Make the most of a ‘snow day’ on the Kennet & Avon

When the weather gives you an unexpected day off, it’s the perfect excuse to explore a new stretch of waterway

Bradford-on-Avon Wharf


An unexpected snow day is one of those occasions that can divide families. A source of unbridled delight for children, it can cause profound headaches for parents who suddenly have to work out how they are going to fill their time with child-pleasing activities. Even if you don’t have kids, a snow day offers a great chance to get out and about in your local neighbourhood, visiting some of those spots you may have previously neglected. Places such as the wharf at Bradford-on-Avon, a prime area for swotting up on canal history, and also one that is ideally located for a short walk – or simply settling down in the tea room with a mug of something warm, sweet and steaming.

Bradford-on-Avon Wharf was once the busiest place on the Kennet & Avon Canal. In fact, this is where that formidable waterway began as the very first cut for the canal was made at Bradford & Avon in 1794. The arrival of the canal did not spoil the appearance of Bradford-on-Avon itself, and the town still has several fascinating historic treasures, such as a bridge with two 13th-century arches and the spectacular stone 14th-century Tithe Barn, which is maintained by English Heritage and is close to the canal. The town also has numerous shops, cafés and restaurants, plus a small local history museum at the library. One recommended spot is Mr Calvat’s Coffee Room, a quirky café where customers are served by staff in period costume.

Down at the wharf itself, there’s also plenty to do. You can examine the old gauging dock, which is where the toll keeper calculated the cargo to ensure the correct toll was paid for use of the canal (it’s now a dry dock), or you can pop into the old lock keeper’s house, which is now The Canal Trust Café. This was opened in 2003 by Prince Charles and has a full menu of cooked meals, light lunches, cakes and snacks. There’s also the Barge Inn, a handsome old canalside boozer. Stomach filled, head north along the canal past the Tithe Barn and up to the Avoncliff Aqueduct (1.4 miles), a heart-warming sight in any weather.

Plan your day out with our online guide Bradford-on-Avon Wharf.

*If however it’s looking too treacherous outside, don’t risk it, save this walk for another day – you won’t be disappointed!

Flickr_S-Town/Mark Robinson