Great West Way Travel Magazine


Relax with a gentle stroll and traditiona­l cream tea, or for the more active there's an amazing variety of activities, from canoeing and kayaking to paddleboar­ding or cycling along the towpaths

- Words: Charlotte White

From canoeing, paddleboar­ding and cycling along the towpath to a enjoying a traditiona­l cream tea

THE RIVER THAMES, the River Kennet and Kennet & Avon Canal meander their way through the heart of the Great West Way route starting from London all the way to Bath and Bristol, meeting with each other at Reading. Though they are very different waterways. Passing through towns and cities, the waterways offer tranquil spaces in urban areas, as well as stopping-off points to discover England's heritage. The more rural sections offer a wealth of wildlife and natural beauty and along their lengths is living history. The waterways have also inspired festivals and regattas through the ages. →


The 87 mile long Kennet & Avon Canal is in fact two rivers, linked by a central canal section built in the Georgian period. Created originally as a trading link between London and the west coast, it is a masterpiec­e of engineerin­g with 104 wide beam locks, including the second longest continuous series of locks in the country at Caen Hill, Devizes. Despite this, the canal fell into obscurity and disrepair, and was almost lost to the nation with competitio­n from the newly built railways. It took a passionate band of dedicated volunteers to restore the waterway which is now open for everyone to enjoy.

The Kennet & Avon Canal is a great way to travel the route, with time to take in some magnificen­t sites (and sights) from the Crofton Pumping Station to a World Heritage Site and historic battlefiel­d - not to mention 21 conservati­on sites, 14 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and many spectacula­r landscapes including Wiltshire and ( just a short detour off the route) the Northern Cotswolds.

The canal has awesome examples of canal engineerin­g too. The 16 locks of the steepest part of the flight at

Caen Hill are not only a scheduled ancient monument, they are an Olympic-sized challenge for every boater

– so remember to take a snack with you, as it will take

5-6 hours to pass through the locks. One of the most impressive structures on Britain's waterways, the Avoncliff

Aqueduct at over 100 metres long and 18 metres wide, carries the Kennet & Avon Canal over the River Avon.

Cycle just over 2.5 miles (4k) up the towpath and visit the equally magnificen­t Dundas Aqueduct, opened in 1805 - both were built by the architect and engineer, John Rennie. Or you could walk the other way along the towpath, passing the Barton Farm Country Park and you easily reach the bigger market town of Bradford on Avon.


The Thames is the longest river in England with 45 locks. It boasts three Areas of Outstandin­g Natural Beauty and is the only river in Europe with a national trail, The Thames Path, along its entire length. Starting as a small trickle in the Cotswolds, the River Thames travels over 210 miles through the heart of some of England's loveliest towns. The Thames offers an excellent array of riverside locations to stay and play. It curves past some of the most significan­t sites in history including Runnymede where Magna Carta was sealed, the Royal Palaces at Windsor and Hampton Court, and the Parliament buildings at Westminste­r. It carried the bodies of Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I to their final resting places. While a flotilla, led by the Havengore vessel, carried Winston Churchill's coffin up the Thames to Temple Pier, on the first stage of his journey to Bladon near Blenheim Palace, his final resting place. →


►Bradford on Avon

A rare combinatio­n of river, canal and architectu­re from the Romans, Saxons, Normans, Georgians and Victorians, who have all left their mark. Don't miss The Bridge Tea Rooms, a double winner of the UK Tea Guild's 'Top Tea Place', stop in to the newly refurbishe­d canal-side pub, the Canal Tavern, or board the MV Barbara McLellan for a sightseein­g boat trip.

►Henley on Thames

Discover the history of Henley, rowing and the Thames at the River & Rowing Museum, then join a sightseein­g cruise along the Thames with Hobbs of Henley.

Head out of Henley (5.4miles/8.7kms) to Stonor Park, dating back to the 12th century and take a tour inside and walk through the gardens.

►Vale of Pewsey

On the banks of the Kennet & Avon canal, this is a tranquil, mystical sort of place with two Wiltshire White Horses, Pewsey and Alton Barnes. Stop for a cup of tea and you're bound to have some illuminati­ng conversati­ons.

The Little Lunchbox Café is a warm, welcoming place on the High Street, while The Charlton Cat has a seriously tasty selection of cakes (try the rhubarb and custard) and an outdoor courtyard with fabulous countrysid­e views. Make your way to Honeystree­t Mill Café for gateaux style cakes, with unique flavours that change every week, or pop into Marshalls Bakery for a slice of their Wiltshire Lardy Cake, delicious!


From boat trips along the Thames to its historic Reading Abbey Quarter which covers the former precinct of one of Europe's largest royal monasterie­s. Visit one of the town's free museums, the Reading Museum or The Museum of English Rural Life, also known as the MERL, before enjoying its great shopping area and evening entertainm­ent.


►Bristol Packet Boats

Hear about the origins of the Floating Harbour and Brunel's famous Bridge as you cruise underneath on an Avon Gorge Cruise in Bristol, along the River Avon.

►French Brothers

Celebrate a special occasion with a luxury cream tea cruise on board a beautiful genuine steamboat.

►Henley Rowing Associatio­n

For a unique experience on the Thames in Henley book a Champagne Rowing Taster Session designed for ladies who lunch!

►Boat Trips on the Kennet and Avon Canal

Take a trip on the Kenavon Venture, a wide beam boat, from The Wharf in Devizes, or The Jubilee, a traditiona­l narrowboat, from the Wharf in Newbury.

►Salter's Steamers

For an unforgetta­ble experience while in Oxford try an afternoon of punting on the River Thames.

►Thames Rivercruis­e

Sit and relax as beautiful scenery glides by on a cruise along England's greatest river.

 ??  ?? Pictured: Kennet and Avon Canal, Bradford on Avon
Pictured: Kennet and Avon Canal, Bradford on Avon
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 ??  ?? Pictured left-right: Kennet and Avon Canal, Bradford on Avon; The River Thames
Pictured left-right: Kennet and Avon Canal, Bradford on Avon; The River Thames
 ??  ?? Pictured: Richmond
Pictured: Richmond

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