Wandering across some of England's most beautiful countryside the Kennet and Avon canal links England's Canals via the River Thames at Reading with the Bristol Channel.
As the canal's name suggest it's partially a river navigation since it uses the River Kennet between Reading and Newbury and the River Avon between Bath and Bristol. The purely "canal" part of the waterway is
57 miles in length out of a total distance of 100.25 miles. The River Kennet was turned into a river navigation for goods traffic in 1723 creating a route to the River Thames and had wharves at Newbury, Aldermaston and Reading.
The river was used for transporting various goods to London and into the Midlands including timber, malt, flour and cheese and the returning barges
carried bulk goods such as coal and iron. The barges used on the navigation were considerably larger than standard canal narrow boats and a feature of the whole Kennet and Avon Canal are the large locks. Similarly the River Avon had been turned into a river navigation from Bristol as far as Bath and the two rivers were connected in 1810 when Engineer John Rennie created a 57 mile long artificial cut i.e. the 100.25 mile long Kennet and Avon Canal came
into being. The canal never did carry as much commercial traffic as was envisaged and was subsequently hurt financially by loss of traffic because of the opening of the Great Western Railway which follows the route of the canal for some distance. Eventually the GWR purchased the Kennet and Avon Canal but did not maintain it
properly and navigation became quite difficult in some places - regular boat movements eventually ended during the 1930s.
The canal remained open however and still provided a navigable through route until 1951 when it was finally closed. There has always been great interest in English Canals and fortunately in 1962 The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust
was formed with a view to getting the canal fully restored and navigable and with the help of volunteers and of British Waterways the canal was once again navigable in 1990.
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