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Rowbarge Canal and River Trail

There are currently 4 comments and 3 photos online for this walk.

Rowbarge Canal and River Trail
Author: Pub Walker, Published: 15 Aug 2013 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walkstar1 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walkstar1 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walkstar1 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walkstar0 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk
Berkshire, Woolhampton
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Rowbarge Canal and River Trail
Length: 6 miles,  Difficulty: boot Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk boot Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk
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A 5.5 mile circular pub walk from the Rowbarge in Woolhampton. The Rowbarge enjoys a lovely position right on the canal with a large garden giving you chance to enjoy all the canal activity while you savour great ales and food. The walking route follows a long stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath along to Aldermaston Wharf with chance to enjoy plenty of wildlife and canal boats messing about on the water. The return leg loops south, crossing branches of the River Kennet and its reed beds, following quiet lanes and crossing grazing pastures.

The walk is relatively flat with just a few gentle inclines. The surfaces are a mixture of stone and grass towpaths, stone lanes and field paths, many of which can be quite muddy in winter and after periods of rain. Some of the paths can also be overgrown in the summer so shorts are not recommended unless you are immune to nettles! There are several kissing gates on route but no stiles. Some of the fields you cross are likely to be holding cattle so take care with dogs. There is one short section of road walking along the edge of an A-road so beware of the traffic and take particular care with children. Allow 2.5 to 3 hours.

Woolhampton is situated on the A4 between Reading and Newbury. The walk starts and finishes from the Rowbarge pub which is situated on Station Road immediately alongside the canal swing bridge. If you are arriving by train, the pub is just a few hundred yards south of Midgham Station. If you are arriving by car there is a large car park which is on the south side of the pub. Approximate post code RG7 5SH.

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Walk Sections

Start to Froud's Lane
Start to Froud's Lane

Start point: 51.3947 lat, -1.1785 long
End point: 51.3958 lat, -1.1528 long

Standing in the pub garden, with your back to the pub and facing the canal, turn right to cross the road and join the canal towpath signed as the Kennet and Avon cycle route to Aldermaston and Reading.

Continue along the stone towpath for some distance, with the canal on the left. The Kennet and Avon canal is 87 miles long, linking London and the Bristol Channel. It is England’s most southerly cross-country broad-beam canal. From the late 1800s the canal, like many, began to fall into disrepair but from the 1960s a voluntary trust began its restoration. The canal was fully reopened in 1990 and is today a haven of tourism. You’re likely to see plenty of walkers, cyclists and narrow boats along your journey.

You will eventually reach a large footbridge (Number 30) across the canal marked with a three-way signpost. Fork left up the long slope to cross the bridge. You’ll notice the intricate brickwork within the abutments. Continue along the canal towpath on the opposite side, with the canal now on the right. Some distance further pass through a wooden gate ahead and climb a wide gravel slope to reach a T-junction with Froud’s Lane.

Froud's Lane to Aldermaston Wharf
Froud's Lane to Aldermaston Wharf

Start point: 51.3958 lat, -1.1528 long
End point: 51.4001 lat, -1.1365 long

Turn right along the pavement and then cross over to turn left through a gate onto the towpath with the canal now once again on your left. On the right you’ll see a tall metal fence, behind which are the old gravel pits. The flooded gravel workings are surrounded by dense vegetation providing important habitats for wildfowl and other birds.

Further along pass under a black and white footbridge and then you’ll reach Aldermaston Lock on the left, marking the start of Aldermaston Wharf. When the canal was first completed there were wharfs at either end of this section (Newbury and Reading) as well as one here in the middle. Aldermaston Wharf was used to export large quantities of hewed timber as well as malt and flour. The barges used on the Kennet Navigation were much larger than normal canal narrow boats, being similar widths to those used on the Thames. As such the locks are much larger than on some canals and most of the bridges are swing or lift bridges. You’ll notice the scalloped brick edges of this lock, a form introduced in the 1760s to give the locks greater strength.

A few yards further along pass through the gate and you’ll come to a T-junction with the road, alongside the lift bridge (installed 1984 and typical of the bridges on the canal that accommodate larger vessels).

Aldermaston Wharf to Fisherman's Lane
Aldermaston Wharf to Fisherman's Lane

Start point: 51.4001 lat, -1.1365 long
End point: 51.3939 lat, -1.1296 long

Do not cross the canal here, instead simply cross the road and take Mill Lane directly opposite, a dead end gravel driveway. With the small school ahead, swing right to follow the stone lane passing between lots of cottages. When the properties end, continue on Mill Lane along an impressive avenue of Horse Chestnut trees whose branches create a pretty arch of shelter. On the right you’ll pass a fishery, which was originally Padworth Mill.

Where the fence on the right ends, you’ll see a three-way signpost. Fork right here to join a narrow enclosed footpath between tall fences. Keep ahead to cross two concrete footbridges over branches of the River Kennet. Alongside the second you’ll see a small hydro-electric power generator. As you swing right look to your left and you’ll see a slope set with intricate metal plates – this forms a salmon ladder to help the fish migrate upstream for the breeding season. Swing left over a third footbridge crossing a sluice gate and keep ahead on the footpath.

A fourth footbridge, a large concrete one, takes you over a large weir. Beyond this, pass through a wooden kissing gate to join a fenced path between grazing areas. A final wooden footbridge leads you through a gate to reach a four-way signpost at the edge of a pasture (note this field may be holding cattle).

Fisherman's Lane to Basingstoke Road
Fisherman's Lane to Basingstoke Road

Start point: 51.3939 lat, -1.1296 long
End point: 51.3914 lat, -1.1497 long

Turn right following the right hand hedge and at the end of the field keep ahead to join the wide stone track passing along the right hand edge of the next field. This is the start of the lane known as Fisherman’s Lane. Beyond this field follow the stone track as it becomes enclosed with fences both sides.

Some distance in you’ll pass a lone cottage on the right. Further along, stay with the footpath which forks left with a hedge on the right (ignoring the cinder track). About 100 yards along, ignore a stile to the left. Soon afterwards keep a look out for a small gap in the hedge on the right, which conceals a footpath through a gate. Pass through this gate into a field (this and the next two fields are also likely to be holding cattle).

Cross the centre of the field at about 11 o’clock and then cross the footbridge via a pair of gates into the next pasture. Cross this second field at about 1 o’clock and then cross the next gated footbridge into a third field. Cross this third field straight ahead to reach a metal kissing gate. Pass through this and keep ahead for a few paces to reach a gate out onto a surfaced cycle track. Turn right for a few yards to reach the T-junction with Basingstoke Road.

Basingstoke Road to End
Basingstoke Road to End

Start point: 51.3914 lat, -1.1497 long
End point: 51.3948 lat, -1.1784 long

Cross over Basingstoke Road (this is a busy road so take particular care here) and turn left along the narrow verge for just 300 yards, until you reach a gravel pull-in with metal gates. Turn right here alongside a disused stile signed as a footpath. Turn right again over a footbridge and immediately left along the left-hand edge of an open field.

At the field corner, keep ahead over a footbridge across the River Kennet and continue on the footpath ahead which crosses diagonally over the next field. Soon the path will be running directly alongside the main branch of the River Kennet on the right. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife here as this section of river is home to a range of rare species supported by the chalk watercourse.

On the right you’ll pass Froud’s Bridge marina. As you reach the junction of the river meeting the canal, fork left onto the footpath heading into a pretty section of Poplar trees. Keep straight ahead through the woodland and you will soon emerge once again onto a grass towpath with the canal on the right.

Further along you’ll reach the large footbridge you crossed earlier. Pass alongside this and keep ahead to join the stone towpath. From this point simply keep ahead, retracing your steps alongside the canal, to reach the Rowbarge for some well earned hospitality.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2013 by the author pubwalker and may not be reproduced without permission.

4 comments for "Rowbarge Canal and River Trail"

we really enjoyed this walk fantastic countryside very clear instructions.
the only negative I can think of is the main road section, its a very fast road on a blind corner not great with small children and from that point on theres no footpath as such until you get back to the towpath which at this time of year makes it very overgrown. saying that we'd walk it again

By pob75 on 06 Jul 2014

NB you need only walk a short distance along the A340. At point 4, turn left; at the end of the metal barrier on the other side of the road there is a footpath sign into the field. You can walk through the field rather than along the main road.
A lovely walk, much enjoyed. The paths were all clear and well signed yesterday (28 February 2015).

By AnneP on 02 Mar 2015

I took a shortened version missing out the Woolhampton leg as it was too long for a late evening walk. I did encounter a field with very enthusiastic young cows so made a small diversion which took me onto the cycle path up to Frouds lane. Overall a very flat route and nice along the canal but not one of my favourites as there was a long stretch of stone chips which provided a challenge for my bare feet!

By richarg on 07 Jun 2016

The Rowbarge is in a beautiful setting. The walk took us 2 1/2 hours without stops. It was quite overgrown during the last part so would not recommend pushchairs or anyone with mobility problems. Really enjoyed following the trail down places you would never find yourself. Highly recommended although give yourself plenty of time. (we had to rush back to ensure we arrived back at the pub in time for a reserved table)

By Julia on 01 Sep 2016

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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3 gallery images for "Rowbarge Canal and River Trail"

2387_0Richard1380725622 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 02 Oct 2013
This picture was taken from the swing bridge across the canal that is right next to the pub - which serves great food and drink. There were plenty of people there when we visited in August - most of them using the open garden area.
2387_1Richard1380725622 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 02 Oct 2013
Something rather cool about the swing bridge opening to let a barge through. The guy driving the canal boat looked very worried...
2387_2Richard1380725622 Rowbarge Canal and River Trail Pub Walk Image by: RichardJ
Uploaded: 02 Oct 2013
The lock had wonderful brickwork. Amazing that it has lasted so long. I always wonder whether they wanted to make it look nice or whether we just think that it looks now and it was just the best materials they had available at the time?


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