Kennet & Avon Canal
Stretching from the tidal Avon near Bristol to Reading in Berkshire, a significant section of the Kennet and Avon Canal is in Wiltshire. The Canal includes such features as the flight of locks at Caen Hill and the dramatic aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff. Now, primarily used for recreation, in its heyday it was a key trade route across southern England.
The expansion of colonial trade in the eighteenth century made London and Bristol important cities as goods arrived there from across the empire. Although some of the rivers between these cities were navigable, the main route for goods between them was around the coast. This was both expensive and treacherous. From 1810 the Kennet and Avon Canal provided an alternative to the sea route.
The Kennet and Avon Canal linked with the Wilts and Berks Canal and the Somerset Coal Canal to make a wide trading network. Through these, the Kennet and Avon became part of a nationwide canal network. Goods transported included stone and coal from the north of England and iron, sand and wool from Wiltshire. Sugar, tea and timber moved across the country between the major ports.
The advance of the railways from the mid-nineteenth century led to the eventual decline of canals as a means of moving goods. Like many others, the Kennet and Avon Canal became derelict along much of if its course. From the 1960s The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust campaigned then worked to restore the canal to its fully open status. The last part of the 87 and a half mile distance was re-opened by the Queen in 1990.
View from Avoncliff Aqueduct
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