Melksham to Devizes to Bath (30 miles)

The idea for this ride came about after watching the BBC series ‘Wainwright Walks’, with Julia Bradbury. This particular walk was from Devizes to Bath along the Kennet and Avon canal.

First leg- Melksham to Devizes

Melksham town centre Devizes is quite a few miles from Newport, so we had to catch the train to the nearest place; Melksham. Even before we left the train my back tyre began to deflate, we left the unremarkable and dull Melksham station and I changed the tube, rather than pumping it up manualy, a local tyre garage allowed me to use their pump with a little adapter I always carry. Off we went, it was around nine thirty on a bright Sunday morning and sleepy Melksham hadn’t awoken yet. We crossed the Avon river and rode through the town centre; there wasn’t a car on the road. I’m led to believe the locals don’t see a lot of cyclists here, as an irate ‘Sunday driver’ came up behind us and began beeping and shouting at us to ride single file. There was no on-coming cars yet she refused to overtake, eventually after riding a mile or so we got fed up with her and singled up. Only then did she pass, but not without a torrent of abuse and like most motorists who believe they know the law, she declined to leave the safety of her tin can, to discuss the matter like adults. We didn’t meet another car until we were heading out of Melksham, and all day, no-one else thought we were a danger to society.

Wadworth’s Brewery There was very little in the form of cycle paths, an occasional mile long path and that was it. We choose to ride along Bath road (the A365) and in fairness we could have joined the Kennet and Avon canal a few miles outside Melksham, but we don’t like doubling up on any route, so the main road it was. After five miles we climbed Caen hill leading into Devizes, this hill gradually rises for three miles and parallel’s the canal. Once in Devizes, we came across the magnificent building of Wadworth’s Brewery, if we’d had more time we would have visited it. We turned left towards the Kennet and Avon’s trust’s headquarters where there is a cafe. After a nice coffee in this Victorian building we set off along the canal towards Bath. The canal and path doesn’t start here; in the other direction it goes all the way to Hungerford and beyond.

Second leg- Devizes to Bradford-on-Avon

Caen locks The canal understandably had lock after lock and bridge after bridge, but nothing could take away the sheer breath taking views from the top of the Caen locks. They are sixteen locks tightly placed together, each with their own reservoir pool. To absorb the views we stopped and had another coffee at Caen hill cafe (even though we’d only just had one in Devizes). We rode down Caen hill (slowly I might add) dodging pedestrians left and right, when we got to the bottom, the view back up was even more overwhelming. We began talking about hiring and driving a canal boat on another day, but I intervened and explained how expensive they are to hire. My mate rode on, while I stopped at Bollands hill lock to watch a boat coming out of the lock and to my complete surprise, I knew the lady steering the boat. I asked if my mate could have a drive and she agreed (click the image). He came back and hopped on board, he was like a kid in a sweet shop, grinning from ear to ear.

driving a canal boat After this short unusual interlude, we plodded on. Where the path approached a built up area, the path turned to asphalt, in-between it was crushed limestone and in parts; very bumpy. By now it was lunchtime and we passed the Barge Inn with a healthy amount of people having their Sunday lunch outside, the roast beef aroma’s were unsettling. We came across Hilperton marina at Trowbidge, a whole estate built around the water ways, I’m curious why people always seek to live around water?

The path changed to solid again as we approached Bradford-on-Avon. Bradford on Avon is an architectural treasure chest. Its ranks of dwellings, range from tiny weavers cottages to grand houses; handsome public buildings and places of worship and ancient alleyways. We had another coffee at the Lock Inn Cafe and moved on.

Third leg- Bradford-on-Avon to Bath

African Queen We now closely follow the River Avon about fifty feet below us. At Avon cliff’s the canal curiously turns at right angles and crossed the river on an aqueduct, then turns left at right angles and continues on. Shortly after this odyssey, we came across some free entertainment as a barge was stuck fast in the embankment. The men onboard were frantically trying to prise the vessel away from the bank with poles, with a woman crying on the phone, but the climax came when my mate suggested to them they release the vessel by getting in the water as ‘Humphrey Bogart’ did in the film ‘African Queen’, it had me in fits of laughter and had the mariners shouting obscenities about disregarding our advise. I couldn’t ride for laughing.

Limpley Stoke My mate spotted an old station across the river; Limpley Stoke, still on the main line but no longer a stop. We crossed Dundas aqueduct and into a small marina and over a little bridge where the Somerset Coal Canal joined the Kennet and Avon. There are some remnants of the industrial age restored here in the form of a little crane. At Bathampton the path became more crowded with pedestrians, slowing us to a walking pace. Outside the George Inn, there was so many people on the path, we got off and walked. We were nearing Bath now and even though the canal continues to Bristol, it was the termination of our ride. We left the canal at Sydney Park and headed into the centre of Bath, there was numerous places to eat and drink, but we settled on ‘The Huntsman’. Inside we both ordered a gourmet beef burger, when it arrived, it was massive, I didn’t think I could manage it all, but down it went.

We left the pub and headed for the station, Bath Spa is a busy station and quite pretty. We waited and caught the HST back to Newport (be sure to book your space on the train). I would say it was a memorable ride, maybe we could extend it by joining the canal before Devizes, I have noticed there is a train station East of Devizes at Pewsey, from here it would on the road to rejoin the canal path at Honey street village.

  • Gallery

    gallery page Why not have a look at the gallery relating to this ride. Click the image or the title.

  • Can you live with taking a life?

    A tiny proportion cyclists killed on British roads Every year in this country around 19,000 (RoSPA 2014) cyclists are injured in reported road accidents, including around 3,000 (RoSPA 2014) who are killed or seriously injured. These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police. Whatever your point of view is on cyclists or drivers, can you live with the fact that through your actions; you have taken a life, taken a child’s parent/s away or taken a parents child away or injured someone so badly they lose their job, their home, their family and all for what? Thought not....

  • Devizes station sign

    Devizes station sign A sign from Devizes railway station, which closed during the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, has left the county of Wiltshire. The “totem” sign, which would have alerted passengers to the fact they had reached their destination, was bought by a collector from the north of England after fierce bidding. With buyer’s premium and VAT, the final price was nearly £1,000.

  • Caen Hill brickworks

    Caen Hill brickworks A deposit of suitable clay had been identified about half way up the flight of locks on the south side of the canal. In the latter part of the nineteenth century a Richard Mullings opened the Caen Hill brickworks in Devizes. Some two million bricks were supplied to Caen locks from the brickworks. It’s believed the brickworks shut in the 1950’s.

  • Tithe barn

    Tithe barn A notable feature of Bradford on Avon is the huge grade II listed Tithe barn, known as the Saxon Tithe Barn, 180 feet long, and 30 feet wide, which was constructed in the 14th century and is now part of Barton Farm Country Park. The barn would have been used for collecting taxes, in the form of goods, to fund the church.

  • The African Queen

    The African Queen The African Queen is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester. The film stars Humphrey Bogart (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor), and Katharine Hepburn. She plays a missionary whos mail and supplies are delivered by a small tramp steamer named the African Queen, when war breaks out they use the boat to escape the area through a swamp.

  • Sydney Gardens Bath

    Sydney Gardens Sydney Gardens (originally known as Bath Vauxhall Gardens) are the only remaining eighteenth-century pleasure gardens in the country. The use of the grounds declined with the construction of the Great Western Railway and Kennet and Avon Canal which passed through the park. In 1908 the site was bought by the local council and reopened as a park. The Sydney Hotel, built in the gardens is now the Holburne Museum of Art.

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