Kennet and Avon - Walk from Bedwyn to Pewsey. TransWilts day out.
I first walked the Kennet and Avon canal from Pewsey to Bedwyn in the early 1970s ... in those days I lived in Kent, and travelled down on the only morning train to call at Pewsey, picking up a two hourly stopper back from Bedwyn later in the day. And in those days, the canal was weed infested, the first four locks little used ... because the navigable canal ended abruptly at some "stop planks" and the following locks were derelict, with a dry canal bed. I did the walk again last Sunday, in the opposite direction, and goodness me how things have changed.
Trains run to Bedwyn every hour, even on Sundays, and we took the Summer Sunday TransWilts service at 07:45 from Melksham, changed at Swindon and Reading, and were on the towpath by midmorning.
Great Bedwyn is on the very end of the line of the London train - it's a pretty village, just in Wiltshire, that's also the railhead for Marlborough (by bus). And the River, Canal and Railway are sharing the valley as they climb towards the watershed. With just a few yards to walk from the station to the canal.
The canal continues to climb alongside the railway through countryside, past now-operational locks, and a canal that has move from being dry to being busy with boats. About a mile from Bedwyn, you see an industrial type brick chimney in the distance, and on Sunday it was spitting out black smoke. This is Crofton Pumping Station.
Whichever way a boat passes through a lock, it always takes water from the upper level to the lower level. So at the top of the canal, there's a need for a constant replemishment. And this is often the worst place to look for a water source - high up in the hills. And in the case of the Kennet and Avon, the summit is just 4 miles long. Little scope there! But a short distance below the summit level is Wilton Water, and Crofton Pumps are used to raise the water to the upper level.
The oldest engine there dates back to 1812 and is preserved by the Canal Trust, and on Sunday the old pump was being given its monthly run. It's a real tourist attraction - something to look around and see - allow an hour or more if you're going. Gypsy and I wondeed about looking around, but she was more interested in a bowl of water labelled "Hot Dogs", and in any case it's "no dogs in the building"; we say outside and enjoyed the sun.
Savernake was a railway junction for Marlborough, and the spot where the old Midland and South West Junction Railway crossed over the Berks and Hants main line that we are following. Bridge abutments stand in the canal; when I walked past here 40 years ago, the final train over the M&SWJ had only passed about ten years previously. The tall trees growing on top of the old trackway remind us just how many years have passed since the.
Canal summits typically have cuttings through the watershed, and this one is no exception. Many also have tunnels to avoid even deeper cuttings, or even more locks to get over the top. Bruce tunnel on the K&A is fairly short, but impressive in stature. There's a big bulk of land above the tunnel mouth, and this is a "broad" canal that can take wide and quite tall boats.
Boats were originally hauled by horses, and there's no towpath though the tunnel - rather there's a path over the top. Boats were either "polled" or "legged" through in the prepower days. Legging is remarkably easy - someone lies on their back on each side of the boat and walks along the tunnel walls. Great fun; I've done it, though not at Bruce Tunnel.
After a long cutting, the canal reaches Burbage Wharf. When the canals were industrial highways, villages would have their wharves and they would be places of great activity, with coal and bricks arriving and agricultural products leaving. Many such as Burbage are now prettified, although here at Burbage the wharf crane, which I recall being restores in the 1970s, is being re-restored again and should provide an interesting museum piece in due course.
At Wootton Rivers, four locks drop the canal off the 4 mile summit pound onto the "long pound" - 15 miles of canal to Devizes which wind through the Vale of Pewsey. Look carefully, and you find discreet pumping systems that are returning water from below the lock to above in each case, allowing the canal to pass a far higher traffic now that it even did in its real working life.
And so on to Pewsey Wharf. A glorious final few miles through the countryside, ending up at a pub and bistro at the wharf, with lots of boating activity. Final few hundred yards gets you to Pewsey station ...
Train to Westbury and then pick up the 19:35 to Melksham, (here it is arriving from Weymouth, full of day trippers although you might not guess that from this picture) ... with an arrival about 8 p.m. at Melksham (100 people got off, but that's a story for another blog!).
A wonderful day's re-introduction to this fine stretch of canal! (written 2011-08-01, updated 2011-08-02)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ531 - Cycling and Walking 
Walking on The Wiltshire Downs - (2008-05-12) 
Motorcycles welcome at Well House Manor - (2008-09-19) 
Walks in and around Melksham, Wiltshire - (2009-06-21) 
Friendly Hotel in Melksham, near Bath - (2009-11-02) 
Random thoughts on Melksham Town Planning and development - (2010-03-08) 
A walk within without - Melksham Without - (2010-04-02) 
A walk on the Kennet and Avon - (2010-04-04) 
Old trackways and routes near Melksham - (2010-04-05) 
The healthy option - away from the private car - (2010-07-07) 
What do these road markings mean? Could Confusion Kill? - (2010-09-17) 
Autumn walk from Bowerhill - (2010-10-31) 
Images of a Spring Walk - (2011-03-27) 
What can you take on a public footpath? Pram? Wheelbarrow? Dog? Shopping Trolley? Horse? Cycle? - (2011-04-03) 
Footpath, Bridleway, Byway, Road used as Public Path - (2011-04-04) 
Transport in Cambridgeshire - seen by an outside observer. What can Wiltshire learn? - (2012-01-15) 
Melksham Area - buses, trains, cycles, and roads. Meeting, 17.1.2012 - (2012-01-15) 
Can I cycle or ride my mobility scooter on the pavement? - (2012-04-07) 
Fine evening, country walk from Melksham - pictures - (2012-06-21) 
Want to help us improve transport in Wiltshire? Here is how! - (2012-10-26) 
A long overdue meeting - a steeping stone towards coordinate transport user inputs - (2012-12-02) 
A request for all of Melksham transport groups to work integrated - (2013-03-01)M205 - Well House Manor - Kennet District 
Architectural Heritage - Devizes - (2006-04-04) 
What to do during a Linux build - (2006-07-20) 
Pictures of Avebury, Longleat and Dyrham - (2006-08-06) 
Pictures of the Vale of Pewsey - (2006-08-07) 
Morgans Hill - (2006-09-03) 
Ballooning from Devizes - (2006-09-10) 
Catching the slope - (2006-09-14) 
Autumn leaves in Wiltshire - Potterne - (2006-11-21) 
Java Deployment course - lunch break - (2007-02-07) 
Making a mountain out of a molehill - (2007-02-08) 
Evening, Devizes and Sells Green - (2007-09-11) 
Spring in Devizes - (2008-05-08) 
Caen Hill and Olivers Castle - (2008-10-10) 
Lua Course, and the Wiltshire Countryside too - (2008-10-16) 
Old Piles of the South West - (2008-10-18) 
Why I remember East Grafton - (2008-12-02) 
An evening excursion to Devizes and Avebury - (2009-04-30) 
Thornham Farm Shop, Seend Cleeve, nr Melksham - (2009-08-15) 
Contrasting Cambridge, Bristol and Wiltshire - (2009-10-08) 
A lovely spring afternoon - (2010-03-21) 
Poulshot Village Fete - (2010-06-27) 
What to do in the evening during a Tcl course - (2011-05-10) 
What is the picture? - (2011-08-08) 
Taking a boat down Caen Hill Locks - (2011-10-15) 
Open for the new year - Imber - (2013-12-31) 
Coats of arms - towns and authorities in Wiltshire - (2016-02-21)
Some other Articles
Melksham Jelly - An Occasional Office for Home WorkersSorting data the way YOU want it sortedNew product - ensuring that supply matches demandWhat do I mean when I add things in Perl?Kennet and Avon - Walk from Bedwyn to Pewsey. TransWilts day out.How to interact with a Perl program while it is processing dataSpeeding up your Perl codeAnother busy Week at Well House Manor ... pictures from the midweek Wearing the new London uniformFrom Wiltshire to Weymouth on Sundays