Crofton to Great Bedwyn walk
Fabulous canal and countryside scenery with some history thrown in too. Enjoy this circular walk from Crofton Pumping Station to Great Bedwyn, taking in stretches of the Kennet & Avon Canal.
The walk begins at Crofton Pumping Station which is owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and is home to two historic Cornish beam engines.
These are the oldest working steam engines in the world still performing the job they were built to do.
Start point: Crofton Pumping Station, Marlborough, SN8 3DN
End point: Crofton Pumping Station, Marlborough, SN8 3DN (via Great Bedwyn)
Distance: seven miles
The walk begins at Crofton Pumping Station which is owned by the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust and is home to two historic Cornish beam engines. These are the oldest working steam engines in the world still performing the job they were built to do.
There are two beam engines, one of which is an original 200-year-old Boulton & Watt. Both are fed by a hand-stoked, coal-fired Lancashire boiler. These are magnificent pieces of industrial history and you can find out more at www.croftonbeamengines.org.uk
Crofton Pumping Station
Begin your walk Park in the visitors' car park and cross the road to the Pumping Station. Head across the grounds, down the wooden staircase and through the railway tunnel to the Kennet & Avon Canal, opened in 1810. Cross the lock (number 60) using its attached walkway, taking care not to slip into the water.
Turn left once on the other side and you will quickly come to a finger post. Take the direction pointing to Wilton Windmill. You will be on a footpath (muddy in winter) crossing a field. Peaceful Wilton Water is on your right (although you might hear a train roar past). Wilton Water was created in 1836 to be the main source of fresh water for the pumping station. Enjoy the views of the pumping station across the water. You may see swan, duck and geese and a solitary grey heron waiting on the bank for fish to swim within reach.
Wilton Water forks and you are now following the left arm, keeping it on your right side until you reach the village of Wilton, with its pretty thatched cottages and pub. The duck pond is in front of you so turn left on the road and pass The Swan Inn on your right.
Follow the road left until you come to a fork. Take the right fork signposted Wilton Windmill and continue walking up hill. Soon you will see the windmill across the fields on your right. Pass a finger post and head in the direction of Great Bedwyn.
Pass Hill Barn Farm house on your left and just after it you will see a small bridleway sign pointing left. Take this turning onto a grassy path keeping the fence and house on your left. It becomes a woodland path which you follow until you reach a finger post pointing to Great Bedwyn.
Take this direction and you will enter Bedwyn Braille. Follow the surfaced track through the newly planted trees. Soon you will come to a bench with views down a long ride (tree-lined avenue) and two trees carved into a face and an owl. Take a rest if you like or carry on in the direction of Great Bedwyn indicated on the finger post.
Keep walking along the track past a small barn on your right until the track becomes a grassy path and you will come to a clearing. Head for the left hand corner of the clearing where a narrow path (muddy and slippery in winter) leads on through the woodland.
Eventually you will come to a field and see the church and village of Great Bedwyn at the end of it. Carry on down the left hand side of the field and the canal which passes in front of the village also comes into view. Stay on the path which will bear right and you will come to a gate at a canal bridge, lock (number 64) and the towpath.
If you want to visit the village of Great Bedwyn turn right onto the towpath and walk past the colourful narrow boats at their tranquil moorings.
You will come to another bridge (number 97). Walk up to it and turn left over the bridge into Brook Street for the Village Stores or Three Tuns pub. This pretty village also has a train station.
If you don't want to break your walk at Great Bedwyn, when you reach the canal turn left and walk along the towpath, passing under a bridge (number 98). At the next lock and bridge (number 99) pause to look up and notice the strange domed shapes on top of the bridge.
These anti-tank obstacles were placed there in the Second World War to prevent enemy tanks from crossing in the event of an invasion by Nazi Germany. They were never taken away again, a poignant reminder of the threat that once faced our nation, even in these rural corners.
Stay on the towpath and eventually the tall chimney of Crofton Pumping Station comes back into view. When you reach it, cross back over the lock and head through the grounds.