The Kennet and Avon Canal - Bradford-on-Avon via Bath and Bristol to Avonmouth.
This section of the Kennet and Avon Canal is packed with places to see including Bradford-on-Avon, Dundas and Avoncliff aqueducts, Bath, Bristol and The Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. Widbrook Bridge is right at the edge of the old Wiltshire town of Bradford on Avon and the canal's route between here and Bath passes through some of England's most beautiful countryside. Set within the steep and heavily wooded Avon Valley,
Bradford on Avon itself has plenty to offer for visitors with it's picturesque narrow streets, very old houses and buildings and with the River Avon going straight through the middle of the town. Bradford on Avon used to be a very prosperous centre for weaving and once had over 30 water powered mills - some of the mills can still be seen along the river although they have now been mostly converted into fairly expensive flats.
The River Avon is crossed by the nine arched Town Bridge (originally a packhorse bridge until the 17th century) which has a small medieval chapel situated in it's centre - the chapel was used as the town's prison during the 18th century.
Ladydown Bridge 169
Holy Trinity Church
Town Bridge Chapel
Bradford-on-Avon and things to not miss - The Norman Holy Trinity Church, St Laurence's Saxon Church and an old Tithe Barn. Near to Bradford on Avon's Town Bridge is Holy Trinity Church (Norman) which was originally built in the 12th Century and next to this large church is the beautiful St Laurence's Saxon Church which was founded in 705 and enlarged in the 10th century. This very old church has had various uses during it's long life
including being used as a school - it is one of the best preserved Saxon churches in England. Close to the Kennet and Avon canal is one of the best preserved Tithe Barns to be found in England - it is free to look around. The Tithe Barn dates from the 14th century and was built by the Abbess of
Shaftesbury as a granary - it is a really huge stone structure measuring 180 feet in length and has two porches, massive wooden doors and a beautifully beamed roof. The town also has a railway station and there are frequent services into Bath, Bristol and further west - as well as to Portsmouth and London. Next to the station there is a quite large pay and display car park which has short stay and
long stay section and there are also (very clean) public conveniences available 24 hours. From the far end of this car park steps go down to the River Avon - turn left and it is possible to reach the Tithe Barn and the Kennet and Avon Canal without having to walk along the Town's pavements.
The Town Bridge at
Bradford on Avon
Bradford Lockbridge 172
Avoncliff Aqueduct 8 9
Aqueduct 8 9
Avoncliff Aqueduct and Dundas Aqueduct. The Great Western Railway line and The River Avon are crossed by the Kennet and Avon Canal at Avoncliff via an aqueduct which was designed by John Rennie and Chief Engineer John Thomas in 1801 and features an excellent 60 foot long arch. To continue along the towpath you have to walk down the side and then
under the aqueduct to re-gain the towpath on the far side. The section of the canal between Bradford on Avon and Bath is very popular with cyclists and bikes of all sorts can be hired at both towns. Dundas Aqueduct takes the canal back
across the railway and river and was also built by Rennie and Thomas - it's constructed of golden Bath stone and crosses the River Avon using one single arch. This beautiful aqueduct has Doric style (ancient Greek) pilasters,
balustrades at each end and has a smaller oval arch on either side of the main arch.
no: 10 and 11
The very short
Somerset Coal Canal
End of all that is left of the Somerset Coal Canal
Dundas Bridge 178
Cycle hire is also available at Monkton Combe - this is a short distance along the mostly extinct
Somerset Coal Canal
which leaves from Dundas Aqueduct -
as well as being able to hire cycles there is a cafe and toilet facilities. The Somerset Coal Canal opened in 1805 for the purpose of moving coal from the North Somerset coalfields around Timsbury, Paulton and Radstock to the Kennet and Avon
Canal and thus onto various locations such as Bath and Bristol and at it's peak carried around 100,000 tons a year. Traffic decreased quite rapidly in the 1880s with the coming of the railways - the canal ceased operations around 1898 and
was officially closed by 1904. The towpath right along the route is in very good condition but some of the above-mentioned cyclists can be a bit of a problem for anyone walking and
equally for other cyclists as the riders tend to be more interested in watching their attached young children than watching where they are going.
Claverton Pumping Station.
At Claverton, Warleigh Weir interrupts the River Avon and enables water to be diverted for use by Claverton Mill. However this mill was subsequently purchased by the canal company and converted into a pumping station to supply the
Kennet and Avon Canal with water from the River Avon. The mill's beam pumps were used to lift the water 50 feet up to the canal and the pumps were capable of moving 100,000 gallons of water an hour.
This unique pumping station started operation in 1813 and pumped water to the nine mile pound from Bradford on Avon to Bath. The pump station is clearly marked from the canal and involves a short but steep walk down hill on a small road into the valley and then crossing the railway line - there is a fee to go inside the pumping station.
Hardings Bridge 181
Candys Bridge 184
Folly Footbridge 185
Sydney Gardens footbridges
GWR bridge at
Sydney Gardens Bath
Sydney Wharf Bridge
The Roman City of Bath - Sydney Gardens. As the canal reaches the outskirts of Bath it passes through part of Sydney Gardens which are the oldest gardens in Bath. Designed by Charles Harcourt Masters the 12 acres of gardens were opened as a public pleasure ground in 1795 with an
entrance fee however Bath Council purchased them with free access in the early 1900s. The canal is crossed by several ornate cast iron bridges which were constructed in 1800 as well as two tunnels - Cleveden House is situated on top of one of these tunnels (Cleveden Tunnel is 173 feet long). This
beautiful Georgian House was at one time used as the old canal company's headquarters. The gardens are certainly worth a look round not only for the gardens but also just to look at these bridges which include several GWR Bridges. The railway cuts right through the gardens and the bridges were constructed in a manner in keeping with the grandeur of this part of Bath.
Bath Top Lock 13
Pulteney Lock 12
Abbey View Lock 11
Bath Deep Lock 8 9
Bath Deep Lock
Bottom Lock 7
River Avon Bath
Dolmead Bridge 195
The City of Bath and The Widcombe Lock Flight. The flight comprises of 6 locks which takes the Kennet and Avon canal down 60 feet to join the River Avon at Bath Bottom Lock 7 - there were originally 7 locks on the flight but locks 8 and 9 were joined together to make a large Deep Lock which at 19.5 feet deep is
the second deepest lock in the U.K. for normal narrowboat use (The Rochdale Canal's Tuel Lane Lock is 3-1/2 inches deeper). The Old Roman City of Bath is extremely popular with holiday makers and sightseers - from the canal opposite Bath Spa Railway station there is a footbridge across the canal
and from the station it is only a short walk up into the centre of the City with its beautiful churches, old buildings and of course Bath Abbey and the Spas. (If
sightseeing the area by car a convenient way to visit both Bath and Bradford on Avon is to park at the large and fairly inexpensive Bradford on Avon railway station and get a train to Bath Spa and back).
Dolmead Bridge 195
Railway bridges Bath
Weston Lock 6
A4t bridge 208
Kelston Lock 5
Saltford Lock 4
Note for walkers and cyclists concerning the Kennet and Avon Canal at Kelston.
Generally speaking most of the route of the Kennet and Avon Canal is accompanied by a towpath or nearbye path however around Kelston there is a bit of a problem if walking. The Nicholson shows a towpath running alongside the river however access to this is very difficult. You have to cross Kelston Park Railway Bridge 209 (now a cycle route)
and then to regain the towpath you have to climb down on the right and go back under the bridge. There is a large steel gate which is locked and the whole area was very deep in mud when we were last there i.e. virtually impassable. The best alternative is to continue along the old railway track/cycle route until you see Kelston Lock 5 and weir a few hundred yards away on the left - there is a clear path down to the lock.
Even at the lock itself you have to climb over wooden fencing to take a proper look as it's blocked off. From here the path follows the river for a while then heads across fields to join the road to Swineford. Turn left along the road for about half a mile into the village, just pass the few houses there is a marked path on the left which takes you back onto the towpath. There is a canal lock at Swineford but it is not possible to get to it by foot from this side of the
river. As you walk on further round the river you may spot away on the left a steam engine or two chugging along on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path - the steam engines run from Bitton Steam Centre at various times - their website is here
so perhaps check it out for running times etc.
Bristol Bath railway
White Hart Bridge
Keynsham Lock 2
River Avon sidebridge
River Avon at Hanham
Hanham Lock 1
Hanham Lock 1
Kennet and Avon Canal
River Avon Netham
Avon and Feeder Arm Junction
Marsh Lane Bridge
Feeder Arm Bristol
Totterdown Lock site
St Peters Church (ruins) Bristol
Bristol Bridge crosses
River Avon warehouses
Bristol Mud Docks.
The Kennet and Avon Canal - Bristol. As the Kennet and Avon Canal approaches Bristol - often lined by beautiful woodland - a Great
Western railway line also accompanies the canal for a while - it is situated on an embankment on the left and contains several very nicely bricked arched
supports. Once the canal reaches Nethan the River Avon goes away to the left via a huge weir whilst the canal continues along a Feeder Arm - passing some nice
old warehouses to arrive at Totterdown Lock. The Feeder Arm was cut in 1804 and rejoins the River Avon at Entrance Lock. The canal winds it's way through Bristol and is very pleasant two walk - some of the old buildings are still
around but many have been replaced by waterside apartments and their are also plenty of cafes along the way. Some way along you pass through the mud docks
which date from 1625 and provided soft mooring for use when the navigation was still tidal. Still further along you can see on the opposite bank the SS Great
Britain - this famous iron steam driven passenger ship was built by Brunel in 1843 (small boats will take you for a trip either to the far side of the river
or just for a ride around along the river). From the west side of Bristol you reach Entrance Lock and from here you get great views of the River Avon and in the distance
Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge - the bridge is 230 feet above the river and is 700 feet long.
Cannons Marsh Cut
Bristol River Avon
Bristol River Avon
SS Great Britain, Bristol
Old Entrance Lock
Entrance Lockgates - Bristol
Clifton Suspension Bridge
River Avon Clifton
Lowtide at Bristol - i.e. oozy muddy River Avon
River Avon Clifton -
Sea Mills bridges
Avon river-side house
The small harbour
Getting Through Bristol if walking or cycling along this part of the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Heading through Bristol Cycle Route 4 leaves from the Feeder Arm and this well-signed cycle-route has been created in such a way that neither cyclists or
walkers have to worry about Bristol's busy roads when going through the City - all credit to the authorities. Cycle Route 4 then connects up with Cycle Route
41 which then heads off more or less following the River Avon through to Pill. Pill lies just on the outskirts of Bristol and was as far as we walked the Kennet and Avon Canal - which is pure tidal river at this stage. The River Avon was at low tide when we visited the area and there was hardly any water - just masses of very oozy looking mud. Even so the water in the river was quite violent with small waves going in all directions as well as much swirling from underneath currents - a decidedly dangerous looking stretch of water for any narrow barge owner to think about travelling along unless extremely experienced.
Also see our Kennet and Avon Canal topic which covers the canal's journey from just outside Reading (The River Thames) west to
the Hungerford area and our Kennet and Avon Canal (Central) which follows the canal from Little Bedwyn via Seend and Caen Lock Flights to the start of this topic.
River navigations existed much earlier than canals are very interesting to wander along - two others which we have topics on are the Stort Navigation and the Lee Navigation (both
of these navigable rivers are located in Southern England).