To paddle along a canal gives you a whole new perspective on the water, allowing you to witness things you might not notice when chugging along in a narrowboat or cycling along the towpath: fish leaping in the water, the hypnotic dance of dragonflies, perhaps even a diving otter.
At Bradford-on-Avon Wharf you can hire a canoe from Towpath Trail for a wonderful day out along the Kennet & Avon. The hire centre, which also rents out bikes, is located on the Lower Wharf, where coal from the surrounding coalfields would once have been loaded onto barges bound for London. Other bulky goods, including Somerset cheese, were loaded at the Upper Wharf, beside the lock.
Included in the canoe hire is a buoyancy aid and paddle, and you’ll be given a safety briefing and shown various paddle strokes to send you on your merry way. A classic route to take is the one-and-a-half-mile journey from Bradford-on-Avon to the Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.
Once you’re back at the wharf you can explore more of the canal’s historic features, including the old lock keeper’s cottage (now a tearoom), and the gauging dock where the toll keeper calculated the amount of toll to be paid for use of the canal. Plus, you can’t leave the wharf without calling in The Lock Inn, a quirky family-run café with picnic tables right by the canal. Can you manage their gargantuan Boatman’s Breakfast?