Simon Huggins's blog

Sat, 18 Jul 2009

Pewsey to Bristol

This week I walked along the Kennet and Avon canal from Pewsey to Bristol.

It's about 50 miles in all and I deliberately left some time after walking so I could go see places especially Bath.

You can see my route on a google maps pedometer too.

Pewsey to Devizes

A 12 mile walk with a break in the Crown in Bishops Cannings. It started raining once I reached the canal but only for 20 minutes or so; in fact every day I had glorious weather really. I saw a kingfisher very early on too at a point where the canal widened out to a larger pool. I had planned to stop in All Cannings but google told me the pub I'd picked out for lunch didn't do lunch on Mondays so I went to Bishops Cannings instead. I was a little worried that the swing bridge I'd seen wasn't always setup but it was fine. I had a lovely pint of 6X in the Crown with some very good steak sandwiches. Then just an easy walk into Devizes.

In Devizes I wandered round the Wadworth's brewery visitor centre. I stayed in a B&B called Embrea between Devizes and Rowde. I went to Pizza Express that night for food; they missed the chicken out of my chicken dish and then insisted on taking it off the bill so given they fixed it quickly I paid them what it would have been anyway.

The British Lion is an excellent real ale pub in Devizes and I had a couple of pints there before wandering back to the B&B for an early night.

Devizes to Bradford on Avon

Another 12 miles this time stopping in the Somerset Arms in Semington. When I woke up it was pouring with rain but after a good fry up it cleared and when I set out it was just cloudy.

Just after Devizes on the way to Bradford there are 29 locks of which 16 form the Caen Hill flight.

It was an amazing view from there and lots to see. I ended up playing postman delivering messages and gossip between boats going up and down to tell them who was coming which way and wishing them all luck with the locks.

I stopped for lunch in Semington at the Somerset Arms. I had read that it was newly refurbished but hoped that it would be as good as the reviews on beerintheevening. It was great; had a pint and some sausage sandwiches and then off to Bradford.

Bradford on Avon is very pretty. Everything is stone and it's a lot quieter than Bath. The hotel recommended I try the Castle Inn at the top of the hill in Bradford. This proved to be an excellent choice; it's a lovely pub with beer from the Three Castles brewery in Pewsey and really good food.

Bradford on Avon to Bath

This was my shortest walk (9 miles) deliberately so I could arrive for lunch and spend the afternoon exploring. The canal crosses the river Avon on aqueducts at Avoncliff and Dundas and for the rest of the time the canal, railway and river follow the valley round giving great views from the tow path. As you near Bath every town seems to start with Bath.

My first impression of Bath was that after the peace and quiet of the canal it was insanely busy. It is literally full of tourists. Also every time you turn a corner you see yet another postcard view of stone houses which after a while seems a bit odd. It's almost too perfect and a bit like being on a film set instead of a real city.

The Roman baths were interesting and there was more to them than just the main pool thankfully. Reminded me of my trips to various sites around Hadrian's Wall when I used to live up there.

I went to the Old Green Tree for lunch and it was a lovely little wood panelled pub with simple food. Then after more wandering and photo taking I found the Hop Pole (a Bath ales pub) and after dinner at a Thai restaurant I went to the Star Inn which was a bit further out but full of lovely beer.

Bath to Bristol

This was the longest walk of my trip at 16 miles but I really enjoyed it. The Kennet and Avon canal joins the Avon river at Bath so I was following the river for the lenght of this part. The path wasn't as well signed and wasn't always right next to the river so a couple of times I wasn't entirely sure where to go next but it was fine in the end. I did a slight detour via the road into Swineford at one point but found the river again easily enough.

All the planning worked out and I had covered the 8 or so miles to Keynsham for lunch at the Lockkeepers by twelve. Had a nice pint of Young's and sardines before heading out again. Part of the river was alongside Avon Valley Woodlands which seemed well signed. Then suddenly we were back in civilisation and before I knew it I was alongside a cut to Temple Meads station.

The finish

I found a cafe and waited for a friend that I was meeting for coffee then dinner. All my photos are on flickr as ever.

It was a really good thing to have done and I really loved the peace and quiet. On the way home, the train took 10 minutes to get from Bristol to Bath; I had taken five and a half hours of walking but it was definitely worth it.


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