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Kennet and Avon First timers - Any Advice?

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Hello

 

We're setting off soon aiming to get onto the Kennet & Avon in a couple of weeks. We've been up and down the Thames a few times, but never ventured onto the K & A.

 

As newbies on the K & A, has anyone any advice as to things not to miss, and places to avoid? Hoping to have extra crew for the Caen Hill flight!

 

Thanks

 

Neil

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1) The further west you go the better the scenery gets

 

2) Take a gangplank. And a spare.

 

3) Crofton Pumping Station is well worth a visit on a steaming day. Even the cafe serves unusually excellent fare for this type of place!

 

4) The Village shop in All Cannings sells the most excellent bread, if you appreciate excellent bread. (The Kings Arms in All Cannings also sells the best 6X I've ever tasted. One of those rare proper pubs where its the landlord who knows his trade behind the bar serving you, not a 20 year old spod :) )

 

5) The Waterfront Inn is Pewsey. Excellent and constantly changing range of proper draught bitters.

 

6) The Caen Hill flight. It's magnificent. You can't miss it!

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The locks on the K&A are pretty challenging, probably the most difficult of all canal locks (but nothing comes close to the River Avon locks).

 

Mooring is also more of a problem a) because it can be very shallow and overgrown at the edges and b ) much of the space is already taken up by liveaboards. This is probably the main reason we won't be heading back that way anytime soon.

 

There's always been a problem with water on this canal, so levels can be a problem in a prolonged dry spell, OTOH when it is wet the current on the Kennet can be surprisingly fast and will take you by surprise if you are used to "canal" type canals.

 

I suspect most folk that aren't based on the K&A do it for the Caen Hill experience. BTW they have a really good crew of volunteers these days and pretty much everything works though the first lock can be a bit sticky.

 

I admit I am a little negatively biased, it's not my favourite waterway.

Edited by Neil2

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I live within a mile of the K&A and have cruised it's entire length many times, something which very few people can claim. Yes some of the locks are a bit odd, and some can be a bit challenging, but most are no more difficult than quite a few found elswhere in the country.

 

More of a challenge are the numerous swing bridges, especially those with the operating position being on the opposite side of the canal from the landing stage. Then there are the hydraulic lift bridges, which are prone to electrical failure, they are also timed so that they cannot be operated during the rush hour at both ends of the working day. The Nicholson guides used to give operating hours, but check in advance.

 

Observations about gang planks and moorings are both correct. there are a limited number of places where you can moor right against the canal edge, so a long gang plank is advised, 8ft being the recommended length. There is a current on the river sections, but apart from places where the river actually enters the canal this does not present a problem, you just need to be aware of it.

 

There are a number of number of places where you can moor and go shopping, Reading, Newbury, Hungerford, Devizes and Bradford on Avon are all close to the canal, with supermarkets and a range of shops. Be aware that there is only one supermarket operating on Bradford on Avon at the moment, and that is Sainsburys which is out of the town, and most easily accessed from the wide over bridge just before you reach the Visitor moorings (sorry the guide is on the boat, so do ot have the bridge number)

 

The last thing to consider is that it is not easy to do the K&A quickly, my average from Reading to Bradford on Avon is around fifty hours, but that is not in the "high season" when you may encounter more boats. Take your time, and you should enjoy the K&A , there are some interesting places to visit en route, with Hungerford, Devizes and Bradford on Avon having more to offer if you are into historic buildings etc.

Edited by David Schweizer

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Don't enter the Long Pound during a full moon.

Don't pay any attention to what Neil2 says about liveaboards. They take up no more space than any other boat.

Between Bradford and Bath, you will get hit by a boat whilst moored, the canal is fairly narrow in places and it is busy with all kinds of boats. There are an awful lot of hireboats and weekenders.

The eastern end is much quieter and the river bits are lovely and often twisty. Use your horn on the blind bends but don't expect a reply. There is only one liftbridge (Aldermaston). There are several key-operated swingbridges which break down from time to time. There are several manual swingbridges which can be heavy. If they won't move, get them started by pushing on the wrong end first.

There is more than one boat called Dragonfly.

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When we cruised it in 2014 we had no mooring problems at all. Almost all the signed visitor moorings are 48 hour and so the liveaboard population don't like there. Like everywhere else aim to moor by 3 pm and you should be OK for space.

 

The river bit from Reading up to Kintbury is not well served for water and clean if you are a slow mover like us.

 

Make sure you go to Bristol. You have to pay but well worth it.

 

Edited to say we never got hit but may just have been lucky. It is very busy over the western side.

 

But cheap diesel at Hilperton

Edited by pearley

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We have done the K&A this year. Wonderful. The Kennet section can be challenging, but is enjoyable. Time your journey. Early start, early stop will get you a visitor mooring. Short hops are best. Take your time and explore. I agree with MTB, All Cannings as a brilliant shop and pub. You just must stop a Crofton. Newbury, Hungerford and Devizes for supplies. (Wadworth s brewery worth a visit). Of course, Bath. But, do go to Bristol. You will not be disappointed.

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If you go to Bristol you only have water/pumpout at Bath narrow boats, also shops by the bridge(above top lock)and by the deep lock, water at top lock,water/pumpout at Bath Marina, water/elsan on a remote pontoon near Kelston (don't have the exact location), water at Hanham lock - hidden up by the lockkeepers house, and then nothing until the new visitor mooring opposite the SS Great Britain in Bristol Floating Harbour and at Bristol Marina almost opposite.

Bristol is great but not cheap to moor.

Access should not be a problem at the moment as the River Avon is quite low. Ring the lock keeper at Netham lock(Number on the Bristol Harbour Web Site) to check the state of the river and any tidal restrictions that could affect you.

Mooring in Bath is all down river from the canal exit onto the river, on the right just after the low road bridge. Very close to all things for visiting!

Mooring further down on the river was very restricted 2 weeks ago as most free space has been occupied by cc'ers. You can moor above Hanham lock on a visitor pontoon before the 1.5 hr run into Bristol. Bath bottom lock to Bristol is approx 7 hours.

Edited by adrianh

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Be very aware of current through Reading when going both up and downstream even in otherwise benign conditions, hence traffic lights. Side currents can be an issue on lock landings in town and a little beyond then you can start to enjoy. Be aware that anywhere the Kennet river rejoins the canal there could be strong cross currents. Woolhampton for example.

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Thanks for all the help. Setting off today. (keeping an eye out for the missing boat too)

Cheers.

 

 

When you get through the traffic lights in Reading, the first lock you'll encounter is County Lock. Beware, it has strong cross currents on both the entrance and on the exit.

 

It is easy to undersestimate this lock as the rise is only about 12" in summer so misleads you into expecting it to be totally benign. It isn't!!

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Re Bath moorings: we have moored by the rugby ground just before Pulteney Bridge in the past. Have these moorings been removed or prohibited for some reason?

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If you have a bike, stop at Great Bedwyn and explore Savernake Forest. There is also a good baker (Bedwyn) there too! the Avon is beautiful, and Bristol is amazing.The lock keeper at Netham is really helpful. When you pass through Devizes, seek out The Vaults for some really interesting beers.

Pultney bridge moorings are closed untill further notice afaik. There is usually quite a bit of space for mooring in Bath though.

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If you have a bike, stop at Great Bedwyn and explore Savernake Forest. There is also a good baker (Bedwyn) there too! the Avon is beautiful, and Bristol is amazing.The lock keeper at Netham is really helpful. When you pass through Devizes, seek out The Vaults for some really interesting beers.

Pultney bridge moorings are closed untill further notice afaik. There is usually quite a bit of space for mooring in Bath though.

 

 

Not any longer. The bakery has closed down and the site up for sale.

 

The local shop almost opposite still sells very good bread, but baked somewhere else now.

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If there is a flow on her and you manage to get through the Oracle,County lock and get your feet wet at Fobney getting off then it's very unlikely you will be able to punch through the bridge hole at Burghfield even with a run up ,as MTB says the suction forward on your boat in County lock whilst filling can catch you out

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Not any longer. The bakery has closed down and the site up for sale.

 

The local shop almost opposite still sells very good bread, but baked somewhere else now.

 

The bread and stuff in the post office is identical to what the bakery used to sell so I have assumed that its the same operation just relocated. Sad to see the bakery go but the post office is now even more a centre of the community.

 

In the last couple of months have done the Thames, South Oxford, GU and North Stratford to Brum, Shropshire Union to Chester, Middlewich Branch, T&M and Bridgewater and the Leeds and Liverpool to Liverpool. I think the K&A still just about wins as my favourite waterway, but Liverpool beats Bristol, and the beer is cheaper and better up North.

 

.................Dave

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The post office sells excellent bread and cakes, baked by the same chap who,baked it before.

Please don't tell the Grockles, only us locals know that.

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Serious K&A advice...we meet a lot of boaters who hated it and vow never to return, so.....

 

Reading to Newbury can be navigationally tricky, especially if you are not good on moving water, don't get into a negative mindset about this, it gets easier. A few bits before Newbury are not pretty, but some are excellent as all rivers are. After Woolhampton lock you deserve beer at the posh Rowbarge. Mooring is not too bad but a plank makes life a whole lot easier. Lots of crusty livearboards, a few are are scumbags but many (most) are lovely talented people and good boaters, they will likely treat you as you treat them. The Longpound has some spectacular views, look around rather than just ahead. Can be hard to moor in Bath. Do go down to Bristol, its only a days cruise to get there.

Do visit the Barge Inn at Honeystreet, its unique, its up for sale again, its possibly only a matter of time before it becomes a posh private house.

The Waterfront at Pewsey does indeed serve good beers, and good food too.

Explore Devizes, supposed to have the greatest density of listed buildings anywhere. "The Vaults" is an interesting early evening boozer.

Bradford on Avon is unique.

and yes, Caan Hill is a truly spectacular flight of locks though the tight packed centre "16" is surprisingly easy. Push on afterwards and do the Seend flight too then eat and drink at the other Barge Inn at Seend.

 

..............Dave

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Hello

 

We're setting off soon aiming to get onto the Kennet & Avon in a couple of weeks. We've been up and down the Thames a few times, but never ventured onto the K & A.

 

As newbies on the K & A, has anyone any advice as to things not to miss, and places to avoid? Hoping to have extra crew for the Caen Hill flight!

 

Thanks

 

Neil

I would agree with all that’s gone before but. The main thing about the K&A is timing. If you can moor up just outside Bradford on Avon the night before then drop down next morning & moor outside the Tithe Barn, then walk into town via the Barn, River & Saxon church. For Bath do the same at Dundas (Magnificent views) or Bathampton (Bathampton Mill great food overlooking the Avon not adjacent the canal & check out the church, big surprise inside) then go in and moor up adjcent to the water point mooring, steps down to the town adjcent.

 

 

For your trip into Bristol which is a must see our blog, Braggaboutlife River Avon Bath to Bristol

Edited by Martin@75

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Great advice, this is one of the things I love about this site. I can't add anything except that it really is a fantastic canal. And watch out for Fobney lock as well as county lock (it is the next one after County). It can also have a very strong cross current coming out under/through the actual pontoon below the lock!

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Pontoon below Fobney Lock with the cross current coming in under the pontoon

 

post-13784-0-44541500-1470149585_thumb.jpg

 

 

Helen

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