Canal boat holidays—Kennet & Avon Canal

Published: Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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Attractive waterway

Notwithstanding it being a very heavy broad locked canal, it has many features as well as it river sections, and can be very rewarding for a fairly active holiday crew.

The Kennet & Avon is a most attractive waterway with its rolling hills and wooded cuttings, and is rural for most of its length except for the occasional town, all of which have excellent shopping facilities, except for Reading that is anti-boater, with no access to its shopping precincts, as they are protected by a high wall topped with a fence with no facilities for mooring.

This waterway, though having few hire bases, mostly on the Western side, has nowhere near the traffic associated with its Northern counterparts, and queues at locks are very rare, though Caen Hill Flight is only open at specific times, but booking is not required. Marinas and boatyards are few and far between, in the eastern section, though towards Bath there are plenty of facilities for hire, including short breaks.

The paddles on Caen Hill Flight are unusual in that their spindles take an intermediate size, though the normal 'slopping' centre windlass will fit. Many of the locks have to be left empty after passing through, though there is usually a lock keeper in attendance.

This waterway is not recommended for new hirers, it is strenuous, though very rewarding. But for a get-away short break towards Bath it should be considered. The Kennet at the Eastern end can cause difficulties for the inexperienced, and boats need to be securely tied when locking up at many of the lower locks.

The canal is 95 miles long, has 104 locks, 25 mostly manual swing bridges, a tunnel, two impressive aqueducts and numerous swing bridges and a very impressive flight.

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The more black stars the better.