Posted: Friday 10 March 2017
A walk along the River Kennett for
South East Associates
- Wednesday 22nd February -
The Kennett river navigation is the southernmost canal in England.
Built between 1794 and 1810, it weaves its way 88 miles from Bristol through Bath to the Thames at Reading, being a key link between the busy ports of Bristol and London.
Bath stone, and coal from Somerset, were transported along it, and many industries grew up on its corridor: brass and copper rolling, iron ore extraction and cloth making.
The coming of the railways in 1850, spelled the commercial death of the canal which quickly fell into disuse. The last craft navigated it in 1952.
In 1962, the Kennett and Avon Canal Trust was set up, and with a huge number of volunteers set about restoring 86 derelict locks, 344 rotting lock gates, crumbling aqueducts, bridges and the leaking canal bed.
In August 1990, the Queen reopened the whole navigation.
We 15 Associate walkers could appreciate some of this work as we walked six miles upriver from Reading to Theale.
Even in the city centre, the canal and river are surprisingly scenic - apart from the occasional fly-tipping and razor-wire fences! - and quickly took us out into the country.
We passed several locks, many huge lakes, and a nature reserve all of which have resulted from the excavation of gravel. It was this gravel which built the M3, M4 and Heathrow Airport, the activities of which periodically intruded into our little idyll!
We reached the small town of Theale, and turned south to Sheffield Bottom, a great welcome and a fine lunch at the Fox & Hounds pub.
After lunch, we returned to Reading by train.
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