Kennet & Avon from Reading


At the end of last year, Mum and I had tried to walk from Reading to Aldermaston along the Kennet and Avon canal. On that occasion we had comprehensively failed, discovering that it was more of a river than a canal and consequently rather flooded.

Two months later, with significantly less torrential weather, we decided to make a second attempt. Dad joined us.


We headed straight for the river, beginning near the lock which had been flooded last time; this time it wasn't, and we were able to walk beside it and take a rather unnecessary loop underneath the road.

I took the same picture last time, but it wasn't as sharp as I like. This isn't either. Sigh.
1/60 at f11, 23mm, ISO200 51°27′2″N 0°58′28″W

The first half-mile through Reading was familiar territory, just drier.

Fancy brickwork (and washing) on house opposite.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′54″N 0°58′25″W
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′43″N 0°58′23″W

As we neared the outskirts of Reading the river split into two. This happened throughout the day; the river joined and split from the canal navigation. (We followed the canal towpath at each choice.)

River branch parallel to road. (Featuring several light-green things.)
1/160 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′7″N 0°58′37″W


There's a large waterworks near Reading with modern and old parts.

I think this is part of it.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′4″N 0°58′49″W
1/320 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′2″N 0°58′59″W
Older building by Fobney Lock.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′4″N 0°59′8″W
Green gates.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′4″N 0°59′8″W
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′3″N 0°59′8″W


The rest of the route felt very rural.

Because nothing says rural like fencing.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′8″N 0°59′45″W
Or 'CCTV' graffiti (railway bridge). There wasn't any actual CCTV. For miles.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′11″N 0°59′58″W
Ridiculous number of power lines crossing river (near Southcote Mill).
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′9″N 1°0′11″W
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′4″N 1°0′37″W

The sheer quantity of water was really quite amazing. I know, if you're walking alongside a river you have to expect there might be some water around - but every time the river and canal navigation split (or at any other excuse), large weirs spewed torrents of the stuff. And if that weren't enough, there were frequent lakes alongside the route. (The lakes are pits where gravel was dug, which explains why Cemex - a cement firm - has a sideline in fishing.)

Drowning blackspot (near one of those weirs).
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′59″N 1°0′54″W

We stopped for a drink at the Cunning Man pub in Burghfield; their open fire had a sign claiming that wood was brought by narrowboat.

Authentic 'heritage' siding on Burghfield Lock. Or not.
1/60 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′0″N 1°1′57″W

One of the surprising things about the walk was the sheer number of World War 2 pillboxes. I looked it up afterward; apparently the canal formed a major defensive line that was supposed to stop invading German forces.

Pillbox where river leaves canal navigation.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′2″N 1°2′21″W
River with huge lake (gravel pit) behind.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′3″N 1°2′25″W
M4 motorway bridge.
1/30 at f4, 23mm, ISO200 51°26′1″N 1°3′12″W

Garston Lock

We stopped to eat our lunch at Garston Lock, which is a 'turf-sided lock', meaning they couldn't be arsed to build it properly and just dug a big hole. Presumably there's never been a water shortage on this canal; this lock must use way more than necessary.

One of two pillboxes at the lock (the other didn't have a face painted on).
1/60 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′54″N 1°3′29″W
The bit they didn't build.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′54″N 1°3′28″W

Theale to Aldermaston

Past Theale bridge there's an old mill with giant metal wheels sticking out of the ruin, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the canal, so we didn't get very close.

You can just make out the wheels in this picture.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′44″N 1°4′15″W
Mill stream leaving the main canal.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′37″N 1°4′23″W

We walked by another large gravel pit. Workmen had been cutting trees around it, and Mum warmed her hands by their bonfire for a bit.

Gravel pit and treestumps.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′32″N 1°4′33″W
Swing bridge.
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′23″N 1°5′21″W
Long weir (apparently the water leaving is 'Draper's Osier Bed Stream', which seems unnecessarily descriptive).
1/250 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′19″N 1°5′33″W

Right near the end of the walk, the sun came out. Well, it was a nice gesture.

Tyle Mill Lock.
1/125 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°25′6″N 1°6′2″W
God rays as we neared Aldermaston Wharf.
1/500 at f8, 23mm, ISO200 51°24′44″N 1°7′5″W

We got back to Aldermaston with plenty of time to spare before the hourly train, some of which we spent watching people who'd newly hired a narrow boat as they passed through Aldermaston Lock. They only managed to crash the boat a little bit. Anyhow, that's where our walk ended!

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.