Boat Hire

Reading and return from Hilperton Marina - 14 Nights

Cruising Time Per Day 6hrs • Total Locks 186


Hilperton to Reading –
through Caen Hill Locks, Pewsey, Crofton, Hungerford, Newbury and back – 14 nights – total locks 184 (92 x 2)  


A boating holiday packed with treats - an ancient forest, Celtic mounds, mysterious crop circles, steam engines, city shopping and the spectacle of locks which characterise this route.

Shortly after leaving Hilperton Marina, the locks at Semington, Seend and Foxhangers are perfectly spaced to allow a quick breather before the main event, the Caen Hill Flight. The canal climbs to its highlight with the Caen Hill Flight, one of the Seven Wonders of Britain’s canals. Its 16 locks are actually part of a much longer stretch of 29 locks spread over about 2¼ miles. Built by engineer John Rennie, the 29 locks carry boats a total of 237ft up the steep hill to Devizes.

The Kennet & Avon Canal was a busy trade route 200 years ago. Competition from the railways eventually forced the canal to close and the Caen Hill Flight stagnated until a new era of canal enthusiasm and restoration brought the canal back to life in 1990. The success of the canal and fame of the Caen Hill Flight along with the attraction of its leafy canalscape make this a very popular area not only for boaters but also for cyclists and walkers, and of course gongoozlers (people who enjoy watching crews like you work through the locks!).

There’s a museum at Devizes Wharf and this historic market town is renowned for its busy market place, range of independent shops, and over 500 listed buildings. The town was a centre for cloth manufacture and many of its cottages were worked in by weavers until one of the first cloth factories in the south was built by John Anstie in 1785, housing 300 looms.

Backing onto the canal, Wadworth Brewery, founded in 1875, is still run as a family business by the family of Wadworth’s business partner. The Victorian brewery and Visitor Centre is renowned not only for its beer but also its shire horses, whose stables are open to the public.

Once you’ve explored Devizes, your journey takes a gentler route through glorious flat landscape peppered with hills, ancient burial mounds and evidence of Celtic and medieval cultivation. The canal meanders towards the Vale of Pewsey, where the backdrop at Honeystreet includes one of the many chalk-carved White Horses that Wiltshire is famous for. This area is also world-renowned for mysterious crop circles, and visitors come from across the globe to gather at the canalside Barge Inn (which even serves special real ale called Croppie).

Shortly beyond Honeystreet, the canal builders had to adapt to accommodate complaints from the local landowner, Lady Susannah Wroughton, who objected to the arrival of an ugly trade route. Lady’s Bridge is ornately adorned with John Rennie’s stonework and, just beyond the bridge, Wide Water is a popular mooring spot as the canal takes on the attractive appearance of a tree-lined lake. The canal stays tree-lined as it passes the village of Wilcot and the edge of Stowell Park, where a unique Grade II-listed mini suspension footbridge (made of cast iron with wood planks) crosses the canal. The small town of Pewsey is a short walk south of Pewsey Wharf, with a mix of places to eat and explore.

The pretty flight of locks at Wootton Rivers and original brick buildings at Burbage Wharf are followed almost immediately by Bruce Tunnel (502yds/459m long), the highest point on the Kennet & Avon Canal and named after Thomas Bruce, of the family who own Savernake Forest.
The ancient Savernake Forest extends to the north of the canal and was mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled in 1085-86. The forest extends 3-4,000 acres, most of which is classified as a Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), and is registered as an important historic park. Although privately owned, it is managed by the Forestry Commission and allows extensive public access. At its centre, Capability Brown laid out a 4-mile long 'Grand Avenue' of beech trees in the late 1790s, appearing in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest Avenue in Britain.

The canal starts to descend via the Crofton Flight, at the bottom of which awaits a steam-engine enthusiast’s dream. Crofton Pumping Station was built to pump water to the canal and still carries out this task when in steam. The beam engines are the oldest fully working steam engines in the world, and one of them is the original 200-year old Boulton & Watt. The buildings and 82ft chimney are set in a striking setting, well worth exploring.

After the heritage excitement of Crofton, the canal passes through the pretty villages of Great Bedwyn and Little Bedwyn as it descends towards the small town of Hungerford, and the peace and quiet is frequently interrupted by high-speed trains on the railway alongside. The wood-lined canal descends steadily through stunning scenery towards Newbury, where the original terminus of the Kennet Navigation is reached at Newbury Wharf. After taking the opportunity to explore this former cloth town’s centre, the next stretch will keep your crew busy with well-spaced locks, swing bridges and a lift bridge at Aldermaston.

As you near Reading, the peace is shattered by the M4 overhead as the waterway now snakes its way through the heart of the city to its junction with the River Thames. There are shopping opportunities in the Oracle retail centre and easy access to the city’s many museums and galleries, including Reading Museum which houses a full-size 230ft replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. Once you have explored as much as time will allow, experience again this fascinating and awe-inspiring journey as you head back to the base at Hilperton.





The following are examples of the boats that you can hire from ABC Boat Hire at Hilperton Marina:


Alvechurch Weaver - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Weaver - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Grebe - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Wren - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Wren - For a maximum of 4 people, 2+2 Berth, Length 49ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Bunting - For a maximum of 5 people, 2+3 Berth, Length 47ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Heron - For a maximum of 5 people, 2+3 Berth, Length 58ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Thrush - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Thrush - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Lark - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Gull - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+2 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (6 berth) - For a maximum of 6 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Eagle (7 berth) - For a maximum of 7 people, 4+3 Berth, Length 66ft, Cruiser Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Goose - For a maximum of 8 people, 6+2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-traditional Stern

Alvechurch Warbler - For a maximum of 8 people, 6 + 2 Berth, Length 69ft, Semi-Traditional Stern

Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern

Alvechurch Owl - For a maximum of 10 people, 6+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern

Alvechurch Swan - For a maximum of 12 people, 8+4 Berth, Length 70ft, Crusier Stern



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