Monday, 15 December 2008

Introduction to the River Kennet lower reach guide

Whenever the word 'Kennet' gets mentioned the words 'Avon' and 'canal' seem to attach themselves, especially when it has anything to do with boats, including canoes and kayaks. This is possibly due to associations with the annual Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, but if a leisurely touring trip in your backyard is more appealing this doesn't have to mean 'Thames' just because you live in the South of England. The Kennet is, perhaps, somewhat diminished as a river by its association with the canal, but if you want to spend some time paddling in Berkshire without powered craft up your stern there are several kilometers of potential here.

For the purposes of this blog the River Kennet has been divided into three main geographical areas, which coincide roughly (though not exactly) with the Environment Agency's delineation of the river's reaches [see the post: "The River Kennet from source to confluence"].

These are

- the upper reach from the source of the River Kennet to Hungerford

- the middle reach from Hungerford to where the main flow of the River Kennet joins the Kennet and Avon Canal just west of Newbury

- the lower reach from the above noted river-canal confluence to the Thames in Reading.

With regard to paddling on the River Kennet, only the last section of the middle reach and the lower reach are covered in any detail at this time, with only limited reference to the majority of the middle and the whole of the upper reaches as paddling destinations in their respective general descriptions.

Sometimes confused, on stretches of water where the River Kennet has been canalised, it is still correctly referred to as the ''river" (or the "navigation" below Newbury), even though it has a tow path running alongside. Although the canalised sections of the waterway may vary in the speed of the flow, they are often noticeably shaped and managed for the narrowboats that tour up and down its lock-controlled length.

For those that wish to break up the potential tedium of such a journey, or who simply want to paddle a slightly faster flowing and less populated stretch of moving water, there are six main sections to this guide that describe points where what I regard as the 'real river' deviates from the course of the 'canalised' waterway along the lower reach.

These sections are geographically sub-divided as follows.

1. The Kennet through Newbury

2. The Kennet at Thatcham

3. Thatcham to Woolhampton incl. the Kennet at Colthrop

4. Woolhampton to Ufton

5. Ufton to Garston Lock including a). Tyle Mill, b). Sulhamstead Weir at Penstock to Barble Bar via either Drapers Osier Bed Stream or Bonsal Point, and c). Barble Bar to Garston Lock

6. Garston Lock to Fobney including a). Burghfield Mill, b). Burghfield Road and Southcote, and c). Fobney.

There is also a final section on the Kennet as it flows through Reading to where it meets the Thames.

PLEASE NOTE: This blog is, by its nature, an ongoing work in progress. The author has not paddled all of the sections described, and the sections are marked/described to reflect this. Should you have paddled on any of the sections I'd be interested to hear of your experiences on forums such as the UK Rivers Guide Book or Song of The Paddle.

Please also note that the conditions recorded in this blog may vary at any time.