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Walking the Kennet & Avon Canal


After several years of walking England’s long-distance paths I found the hilly ones were becoming too much sometimes. So I switched my focus to waterways, rivers and canals, and the Kennet & Avon Canal became one of my favorites. Waterways have distinct advantages beyond being less strenuous. It’s hard to get lost if you follow the water and there are reliably spaced services such as pubs and B&Bs all along the way. And there’s almost always something to entertain, such as chatting with fisher-people sitting on the banks or just watching the narrowboats.



The 87 mile canal was built between 1794 and 1810 to move freight between Bristol and Reading. In this section of the canal is a particularly fantastic flight of locks, the Caen Hill Locks just west of the town of Devizes. Locks are the mechanism by which boats go up and down hills when the canal doesn’t follow the topography of the land to stay at the same elevation. The Caen Hill flight is 29 locks with a rise of 237 feet in 2 miles, an engineering marvel.



The Caen Hill Locks, east toward Devizes above, west toward Bath below.  Note the incline of the towpath to get an idea of the locks' change in elevation.


Below is a photo from Wikipedia better illustrating the dramatic climb.


I’ve walked about 54 miles of the 87 mile canal, from Bath to Hungerford, not counting several outings between Bath and Bradford on Avon, an easy 5 or 6 mile walk between 2 beautiful towns.


Here I am in Devizes near the Kennet & Avon Canal Museum.

You can read more about the Kennet & Avon Canal and
the engineering feat that is the Caen Hill Locks here.

Find more PortMoresby stories here.


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