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Routes

Pewsey and return from Aldermaston Wharf

7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 90
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 6.5 HOURS (43 HOURS IN TOTAL)

Guinness World Records, scheduled ancient monuments and bloody battlefields mix with a sweeping historic forest, Celtic mounds and mysterious crop circles. This journey leads you via history and legend to the height of engineering ingenuity.

The pretty village of Aldermaston is a mile and a half from the base at Aldermaston Wharf and is worth exploring if you have time. Once you set off westwards along the Kennet & Avon Canal, your crew will be kept busy with a series of swing bridges and well-spaced locks as the canal skirts round Thatcham. The town once held the Guinness World Record as the oldest continually occupied settlement in Britain, but this title was usurped in 2014 when carbon dating of bones found in the parish of Amesbury (which includes Stonehenge) pipped Thatcham to the post by 1,000 years (Amesbury since 8,820BC and Thatcham since 7,700BC!). Just south of Thatcham, Monkey Marsh Lock is a scheduled ancient monument and is one of only two remaining turf-sided locks in the country (the other is Garston Lock at Theale, to the east of Aldermaston).

Newbury Wharf was the original terminus of the Kennet Navigation and the historic market town of Newbury has much to explore. This former cloth town became very wealthy from the cloth trade, and was also noted in the Civil War for two important battle sites, one of which holds the dubious title as one of the War’s bloodiest.

The wood-lined canal ascends steadily through stunning remote scenery with the peace and quiet interrupted only by high-speed trains on the railway alongside. Shortly beyond the pretty village of Kintbury, the canal reaches the small town of Hungerford. John of Gaunt was the town's landowner in the 14th century and the town's Bear hotel is one of the most historic inns in England, having played host to visitors including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, William of Orange and Samuel Pepys. The town is now renowned as an antiques-hunter’s paradise.

Once you've had your fill of sightseeing, your route continues its ascent through the pretty villages of Little Bedwyn and Great Bedwyn, before arriving at Crofton. Crofton Pumping Station, a steam-engine enthusiast’s dream, 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. The Crofton Flight carries you up further then through 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.

Original brick buildings at Burbage Wharf and the pretty flight of locks at Wootton Rivers are followed almost immediately by the small town of Pewsey, a short walk south of Pewsey Wharf, with a mix of places to eat and explore.

The glorious flat landscape is peppered with hills, ancient burial mounds and evidence of Celtic and medieval cultivation. The chalk-carved White Horses of Wiltshire are world famous and the Vale of Pewsey is also world-renowned for mysterious crop circles. Visitors come from across the globe to gather at the canalside Barge Inn (which even serves special real ale called Croppie) in Honeystreet, just beyond Pewsey.

Your meandering journey back to Aldermaston Wharf will allow you to view this stunning route from a new perspective.

 

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Aldermaston Wharf, Berkshire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Weaver

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Dove

Max: 6 People

Length: 60ft

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Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Gull

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Lark

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft (63ft from Falkirk)

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Alvechurch Thrush

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Warbler

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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Alvechurch Woodpecker

Max: 8 People

Length: 60ft

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Up to twelve berth Boats

Alvechurch Owl

Max: 10 People

Length: 70ft

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Alvechurch Swan

Max: 12 People

Length: 70ft

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