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Hungerford & return
Featured Routes

Hungerford & return from Hilperton Marina

Duration: 7 Nights
TOTAL LOCKS: 120
CRUISING TIME PER DAY: 7 HOURS (50 HOURS IN TOTAL)

Maps & Guides for this route: P8, N7, L20, H1, E2 | Click here buy maps

This journey leads you to the height of engineering ingenuity with oodles to discover. Your route meanders past an ancient forest, Celtic mounds, mysterious crop circles, steam engines and of course through the historic locks which characterise it.   

Setting off eastwards from Hilperton Marina through open countryside, just before the two locks at Semington, look out for the now almost invisible junction with the Wiltshire & Berkshire Canal. The canal used to link the Kennet & Avon Canal with the River Thames at Abingdon, and a restoration project aims to ensure that this link returns in the future. The five Seend Locks and another seven at Foxhangers are perfectly spaced to allow a quick breather for you to get ready as the canal climbs to its highlight, the Caen Hill Flight. One of the Seven Wonders of Britain’s canals, its 16 locks form part of a 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. Boaters travelling through the flight need to arrive between set times and, as there is no mooring allowed up the flight, all 16 locks must be completed in a certain designated time.
 
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. In 1962, the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust was formed and, in partnership with British Waterways (now Canal & River Trust) and others, a long battle began to restore the canal. The Kennet & Avon was reopened for leisure boating by Her Majesty The Queen 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!). Several locks up the flight are named after volunteers who worked so hard to help achieve the restoration of this spectacular canal, and Queen's Lock is named after Her Majesty.
 
There’s a canal 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, who still deliver beer in the town and whose stables are open to the public.
 
Beyond Devizes, your journey takes a gentler route as it meanders towards the Vale of Pewsey. 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 one of them forms the backdrop at Honeystreet. The Vale 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, with its thatched cottages ranged round the green, 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 forest extends to the north of the canal and was mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled in 1085-86. The forest covers 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 continues its descent 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.
 
Now passing through the pretty villages of Great Bedwyn and Little Bedwyn, the canal descends through helpfully spaced locks towards the small town of Hungerford, the peace and quiet frequently interrupted by high-speed trains on the railway alongside. 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, and it is believed to be the only town which still celebrates Hocktide after Easter, an ancient English ceremony dating back to medieval times.
 
Once you have explored the town, experience again this fascinating and awe-inspiring journey as you head back to the base at Hilperton.

Featured Boats

Featured Boats from Hilperton Marina, Wiltshire

Two to Five berth Boats

Alvechurch Swift

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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Alvechurch Grebe

Max: 4 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Heron

Max: 5 People

Length: 58ft

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Alvechurch Bunting

Max: 5 People

Length: 47ft

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Alvechurch Wren

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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couple learning how to drive a canal boat
Alvechurch Weaver

Max: 4 People

Length: 49ft

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Six to eight berth Boats

Alvechurch Eagle

Max: 7 People

Length: 66ft

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Alvechurch Goose

Max: 8 People

Length: 69ft

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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 Sandpiper

Max: 6 People

Length: 66ft

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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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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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