Kennet & Avon canal and the two tunnels greenway

Thumbing through another great edition of the Country Walking magazine we found quite a different route to what we typically went for. This one involved streets, well maintained paths and indeed two rather large tunnels.

Our walk began in The George Inn, Bathampton at around 07:45 we would have arrived a little earlier if somebody did not forget his phone and wallet. Having plastered any exposed skin in insect repellant we left the pub car park for the Towpath. We headed right, towards Bath which was new ground for all of us I believe.

It was great to have 'Rammy' and Ryan (Nigel's eldest) with us today as we sauntered along the canals' side. As we did our sauntering we admired and envied the owners of the rather large and quite exquisite homes that backed on to the canal. Each with their own private dock and sitting area. Dotted along our side of the bank was the odd narrow boat moored up with a gently smoking chimney.

As we neared Bath the bridges became more elaborate and nicer looking. We walked under one that went under a large building as you can see above. We later found out that back in the day when the canals were built to import coal and export cotton the upper classes were not too keen on the idea of a working canal passing by their luxury homes. To get round it they made sure that the canal looked as good as their dwellings. Bridges were made to look ornate and regal in keeping with the rest of the city.

A narrow boat came past us as we journeyed up the canal occasionally swapping from one side to the other. It was really quite different to what we imagined.

The sun was shining it was looking like it was going to be another hot one. We passed under two more bridges that were nicely decorated following the barge as it chugged along.

Is this what they call a photo bomb! This place was special, it felt almost foreign, I am really surprised that we had not heard about this place before. I suppose it only gets seen by joggers, dog walkers and us - shame really.

As we passed under the bridges we could here the drone of city life above us. It was a friday and the commuters had risen. This section of canal was about to end at a basin where narrow boats could be hired. It was a nice little area with flats looking out over the water. We climbed some steps and went over Bathwick Hill and caught the canal on the other side. The canal did not end as such but it was blocked at this point.

We walked down the other side of the bridge meeting up with the canal once more. It was nice and open as you can see in the photo. We passed a series of locks and on our left were some large town houses that had multiple storeys over looking this lovely stretch of waterway. It was good to be finally on a walk that had clear paths and a definite route to follow rather than stuck in an overgrown field deciding which barbed wire fence we needed to climb over.

Overlooked by trees and posh houses the Kennet & Avon Canal meandered along the outskirts of the city towards the River Avon which was not that far away. In the photo above you can see a sort of island splitting the canal in two. On the island was a man asleep, in a tatty sleeping bag. You could feel sorry for him or perhaps not, we said that we would not mind waking up to this view every morning.

As we got round the corner we noticed quite a large pond where the canal opened up. This was perhaps a turning point for the old cargo carrying narrow boats.

Though we were enjoying walking by the canals side it was time to leave it behind. We crossed a busy junction and walked towards Widcombe. We headed along the busy high street passing people on their way to work - on this glorious summers day. We thought we might lose Rammy as there were quite a few food shops along this stretch but I think he already had a rucksack full of snacks. For some reason I did not get many photos of the 'street' walking so I shall do my best to explain our route.

At this point we hit a large and very busy junction both for motoring and footfall. It was being redeveloped which made it even more chaotic. We needed to be on Claverton Street bearing in mind that we did not have a printed map with us today. I did try to create one using the Bath OS map but the scale was not detailed enough @ 1:25. So I used the ViewRanger map - Open Street View on my phone which was much more detailed. As we walked along I consulted with Mark and made sure we were on the right path who had the same app. We hit Wells Road and then fell on to Holloway. This was quite a steep incline that beard left on itself. At the top was an old watering hole for horses. This road was once a main route into Bath and the watering hole was for horses once they had tackled the hill. A poem is written on the wall about a horse that died here many years ago. The spring has been blocked or it has dried up which was disappointing. It's also a shame that I did not think to get a photo, what was I thinking? Note to self take - more photos of stuff!

The road evened out and we headed towards another high street with shops, cafes and small supermarkets dotted along it. We did lose Rammy this time but found him again walking down the middle of the road trying to find a gap in the traffic so he could join us. It was at this point we went a little bit wrong. It would not be a true 'Lost Ramblers' Walk if we did not go wrong. We missed a turning off Bloomfield Road but instead went down the next road - Hensley Road and then took the next right onto Egerton Road. This was not a major detour just less scenic.

It was good to get off the streets and back into a rural surrounding. We were all a little anxious about the tunnels that were fast approaching. Neither of us knew what to expect we just knew that they were long. We did not even know if they were lit inside, would we be feeling our way? It did cross our minds quite alarmingly that we were about to enter a narrow space in the dark with Rammy.. kuuuweeee!

The mouth of the tunnel was in view, it looked like something from the cold war as we entered the temperature dropped slightly and as our eyes adjusted we could see the path stretch out ahead of us. Small lights on either side of the tunnels' roof dimly illuminated the way. It was quite atmospheric in there. This tunnel wasn't that long I think around 700m but the next was about a mile. Joggers and cyclists used the tunnel too speeding past us as we took in the eery sights.

Image Courtesy of

I tried to take some pics inside but I had no chance without my tripod. The picture above was taken from google images. This shows what it was like in the tunnels as you can see it just goes on and on. Because it was starting to get really hot outside, the coolness of the tunnel was welcomed. We tried to see markings on the wall left from the tools used to carve out the tunnel back in the day. The walls were quite soft and damp, every thirty or so feet was a brick horseshoe shaped brace that held the tonnes of earth above from reclaiming the tunnel.

Thick Soot covered the ceiling and thinned out the lower it got, tarnishing the walls down each side. I did not notice this whilst in the tunnel but directly above us was a strip of clear ceiling. A line going the whole way through the tunnel that was free from soot. In some cases the chimneys from the steam trains were only a foot from the top of the tunnel. The smoke would blast up from the chimney causing the soot to settle on either side rather than directly above.

Heading towards the second tunnel

Both tunnels were quite an experience to walk though and if you ever get chance they are certainly worth a visit. Nigel and Ryan want to return on their bikes and Rammy wants to return because its..... just a dark tunnel.

Time for a Rammy snack

As soon we hit daylight it was time to take on refreshment and have a breather. In Rammy's case it was dinner time. We took the piss but that sandwich sure did look nice he had a whole baguette in his bag.

We left the exit of the greenway tunnel behind and found ourselves walking over a very high bridge - viaduct to be precise. We could not get to the edge as it was fenced off probably to prevent daredevils jumping off into the fishing lake below. Our route took us down a set of stairs within a wooded area. From here we could see how high the viaduct actually was. Apparently the exit to the longest section of tunnel is some 50 feet below the entrance and it still needed a huge viaduct to help carry the track over a large ravine. The original project to create the two tunnels and the viaduct would have been a huge endeavour employing hundreds if not thousands of men. If it was not for lottery grants the whole thing would be left to rack and ruin- all that work for nothing.

The lake below us was the Tucking Mill Reservoir and apparently is a fishing lake for the disabled which seemed a great idea.

We were on Tucking Mill lane passing the old Mill on our left. One of the buildings looked like a house but it had fallen in to disrepair so much so that it had grass growing on the roof and in the guttering. The house above was the first house and looked in much better condition. We were now on our way to Saint Michael's church in Monkton Combe where a very special person is buried.

RIP Henry 'Harry' Patch

We paid our respects to "The last fighting Tommy" Harry Patch before walking through the graveyard. When one hears or reads the word graveyard you maybe inclined to think of large looming stones under a midnight sky. Often it is associated with fear and ghouls but this graveyard was quite the opposite, it was a very peaceful place and well managed. In the heat of the day it was nice to wonder through sparing a thought for those lost including old Harry.

We left the church and headed along Church Lane towards the school. It wasn't very clear but we found a path the lead down through the car park. This brought us out on to a sort of road that I think was probably for deliveries to the school. We walked down through a wooded area and passed a large cricket ground. In the distance we saw a sort of automatic grass cutter working its way round the massive area - would have been quicker to have a sit on mower but I suppose the robot only needs charging up once in a while.

As we came to the end of the road passing under an old railway bridge and picked up the Kennet & Avon Canal for the final part of our journey. One or two of us including myself had done this little stretch before and it seems to go on and on. My feet were starting to give me a bit of grief so it was just a case of head down thinking of that cold pint at the end. Along the canal were some interesting narrow boats moored up. These were not holiday boats they are peoples homes, some looked ok but there were one or two that certainly needed a bit of TLC.

Towards the end we were all getting a bit weary and it was starting to get quite warm. Every corner teased us with yet another stretch that made us hope that it was the last.

Finally the pub come into view it was a sight for sore eyes and feet. Lots of people had the right idea, sat in the sun enjoying a refreshing cold beer. We ordered our usual bowls of chips which were taken by another table so we had to order some more. When they did come they arrived in plant pots which we thought was a little wired - must be a posh way of doing it nowadays. We said we wanted to eat em not grow em!

Heres to another great ramble - Cheers!

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