Pewsey Wharf in Wiltshire, on the Kennet and Avon Canal, is almost one mile from Pewsey town itself and seven miles south of Marlborough. The Canal was once a busy industrial canal, but is now tranquil. The Wharf owes its existence to the Canal, which was the village’s trade link with the outside world. The main building provided living accommodation for the wharf-keeper and there was also a two storey warehouse.
Pewsey Wharf now contains The Waterfront Pub, which has a cafe/bistro and provides extensive views over the Canal from the upstairs bar.
Leaving Pewsey Wharf and moving towards New Mill, after Bridge 113, Jones’s Mill Nature Reserve is on the right. It is a secluded wetland that has developed on disused water meadows. Belted Galloway cattle are grazed here to maintain the balance of the habitat.
The Kennet and Avon Canal stretches for 87 miles, from its junction with the River Thames at Reading to the River Avon and Bristol in the west of England. The name is often used to refer to the whole length of the navigation, whereas strictly, it is only a canal in the central section from Bath to Newbury. From Bristol to Bath, the waterway follows the River Avon and from Newbury, the River Kennet. The canal section of 57 miles, was constructed between 1794 and 1810, which created an important east-west trade link from Bristol to London. The waterway incorporates 105 locks. The Kennet and Avon Canal was once a busy industrial canal, its main trade being coal from the Somerset coalfield, which was transported up the Somerset Coal Canal to Limpley Stoke, where it joined the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Canal traffic started to deteriorate when, in 1841, the Great Western Railway opened along much of the same route as the Canal. In 1851, the Great Western Railway bought the Canal, but it gradually fell into disrepair and by the early 1950s, only a few pleasure boats used it. The GWR had sought permission to close the Canal, but the Government resisted their request. During the Second World War, it had served as a defence against invasion and numerous pillboxes remain along the Canal.
In 1951, the Kennet and Avon Canal Association was formed to keep the Canal open and in 1962, it became the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, with the aim of restoring the Canal from Reading to Bristol. British Waterways became the statutory body for inland waterways and in partnership with the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, restoration of the derelict locks, crumbling bridges and canalside buildings began. Much of the work was carried out by volunteers. In August 1990, HM Queen Elizabeth II reopened the navigation.
It is now one of the most popular waterways in Britain, used for boating, canoeing, fishing, cycling and walking along the towpath. It passes through beautiful countryside, including West Berkshire, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds. The restoration has had the support of famous canal boat veterans, including the actors, Prunella Scales and Timothy West, who displayed their love of canals in their Channel 4 television programme, “Great Canal Journeys”. There are many marinas providing boats for hire. Visitors are well provided for from numerous attractive riverside pubs and tearooms. The Kennet and Avon Canal Trust operate shops and tearooms at Aldermaston Lock, Newbury Wharf, Crofton Pumping Station, Devizes and Bradford on Avon.