Kennet & Avon Canal

Flowing through the North Wessex chalk downs to the clay, sand and gravel lowlands from Hungerford to Reading, this canal connects in places with the River Kennet to form a stunning waterway.

Kennet & Avon Canal SSSI Kennet & Avon Canal SSSI

They weave together in an easterly direction for about 26 miles through the county, with the river and parts of the canal being designated the River Kennet Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  

Why it's so special

The 57-mile canal section was constructed between 1794 and 1810 to link the gap between rivers and be part of an improved east to west commercial transport link across southern England. This link allowed commercial goods, that would have otherwise been transported around the coast by sea or by turnpike roads inland, to reach the cities of London, Bath and Bristol much quicker.

The commercial tonnage ranged from Somerset coal, stone quarried above the canal at Hanham and between Bath and Avoncliff, along with timber, flour, grain, salt, copper and gravel.

In late 1950’s the waterway between Reading and Bath nearly lost its statutory right of navigation but following public campaigning and the formation of the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, the canal has now been saved. The canal has been in the process of restoration ever since the mid 1960’s and officially reopened in 1990.

The plan

By the early 1900’s, due to competition from the railways and declines in coal production and mine flooding, the canal fell into disuse. Canal lengths and locks became silted up and several wharves and towpaths were closed, with very little traffic by the 1950s.

As a result of this, the work undertaken here will improve the water quality and the habitat for the local wildlife.

What we've done already

Thanks to the support though funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and from Thames Water:

  • Restored 700m of green bank and reed fringe near Hamsted Lock
  • 3000 marginal native plants planted by volunteers, helping baby fish and rare species have a better home.