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Walking Along Canals in England

Pauline Kenny

Many canals were built in England in the early 1800s to transport goods. They were used until the mid 1800s when trains took over the transportation of goods. Around 1970, many areas restored their canals and they are now used for recreation: canal boats on the canal and walking, running and cycling on the towpaths. The British Waterways looks after the canals.

Canals are great places for walking. The towpaths are wide and flat. If it is well used canal, you can watch all the canal boats and lock activities as you walk. The canals usually go through lovely countryside. You can do a walk of whatever length suits you by walking out and back from one spot.

Swans on the Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Somerset.

The Kennet-Avon Canal

I have a separate page on the Kennet-Avon Canal that runs from Bath to Reading.

Bridgwater and Taunton Canal

The Bridgwater and Taunton canal is 15 miles long and goes from Taunton to Bridgwater. It was part of a 19th century plan to connect Exeter to Bristol by canal so that boats carrying goods would not have to go around Cornwall to get to Bristol. Only the part from Taunton to Bridgwater was completed and it opened in 1827. They stopped using the canal for transportation in 1907 when the Bristol and Exeter railway opened. The planned canal route is the route of the current M5 motorway.

The canal starts in Taunton and ends in Bridgwater. There are six locks on the canal and several bridges over it. It passes through a few small towns.

We drove to Creech St. Michael, a small town a few miles from Taunton, and parked beside the canal (follow the signs with an image of a canal boat to the parking lot). We walked in the direction towards Bridgwater for an hour and then turned around and walked back. If we had continued for another mile, we would have reached Charlton, where there is a cafe along the canal (but a bike rider told us it was closed that day). You can bike the whole canal; it is part of an officially marked cyclepath. There are pubs along the canal in Taunton and Bridgwater and just off the canal in Creech St. Michael.

On the day that we walked along the canal (a Thursday in May), we saw several people out walking their dogs, one runner, several bicyclists, and no canal boats. We saw one moored, but none moving.

Bridgwater and Taunton Canal at Creech St. Michael.

Other Canals

There are many other canals in England. If you like to walk and you find a canal, most likely you will have found a good place to walk. As we find more canals, I will add them to this page.

Photos

Slow Travel Photos: Photos from our walk along the Bridgwater Taunton Canal, May 2005

Resources

www.britishwaterways.co.uk: British Waterways organization

www.waterscape.com: British Waterways - Waterscape, information on all waterways and canals. (They use the cottages4you database for holiday cottages on the site.)

Slow Travel UK - Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal: My notes about this canal that goes from Bath to Reading.

www.canals.com: George's Canal Boating in the U.K. and Europe.

Canal Boat Rentals

Slow Travel UK - Canal Boats: Canal Boats in England, travel notes

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