A walk along the K&A
Reviewer: Elizabeth Rogers
STEVE Davison has become a well-known and popular author of guides for the specialist walking and exploration publisher, Cicerone.
In his own latest exploration – Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal – he offers two ways of enjoying both the route of the canal and the places of interest within a short distance of its banks.
The first section of the book covers the whole length, which he has divided into seven sections, starting from Reading, where the River Kennet joins the River Thames. An early phase of the building of the canal was the Kennet Navigation, where the natural river and the newly cut canal ran, each providing sections. The 57 miles of canal from Newbury ran as far as Bath, where it joined that Avon Navigation that continued to Bristol.
As Steve Davison’s introduction to the history of the canal relates, the full length was finally opened in 1810, providing a link that enabled water-borne traffic to make the full journey from Bristol to London.
Stage one of the walk leads to Woolhampton and towards its end reaches the village of Aldermaston, where at Aldermaston Wharf there is a small canal-related visitor centre.
The seven sections can be shortened or lengthened, and the book includes many practical suggestions such as ending the first stage early at Theale, to take advantage of the train service from there.
The final stage also offers this opportunity to make a halfway split between Bath and Bristol, taking the train at Keynsham and finishing off the stage another day.
In its second section the book has a series of 20 circular walks starting from points along the canal and taking in places of interest in the immediate surroundings. Each is in the region of six miles, and they take in stops such as to see the famous Crofton pumping station and beam engines near Great Bedwyn, and sights such as that of the chalk figure of a white horse on a hillside at Alton Barnes, the Caen Hill series of locks, and at Dundas the aqueduct and the junction with the restored remaining 500m of the Somerset Coal Canal.
This is a book full of information, from the introduction that includes the geology of the surrounding area along the route, the ecology – plants and wildlife to look out for – then throughout its pages maps, travel information and restaurant and other facilities, including accommodation.
There is also a third suggestion for making the most of the pleasures of following the canal, a cycling route, divided into three stages.
Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal, by Steve Davison, is published by Cicerone (227 pages, paperback, price £12.95).