pigs setup called APCOA which is a yankee company run out of Germany for goodness sake!. Anyway the trip along the canal can be broken in two with one railway ride from Aldermaston to Reading (and then walking back) and walking the other half of this part of the canal can be achieved by taking the railway to Newbury and walking back from there. Quite a few trains do run on Saturdays and somewhat less do the trip on Sundays but up to date times need to be checked on the First Great Western
website or National Rail site.
Verjeket Avenue Bridge
around Fobney Lock
The waterworks next to Fobney Lock
Fobney Lock 105
Excellent weirs beside Fobeny Lock
Railway Bridge no:11
Foot bridge near
Milk Maids Bridge
Southcot Lock 104
Burghfield marina entrance
Burghfield Bridge 14
Garston Turf Lock
Garston Lock is a
rare turf lock
beside Garston Lock
One of few remaining turf sided locks - Garston Lock
Locks and turf sided locks on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The river navigation's first locks were turf sided locks - i.e. the lock chamber's were lined from above the low water level with turf sloping out at 45 degrees - below low water level the sides were planked vertically. These turf locks used a huge amount of water but The River Kennet could usually easily provide
this - however most of these turf sided canal locks were eventually changed into brick and wooden planked vertical locks. Fortunately two of the Kennet and Avon Canal turf sided locks have been preserved and can be seen at Garston Lock and at Monkey Marsh Lock (photos a little way below).
Garston turf-sided Lock is a particularly good example of such a turf lock - it's totally surrounded by trees, wildflowers, reeds and so on. Also at Garston turf-sided lock there are two World War 2 pillboxes (which are now under preservation) both of which fit in beautifully with the immediate area.
Theale swing bridge
Tile Mill swing bridge
Tile Mill Lock
Liftbridge at Aldermaston
Aldermaston Wharf's swingbridge
Lock 95 at Aldermaston
Canal Bridge 28a
Preserved WW2 pillbox at Woolhampton
Swing Bridge 31 at Woolhampton
Wollhampton Lock 94
Oxlease swing bridge
Lock 93 at Old Heales
Colthrop Lock (91)
Thatcham - The Kennet
Turf sided lock at
Monkey Marsh turf-sided lock on the Kennet and Avon Canal. Located on the southern edge of Thatcham, The Kennet and Avon Canal has a second example of a rare turf-sided Lock i.e. Monkey Marsh turf lock 90. Built under the supervision of navigation engineer John Hore around the 1720s this lock has been sort of cleaned up a little compared to Garston's turf lock
but is still a good example of such locks. Monkey Marsh turf lock is important enough to be listed as an ancient moument by English Heritage so hopefully it's care-takers - namely British Waterways - will not try and destroy it by replacing it for something modern.
Rare Truf sided canal lock at Monkey Marsh
Turf Lock 90
A railway bridge and
St. Nicholas's Church
Newbury to Hungerford on the Kennet and Avon Canal. This nine or so miles stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal is if anything even more beautiful for it's lush undergrowth than the Reading stretch - often the canal is lined by 6 or 7 foot high reeds, many wildflowers and gorgeous trees. The one thing to be aware of along the route is that if the weather has been wet the towpath can be extremely muddy and their are one or two mini-collapses
and holes for cyclists in particular to be wary of. There are quite a few picturesque canal locks along the way and the canal's bridges have changed mostly from lift bridges and swing bridges to fully arched brick bridges. Quite often every time a
canal lock appears then there is a bridge alongside - and for anyone wandering or cycling along the towpath there are one or two wooden benches at most of these
Kennet and Avon Canal locks which is just right for a picnic or drinks break.
Emborne Bridge 64
Denham Bridge 66
River Knnet Weirs
River Kennet weirs
Hamstead Bridge (68)
Hamstead Lock 81
The sluice at Dreweats Lock
A horse drawn barge on the Kennet and Avon Canal
Vicarage Bridge at Kintbury
The vicarage at Kintbury
Brunsden Lock's Bridge (bridge 79)
Wire Lock Bridge
River Kennet at Dunmill
Dunmill Lock's canal
Dunmill canal lock
Lock gates at
Hungerford Lock no 74
A railway line mostly follows the route of the Kennet and Avon Canal and so it is possible to use the railway for travelling one way by train and then walking back. The railway car park at
Hungerford is currently free for rail users (but this should be checked up to date as things change) and there is also another large (council pay and display but free on Sundays at the moment) car park on the other side of the road by the station. Hungerford's St. Lawrence Church lies amongst some beautiful trees just a few
yards away from canal swing bridge no.85. Beside the swingbridge itself there are a couple of conveniently placed bench seats so it's a really nice area to sit and watch very little happening for a while. Hungerford Town is a market town - it's just a few minutes stroll away and has lots of pubs and restaurants. If going off for a short ride on a canal barge sounds like a good idea these trips can be
taken from just by Hungerford's main bridge (84).
canal swingbridge near Hungerford church
St Lawrence's Church
Hungerford Marsh swingbridge and Lock 73
Picketfield railway bridge
unusually shaped weir
Froxfield Bottomlock 70
Froxfield Middle Lock 69
Oakhill Down Bridge
Oakhill Down Lock
Fore Bridge -
Kennet and Avon
The follow on topics about the canal continue with our Kennet and Avon (Central) which follows the canal from Little Bedwyn via the excellent Caen Lock Flight
through to outside Bradford-on-Avon and our Kennet and Avon - West covers the canal from that lovely old Roman town on through via Bath and Bristol to it's end just past The Clifton Suspension Bridge at Avonmouth.
River navigations were around much earlier than canals are quite interesting to wander along - two others which we have topics on are the River Stort Navigation and the Lee Navigation both of which are located in Southern England.
Our website contains many topics about England - there are an extensive set of English Walks, photos of our local churches from various counties plus Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, 100s of British Wild Flower photos
and lots about our canals - including the Grand Union Canal and the Oxford Canal. Please
visit our Home Page to see a full list of our topics.
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